Artificial Intelligence Reshapes Geopolitics

The multilateral system urgently needs to help build a new social contract to ensure that technological innovation, in particular artificial intelligence (AI), is deployed safely and aligned with the ethical needs of a globalizing world.
Swarms of bots, Facebook dark posts and fake news websites have claimed online territory, with significant repercussions globally. Just consider a few recent events: in the 2016 US presidential elections, Russia empowered one candidate over another through a massive campaign that included paid ads, fake social media accounts and polarizing content.
In China, tech giants Alibaba and Tencent have deployed millions of cameras equipped with facial recognition to commodify continuous streams of intimate data about citizens. In Myanmar, a UN report confirmed that Facebook posts have fuelled virulent hate speech directed at Rohingya Muslims.
The powerful and lucrative alliance between AI and a data-driven society has made social networks the architects of our exchanges, the new masters reshaping the very fabric of reality.
In this context, public anxiety is rising about the loss of control to an algorithmic revolution, which seems to escape our modes of understanding and accountability. Trust in national and global governance is at breaking point.
Concurrently, AI-driven technologies will tend to undermine, rather than enforce, global governance mechanisms. The UN faces a sweeping set of interrelated challenges. Let’s look at three.
AI and degradation of truth
First, AI is inherently a dual-use technology whose powerful implications (both positive and negative) will be increasingly difficult to anticipate, contain and mitigate.
Take Deepfake as an example. Sophisticated AI programmes can now manipulate sounds, images and videos, creating impersonations that are often impossible to distinguish from the original. Deep-learning algorithms can, with surprising accuracy, read human lips, synthesize speech, and to some extent simulate facial expressions.
Once released outside the lab, such simulations could easily be misused with wide-ranging impacts (indeed, this is already happening at a low level). On the eve of an election, Deepfake videos could falsely portray public officials being involved in money-laundering; public panic could be sowed by videos warning of non-existent epidemics or cyberattacks; and forged incidents could potentially lead to international escalation.
The capacity of a range of actors to influence public opinion with misleading simulations could have powerful long-term implications for the UN’s role in peace and security. By eroding the sense of trust and truth between citizens and the state – and indeed among states – truly fake news could be deeply corrosive to our global governance system.
AI and precision surveillance
Second, AI is already connecting and converging with a range of other technologies, including biotech, with significant implications for global security. AI systems around the world are trained to predict various aspects of our daily lives by making sense of massive data sets, such as cities’ traffic patterns, financial markets, consumer behaviour trend data, health records and even our genomes.
These AI technologies are increasingly able to harness our behavioural and biological data in innovative and often manipulative ways, with implications for all of us. For example, the My Friend Cayla smart doll sends voice and emotion data of the children who play with it to the cloud, which led to a US Federal Trade Commission complaint and its ban in Germany. In the US, emotional analysis is already being used in the courtroom to detect remorse in deposition videos. It could soon be part of job interviews to assess candidates’ responses and their fitness for a job.
The ability of AI to intrude upon – and potentially control – private human behaviour has direct implications for the UN’s human rights agenda. New forms of social and bio-control could in fact require a reimagining of the framework currently in place to monitor and implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and will certainly require the multilateral system to anticipate better and understand this quickly emerging field.
Battlefield AI
Finally, the ability of AI-driven technologies to influence large populations is of such immediate and overriding value that it is almost certain to be the theatre for future conflicts. There is a very real prospect of a “cyber race”, in which powerful nations and large technology platforms enter into open competition for our collective data, as fuel to generate economic, medical and security supremacy across the globe. Forms of “cyber-colonization” are increasingly likely, as powerful states are able to harness AI and biotech to understand and potentially control other countries’ populations and ecosystems.
Towards global governance of AI
Politically, legally and ethically, our societies are not prepared for the deployment of AI. And the UN, established many decades before the emergence of these technologies, is in many ways poorly placed to develop the kind of responsible governance that will channel AI’s potential away from these risks, and towards our collective safety and well-being.
In fact, the resurgence of nationalist agendas across the world may point to a dwindling capacity of the multilateral system to play a meaningful role in the global governance of AI. Major corporations and powerful member states may see little value in bringing multilateral approaches to bear on what they consider lucrative and proprietary technologies.
But there are some innovative ways in which the UN can help build the kind of collaborative, transparent networks that may begin to treat our “trust-deficit disorder”.
Spurred on by a mandate given to the United Nations University (UNU) in the Secretary-General’s Strategy on New Technologies, The Centre for Policy Research at the UNU has created an “AI and Global Governance Platform” as an inclusive space for researchers, policy actors, corporate and thought leaders to explore the global policy challenges raised by artificial intelligence.
From global submissions by leaders in the field, the platform aims to foster unique cross-disciplinary insights to inform existing debates from the lens of multilateralism, coupled with lessons from on the ground. These insights will support UN member states, multilateral agencies, funds, programmes and other stakeholders as they consider both their own and their collective roles in shaping the governance of AI.
Perhaps the most important challenge for the UN in this context is one of relevance, of re-establishing a sense of trust in the multilateral system. But if the above trends tell us anything, it is that AI-driven technologies are an issue for every individual and every state, and that without collective, collaborative forms of governance, there is a real risk that they will undermine global stability.

#MeToo Terminology Explained

Flirtation is fine, but when it changes into harassment, it becomes a criminal offence. All sexual assaults are rape, though the converse is not true. Do you know your #MeToo terminology?

As the #MeToo tsunami gathered strength, terms such as flirtation, sexual harassment, molestation, assault, predator and womanizer were used frequently. There were some instances of women genuinely confusing flirtation with harassment. And also conversely of some men protesting that their predatory behaviour was nothing but mild flirtation. We must not get confused between terms like flirtation, harassment, molestation, predatory behavior, sexual abuse and rape. Thin lines divide these behaviours, and yet those divides can spell the difference between a rap on the knuckles and jail.

Flirtation – The dictionary definition of flirtation is ‘behaviour that demonstrates a playful sexual attraction to someone.’ Flirtation can be verbal or involve the writing of letters or poems. You can also flirt through body language such as coquettish glances, holding of gazes, brief touching or proximity. Usually flirtation signifies an interest in taking the relationship further, but flirting can also be just playful and an amusing social activity between the genders. Flirting is a game that two play; one-sided flirtation spills over into harassment.
Acceptable so long as both parties are on the same wavelength.

Harassment – Sexual harassment is when you apply undue pressure or intimidate a woman, especially one working under your supervision, and make unwanted sexual advances. Obscene remarks, gestures and touches, promised rewards for sexual favours (Quid pro quo harassment), dirty jokes or suggestions that make women uncomfortable qualify as sexual harassment. This is considered antisocial and anti-professional behavior. Continually texting a woman asking her out despite her refusal, complimenting her repeatedly even when you see it discomforts her is sexual harassment.
Totally unacceptable. Protest clearly and complain to HR or police. Sexual harassment is now a criminal offence.

Molestation, Sexual Abuse, Rape – Molestation or sexual abuse is undesired sexual behavior by one person on another and is a criminal offence. Fondling or unwanted sexual touching, kissing, rubbing, groping, or attempted rape – all of this qualifies as sexual abuse. Penetration of the victim’s body is rape. And as per the 2013 amendment of Section 375 IPC, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts with your own self or someone else is also rape. All rapes are sexual assault though the converse is not true.
Molestation, sexual abuse and rape are criminal offences that must be instantly reported. Lodge an FIR.

Who is a Predator? — Here we get into dangerous, obsessive and addictive territory. These men – and some of them have been outed in the #MeToo Movement – are compulsive womanisers, men who obsessively chase women and add to their numbers.

Predators are libertines with no moral compunctions. They look at women as prey — mere sexual beings. They objectify women to the extent that they overlook a woman’s intelligence and dismiss the idea that she may have thoughts, emotions, choices or plans of her own. They cannot accept that a woman may not find them attractive or acceptable as a sexual partner. This is the category of sociopaths that the Harvey Weinsteins fall into. It is a kind of sickness, this need for different women all the time.

Beware of their tactics, women! They compliment you, share personal sad stories (mostly made up), suss you out with flirtatious texts, double entendres and innuendoes, woo you and then seek a meeting alone. This is when they make their final move. They are not past forcing themselves on unwilling women. They may touch you inappropriately, force a kiss, or worse. Predators are the ones most likely to sexually abuse or rape a victim.
Totally unacceptable criminal behaviour and an FIR must be lodged!

It is heartening to see that increasingly the world is viewing sexual abuse as a critical problem to be dealt with and stressing that none of this behavior is a victim’s fault. The vocabulary relating to sexual harassment has been sensitized to stress that harassment and sexual abuse are violent crimes of degradation, not of ‘uncontrollable lust.’ The #MeToo movement and the Nobel Peace Prize this year to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict gives a huge boost to these effort


Time to address office romances involving a conflict of interest

The #MeToo movement has exposed chicanery, nepotism, power play and partisanship in the Indian media industry. The public now know what Indian journalists have known forever: far from working without fear or favour, many lead a fairly duplicitous life.

By calling out this culture of sexual predation, women are hoping that newsrooms will be transformed. That’s a halfformed view. To truly restore dignity to workplaces, we also need to address the other rot: office romances between managers and subordinates that involve a conflict of interest. It is what helps make workplaces a hotbed of malice and inequity, unfairly blurring the line between predators and consent, opening a window to fob off advances as consensual.

Indian newsrooms can be frustrating places to work in. It could involve lickspittling, ignoring complicity in colleagues and, as some have had to, putting up with Lotharios.

Many journalists are required to suppress that which they are trained to do: question inequity, deliberate and to expose the truth.

In the news business, where visibility is everything, there are multiple ways to buy conformity. Journalists could be stripped of key beats, have bylines withheld, given less airtime or be left unacknowledged. It sends astrong signal to would-be dissenters.

Over time, this has created newsroom cultures that mostly reward abiders. Workplaces where obvious wrongs go unquestioned. Sexual predation is one such fallout. The other is undeclared consensual relationships between bosses and underlings.

In the #MeToo storm, some of this may change. Colleagues might think twice before soliciting attention through cheeky text messages, staring beadily at women or using foul language to intimidate.

Newsrooms could be on auto-clean mode. Still, this may do little to stop the malaise of consensual relationships between a manager and a subordinate that creates an uneven playing field. This is not about dissing office romances.

Journalists keep long and unpredictable hours, driven by events as they happen. Most of them rarely have aregular social life and several end up in a relationship with a colleague who understands the peculiarities of the job. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Total Eclipse of the Heart

There is, however, everything wrong if office relationships spawn a conflict of interest that is left unaddressed. This could, and often does, play out as undeserved promotions, pay hikes or just better opportunities, stealing the chance that should go to someone more deserving. Even when that is not the case, it causes heartburn.

Colleagues often use conflicted situations to belittle achievers because of their private association with the decision-makers in the newsroom. Then there is the subtle shift in newsroom dynamics.

When a colleague catapults from being just another peer to a manager’s partner — their access to power becomes inevitable and mutely acknowledged.

Truth is, news is consumed on the principle of accuracy, trust and transparency, so there is every reason why those directing the show should embody those values. If they are in a consensual relationship with a subordinate, they must declare it.

Most leaders should have no problem with this rule, unless it is an extramarital affair. And even so, recusing themselves from any role in the career progression of their romantic interest, would be the right thing to do.

Those trapped in a newsroom with beneficial consensual relationships broadly assume that getting ahead requires some moral flexibility. The end result is an undercurrent of mistrust, innuendo, disappointment, resignations, bitterness and predatory behaviour.

This is why companies worldwide use non-fraternisation clauses in their hiring contract, especially for senior managers. With the #MeToo movement, international firms are also increasingly wary of office romances gone sour, which could unfairly morph into asexual harassment lawsuit.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich was recently forced to quit because of a previous consensual relationship with an office worker that he failed to declare. Boeing and Starwood Hotels had to let their chiefs go over similar lapses. Google and Facebook have office relationship policies. Google requires employees of certain seniority to report office romances that may raise a conflict of interest.

Once reported, the roles are separated. These are good common sense rules because a healthy work environment is just as important to productivity as a safe workplace.

These workplace relationship rules should extend to spousal teams in newsrooms. This is especially so if one of them is in a manager’s role with the ability to directly or indirectly provide opportunities for the other.

Come Undone

The best-run newsrooms try to avoid nepotism with detailed record-keeping that is open to scrutiny. The life of a professional journalist is plotted into significant stories, ideas shared, deadlines met, accuracy and so on. And spouses are typically discouraged from being in roles where they work on the same team or where one manages the other.

Several newsrooms skirt this, as opacity enables partisanship and editors earn immunity, by just being the final word. Trouble is, the age of the supremo editor is likely behind us. And so should the rules that made them that way. #MeToo is causing a shift. It’s time for #NotUs to move the needle further.


Importance of Being Lazy

If mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell were alive today, he would surely have chuckled at the thought of being proved right. Last week, biologists announced that there is evidence that evolution does not favour the fittest, it favours the laziest.

In his 1932 essay, ‘In Praise of Idleness’, Russell saw work as an overrated virtue. He felt that ‘civilised living’ demanded leisure time to pursue personal interests. The recent result could well have prompted him to add the ‘longer life’ angle to his idleness argument. Though it must be mentioned that all current evidence in favour of ‘the survival of the laziest’ have come from fossilised and living mollusc species.

The results of a new study of fossil and extant bivalves (typically marine molluscs such as clams, oysters and scallops) and gastropods (a larger class of molluscs such as snails and slugs) in the Atlantic Ocean published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences) suggests “laziness might be a fruitful strategy for survival of individuals, species and even communities of species”.

So, does this University of Kansas study turn Charles Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ argument on its head? Contrary to popular belief, the phrase was first used by Herbert Spencer in his 1864 work, The Principles of Biology, in the sense of “the most appropriate to its environment”.

Since then, there have been more bankers and management gurus than evolutionary biologists who have freely used the phrase to mean anything but genetic fit.

Even household objects with a long service life, such as refrigerators and washing machines, have earned Spencer’s phrase from their proud owners.

No one really cares what it actually means, but before the 1950s, the eagerness to sound ‘scientific’ made the phrase a cliché. Be that as it may, in the language of evolution, it is too early to predict if the new phrase on the block will write the epitaph of its predecessor.

The researchers looked at a period of about five million years, from the mid-Pliocene to the present, and analysed the metabolic rates — the amount of energy per unit time that an organism needs to live its daily life — of 299 species. They found higher metabolic rates were a reliable predictor of the likelihood of the extinction of species.

With adverse climate change becoming more real every passing day, the research could have important implications for forecasting which species are likely to vanish in the near term and which will survive.

More than a decade ago, scientists estimated that 99.9% of all species that ever lived on Earth are all extinct.

Researchers in the field are constantly looking for drivers of large extinction events. Spencer’s metaphor — with modifications — has held sway for a long time in determining which species will die off in its evolutionary path.

The new research only indicates that the lazy may have some evolutionary advantages, but right now these are only limited to certain marine species.

In their eagerness to hard-sell science to the masses, scientists are using expressions that resonate with popular perceptions. Introducing the research, the University of Kansas media report starts, “If you’ve got an unemployed, 30-year-old adult child still living in the basement, fear not.”

There is no doubt that, for a science ignoramus, this bait is most likely to be gobbled hook, line and sinker. But what does the sentence convey? That the 30-year-old may have been left out by the ‘survival of the fittest’ regime, but under the new ‘survival of the laziest’ one, he will have a fair chance to survive. If extinction was a simple issue, though, he would indeed have been extinct. Sadly, that is not the case.

Many fragile extinction parameters play a major role in determining the fate of a species. Many of these are yet to be discovered, the metabolic rate being just one of them. Also, the scientists do not know if laziness is good only for the marine species that have been studied by them. One of the biggest mistakes would be to give in to a one-sizefits-all approach.

How close a species is to extinction varies over time. Also, different biological units respond differently to environmental change. So, laziness might be a boon for molluscs but could be fatal for coral. Researchers can chew on the issue, but that shouldn’t stop us from using the metaphor.


How Delhi can help Kigali achieve Paris: From step-wells to super-efficient ACs

 We recently had the second anniversary of a landmark international climate treaty. No, not the Paris one that we’ve all heard about (with the goal of keeping global warming to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels). This treaty takes its name from two other cities; the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol is focused phasing out the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in our cooling and refrigeration systems. HFCs are orders-of-magnitude more potent than carbon dioxide as greenhouse gases (the most widely used one has more than 2,000 times the warming potential of CO2), so it makes sense that the Kigali Amendment has been called world’s “single largest real contribution” to meeting the Paris goals. But, it is also clear we need to do lot more than get rid of HFCs.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently issued a deeply urgent special report on the near-term consequences of climate change; a document that one senior UN official described it as “a deafening, piercing smoke alarm”. Among its conclusions were that the most damaging effects from climate change – severe food shortages, wildfires, mass die-offs of coral reefs, climate-induced conflict – will come a lot sooner and at a lower temperature threshold than previously thought.

The report had been requested by a collective of small island nations, but not many countries have more at stake than India. 218 million Indians are exposed to dangerous heat conditions each year (vs. 86 million in Nigeria, the next-most-affected country). Heat is projected to cost India nearly three percent of GDP by 2050. India is home to 24 of the world’s 100 hottest big cities.

In order to avoid the worst effects of global warming, the IPCC concluded that we need to transform the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent.” India alone may not be able to decarbonize the global economy at warp speed, but it can do more than any other country on earth to address one of the biggest end-use risks to our climate; the demand for cooling.

With business-as-usual, room air-conditioners (RACs) alone could account for nearly one full degree Celsius of global warming between now and 2050. India will account for the largest increase in demand, going from 26 million RACs in operation today to about one billion in 2050. Increasing anecdotal evidence suggests that an AC is the first major appliance purchase made by families entering India’s consuming class. We are facing a classic Catch-22; as our planet warms, we want more mechanical cooling; and as we deploy more cooling, we warm our planet further.

Luckily, India also has a centuries-old tradition of cooling innovation from which we can draw inspiration. No civilization has a richer history of dealing with the heat in more ingenious, even beautiful ways; the dense clustering of homes to minimize solar gain in Rajasthan’s towns; the canopies and louvers that offer deep shade in our havelis; the clever use of landscaping and water features at our Mughal monuments; the “thermal mass” that is a feature of traditional building the length of India; jaalis that are equally decorative and functional, allowing in diffuse light while keeping out the heat; and the intricate step-wells that have served as both reservoirs and serene retreats for over a millennium.

In keeping with this tradition, India has already staked out a modern position of leadership; last month the Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) released a draft “India Cooling Action Plan” (ICAP) – the only such document issued by any country. The Indian government deserves praise for being the first to take on this challenge holistically and at scale. ICAP proposes a number of sensible measures: stringent building codes; measures to promote alternative cooling technologies; “eco-labelling” to influence consumer behaviour; emphasizing efficiency in public procurement guidelines.

It does not, however, go far enough. ICAP has (justifiably) been criticized for not adequately addressing issues of access and equity; our farmers, day laborers, and street vendors can’t retreat to air-conditioned comfort when temperatures hit 40 degrees. From a climate perspective, ICAP’s recommendations, which rely heavily on voluntary action and incremental change, are too “soft” to neutralize the impact of our exploding demand for mechanical cooling. Hard problems require hard action; we need engineering solutions and strong regulation in addition to the gentle nudges that MoEFCC hopes will change the behaviour of our AC manufacturers, builders, and consumers.

Policymakers can both wield a more threatening stick, and dangle more enticing carrots. The “stick” comes in the form of minimum energy performance standards (MEPS), set by the Ministry of Power. Not all countries have them, and India’s have been advancing at three percent per year. But there is a massive gap (more than 50 percent) between our MEPS and the most efficient available ACs. That gap needs to close – the bar needs to be set by the best technology, not by the worst. Industry players won’t like this, and will protest that higher standards will mean higher prices for consumers. But when profits are at stake, industry is quick to adapt; Korea’s and Japan’s regulators have forced a doubling of AC efficiency over the last several years – and saw prices actually fall in parallel.

The “carrots” come in the form of range of incentives. The AC industry is, by-and-large, consolidated and complacent; most manufacturers spend far more on advertising than they do on R&D. But some innovation is happening – just out of view, driven by research labs and start-ups. Innovation challenges and prizes can help shine a spotlight on these innovators, making them visible to prospective investors, collaborators, and buyers who could help them navigate a path to market.

Consumers, similarly, could be incented to make more energy efficient purchases. Most buyers are concerned far more with the price of their new AC than with how much it is going to cost them to run it over the course of its functioning life. In some cases, they simply don’t have the capital to pay the premium for a more efficient unit. Our DISCOMs could offer “on-bill financing”; allowing their customers to pay for the most energy efficient ACs in increments, enabling savings to be realized from day-one.

Advance market commitments (AMCs) could play an important role. Energy Efficiency Services Ltd. (EESL), which buys energy efficient products for the government, expects to buy 100,000 “super-efficient” ACs through 2020. Not bad, but with this kind of buying power, EESL should be pushing AC manufacturers far harder to deliver more advanced products (rather than be satisfied with what is currently on the market). India’s real estate behemoths could get into the act by committing to buy only the most efficient units for their new developments – which would almost certainly save their customers money over the long run (an AC that is 4-5 times more efficient would make economic sense even if it retails for twice as much).

Why should the Indian government go to all this trouble around a consumer appliance? Analysis by Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) suggests that the implications could be profound for our people, treasury, industry, economy and climate. An 80 percent more efficient air-conditioner, even if it costs twice as much as today’s standard units, could save Indian consumers over $1,000 over the course of its lifetime. Between now and 2030, the power sector could save over $200 billion by avoiding investment in electricity generation capacity that would otherwise be required to run all our new ACs (not to mention $100 billion in avoided operating losses). Any company (Indian or otherwise) that develops a super-efficient AC technology could potentially capture between five and 20 percent of global market (equivalent to the market share of today’s dominant players), translating to $5-20 billion in annual revenue. And if a super-efficient AC technology is adopted globally, it would help avert half a degree Celsius in global warming – half a degree that offers a critical reprieve for India’s people and economy.

If we’re going to get to Paris, Kigali will help. But what we really need is Delhi.

The Systematically Built Global Warming Hoax by Al Gore

 Al Gore has become the spokesperson of much-touted global warming. And I had to confront him when he came to Toronto. One thing is sure- he might be, and is, wrong on global warming, but he is very astute in building up a nice nest egg. When he ended his tenure as Vice President in 2001, his net worth was $2 million. By 2013, it exceeded $300 million. He often uses dramatic methods to propagate often mistaken notions.

Speaking about climate change in an October 12 PBS interview, the former vice-president proclaimed, “We have a global emergency.” Referring to the most recent UN climate report, Gore claimed it showed that current global warming “could actually extend to an existential threat to human civilization on this planet as we know it.”

Al Gore’s overblown rhetoric makes no sense, of course. Yet his hyperbolic claims beg the question: How did this all start?

Back in the 1970s, media articles warning of imminent climate change problems began to appear regularly.

TIME and Newsweek ran multiple cover stories asserting that oil companies and America’s capitalist lifestyle were causing catastrophic damage to Earth’s climate.

They claimed scientists were almost unanimous in their opinion that man-made climate change could reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century.

The April 28, 1975, Newsweek proposed solutions that even included outlawing internal combustion engines.

This sounds very similar to today’s climate change debate – except, in the ’70s, the fear was man-made global cooling, not warming.

TIME magazine’s January 31, 1977, cover featured a story, “How to Survive The Coming Ice Age.” It included “facts” such as scientists predicting that Earth’s so-called average temperature could drop by 20 degrees Fahrenheit due to man-made global cooling.

Dr. Murray Mitchell of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned readers that “the drop in temperature between 1945 and 1968 had taken us one-sixth of the way to the next Ice Age temperature.”

Global cooling gained considerable traction with the general public. But then, instead of cooling as long predicted by man-made climate change advocates, the planet started warming again.

Something had to be done to rescue the climate change agenda from utter disaster. Enter Al Gore.

Al Gore Sr., a powerful Senator from Tennessee, saw to it that his son was elected to the House of Representatives, serving from 1977 to 1985, then going on to the Senate from 1985 to 1993.

Gore Junior’s primary issue was his conviction that the Earth would perish if we did not eliminate fossil fuels.

Gore advanced to Vice President under President Bill Clinton, where he was able to enact policies and direct funding to ensure that the climate change agenda became a top priority of the United States Government.

Gore’s mission was boosted when Clinton gave him authority over the newly created President’s Council on Sustainable Development.

It will come as no surprise then that, when the Council’s Charter was revised on April 25, 1997, the “Scope of Activities” included the following direction to the Council:

Advise the President on domestic implementation of policy options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Council should not debate the science of global warming, but should instead focus on the implementation of national and local greenhouse gas reduction policies and activities, and adaptations in the U.S. economy and society that maximize environmental and social benefits, minimize economic impacts and are consistent with U.S. international agreements.

The Council should, at a minimum, identify and encourage potentially replicable examples of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across diverse sectors and levels of society.

Considering that the Council was tasked with advising the President “on matters involving sustainable development,” and alternative points of view on the science of climate change were effectively excluded, it was a foregone conclusion that the Clinton administration would go in the direction Gore wanted.

Indeed, in their cover letter to the President accompanying their 1999 report, Advancing Prosperity, Opportunity and a Healthy Environment for the 21st Century, the Council stated: “Our report presents consensus recommendations on how America can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take other steps to protect the climate.”

A cornerstone of Gore’s strategy was to ensure that all high-ranking government officials who had any involvement with funding policies relating to climate change were in line with his vision.

These agencies included the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, Department of Education, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

An example of his power was shown when physicist Dr. William Happer, then Director of Energy Research at the Department of Energy, testified before Congress in 1993 that scientific data did not support the hypothesis of man-made global warming.

Gore saw to it that Happer was immediately fired. Fifteen years later, Happer quipped, “I had the privilege of being fired by Al Gore since I refused to go along with his alarmism. I did not need the job that badly.”

Al Gore was also able to leverage his high visibility, his movie awards, his Nobel Prize, and his involvement in various carbon trading and other schemes into a personal fortune.

Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, provided a series of graphic images showing the apocalyptic consequences that some had predicted if fossil fuels were allowed to continue warming the planet.

Images included melting glaciers, dying polar bears, spreading diseases, coastal cities inundated by massive floods, cities wiped out by hurricanes and tornadoes, and food supplies exterminated by droughts.

This compelling propaganda played a major role in frightening an entire generation about the future, causing young people and many parents to feel guilty about the role that they and their country were supposedly having in destroying our beautiful planet.

Since then, Americans have been told constantly that they should feel irresponsible if they drive cars or use fossil fuel energy to heat their homes or power their businesses.

A rapid, massive conversion away from coal, oil, and natural gas to renewable energy sources such and wind and solar, we are told, is the only hope for saving the planet.

Now children are increasingly depressed about their future, thanks to the constant barrage of global warming propaganda that they receive at school.

Indeed, they have become so brainwashed and cowed by their peers that they no longer dare to question any statement made about catastrophic climate change.

Yet, essentially everything in Gore’s climate change agenda is either wrong or highly misrepresented.

Now that he is President Donald Trump’s Senior Scientist for the National Security Council, Dr. Happer needs to show there is no “scientific consensus” on these issues, rekindle informed debate on climate and energy issues, and help bring hope, common sense, and real science back into the discourse – to help end the dangerous mythology of dangerous man-made global warming

Impact of new US-China Cold War on India

China aims to dominate the 21st century. Its 2025 Vision aims to put China at the cutting edge of all high technologies — robotics, artificial intelligence, space, energy. This was not taken seriously when announced ten years ago. Pence has now given notice that it will be battled fiercely.

A new US-China Cold War is about to begin. Last week, US vice-president Mike Pence accused China of economic and political aggression to try and dominate the world, and pledged to combat this in every realm and continent. He listed Chinese military adventures, economic and political espionage, theft of technology, and massive aid programmes including debt-trap diplomacy.

Donald Trump’s tweets and rants are so self-contradictory and arbitrary that analysts cannot spot policy coherence. What, for instance does Trump really want from China on trade? He keeps hammering China without chalking out a negotiating path that could clinch a deal. Trump’s approach suddenly begins to make sense if it is a Cold War tactic, and not simply a trade negotiation. The US will kick China in every way to prevent its rise, aiming ultimately for nothing less than regime change.

China has combined authoritarianism and state control with privatisation and globalisation in a unique way to achieve the fastest economic growth in history. Trump says China was allowed to enter the global trading and financial system without becoming a true market economy, hoping it would become a liberal state in due course. Hence, China got the “special and differential” status that the WTO bestows on developing countries, allowing them to maintain high trade and investment barriers even as rich countries lower theirs. Trump says this status has been grossly misused by China, and that in future it must “follow the rules”, meaning China must become a regular market economy with the low entry barriers of other OECD countries.

But China cannot agree, since this would end the stranglehold of the Communist Party on the economy. It hopes Trump is a temporary phenomenon that will fade away. But the anti-China mood now cuts across parties in the US. Even if the next US president is a Democrat, the new Cold War will at best weaken, not end. Europe and Japan also worry about, and want to curb, a dominant China.

Right now Trump is still so arbitrary that he has not adopted Pence’s Cold War approach in any systematic way. That approach would require him to build ties with Europe, Japan and Canada, not attack them on trade and investment issues. He remains driven by gut feel and whim rather than clear-headed strategy.

Yet Pence has put his finger on a deep worry across the political spectrum in the US, and in other OECD countries. A Cold War looks like a strategy emerging from the mish-mash of Trump’s tweets. Many Europeans initially saw Trump as a wrecker of the international trade system. But almost all now want to use him to force China to liberalise its trade and investment rules, and to check Chinese cyber and military power.

Trump has isolationist tendencies, and in many ways has replaced traditional US internationalism with narrow nationalism. Yet he is not a classic isolationist. He has re-imposed sanctions on Iran, used a new law to sanction countries buying arms from Russia, and strongly backed a Saudi-led Sunni Arab front against Shia forces led by Iran. He has sent additional troops to Afghanistan and cut off aid to Pakistan for aiding militants. He is wary of military intervention but quick to use financial sanctions, which are very powerful.

What are the implications for India? First, wait and watch for the new approach to gel. That may take time. Till then India must accommodate at least some US trade demands. Trump has castigated India as “a tariff king”. Anyway, India should be less protectionist for its own good.
In time, as the new Cold War approach gels, India’s value as a long-term check on China’s domination will grow steadily, and it can hope for more preferential treatment. Trump’s efforts to open up the Chinese economy will yield India significant benefits.

The most pressing policy issue for India is whether to join RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), a free trade area led by China that may be launched by the end of the year. Indian corporations are mostly dead opposed, but Indian diplomats are in favour. India must tilt towards the US in a new Cold War. Trump has already warned his Nafta partners not to sign free trade deals with China. India must get the message.

Please Ladies, Forgive Men Their Trespasses

If you have seen or happen to download, the 1967 movie “The Graduate”, considered a path-breaking movie even today, which made the debutant Dustin Hoffman, a much-decorated star of our times, you’ll see it happens, and gives little time even for a reflex! The story is about a shy graduate being first gently, then blatantly being seduced by the wife of his father’s partner, Mrs Robinson  (Anne Bancroft). There are many aspects to the plot, but “Mrs Robinson” is a patent critic’s word, that would be close to today’s “cougar”.

I am still for #MeToo, but there is a backdrop that may not be set aside. DH Lawrence, much criticised by the moralists, shocked the world of literature with his “Sons and lovers”, essentially an affair of a mother willingly trapping her son into an affair. For niceties of story closure, the “graduate”, as well the “son” finally settle with their girl-friends.

A recent production, much watched and discussed (though I would not rate it too high), “Fifty Shades of Grey”, certainly has a socially prevalent background, that made it so popular, in gossip circles!

I may still have to add from mythology, The, “Oedipus Complex”, though it occurred in circumstances of ignorance. The five Pandavas getting a go-ahead from their mother Kunti, for marriage to a single Draupadi is hardly taken up for discussions for its appropriateness, or the inverse of appropriateness.

Kunti, herself had a pre-marital affair, and more is talked of the generous and skilled Karna, that the circumstances of his birth.

The present tide of #MeToo, first cropped up in the “casting couch” anecdotes that rose in the Indian media a few years ago. The slim couch that creaked during the action, has now been replaced with a wooden double bed. Its easier to change the bed than protocol forced by habit!

Some sparks from Hollywood. The mega-producer Weinstein’s imbroglio. It was an endless burst from stars and starlets. Decorated directors as Tarantino close friends to Mr Weinstein, sagaciously did not to add a word.

Recently, the Weinstein case got weaker on information that one of the prosecutors asked a part of the recording to be deleted.

One the whole, it has to be accepted that history has, and today’s times continue to be unfair to women. They were ostracised, executed (princess Ann Boleyn, Henry the VIII), the practice of Sati, still lack acceptance in certain quarters on widow remarriage.

Though today’s #MeToo, maybe considered opportunistic at the fringes by quite a few, the core of the story is true.

With a new economy setting in, the young girl/women workforce amounting to around 30%, fathers, brothers and husbands know from their own behaviour in their workplaces, that the boss they report to is there primarily for his concurrence to carry out company policies, and not his behaviour towards women.

The unrevealed question therefore remains is, young recruits or even a regular employee confront some unacceptable pressures from the boss, either unpredictable but dicey favours as an overnight official trip, or a late-night dinner, or downright abusive attitude to block the employee’s future and talent!

The present campaign that is going mostly through media, shall certainly put rules and conditions in place, to prevent them from harassment. The ministry of social- justice and women welfare, can take up such matters, sort them on the dot, go for future understanding and comradery, for finally, the issue is to get back to work in a fearless environment. Some rules of organizational behaviour and human management may have to be put in place.

Companies do twice the business if the CEO knows that encouragement for freedom or innovation, rather than the strict 9-5 rule. A gentle encouraging clap is more rewarding than an attitudinal slap!

Sometimes, (though that should not be), a female aspirant in cut-throat competition, pays for the chores attached to clutching on to premature ambition.

A man becomes a millionaire not without breaking a few rules. Some of the brunt or side jobs are for the chosen, or overtly ambitious accomplices to do.

Peer and parental counselling shall help. In India, you don’t get much by lodging a complaint about getting your tyre stuck on a pot-holed road. You blame the driver for not being alert enough. The approach should change though!

Agreeing with the much- needed present tirade for women who never said a word when exploited, and those the present circumstances still expose them to, the movement is appreciated.

The methods to deal with should be prompt. The first is to put the discipline and approach to a working woman in the place. Ample rules are available in the west.

The second, make multi-area wise, employee strength wise, or infringement wise committees with a retired judge, a representative of the company, a counsellor, and work for a quick patch-up. Some matters could be frivolous, but rather hurting. This we owe to our daughters, sisters and mothers. However, the purpose is to move society into the next gear of productivity through just and professional interaction!

I believe the economic burden/share falling on the common citizen, shall work both ways. The positive side is that people shall be more focused in their profession. The flip side is broken relationships, job changes, addictions, parental neglect that would be on the rise.

The centuries-old Indian culture, more recently defined by the Father of The Nation, would carry us through the material churning, leaning on the non-material fulcrum!

There are enough cultural reserves, that should sail us through!

“Jisey mein ishq samajh baitha,/Woh tabassum, woh tarranum, kahin unki aadat to na thei”

(What I mistakenly thought was a sign of love, /That smile, that stance, could have been her habit)

Sunday Special: Religion is Not what you Think

The local Shambhala Buddhist temple teaches secular mindfulness. And yet, their evening chants invoke the female vampire, Vitaly, to “cut the aortas of the perverters of the teachings.” In spite of having spent a combined several decades practicing Buddhist meditation techniques and living around Shambhala Buddhists, we have never come across any who actually went through with slitting the throat of a single perverter of the teachings.

But how could this be when their religion dictates it?

The question would of course sound ridiculous to a Shambhala Buddhist, because the phrase is obviously symbolic. But it is the kind of question regularly asked about the most odious passages of the Qur’an.

Most people understand that they are not to take such things literally because they have nothing whatsoever to do with the way real people actually practice their faiths.

Every major religion includes bizarre myths and images, and violent and sexist teachings, which we ought to question.

They include these sorts of teachings because the world’s great religions arose out of ancient, undeveloped societies. We ought to question these teachings because fanatics occasionally do take them literally. But the actual members of most religions have usually already questioned them, quite thoroughly and long ago—outsiders tend to be centuries behind the times.

Consider the Jewish Torah, which makes up the bulk of the Christian Old Testament. God commands in it that people should be put to death for disobeying their parents, taking accursed things, not being a virgin on their wedding nights, and not screaming loudly enough when they are raped.

Yet, even the most fanatical Christians and Jews do not actually think raped women who do not scream loudly enough should be put to death.

And of course, of course, nobody in the West—except perhaps some New Atheists deliberately playing dumb—expect such passages to be taken at face value. If Christians and Jews had been taking them seriously, we would expect our societies to be completely different.

Western societies are some of the least patriarchal and most indulgent societies ever in the history of the world, and Judeo-Christian ethical teachings are foundational to their social orders. And far from having thoroughly divorced religion from the state, the most progressive societies like Sweden and Germany tend to have state churches.

Yet, nobody expects Swedes and Germans to even practice their faiths, let alone stone their fellow citizens to death.

However, when it comes to Islam, people in the West tend to imagine the vast majority of Muslims strictly follow the most outmoded and bizarre verses from the Qur’an, and demand the same of their neighbors—as if a Muslim majority in Cleveland would inevitably result in burqas all around.

Decades of news reports on Muslim terrorists have generated some pretty bizarre ideas about the religion. Yet, ordinary Muslims tend to share many of the same frustrations with Muslim extremists as those expressed by Western Islamophobes. Unfortunately, Western Islamophobes tend to know little, if anything, about these criticisms.

Western Islamophobes often appear to be projecting their own spiritual shallowness onto Muslims. It is one of the great ironies of the present era that it is the New Atheists, not the Christian fundamentalists or Islamic extremists, who interpret ancient scriptures the most literally.

Religions have always been the site of unexplained processes and mysterious events.

Anyone who has thought seriously about God knows the concept to be wholly inadequate to the task of representing something so vast and incomprehensible as the sum total of all things and how they hang together. Anyone who has ever seriously pondered religious scriptures knows it takes dedication and devotion to unveil their deepest meanings.

As it so happens, the most embarrassing passages of the Qur’an do not tend to be so brutal as those of the Old Testament, but we are not going to drag them up, lest our Muslim friends accuse us of propagating fictions. You see, most Muslims’ primary relationship to the Qur’an is through quotes and partial recitations, so most are not even aware of its most violent passages.

New Atheists tend to adhere to the belief that a religion can be judged by its lowest common denominator, some amalgam of the worst passages of its scriptures and the most unjustifiable violence committed in its name.

But this would be like judging Atheism by the tens of millions of citizens killed by Chairman Mao and Josef Stalin and the countless petty offenses committed by degenerates, who renounce religion just to free themselves from moral constraints.

Unlike philosophy and literature, the things that a faith proclaims are arguably not what matters most about it, either to its practitioners or to the people living in their near vicinity.

What matters most about a religion is rather how its practitioners experience the world and how they behave. While doctrine is often considered important, perhaps most among Christians, it is seldom taken to be essential.

Most people strive to live up to the highest aspirations of their faiths. But most people are only able to do this in key moments of exaltation. In this sense, most religious people are hypocrites, but they are hypocrites because they set unusually high standards for themselves.

Religions cannot be reduced to their lowest common denominators, because they usually involve aspiring to experiences and lifestyles which few can attain.

Hence, if outsiders do not study the religion in depth, their critiques will usually seem senseless to insiders. They will refer to obscure passages that are either forgotten or interpreted metaphorically or else bad translations which just sound wrong.

If you are a Western outsider to Islam, it is almost certainly not what you think, because what you think has been distorted through the ignorance and bigotry of its most vocal Western critics. But if you are an insider to Islam, it is also unlikely to be what you think, because like most every religion, it touches on matters deeper than even the thoughts of its deepest theologians.

Whatever the faithful might mean when they refer to God is too vast to be comprehended; and spiritual exaltation is too beautiful for words.

People whose religiosity consists only of spiritual practices will probably interpret our words as a call to more and deeper spiritual practice. However, this is not what we are talking about, but rather the way ordinary people practice their faiths, which tends to be much deeper than those who do spiritual practices think.

Others who think that Islam needs to be criticized will probably read in what we are saying a full-throated defense of its doctrines. However, like all of the major world religions, we believe Islam needs to be reformed so as to better integrate the great moral and institutional achievements of modernity into its doctrines.

And yet, we are not talking about reforming Islam because outsiders to a religion seldom succeed in reforming them, for most of their attempts just come across looking like bigotry, which they all too often are.

Moreover, Islam is under attack in every corner of the world and the arrogant efforts of outsiders to reform it seem to play a part in these attacks, which in places like Burma has helped contribute to genocide.

Anyone who wishes to reform Islam would do well to understand it from the inside out, but anyone wishing to understand it deeply may find themselves discovering something wholly different from what it looks like on the outside.

Why the cone of silence about harassment?

The positive facets of India’s fierce MeToo moment have been both quietly and vocally internalised, at least in metropolitan India. Following revelations of alleged harassment and obnoxious behaviour by men in authority who should have known better, there is now heightened awareness of the need to be gender sensitive in personal and professional behaviour. Men in high places have realised it is better to be extra careful, even at the cost of appearing cold and detached, rather than doing or saying anything that could be construed as offensive. The price to be paid for stepping out of line is very high.

This may well be a frightened reaction. In time, a new normal will emerge but till then there could be a period where caution, wariness and awkwardness may define man-woman interactions in the workplace. Never mind physical contact or offensive language, in today’s surcharged environment it only needs a complaint of a leering look to be called out and socially and professionally disgraced. Many of those named in the MeToo outpourings were predators but there are also those who have been picked on.

The distortions of an otherwise well-meaning movement have been understood in the West, particularly in the wake of the controversy over the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. In the words of Wendy Kaminer, an American lawyer with a record of fighting for women’s rights, MeToo “commands us to ‘believe the women’ unthinkingly without considering the seriousness or plausibility of their claims. It calls every accuser a survivor, whether she alleges a sexual assault or a single, unsolicited advance. It ignores essential differences between work-related harassment that undermines women professionally and inconsequential social annoyances, threatening to police interpersonal relations outside the workplace.”

Every social phenomenon has unintended consequences and the West has experienced the full weight of these. In India, the biggest and most immediate casualty of MeToo has been the reputation of the media. The profession that, even till a month ago, was perceived as noble, glamorous, full of adventure and excitement and even lucrative has been downgraded. It is now being cast as sleazy, immoral and lorded over by Harvey Weinstein-type figures. It is my guess that many young women who were dreaming of a media career will have second thoughts. Concerned parents, particularly those unfamiliar with the more relaxed social codes of creative professions, may even try and persuade their impressionable daughters to look for alternative vocations. If employers follow suit and come to the unfortunate conclusion that women in the workplace means complications, the whole thrust towards greater women’s empowerment could suffer grievously. Alternatively, it could create a social bias in recruitment by shutting out women who don’t fit sexist stereotypes.

The high point of the MeToo campaign was the resignation of a minister for his alleged transgressions in an earlier life. In the battle of perceptions, MJ Akbar lost out because he was seen to be using his status in public life to intimidate a woman journalist who had the courage to speak out. His position was further undermined because his legal action also prompted a countervailing ‘class action’ by other women who had their own experiences to narrate.

Read together, these accounts and testimonials of endorsement painted a horror story. It was a picture of utter depravity with lots of otherwise upright people observing in silence or colluding in their editor’s harassment and misconduct with vulnerable women. Never before has the media been so tellingly disgraced in the public imagination. Larger questions of the media’s credibility as a pillar of democracy are now inescapable.

Most of the MeToo stories that surfaced over the past fortnight relate to events a decade or more earlier. Why, it may well be asked, has it taken so long for people — who are otherwise engaged in unearthing wrongdoings in society — to expose these scandals? That those traumatised by horrible personal experiences may not want to relive this grim past is understandable. It took four decades and more for the magnitude of the rapes of German women in Berlin by the Soviet army to be fully exposed. Likewise, it has taken a supportive environment and collective self-assertion for women to openly recount their beastly, traumatic experiences. But why did their colleagues not spill the beans? Where were the whistle-blowers, especially now that it emerges the harassments were an open secret? Why was there a consensual conspiracy of silence? The questions are as unsettling as the predatory tales from MeToo.


Is US Headed for Civil War?

The recent mail bombs have once again reinforced the dark looming probability of a possible civil war in the US. After Americans elected a new president on November 8, his opponents reacted fiercely. Their aggressive tirades are more dangerous than even they realize!

One of the worst post-election commentaries came from a man named Van Jones. An avowed Communist known for vulgarly attacking Republicans, Jones made his career out of stirring up racial guilt and agitation. He allegedly signed a petition demanding investigations into whether the George W. Bush administration intentionally allowed terrorists to murder 3,000 people on September 11. President Barack Obama appointed him as his “green energy czar” in 2009. Less than six months later, Van Jones resigned under pressure. CNN then hired him as a commentator.

In the early hours of November 9, just after it became final that Hillary Clinton had lost to Donald Trump, Jones said, “People have talked about a miracle. I’m hearing about a nightmare. … You tell your kids: Don’t be a bully. You tell your kids, don’t be a bigot. You tell your kids, do your homework and be prepared. And then you have this outcome. And you have people putting children to bed tonight, and they’re afraid of breakfast. They’re afraid of ‘How do I explain this to my children?’ I have Muslim friends who are texting me tonight, saying, ‘Should I leave the country?’ I have families of immigrants that are terrified tonight.”

That is wild fear-mongering! What is this man talking about? The only people who might be somewhat uncertain after Mr. Trump’s victory are those who have broken the law and are in America illegally. Mr. Trump said he would actually enforce existing immigration laws passed by Congress—which is the president’s duty! But for Van Jones, supposedly this is a “nightmare”!

Jones’s eyes were wet when he said: “This was a rebellion against the elites, true. It was a complete reinvention of politics and polls, it’s true. But it was also something else. … We haven’t talked about race. This was a white-lash. This was a white-lash against a changing country. It was a white-lash against a black president, in part. And that’s the part where the pain comes” .

What does he mean by “a white-lash against a changing country”? He is hearkening back to the days of slavery—accusing many millions of white people as the worst kind of racists!

He also said it was a white-lash against a black president, in part. And that racist statement after white people elected Barack Obama for two terms by near landslides!

Van Jones is expressing the deepest kind of diabolical black racism. And CNN is helping him spread it!

Where is this leading America?

This is the kind of vile language we have heard over and over and over that has stirred up terrible bitterness and anger among minorities against this country! This kind of incitement is dividing the races all the more—and is leading to race war!

Why do so many of our people fail to see this simple truth?

After the Election

The day after the election, President Obama made this statement: “Now, it is no secret that the president-elect and I have some pretty significant differences. But remember, eight years ago, President Bush and I had some pretty significant differences. But President Bush’s team could not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition so that we could hit the ground running. … So I have instructed my team to follow the example that President Bush’s team set eight years ago, and work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the president-elect—because we are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country. The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy. And over the next few months, we are going to show that to the world.”

These sound like good words. The next day, Mr. Trump accepted an invitation to meet Mr. Obama in the White House. They had an apparently cordial meeting.

However, just three days earlier, the day before the election, President Obama had been on a campaign stage shouting that Mr. Trump was “temperamentally unfit to be commander in chief”! He even implied that he sympathizes with the Ku Klux Klan, a horrible, racist organization. President Obama was calling Trump a racist! This same president hired Van Jones and chose Al Sharpton as his main “civil rights” liaison man.

President Obama’s nice words were at odds with everything he has been doing over the past eight years!

At the same time, he was making some of those statements, thousands of people were demonstrating and even rioting to oppose the president-elect. Demonstrators vandalized property, started fires and blocked traffic. In one video posted online, a group of African-Americans pulled a white man out of his car, beat him and stole his car because he had a “Trump” bumper sticker. Spray-painted messages read, “We are ungovernable,” “Kill white people,” and “Die whites, die.” Enraged people scrawled, “Kill your local Trump supporter” and “Kill Trump” on walls and wrote awful things about his wife.

Protests occurred in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Miami and several other cities. Dozens of people were arrested. Many journalists reported these as if they were spontaneous, but everything indicated that they were all organized and planned. Many of these protesters are professionals who are paid to stir up demonstrations! Many of them don’t even live in the cities where they march and riot: Photos surfaced showing rows of large buses that allegedly transported protesters from out of town to make the unrest appear to be bigger than it actually is. More than half of those arrested did not even vote!

President Obama said he wants a peaceful transition of power. But when people called on him, and on Hillary Clinton, to calm the protests, they were met with thunderous silence. Democratic leaders mostly remained silent.

Several days later, the president did say the election results should be accepted. But it was a quickly made surface statement.

Is that “work[ing] as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the president-elect—because we are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country”?

Bernie Sanders, an open socialist who stirred up a far-left populist movement of his own when running against Clinton for the Democratic nomination, actually encouraged the protests!

Al Sharpton said, “[W]e are not going down without a fight, and Donald need [sic] to know that.” Liberal celebrities said similar things.

What kind of “fight” is Mr. Sharpton talking about?

‘We Got Our Country Back’?

Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly asked, “Is a civil war brewing in the U.S.A.?”

That is an important question! Clearly, there are many people who want a fight—a revolution—a race war! And they are going to get it—and a whole lot more!

As Americans are becoming their own worst enemies, what do you think our enemies abroad will do?

After the election, conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh said, “We just got our country back.” Then the riots began. This isn’t “getting your country back”—this is an alarm of war!

The fact that Limbaugh even covered the riots was enough to prompt one of his longtime listeners to call in angry because Limbaugh wasn’t dwelling on the election success, he was mentioning the riots. The caller just didn’t want to hear such bad news. He wanted to celebrate winning the election.

That is a dangerous attitude, an attitude that will ignore the disaster right up until it swallows you!

Average Americans just want everything to calm down so they can get back to their lives and their pleasures and so forth. But the shocks for America aren’t going to go away. You can see that if you are watching what is happening with open eyes.

Saturday Special: Devotion and Codependency

In a healthy relationship, both people depend on each other. That mutual dependence makes both people in the relationship feel safe and that sense of security nurtures their resourcefulness and resilience.

Since your partner is dependable, you can be more fearless and more self-sufficient. Your partner celebrates your strength and independence in you and you celebrate theirs.

But what does it mean to be in a codependent relationship?

In this kind of relationship, the two people involved surrender their independence and instead develop an unhealthy dependence on each other that doesn’t allow either person to grow.

One partner is unhealthily obsessed with the needs of the other partner, to the point of where they ignore their own needs. Codependents look outside their true and authentic self to find happiness and fulfillment. They don’t believe that it can come from within themselves.

Codependents lose themselves in the life of another person. They attach their core being to their codependent relationship. They depend on getting approval from their partner for their very identity. They derive their sense of purpose from making sacrifices to fulfill the needs of another.

Sadly, that means they are looking to find happiness and fulfillment by propping up someone else — someone who is not propping them up. And that’s a recipe for disappointment.

Codependency can cause some people to become marriage and relationship junkies — people who become enmeshed and obsessed with taking care of their partner. This obsession stems from their frantic need to be in a relationship and a constant fear of not being able to control the relationship. Making the other person totally dependent on them creates the illusion that they are in control. They obsessively think, “This person can never leave me because I do everything for them and they’d fall apart if they left.”

You know you are in a codependent relationship when you constantly feel insecure and you have a desperate need for certainty. You are filled with fear you will be abandoned, rejected, or the relationship won’t last. You are hyper-vigilant for signs your relationship is in trouble.

You somehow believe that by sacrificing everything for your partner, you can control the relationship. The goal is to make someone so dependent on you that they will never be able to leave. But this leads to an inauthentic relationship in which neither person is truly nurtured and nobody gets what they really need. Codependent couples may feel stable at the moment, but it’s not where true security lies.

10 Definitive Signs You’re in a Codependent Relationship

Are you a codependent person?

“Ugh, I am so not a codependent person,” said the codependent person. “I’m way too independent and responsible to depend on another person like that. In fact, it’s ALL OF THE OTHER PEOPLE in my life with the issues, and I’m stuck cleaning up their messes.”

Most codependents attract troubled or dependent people into our lives, and our chronic “helping” and “fixing” unknowingly perpetuates the cycle. We’re very nice, responsible, loving people—we just have weak and stunted boundaries. We love to the point of exhaustion, neglecting our own needs and wants to take care of other people. We’re always there to help or give advice, often without anyone asking for it.

Believe it or not, it’s a very subtle dysfunction, like a low-boiling simmer that heats up our lives just enough to be uncomfortable, yet bearable.

(Except, trust me, it’ll eventually burn you and everyone you love.) In a lot of ways, the sacrificial, martyr-like role of codependence is totally culturally acceptable, especially for women, but that doesn’t make it healthy.

“A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior,” said Melody Beattie in her groundbreaking book Codependent No More. Since writing that book nearly 30 years ago, a wealth of research and insight has developed on the subject.

In fact, Beattie wrote an updated handbook, The New Codependency, which may have been the most important, eye-opening book I’ve ever read.

Since that day in Barnes & Noble, I’ve read books, attended conferences, and started my own therapy program to address the deep roots of codependency in my life. Through it all, I’ve seen a few common denominators: If you struggle with self-love, perfectionism, or chronic People Pleasing, you might be a codependent.

If you’re an obsessive worrier with control issues, then yep, you might be a codependent. If you’re a master at gauging how other people feel, yet your own feelings are a little fuzzy…(you get the idea).

It might be most obvious to look at it in a romantic relationship or marriage. See if you relate to any of these:

  1. You’re dating or married to an alcoholic or addict (any kind of addict).

And/or you have a history of attracting damaged people into your life.

  1. You do things for your partner that he or she can and should be doing, all in the name of love.

In fact, maybe your mother or sister repeatedly tells you that you help this person a little too much.

  1. You let your partner have his or her way, and then feel overwhelmed with anger and resentment.

“Look at all I do for you!” Is a common phrase in the codependent’s vocabulary.

  1. You feel responsible for your partner’s actions and behaviors.

Because LOVE.

  1. You’re always talking about/worrying about your partner’s issues.

In fact, you make them your issues.

  1. You’ve allowed irresponsible, hurtful behavior in your relationship

Not just physically, but emotionally or financially. Instead of walking away, your deep compassion for this person makes you want to stay and help.

  1. Your partner’s mood affects your day.

In both good and bad ways.

  1. You always want to know what your partner is doing or thinking.

And you often get involved in his or her business.

  1. Your partner’s needs always seem to be met, while your needs and wants are ignored.
  2. You have trouble pinpointing your own feelings and thoughts, or you diminish/deny how you feel.

And if any of this makes you say, “Oh my gosh! That’s so my mother!” then that’s another sign of some deep codependent programming, as this is a learned dynamic. Codependents (and addicts for that matter) are almost always children of codependents, passed down like a family legacy.

Of course the roots and symptoms of codependency are individual and nuanced. Some codependents have next to no boundaries around things like their health and happiness (hand raised!), while others have developed walls so tall and thick that no one can get in.

And some codependents are also dealing with addictions, known as “Double Winners,” and so their experience is different than mine. All in all, though, codependency is an emotional dysfunction that affects so many aspects of life.

Taking care of our needs—really loving ourselves—isn’t selfish or narcissistic, it’s actually incredibly healthy. Expecting reciprocity and respect from our partners isn’t unrealistic, it’s LOVE. And allowing someone to hurt us, like an addicted husband, says more about our self-respect than it says about them, because we’ve allowed it into our lives.

Recovering from codependency has meant maturing in all the ways one needs to mature.

Turn your relationship around and get the help you need to form a secure and authentic relationship built on boundaries and respect.

A Retiring CEO’s Open Letter to Young People on How to Succeed

Dear young people:

As most of you probably know, there is a megaton of online content about the strengths and weaknesses of your generation. As a Gen X CEO who employs a whole lot of you, I am not here to dispute or validate any of it.

What I want to do instead is offer some very basic advice on how to get ahead faster in your careers. It comes from a place of love, for the plain reason that I truly love so many of you. You can be frustrating as hell at times, but so can I. You can be spoiled and impatient, but ditto.

Now that that’s settled, here we go:

Adapt to generational differences of management.

I often observed that the Gen Xers were more conflict prone while the former were more conflict averse.

By “conflict” I mean a sort of blunt, in-your-face style that places a higher priority on getting a job done right than on the feelings of others. Clearly, this style isn’t necessarily exclusive to–or even a hallmark of–older generations, but our current era places a greater emphasis on sensitivity than its predecessors.

If you’re a conflict-averse young person, realize that there’s a big difference between what seems to be and what is. If your Gen X manager seems aggressive or confrontational, don’t take it to heart. There’s a good chance that they’re not really mad, so don’t you get mad, either.

Align your personal values with company values.

I once had a young engineer inform me that he’d decided he was finished with the five-day workweek. Instead, he was going to work ten hours Monday through Thursday and take Fridays off.

It wasn’t a request; it was a demand. When I explained that it didn’t conform with the way we organized our engineering teams, he sulked. He believed that he deserved the lifestyle he wanted regardless of his colleagues, which is a silly view of the world.

He was a talented guy, but we didn’t exactly mourn when he moved on. One of our company values is that we labor indivisibly, and his refusal to compromise hurt everybody. Strive to be what your company needs versus what you prefer to be on your own time.

Don’t take your job for granted.

At the end of the day, job security is an illusion. This is true whether you own a business or work for one; whether you’re junior or senior; whether you were educated at a state college or Ivy League. We’re all vulnerable to the unexpected.

Never, ever sit back and think that you’ve made it, especially if you’re young. Stay on your toes. Get ahead of the curve. If you embrace the nature of life itself–that there’s no absolute security in anything–it creates humility.

Humility in turn creates strength. Strength, ultimately, is our best insurance that we’ll survive whatever is thrown our way. Don’t dwell inside the illusion that since things are killer now, they’ll always be so.

Stand out.

This feels obvious, but let me tell you why it’s not. It’s difficult to accept criticism, but that’s just what you should do when it comes to complaints about your generation. Accept the gist of those complaints–you’re entitled, uncommitted, have an over-inflated sense of self–as categorically true.

Once you’ve done that, work your tail off to show that all of it is pure B.S. as applied to you. Arrive at the office early. Listen instead of lecture. Don’t make special demands. Commit, commit, commit.

Remember that older people have plenty to say that’s good about you, too. You’re technologically brilliant. You’re innovative and know how to network. Hang on to these qualities while proving that your purported defects are exactly that–purported, and 100 percent false.

Embrace your gifts and overcome your weaknesses, even if the latter simply means overcoming a stereotype by hustling extra hard to debunk it. Do that, and you’re going to be a standout, and standouts move up and move fast.

Now Move, get cracking…


Guide for Behavior Around Women in Office

The rulebook for behavior towards women colleagues is the same as earlier. It’s men who need to toe the line and be more sensitive.

One of the silliest things a man said right after the #MeToo storm took off in India was that it’s better to avoid talking to women colleagues! Another misguided remark was that men should not joke with women. Yet another guy was shamed when he suggested this would affect the hiring of women!

Men are confused and looking for guidance. The answer is certainly not blocking or bypassing women; it lies in an all-inclusive workplace culture where we have more women at the top and men who stop acting as if women colleagues are there for their sheer entertainment or pleasure! Here are some basic Dos and Don’ts for men vis-à-vis female colleagues.

Be normal!
It’s not rocket science – just act as you would with your male colleagues, minus the touching and foul-mouthing!

Do not use endearments!
Reserve these for the girlfriend or wife. Female colleagues are not your honeys or sweethearts or cuties, just as male colleagues are not!

Do not crack dirty jokes or forward suggestive photos
Women find dirty jokes offensive. Sending a suggestive photo is a total no-no. It reveals you as a pervert and makes her uncomfortable in your presence.

It is ok to compliment a woman
There is no harm in complimenting a woman if you mean it sincerely. Women appreciate compliments but also have an instinct about when these are offered in the hope of getting something in return.

Do not refuse to be alone with her!
It would amount to discriminatory office behavior if you refuse to have a meeting alone with a woman or keep her away from meetings or dinners after office hours. This would take away her chances of networking and moving up.

Talk to her face!
A woman knows when you are checking her out and this makes her extremely uncomfortable. Rein in those predatory instincts and show respect.

Do not try to take over her work!
Do not offer to handle the work of a female colleague suggesting that either you are better at it or that you are helping ease her burden. She is just as capable as you, if not more.

Do not talk of her in inappropriate, offensive manner
The Boys’ Club talk isn’t considered ‘cool’ anymore. It is very obviously an attempt on men’s part to keep women on the periphery. Do not engage in demeaning talk about women. You will gain a reputation as a misogynist.

Do not touch!
Most women feel offended at being touched on the back, shoulder or anywhere by colleagues, and definitely do not put your arm on her shoulder.

Give a woman her space
Women get uncomfortable when someone steps into their personal space. In an elevator, walking down a corridor or sitting next to her on a bench, maintain a little distance.

Don’t call a woman “aggressive” or “difficult to work with.”
Come on, would you ever call a man that? It is the well-documented way men use to pull down promising female colleagues and reeks of chauvinism.

It is ok to ask her out for a coffee, drink or meal
But if she says no, it is not right to keep at it and make it an ego issue or discriminate against her at the work place.

Stand up for and support women at workplace
If you see a woman being harassed by a male colleague, call him out and ensure she is protected.

To round up, allow your better instincts to guide you. Treat a woman colleague like you would treat a lady of your family – give her the same respect and regard personally. Where work is concerned, treat her as you would a male colleague. Love her or hate her – do not treat her differently from the others

Weekend Special: Benefits of Introducing Schoolkids to the World of Work

All students need to experience the world of work, particularly work of the future, long before they leave school, according to a new report out today.
The latest Mitchell Institute report, Connecting the worlds of learning and work, says collaborating with industry and the community is vital to better prepare children and young people for future work and life. And governments need to play a leading role to ensure this happens.
Jobs in the digital age, and the skills and capabilities required to do them are transforming at an unprecedented rate.
Schools alone cannot be expected to foster the complex combinations of STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths), digital and transferable skills, like collaboration, problem solving and communication, that young people will need in their future careers. That’s in addition to core skills like literacy and numeracy.
Bringing together the classroom and the workplace has broad public benefits, but can be challenging to do in practice.
Why is this important?
Exposure to the world of work provides opportunities for students to build connections with professionals outside their usual family networks, and to learn by “doing” in real world contexts.
Students picked by design thinking, coding and interview skills with this school-industry partnership.
This offers some valuable benefits – enriching school learning, building students’ employability, and helping them develop the capabilities (such as problem solving, collaboration, and resilience) that we know are valued in work and life.
Some students already have access to valuable experiences like industry mentoring and entrepreneurship programs at school, but this isn’t the case for all students.
With young people spending longer in formal education, many might not connect with the world of work until their 20s.
For these students, once they complete their education, the “new work reality” is the average transition time from education to full-time work is now up to five years, compared to one year in 1986.
Traditionally, practical industry-focussed learning was anchored in vocational education and training, but participation rates in vocational pathways are declining.
Shaping career choices
Young people’s pathways are formed early – with career aspirations often following traditional gender stereotypes, and tending to reflect students’ interest and achievement in traditional school subjects. A lack of interest in STEM subjects at age 10 is unlikely to change by age 14.
Varied opportunities to engage with the world of work, through career talks, mentoring, and excursions to job sites can be valuable from primary school through to secondary school, particularly for students at risk of disengagement.
Early exposure is critical to ensure that students can make informed decisions about future career pathways.
Haven’t we heard this before?
There have been attempts to put school-industry partnerships on the national agenda over the past decade, but they still haven’t reached every school.
As the recent Gonski 2.0 Review found:“While many models of school-community engagement exist in Australia, school-community engagement to improve student learning is not common practice and implementation can be ad hoc.”
We haven’t yet found a way to bring the workplace and the classroom together in an effective way.
What’s stopping this?
We need to address some systemic barriers to enable partnerships with industry to flourish in all schools:
Partnerships take time and resources for schools to initiate and manage – yet things that can be widely measured, like NAPLAN and ATAR, tend to be prioritised
We know teachers are central to making partnerships work – but many don’t have the time, or the training to know how to engage effectively with industry
There are many structural and administrative blockers that add layers of complexity for schools and industry partners. These include child safety requirements, occupational health and safety, and procurement policies for new equipment that are different in each state and territory.
Policymakers must design systems that make partnerships easier and ensure they are effective and available in all schools across Australia.
Here’s what governments can do
1. Track school-industry partnerships to ensure equity and help planning
Governments need to track where partnerships are happening, what they involve, how effective they are, and who is missing out. This information can inform government reforms that ensure resources are allocated equitably across the education system, and assist schools and industry to plan effective partnerships.
2. Support teachers by giving them time and resources
Partnerships need time and resources. We need to give teachers time to engage in partnerships and provide them with professional learning and support to more easily facilitate effective partnerships. This may include using intermediaries, which come in many forms, such as industry peak bodies, government agencies and not-for-profit organisations.
3. Address barriers to make it easier for all to take part
For partnerships to be successful everywhere, governments need to address the structural barriers (regulatory and governance issues), information barriers (finding partners to connect with and understanding how to meet both school and industry needs), and equity barriers (ensuring the schools that benefit the most are connected to suitable industry partners).

Murder in the Middle East: Symptomatic of The Sunni Divide

 Khashoggi’s murder is not a matter of human rights and all these loud protests are in reality voicing well-modulated response to the Sunni divide – the sharp differences between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. US has its work cut out in resolving the conflict. The outrageous murder of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul has brought into sharp relief the deepening conflict between Riyadh and Ankara.

For the last four years MBS sought to portray himself as a reformer who understands the kingdom must change to survive. He allowed women to drive and opened the country to concerts, wrestling and movies. Donald Trump hailed him as a reformer before the UN.

The mirage is now shattered. The crown prince is a reckless and dangerous disrupter. He shakes down his subjects for their wealth, detains women activists who demand rights, mutes the former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in house arrest and tries to bully countries from Canada to Lebanon.

Oil reserves, the world’s second largest, means countries must deal with Saudi Arabia. But the crown prince faces global condemnation, making the kingdom an increasingly shaky partner. Investors already turn away in droves, and capital has fled. The kingdom is less stable today than at any time during the last half century. The king ousted his son’s rivals, though the royal family is used to consensual governance not autocracy.

Western powers likely do not want to be seen embracing an accused murderer who uses diplomatic facilities to exterminate his critics. It will be harder than ever to convince sceptical legislators in Washington, London, Ottawa and other capitals to approve arms sales to a thuggish monarchy. Demands for war crimes tribunals will intensify.

Iran is a winner from the crime in Istanbul despite its own awful record of abusing journalists and sponsoring terrorism. The longer MBS pursues his campaign in Yemen, the more Iran will encourage the Houthis to bleed the kingdom. As Khashoggi noted, it costs the Houthis little to fire low-tech ballistic missiles at Saudi cities, which are shot down by high-tech Patriot missiles that cost $3 million each.

Responding to Trump’s vague talk of “severe punishment” for Khashoggi’s murder, the crown prince has promised severe punishment for any attempt to sanction him and Saudi Arabia for the disappearance. The Saudis risk creating an ever deepening divide and self-reinforcing isolation with the world community.

The US and UK have enormous leverage with Saudi Arabia due to the arms relationship. The Royal Saudi Air Force is totally dependent on spare parts, maintenance, upgrades, expertise and munitions from Washington and London. The Istanbul incident is an opportunity to press the king to unilaterally cease fire in Yemen and fulfil Jamal Khashoggi’s last wish to restore Saudi dignity.

For Saudi Arabia, the challenge of coping with an increasingly assertive Turkey has become as demanding as the existential threat it sees from Shia Iran. Driving the great Sunni divide are radically different perspectives of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the role of Islam in the future of the Middle East.

Consider, for example, their disagreement over the idea of “moderate Islam”. Last year, Crown Prince Salman unveiled a bold agenda of “returning the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam”. He argued that the four decades following the Islamic Revolution in Iran during 1978-79 produced an abnormal state of affairs in Saudi Arabia.

As Tehran sought to extend its revolution to the Arab world, the House of Saud ceded more ground to the Wahhabi conservatives at home and extended support to jihadi groups beyond its borders in competition with Iran. As Salman put it, “After the Iranian revolution in 1979, people wanted to copy this model in different countries, one of them is Saudi Arabia. We didn’t know how to deal with it. And the problem spread all over the world. Now is the time to get rid of it.”

While much of the world welcomed Saudi reforms, not everyone was impressed. That Iran — the arch rival of the Saudis — would dismiss Salman’s claims was taken for granted. The most surprising attack on Salman came from Turkey’s Erdogan. Addressing an international conference a couple of weeks after Salman went public with his agenda, Erdogan told the crown prince does not own Islam: “The term ‘moderate Islam’ is being lathered up again.

The patent on ‘moderate Islam’ belongs to the West. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam; Islam is one. The aim of the concept is to weaken Islam. The person voicing this concept thinks it (Islam) belongs to him. No it does not belong to you”. In attacking the crown prince, Erdogan was also rejecting the unofficial but long-standing Saudi claim as the guardian of Islam.

That Salman and Erdogan are on different political trajectories is not in doubt. If Prince Salman is trying to liberalise the deeply religious Saudi society, Erdogan is turning a secular society into an Islamic one. If Salman has a huge challenge in consolidating his power at home and implementing bold reforms, Erdogan, older and cannier, has been in power for nearly a decade-and-a-half. He has crushed political opposition and neutered the secular elite. Erdogan also marginalised the armed forces that saw themselves as the legatees of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s 1923 revolution, which put modern Turkey on a secular foundation and abolished the Caliphate.

The argument between Salman and Erdogan is not just about Islam. It is also about the geopolitics of the Middle East. For decades, Turkey stayed out of the region’s politics. As a secular state, a member of the NATO and a candidate for the membership of the European Union, Turkey was seeking deeper integration into the West. As he sought to bring political Islam back into Turkey’s life, Erdogan turned inevitably to the Middle East.

The Saudis and its Sunni allies had no love for Turkey or the imperial rule of the Ottoman Empire. While they resented Erdogan’s “neo-Ottoman” ambitions, the Saudis hoped that a resurgent Sunni Turkey could help strengthen the coalition against Shia Iran. But the Arab Spring and the developments since then have put Ankara and Riyadh at odds with each other.

Erdogan is deeply empathetic to the kind of political Islam championed by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Saudis see the Brotherhood as a great threat to the established order in the Middle East and has branded it as a terrorist organisation and gone after its units in the kingdom. If Turkey backed the Brotherhood government that was elected to power in Cairo in 2012, Saudi Arabia endorsed the Egyptian army’s coup against it in 2013 and a sweeping crackdown on its members. Turkey has offered shelter to the Brotherhood activists fleeing from Egypt and the Gulf.

In Syria, the Saudi and Turkish interests seemed to align against the regime of Bashar al Assad. But the Sunni militias they back have often clashed with each other. The Turkish alliance with Qatar, at a time when Saudis were trying to isolate Doha for its support to the Brotherhood, is another dimension of the current conflict between Ankara and Riyadh.

Erdogan has no love for Shia Iran, but he has found a way of simultaneously competing and coordinating with Iran. Riyadh, in contrast, sees itself locked in a mortal combat with Tehran, a sharpening conflict with Turkey and the radical forces of political Islam. Speaking to a group of Egyptian editors last March, Prince Salman described them as the “triangle of evil”.

The Khashoggi killing has certainly weakened the Crown Prince and significantly improved Erdogan’s leverage, at the least for the moment. The US, meanwhile, is trying to limit the conflict between two of its closest allies — Saudi Arabia and Turkey — and redirect the energies of the region against Iran. There is no evidence so far that the US might succeed. If Turkey and the Western critics of Prince Salman mount the pressure beyond a point, there is no telling how the House of Saud might lash out.

Explore Forests & Know Their Secrets

 Where would you find the world’s largest recreation center and the most natural supermarket? Forests wouldn’t have been your first answer, would it?

That’s the thing about forests. They keep secrets.

For too long we have seen trees as purely functional or ornamental, objects in the backdrop or on the sideline. They decorate city streets. They give us shady spots for resting and relief from the sun. They provide us with paper and fuel, fruit and nuts. These benefits are fairly obvious.

However, some of their other benefits are almost invisible to the naked eye. Forests are quietly working in the background, secretly cleaning our water, filtering our air and protecting us from climate change. They are guardian angels for more than a billion people, providing food, medicine and fuel to those who might not have access to these resources from anywhere else. They house more than three-quarters of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and are homes to many of the world’s poorest people.

Forests play a key role in our lives that we don’t even recognize. Here are 7 ways how and some of their best kept secrets:

  1. Supermarkets – More than the occasional apple or orange that we pluck from a tree, forests are veritable food markets. Almost 50 percent of the fruit we eat comes from trees, not to mention the nuts and spices that we also get from these food baskets.
  2. Life insurance – Some communities rely almost exclusively on forests for their food sources. Around 40 percent of the extreme rural poor – around 250 million people – live in forest and savannah areas. For these communities, vibrant forests and trees are their lifeline and insurance against hunger.
  3. Water Fountain – Forests provide a large part of the drinking water for over 1/3 of the world’s largest cities including New York and Mumbai. Many rivers and streams have their sources in forests. Trees act as filters and provide us with the clean water that is vital for life.
  4. Energy – Around one-third of the world’s population use wood as their source of energy for necessities such as cooking, boiling water and heating. Wood from forests supply about 40 percent of global renewable energy – as much as solar, hydroelectric and wind power combined. Trees grow back, but we need to place more emphasis on using these resources sustainably to protect our forests from degradation.
  5. Superhero – Forests and trees may look inconspicuous like Clark Kent, but they are like Superman in many ways. They are our heroes in the fight against climate change. They make our cities more sustainable by naturally cooling the air and removing pollutants. They safeguard our health by giving us places to retreat to and relax in. They tackle land degradation and stand up against biodiversity loss by providing plant and animal life with habitats.
  6. Carbon sinks – As a force for good, our forest superheroes act as carbon sinks, absorbing the equivalent of roughly 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Like any superhero though, they have a flaw. Deforestation is their kryptonite. When trees are cut down, they release this carbon dioxide back into the air. Deforestation is, in fact, the second-leading cause of climate change after burning fossil fuels. It accounts for nearly 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions — more than the world’s entire transport sector.
  7. Recreation – Trees are stress relievers. Nature-based tourism is growing three times faster than the tourism industry as a whole and now accounts for approximately 20 percent of the global market. Studies even link green spaces and tree cover in cities to reduced levels of obesity and crime. As one example, the obesity rate of children living in areas with good access to green spaces is lower than in those who have limited or no access at all.

Forests have been our quiet helpers. They have been secretly playing a bigger role in our day-to-day lives than we realize. We cannot lead the healthy, productive lives that we would otherwise without them and we cannot hope to have a #ZeroHunger world without enlisting their help, the help of the governments, agencies and bodies that protect them and your help in respecting them.

Share these messages with friends and think about the part they play in your life. Forests and trees should get some recognition too. It is time to spill their secrets.

#MeToo #BreakingNewsrooms: Impunity and immunity must end

“To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man’s injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength, then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Male-dominated. Super-hierarchical. Forgiving.  Stanford sociologist Marianne Cooper listed these characteristics of workplaces that incubate sexual harassment in. All three match the Indian newsroom – journalists form the majority of harassers outed over the past two weeks. The high-adrenaline newsroom culture attracts many bright young people, especially on our television channels. There is very little sensitization and training before these young people are pitchforked into high-pressure work cultures that demand quantity with only a perfunctory nod towards quality.

Sexual harassment is about power.  It is about impunity, and immunity, and it is about showing a woman her place.  It is about an organization’s culture, and that percolates down from the very top. One media CEO said things won’t change in a hurry because most news organizations – and indeed most large Indian businesses – are family-controlled, so in addition to being hierarchical they are also quick to brush things under the carpet and not sully the family name.

#MeTooIndia has exposed a deep wound, but the wound has been festering for decades. The elephant was in the room: we just didn’t want to spot it. In a recent post on the Network of Women in Media, India website the prolonged sexual harassment inflicted on her in the mid-1980s in a Kolkata newsroom.

Ammu Joseph, a co-founder of NWMI, says with more social interaction, and women journalists taking up more challenging assignments in traditionally male-dominated ‘beats’, there ought to have been less room for such “creepy, slimy behaviour”.  Actually it is precisely because more women are doing more and more brilliant journalism, that more men feel threatened.

How are things going to start changing? First, we need to see more women in newsroom leadership positions (how many women editors of national newspapers or online news outlets can you name?)

Second, it is not enough to have more women HR managers or set up Internal Complaints Committees unless your organization empowers them to be autonomous in taking action against wrongdoers.

Third, an equitable culture will not happen by magic, or osmosis.  You can set out guidelines, but training is vital.  When I managed large, diverse, multinational newsrooms at Reuters more than a decade ago, every employee had to take a ‘Management 101’ course in workplace etiquette and gender sensitization.  Newcomers also had to go through a detailed induction. Another thing that worked well was ‘reverse mentoring’, where young journalists taught their seniors a thing or two.

Fourth, survivors of sexual harassment need to organize themselves. At the least, senior women journalists must provide a bulwark and a resource centre, like Press Forward in the U.S., which was founded by 12 current and former women journalists.

Fifth, as sexual harassment is present across government and private sectors, a national effort must be launched to combat gender bias. For instance TIME’S UP in the U.S. has set up a Legal Defense Fund that has over the past year already helped 3,500 women from farms to film studios fight in the courts.

In response to the outpouring over the past two weeks, some lawyers have offered free legal help to #MeTooIndia survivors; they ought to form a collective.  M.J. Akbar’s defamation lawsuit against journalist Priya Ramani lists 97 lawyers on the prosecution side. Ramani’s lone lawyer is appearing pro bono.

This problem is not just an Indian one.

Watching an April video of a Washington discussion organized by Newseum on newsroom sexual harassment, I heard how, despite a free and strong press, U.S. media organizations were still so unequal. Every major news organization (save The New York Times) is headed by a white male (echoing the charge that Indian newsrooms are dominated by upper-caste, upper-crust males).  Organizations are only just setting mandatory harassment awareness training (at NPR) or a buddy/mentor pairing for interns (at The Wall Street Journal).

Madhulika Sikka, who heads The Washington Post’s flagship podcast, said at the Newseum discussion: “The thing that I’ve been struck by in our industry … is a real lack of humility in the leadership of these organizations. I don’t think they really stepped up to talk about how it’s affected them. And I think it would get them some respect if they confessed that maybe they were surprised about how bad it was.” This is true of India too.

There is also an inherent risk in inadequate leadership training for journalists who are catapulted into management positions.

What next? Industry leaders must deliberately, meticulously and consistently refashion their organizations to change equations.  #MeTooIndia has already caused some heads to roll, but as the media CEO said, this is all reactive, not proactive.

“When the perpetrator holds the key to your future, it can be impossible to come forward or fight back. And over and over again, harassers are getting away with it because their power is shielding them from both discovery and punishment,” Stanford’s Cooper said.

We, especially the men among us, must make sure this changes.

Implications of Austria Promoting the Crown of Charlemagne

Austria currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. As council president, Austria—and specifically its chancellor, Sebastian Kurz—has the opportunity to promote specific causes throughout the European Union. Generally, the president of the European Council promotes a theme or issue that he considers instrumental to the success of the European Union.
Theme has Austria’s president chosen to spotlight?
To answer that question, one needs only to visit the headquarters of the Council of the European Union in Brussels. Situated in the lobby of the Justus Lipsius building is an exhibit called “Museum in a Nutshell.” Endorsed by Sebastian Kurz and curated by Austrian historians, this small exhibit is designed to showcase Vienna’s many museums and to highlight Austria’s imperial and cultural heritage.
The exhibit’s message is clear: The key to Europe’s future success can be found in Austria’s history. So what facet of Austria’s history does Mr. Kurz want Europe to remember? In the video above, you can observe the focal point of the “Museum in a Nutshell” exhibit opening: a massive photograph of the crown of Charlemagne.
Mr. Kurz and his colleagues are not promoting this crown only in Brussels. The crown of Charlemagne and, more significantly, the history it symbolizes are also being heavily promoted in Vienna during Kurz’s presidency. Why? Bible prophecy tells us the answer.
Promoting Charlemagne’s Crown
The crown of Charlemagne is also known as the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire. Commissioned by Otto i in the 10th century, this crown has been featured prominently in European history for many centuries. Most recently, the crown was promoted by Adolf Hitler. Hitler loved the imperial crown and emphasized its importance in Nazi Germany, moving it from Vienna, Austria, to Nuremberg, Germany. Like Holy Roman emperors before him, Hitler was determined to keep the crown in Nuremberg forever. (Following Hitler’s defeat, the crown was moved back to Vienna’s Imperial Treasury, where it is still exhibited today.)
The “Museum in a Nutshell” exhibit promotes this crown and its rich history with a large depiction at the entrance to the exhibit. Inside the mini-museum are pictures of other artifacts and artwork from the time of the Holy Roman Empire. The exhibit puts works of art that are located in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum (khm) in the context of the European Union, connecting the present with the past.
Kurz’s message is clear: Europe needs to learn from its past. The location of the museum could not be more fitting to get that message across. At the Justus Lipsius building, EU leaders meet to discuss and vote on Europe’s future. The mini-museum serves as a daily reminder and education for Europe’s decision-makers. It is also designed to be easily moved, which is a crucial factor because the “Museum in a Nutshell” is on tour throughout Europe.
“What is a European identity?” Austrian EU Federal Minister for Art, Culture and Media Gernot Blümel asked earlier this year. “If there is such a thing, then it is probably most likely found in the arts and culture [of the EU].” Sabine Haag, general director of the khm in Vienna, said: “Our common cultural heritage is a strong witness of European togetherness, and a glimpse into the past leads us into the future.”
Many Europeans consider the era of the Holy Roman Empire to be Europe’s most successful time of common governance. When the empire was strong under one supreme emperor, Europe was united in religion, culture and art. Charlemagne (a.d. 742–814) was one of the greatest of these emperors, and the crown of the Holy Roman Empire is named after him. Today, Charlemagne and his crown are still venerated in Europe. But few have asked how Charlemagne was so successful in uniting Europe. It is one thing to venerate him, but it is quite another thing to seek to imitate his success. However, that is precisely what Europe seeks to do now.
For this purpose, the Vienna Imperial Treasury set up specifically designed tours of its museum. Its website explains (emphasis added):
In July, Austria assumes the presidency of the Council of the European Union. This is the occasion for lively debate about what Europe is, and what it should be in the future. The Imperial Treasury in … Hofburg is well suited as a forum for this discourse, for many of the objects preserved here are directly related to Europe’s past.
For example, the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, dissolved in 1806, as well as the crown of the Austrian Empire. These two insignia are central symbols of Europe’s history.
In the eyes of the curators of the Imperial Treasury, the crown of the Holy Roman Empire is a central symbol of the history that will guide Europe into its future.
Millions have seen the crown of the Holy Roman Empire and other artifacts in the Imperial Treasury, but now these symbolic objects are being presented in a new light. “It is from the European perspective, then, that 12 objects are examined afresh,” the Treasury wrote. “The intention is to elucidate the historic context in which these works of art were created, and thereby to make perceptible the diverse roots from which the ‘European Idea’ grew.”
The artifacts tell the story of how Europe faced many challenges, such as being a divided continent, living with a diversity of cultures, and experiencing foreign invasions from Slavic people and Islam. How did Europe face these challenges? The answer is bloody and lies in the history behind the crown of Charlemagne. Some news analysts, historians and art critics who know how Charlemagne used this crown to unite Europe are disturbed by the implied message behind its promotion.
The Justus Lipsius building, which houses the “Museum in a Nutshell” exhibit, is also the Brussels Conference and Press Center, which hosts most of the staff members of the Secretariat of the European Council. Sabine B. Vogel, an art critic, asked: “What message does this crown have for them?” That’s a great question. Why pick this building as the temporary home of an exhibit promoting the history of the Holy Roman Empire?
Hitler obviously saw great symbolism in this crown. That is why he worked so hard to bring it back to its home in Nuremberg. But what message do European leaders see in that crown today?
Dr. Hedwig Kainberger raised a similar question in the Austrian newspaper Salzburger Narchichten on June 26: Why is the insignia of the Holy Roman Empire emblazoned as the eponymous image [of the “Museum in a Nutshell”]? This crown stands as a symbol “for 1,000 years of European history,” pertaining to Charlemagne, Otto iii, the Crusades or the Peace of Westphalia, said Culture and EU Minister Gernot Blümel on [June 25] at a press conference in Vienna.
Critics claim that using the crown as the central symbol is something of a double standard. Austria should instead “present itself to the EU presidency with a symbol of democracy more than a symbol of monarchy,” one critic said. Although Europe claims to be pioneering democracy, they are promoting a symbol of the greatest and most enduring dictatorship in the world!
Another name for Charlemagne’s crown is the Crown of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. However, many European nations, especially Austria, identify with it. Otto von Habsburg, son of the last Austrian emperor, explained: “We possess a European symbol which belongs to all nations of Europe equally. This is the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, which embodies the tradition of Charlemagne.”
What is the tradition of Charlemagne? We need to know, especially since Mr. Kurz is promoting this tradition in Europe and wants to see it resurrected across the Continent!
Who Was Charlemagne?
Most people in Europe have a shallow or no knowledge of Charlemagne’s history. Still, he is seen as the founder of modern Christian Europe, credited for uniting Europe, venerated as the father of Europe, and worshiped as a hero. However, few know how he accomplished all of that. The fact that Hitler venerated him should give us some indication of the nature of this man. By naming his empire the third “Reich,” Hitler claimed that he was following in the footsteps of Charlemagne!
How is it possible that Hitler got his inspiration from Charlemagne? The answer is simple if you look at the facts. Charlemagne was a mass murderer just like Hitler, even though he lacked the weapons of modern warfare.
Charlemagne fought for 30 years to subject the German state of Saxony to his crown and Catholicism. How did he convert the Saxons? Was it by peacefully spreading art and culture as European leaders want you to believe? No, he converted them with the most brutal methods of warfare the world had seen to that point in history. “[T]he violent methods by which this missionary task was carried out had been unknown to the earlier Middle Ages, and the sanguinary [bloody] punishment meted out to those who broke canon law or continued to engage in pagan practices [as he called them] called forth criticism in Charles’s own circle,” the Encyclopedia Britannica states.
That’s where Hitler got his inspiration. The first Reich was started by Charlemagne in a.d.800 and lasted until 1806. Today, it is known as the Holy Roman Empire, responsible for the death of 40 million people in the Middle Ages. From 1871 to 1918, Imperial Germany was referred to as the second Reich, and it was responsible for World War i. The Third Reich was led by Hitler, and it killed 60 million people. Together, these empires are responsible for the greatest amount of bloodshed in the history of the world! Are we going to see a fourth Reich in the “tradition of Charlemagne”?
Charlemagne in Bible Prophecy
When European leaders talk about Charlemagne, they generally leave these gory details out. But if you succeed in imitating Charlemagne, you will end up doing what Hitler did! It was 80 years ago in 1938 when Hitler moved the crown of Charlemagne back to Germany. With a shallow understanding of history, it would be easy to think, That’s great—Hitler was trying to promote culture.
That is exactly what happened in Britain before World War ii. Many British leaders truly believed that Hitler was a man of peace. Only Churchill sounded the alarm. Today, the crown and tradition of Charlemagne are being promoted throughout Europe, and who sounds the alarm?
Why would Austria promote these objects and this history—at the same time that it is leading Europe? Because Kurz believes the Holy Roman Empire is the solution to Europe’s problems!
First, Charlemagne set up a common religion, culture and art to provide Europe with an identity. Then he set out to subjugate Europe with the sword. We can see that pattern beginning again today. This year has been proclaimed “The European Year of Cultural Heritage.” Due to Charlemagne’s success, Europe already has a common cultural heritage.
But the quest of the Holy Roman Empire has always been world dominance.
Guided by the Roman Catholic Church, which they believed gave them God’s blessing, the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire have led Europe from one crusade to another. The crown is a symbol of that bloody history! One of the eight faces of the crown depicts Jesus Christ with the words Per me reges regnant. Franz Kirchweger, director of art and the treasury chamber in Vienna, explains that the words put into Christ’s mouth express that “the bearer of the crown is the representative of Christ on Earth and rules his people in His name, in His spirit.”
In 2018, Europe is at a crucial turning point in how it treats its history and religion. The stage is set for Europe’s next Charlemagne!

Balancing Conservation & Development

For too long, dire messages and gloomy assumptions about the fate of the planet have lent an air of hopelessness to one of the biggest challenges facing society. Conservationists feel stymied. Business people feel villainized. We have come to accept the view that preserving the planet and growing the economy are mutually exclusive.
But maybe this dichotomous view of human needs and conservation is itself the problem. What if advancing conservation and human development is not an either-or proposition? What if we can do better in both?
The World Health Organization, the World Economic Forum and other organizations have pointed to air pollution, climate change and water scarcity as some of the biggest threats to human well-being. These are environmental challenges that also intersect with threats to biodiversity.
By 2050, the world’s population is projected to be 10 billion. We’ll see accelerated impacts on natural resources that intensify this challenge and others, such as the already harsh impacts of climate change on both people and nature.
The question of whether we can advance both conservation and human development is the driving force behind a new study by 13 institutions, including The Nature Conservancy and the University of Minnesota. From the outset, we stepped back and reexamined the concept of sustainability from the bottom-line up, so to speak.
Taking an in-depth look with global systems models, we compared the status quo, business-as-usual path we are headed down today against a version of sustainability based on realistic and achievable changes in how we use energy, land and water. We discovered something some might find surprising – hope.
For our analyses, we incorporated leading projections in population and GDP growth, and associated increases in energy (~50%), food (~50%) and domestic water use (~21%) by 2050. We also looked at how increased production to meet these needs would affect global land and water use, air quality, climate and fisheries.
We found that shifting how and where food and energy are produced can help us meet global growth projections while achieving national habitat protection commitments, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement climate targets, ending overfishing, reducing water stress and dramatically improving air quality. By making changes to our production systems, we can achieve a more sustainable future – a planet that can support the 10 billion people and millions of other life forms that will call Earth home by the middle of this century.
One key requirement for achieving the more hopeful scenario is cooperation. Making the necessary changes will require breaking out of our usual lanes of conservation, health, development, economics and all the other sectors where we so often find ourselves confined.
Meeting our climate goals, for example, will require an aggressive effort to reduce fossil fuels and the greenhouse gases that follow, from a projected 76% share of total energy in 2050 to 13%. We can do this with a smart combination of solar, wind and nuclear energy. And we can buy ourselves the time needed to make this transition by investing in natural climate solutions – conservation and land management strategies that maximize the carbon storage potential of our landscapes and coasts.
We also anticipate an increase in food demand 54% above today’s levels in 2050, but we find that increased demand can be met using less land than we use for agriculture today. Shifting crops within agricultural regions to areas where they grow best can reduce water demands and improve yields, while lowering water stress and pollution, and respecting food sovereignty (a country’s ability to produce food as it does today). In addition, investments in soil health can improve agricultural yields while also sequestering more carbon from the atmosphere and supporting biodiversity.
The key, of course, is making those changes soon. If we continue down our business-as-usual path, we’ll see accelerated climate change, loss of habitats and biodiversity, greater water insecurity and dangerous levels of air pollution. It’s a dark prospect for us and for nature.
Our analysis is not the first to address these questions, of course. A number of prominent scientists and institutions have put forward thoughtful plans for a sustainable future. But often such plans consider the needs of people and nature in isolation from one another, or are based on the assessment of limited sectors or geographies. What we’ve attempted to do is consider global economic development and conservation needs together, holistically, in order to find a viable, sustainable path forward.
The path we show is one of many possibilities. We provide this analysis as a contribution to the shared evidence base needed to engage effectively, collaborate and make informed decisions for the good of people and the planet. We welcome like-minded partners and we invite productive critics to share their perspectives. Most of all, we encourage people from all sectors of society to join the conversation, to fill gaps where they exist and to bring other important considerations to our attention.
Conserving nature while providing water, food and energy for a growing human population is possible. It is not an either-or proposition. But our scenario of a more sustainable future does rely on one thing – fast action. Several of the expected changes assume progress will be well underway by the end of the next decade, if not sooner. Success depends on our willingness and ability to address economic growth and the future of the planet in a smart and coordinated manner.

And the Twain- Grass & Weed-Meet

The question essentially is existential. The law, morality, do not intrude in the analysis, as they invariably change with what exists.

The question is, “Is some intoxication or another inherently necessary for the human mind? Has recorded history not shown some substance or the another consumed by humanity on a regular basis even during religious celebrations sometimes even as a norm a norm?”

Much before you come across stories of the Scotsman wait twelve years to savour and serve his scotch (anything brewed elsewhere neither is, nor can be called scotch), or the Frenchman nurture his grapevine and ferment and filter his grapes to finality of his much-favoured wine, there were side by side other named, un-named addictives too. Sir Walter Raleigh, and Elizabeth I, in 1600 introduced tobacco to England and Europe, and no reform or sermon from the Church could shoo it back.

Much before, in prehistoric times, Vedic times, Charak, the ancient Indian pharmacist, discovered the pain-relieving effects of opium, along with cannabis, bhang, ganja, more or less belonging to the same family of herbs, but differently concocted, that gave some stability to the human mind.

The initial use was medicinal. I believe, therapeutic amounts of cannabis, opium, as the ancient physicians knew, could settle pain, give solace to pacify neurosis, psychosis, depression, enhance meditation. The folklore and scientific documentation of “Soma Rus” is tremendous. Was it a single herb? drink? but was popular for giving a certain placidity. The first mention comes in the Rigveda. But there are versions in Sanskrit verse, describing the effects leading to a state of “immortality” which, with apologies to what is considered sacred by many, could be its psychedelic effects, since there was no formulary, and the doses are not described.

The Russians (I only trust Mr Putin), first came across earthen pots among the Zoroastrian communities, where they found burnt seeds of what may have been brewed. That three different molecules of ephedrine were traced is recorded, but no-one knows the seeds (trust the Russians, it’s a proverb). That concoction “Hoama”, was a preferred drink, even supplied or a while, to Zoroastrians settled in India.

The theme of the human race perpetually in search of a psychological prop, possibly an intoxicant, inebriant, invariably habit forming, continues.

Today’s favourite, legalised in many States of the US, European countries, is Marijuana. It’s also called “weed”, as I learnt from a young enthusiastic student. I confirmed it is the same that young guys are seen rolling up in the paper and smoking as cigarettes. Not yet legalized in India, but more or less running on the famous Clinton words, “Don’t ask, don’t answer”. Before I could say anything, he said he was fine with it, and studies went on well.

A doctor has to show enough empathy and keep confidentiality. But just as one thinks why another dengue epidemic, the thought process is not on legalities or disclosures, it is why Marijuana is so popular now, like alcohol and tobacco were at the top of the rack decades ago? Given a choice, why would a particular young man choose a marijuana cigarette, to his hitherto, irresistible normal tobacco brand?

Is it the emotional void created by the need for economic sustenance, competition, persistent pressures to achieve production as well as economic targets? Does a “Hard day’s night” push the young man to get instant peace, for a good night’s sleep?

In terms of the approved pharma industry products, one has at least fifty brands only in “anti-depressants”, and so many others for anxiety, sleep, paranoia, that establishes the fact that people have brain receptors with variable susceptibilities. I haven’t seen, the particular movie, (as I have not been to a movie hall for the last ten years), but the question to address and explore is why is there an epidemic in Punjab. Couldn’t just be due to availability. Perhaps the receptor urge, the martial temperament kindled the demand.

The other half of the community I belong to (Sikhs), do not smoke but their “capacity” to endure alcohol is legendary!

Another example. You may have hardly seen a drunken, tottering Bengali (except out of ‘Bheeshan Lob”, as Dev Das). The consumption of tobacco, particularly as cigarettes, is perhaps at record levels. The nicotinic receptor perhaps acts as a stimulant to bright minds as a regular lubricating oil to the thinking machinery. It also perhaps has something to do with the necessity of another affair, provided it is sufficiently painful, to perpetually reverberate the heartstrings!

The wave of newer addictions is perhaps reflective of the strife of today’s life. The answers lie with society, parenthood and peer ship. The law punishment to the young user of which there are millions is not an answer.

The need is for social scientists, employers, peers, to make the user comfortable. That is perhaps as far as one can go. Beyond that, the best is to remove the taboo. The lure of doing an illicit practice shall take away half the excitement.

The government may encourage start-ups of on-line hustlers, poker players, chess, quizzes in the 7pm to 9 pm slot, encouraging some games that encourage intellectual exertion, with nominal prizes and certification.

Finally, there should be strategies to slow the urges for harder drugs, for that may be an instant loss to an upcoming generation to shoulder the burdens of what we have a right to laugh euphemistically refer as a “deviloping  country”! Though much less devil that most others!

Like AIDs, the only cure for the moment is not to let it happen. Thereafter, social engineering, and not the law may be the first intervention.

Can’t see a time when humans can live without addictions. God wants to retain His supremacy

“Chand kaliyan nishath ki, chunkar mehve-aas rehta hoon.
Tumsey milna Khushi ki baat sahi, tumsey mikey udaas rehta hoon”

(Collecting the flowers of the night of our meeting, I keep on waiting,
To meet you is a relief, but thereafter I continue to be depressed

Middle East-India’s diplomatic blind spot

 Delhi focuses narrowly on its own interests, tends to recoil from any political discussion of the existential challenges to the Arab Gulf.

As their confrontation with Tehran escalates, the Gulf Arabs are dismayed by Delhi’s inability to engage with their profound security concerns about Iran. Worse still, they see a Delhi that is politically passive on the Arab front and strategically active on the Iranian side. Three factors that may explain, in part, this strange Indian duality are the ideological legacy of India’s Middle East policy, bureaucratic politics and the absence of a real debate on the relative weights of Iran and the Arab Gulf in the scale of India’s national interest.

India’s foreign policy has long had trouble responding to intra-Arab and intra-Muslim conflicts in the Middle East. In India’s post-War imagination of the region, there were only two major contradictions — one between Israel and the Arabs and the other between the West and the Middle East. There was no room in this Indian schema for the internal schisms — ethnic, religious and sectarian — that have always been part of the region’s history.
Delhi’s grand narrative in the Middle East has been inherently incapable of dealing with the conflicts that unfolded from the late 1970s along multiple axes. Consider, for example, the following current conflicts in the region: Saudi Arabia and Turkey (Arab versus non-Arab), Saudi Arabia and the UAE versus Qatar (Arabs against Arabs), Saudi Arabia and Iran (Arab versus Persian, Sunni versus Shia), and the struggle of the 35 million Kurds for a homeland (ethnic nationalism that is pitted against Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran that host Kurdish minorities).

When the Islamic revolution in Iran during 1978-79 was followed by the Iran-Iraq war, both Baghdad and Tehran turned to India for help. But Delhi’s policymakers were paralysed. It was easier to criticise Anglo-American interventions and offer lip service to the Palestinian cause than navigating the internal contradictions of the Gulf.

Part of India’s ideological legacy in the region is Delhi’s temptation to divide the region into “secular and non-secular” regimes. Delhi’s tilt towards Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war is often explained in these terms. But it does not account for the fact that the “Islamic” Republic of Iran is shoring up the “secular” regime of Assad. More broadly, the imposition of India’s values and concerns on a region whose societies were structured very differently has terribly distorted Delhi’s policy towards the Middle East.

Second is the problem of bureaucratic politics. India’s ability to deal with the conflict between the Gulf Arabs and Iran is impaired by the decision to put them in separate boxes at the operational level. There is a Gulf unit in the MEA that deals with the Arab side and Iran is clubbed with another dealing with Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is no surprise that the PAI division gets a lot more attention than the Gulf unit.

The PAI division is handled by the foreign secretary on a daily basis and gets continuous high-level attention from the external affairs minister and the prime minister. The Gulf division has become a backwater handled at lower levels of South Block’s bureaucratic and political hierarchy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to correct this by travelling more frequently to the region and trying to elevate the quality of engagement with the Arab Gulf. But Delhi is a long way from a coherent strategy that can cope with the confrontation between the Gulf Arabs and Iran.

That brings to the third factor — Delhi’s tendency to privilege long-term geopolitical expectations from Iran over the far weightier current relationship with the Gulf Arabs. On all the current economic indicators — supply of hydrocarbons, size of the migrant workers, hard currency remittances, trade and mutual investments — Iran offers no serious comparison with the Arab Gulf. Parts of the Arab Gulf are also emerging as modern financial and innovation hubs that offer great possibilities to India. Iran is nowhere in that game.

On political issues too, the intensity of cooperation with the Gulf Arabs — on counter-terrorism, defence engagement and military exchanges — outweighs that with Iran. While a section of the Arab leadership has begun to talk about promoting moderate Islam, Iran remains wedded to pan-Islamist ideas on foreign policy. Some of the Gulf Arabs are now ready to help extend India’s naval reach in the Western Indian Ocean in a manner that Iran really can’t.

To be sure, India has important interests in Iran — as a gateway to Central Asia, as an energy source, a market, and its critical role in shaping the future of Afghanistan. But Iran’s role as an energy supplier, a transit nation and the size of its market will remain badly constrained in the near term by its closed economy, a growing confrontation with the US and a deepening internal political crisis. India, which collaborated with Iran against the Taliban in the late 1990s, must now deal with reports of Tehran cosying up to the Afghan insurgents.

As political realists, the Gulf Arabs do understand that India has interests in Iran. They are also aware of deep differences within the Arab ranks. They are not expecting India to take sides. They would think Delhi, like other major powers, will play both sides of the street. What they would like to see is a less mercantilist India that is ready for political play.

While Delhi focuses narrowly on its own interests — energy security, welfare of migrant labour, counter-terror cooperation — it tends to recoil from any political discussion of the existential challenges to the Arab Gulf. The costs of this blind spot in Indian diplomacy could turn out to be rather high. The time is now for Delhi to begin a substantive political engagement with the Arab Gulf on all issues that threaten to destabilise a vital region in India’s neighbourhood.



Forces shaping the future of the global economy

The world is changing faster than ever before. With billions of people hyper-connected to each other in an unprecedented global network, it allows for an almost instantaneous and frictionless spread of new ideas and innovations.

Combine this connectedness with rapidly changing demographics, shifting values and attitudes, growing political uncertainty, and exponential advances in technology, and it’s clear the next decade is setting up to be one of historic transformation.

But where do all of these big picture trends intersect, and how can we make sense of a world engulfed in complexity and nuance? Furthermore, how do we set our sails to take advantage of the opportunities presented by this sea of change?

The Intersection of Data and Powerful Visuals

Interpreting massive amounts of data on how the world is changing can be taxing for even the most brilliant thinkers.

For this reason, our entire team at Visual Capitalist is focused on using the power of visual storytelling to make the world’s information more accessible. Our team of information designers works daily to transform complex data into graphics that are both intuitive and insightful, allowing you to see big picture trends from a new perspective.

After all, science says that 65% of people are visual learners – so why not put data in a language they can understand?

While we regularly publish our visuals in an online format, our most recent endeavor has been to compile our best charts, infographics, and data visualizations into one place: our new book Visualizing Change: A Data-Driven Snapshot of Our World, a 256-page hardcover coffee-table book on the forces shaping business, wealth, technology, and the economy.

The book focuses on eight major themes ranging from shifting human geography to the never-ending evolution of money. And below, we present some of the key visualizations in the book that serve as examples relating to each major theme.

1. The Tech Invasion

For most of the history of business, the world’s leading companies have been industrially-focused.

Pioneers like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison innovated in the physical realm using atoms – they came up with novel ways to re-organize these atoms to create things like the assembly line and the incandescent lightbulb. Then, companies invested massive amounts of capital to build physical factories, pay thousands of workers, and build these things.

The majority of the great blue chip companies were built this way: IBM, U.S. Steel, General Electric, Walmart, and Ford are just some examples.

But today’s business reality is very different. We live in a world of bytes – and for the first time technology and commerce have collided in a way that makes data far more valuable than physical, tangible objects.

The best place to see this is in how the market values businesses.

Companies like Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft have supplanted traditional blue chip companies that build physical things.

The tech invasion is leveraging connectivity, network effects, artificial intelligence, and unprecedented scale to create global platforms that are almost impossible to compete with. The tech invasion has already taken over retail and advertising – and now invading forces have their eyes set on healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and education.

Will atoms ever be more valuable than bytes again?

2. The Evolution of Money

Money is arguably one of humanity’s most important inventions. From beaver pelts to gold bars, the form and function of money has constantly fluctuated throughout history.

In the modern world, the definition of money is blurrier than ever. Central banks have opted to create trillions of dollars of currency out of thin air since the financial crisis – and on the flipside, you can actually use blockchain technology to create your own competing cryptocurrency in just a few clicks.

Regardless of what is money and what is not, people are borrowing record amounts of it.

The world has now amassed $247 trillion in debt, including $63 trillion borrowed by central governments:

In today’s unusual monetary circumstances, massive debt loads are just one anomaly.

Here are other examples that illustrate the evolution of money: Venezuela has hyperinflated away almost all of its currency’s value, the “War on Cash” is raging on around the world, central banks are lending out money at negative interest rates (Sweden, Japan, Switzerland, etc.), and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are collectively worth over $200 billion.

How we view money – and how that perception evolves over time – is an underlying factor that influences our future.

3. The Wealth Landscape

Wealth is not stagnant – and so for those looking to make the most out of global opportunities, it’s imperative to get a sense of how the wealth landscape is changing.

The modern view is either extremely healthy or bubbly, depending on how you look at it: Amazon and Apple are worth over $1 trillion, Jeff Bezos has a $100+ billion fortune, and the current bull market is the longest in modern history at 10 years.

Will this growth continue, and where will it come from? There is a laundry list of items that the ultra-wealthy are concerned about – everything from the expected comeback of inflation to a world where geopolitical black swans seem to be growing more common.

But the wealth landscape is not all just about billionaires and massive companies – it is changing in other interesting ways as well. For example, the definition of wealth itself is taking on a new meaning, with millennials leading a charge towards sustainable investing rather than being entirely focused on monetary return.

4. Eastern Promises

The economic rise of China has been a compelling story for decades. Up until recently, we’ve only been able to get a preview of what the Eastern superpower is capable of – and in the coming years, these promises will come to fruition at a scale that will still be baffling to many.

Understandably, the scope of China’s population and economy can still be quite difficult to put into perspective.

In fact, China has over 100 cities with more than 1,000,000 inhabitants. These cities, many of which fly below the radar on the global stage, each have impressive economies – whether they are built upon factories, natural resource production, or the information economy.

As one impressive example, the Yangtze River Delta – a single region which contains Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Wuxi, Nantong, Ningbo, Nanjing, and Changzhou – has a GDP (PPP) of $2.6 trillion, which is more than Italy.

5. Accelerating technological progress

As we’ve already seen, there are many facets of change that will impact our shared future. But here’s the kicker: when it comes to technological progress, the rate of change itself is actually getting faster and faster. Each year brings more technological advancements than the last, and once the exponential “hockey stick” kicks into overdrive, innovations could happen at a blindsiding pace.

This could be described as a function of Moore’s Law, and the law of accelerating returns is also something that futurists like Ray Kurzweil have talked about for decades.

Interestingly, there is another offshoot of accelerating change that applies more to the business and economic world. Not only is the speed of change getting faster, but for various reasons, markets are able to adopt new technologies faster:

New products can achieve millions of users in just months, and the game Pokémon Go serves as an interesting case study of this potential. The game amassed 50 million users in just 19 days, which is a blink of an eye in comparison to automobiles (62 years), the telephone (50 years), or credit cards (28 years).

As new technologies are created at a faster and faster pace – and as they are adopted at record speeds by markets – it’s fair to say that future could be coming at a breakneck speed.

6. The green revolution

It’s no secret that our civilization is in the middle of a seismic shift to more sustainable energy sources.

But to fully appreciate the significance of this change, you need to look at the big picture of energy over time. Below is a chart of U.S. energy consumption from 1776 until today, showing that the energy we use to power development is not permanent or static throughout history.

And with the speed at which technology now moves, expect our energy infrastructure and delivery systems to evolve at an even more blistering pace than we’ve experienced before.

7. Shifting human geography

Global demographics are always shifting, but the population tidal wave in the coming decades will completely reshape the global economy. In Western countries and China, populations will stabilize due to fertility rates and demographic makeups. Meanwhile, on the African continent and across the rest of Asia, booming populations combined with rapid urbanization will translate into the growth of megacities, holding upwards of 50 million people.

By the end of the 21st century, this animation shows that Africa alone could contain at least 13 megacities that are bigger than New York:

By this time, it’s projected that North America, Europe, South America, and China will combine to hold zero of the world’s 20 most populous cities. What other game-changing shifts to human geography will occur during this stretch?

8. The trade paradox

By definition, a consensual and rational trade between two parties is one that makes both parties better off. Based on this microeconomic principle, and also on the consensus by economists that free trade is ultimately beneficial, countries around the world have consistently been working to remove trade barriers since World War II with great success.

But nothing is ever straightforward, and these long-held truths are now being challenged in both societal and political contexts. We now seem to be trapped in a trade paradox in which politicians give lip service to free trade, but often take action in the opposite direction.

To get a sense of how important trade can be between two nations, we previously documented the ongoing relationship between the U.S. and Canada, in which each country is the best customer of the other:

With the recent USMCA agreement, the two countries seem to have sorted their differences for now – but the trade paradox will continue to be an ongoing theme in economics and investing at a global level for many years to come, especially as the trade war against China rages on.

How you can visualize change

The forces behind change are not always evident to the naked eye, but we believe that by fusing data, art, and storytelling together that we can create powerful context on the trends shaping our future.

Worst U.S. Political Division Since Post-Civil War Reconstruction Era

The last time political polarization was this extreme, a Civil War veteran was the president of the United States
American political division is worse now than at any point in the past 140 years. The United States Senate confirmed Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court by a vote of 50 to 48 on Saturday. That is the narrowest vote margin in over a century. One Democrat and 49 Republicans voted to confirm Kavanaugh, while 48 Democrats voted against him. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted “present” and Republican Sen. Steve Daines missed the vote to attend his daughter’s wedding. The last justice to be confirmed by such a narrow margin was Stanley Matthews, who was confirmed in 1881 by a single vote.
The judicial confirmation process has become more ugly and more partisan as the political divide between Democrats and Republicans has worsened over the past few decades. According to research conducted by Michigan State University associate professor Zachary Neal, the political divide between Democrats and Republicans is at an extreme. Neal examined bills presented before Congress between 1973 and 2016, looking for evidence of bipartisan cooperation. He also examined the social networks of every U.S. senator and representative during this time period. He found that political polarization between Democrats and Republicans has steadily worsened since 1973.
“What I’ve found is that polarization has been steadily getting worse since the early 1970s,” Neal explained in a university release. “Today, we’ve hit the ceiling on polarization. At these levels, it will be difficult to make any progress on social or economic policies.”
Another study, conducted by University of Southern California assistant professor James Lo, examines political division back to the 1870s. After examining congressional voting records between 1879 and 2015, Lo found that the ideological divide between Republican and Democratic lawmakers is wider now than at any point since the end of the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era. While the rift between Republican and Democratic lawmakers narrowed from the 1870s to the 1960s, it began widening again in the 1970s. Today, there is almost zero overlap between Republican and Democrat political positions in Congress.
President Abraham Lincoln famously quoted Jesus Christ when he said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” History shows that when a nation falls into division and infighting, it quickly becomes consumed by internal crises that leave it vulnerable to attack by foreign enemies.

Humans Are Becoming Less Intelligent


It’s official, we are getting dumber.

IQ levels are falling, and have been for decades, according to a new study.

The paper, co-authored by Bernt Bratsberg and Ole Rogeberg of the Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research in Oslo, Norway, looked at the IQ test results of more than 730,000 Norwegian men.

The men had all reported for national service between 1970 and 2009, for which a mandatory IQ test takes place.

Analysis showed that the men born in 1962 had higher scores than those born in 1991.

Those born in 1991 scored five points lower than those born in 1975, and three points lower than those born in 1962.

This is the opposite of what happened during much of the 20th century when IQ scores rose by around 3% a year.

This is known as the Flynn Effect, named after James Flynn, the scientist who discovered the trend. His research, published in 1981, showed that IQ scores had risen steadily over the 20th century, with an 18-point gap over two generations.

Flynn concluded that this was down to culture – society as a whole had become more intelligent as it got to grips with bigger ideas.

What’s behind the IQ drop?

It’s not clear what’s causing the drop in IQ.

The study included different generations from the same family, which suggests that the decline is not genetic children are performing worse than their parents.

The authors of the study suggest that it could be due to environmental factors. These could include anything from what we eat, to the air we breathe, to other daily lifestyle choices.

It could be that as technology does more and more tasks for us we become less intelligent. It’s possibly due to changes in how mathematics and languages are taught, or even because we spend so much time on smartphones and computers.

The drop in IQ scores isn’t limited to Norwegians: the authors say that this trend is evident in several other countries.

What is intelligence anyway?

Perhaps it could be that our intelligence can’t be measured accurately by the old systems anymore.

In fact, for as long as IQ testing has been around, there have been arguments both for and against it. One of the criticisms of the test is that it unfairly discriminates against certain communities. In addition, some argue that intelligence is culture-specific. In other words, what is perceived as intelligence by some communities is not relevant to others.

Scientists, philosophers and educators have long debated the meaning of “intelligence”, and there’s no clear conclusion about whether IQ tests are the right way to measure it

Sunday Special: Workplace Hinder Innovation

In many sectors, the disruptive changes now occurring are so major that they have been described as the “fourth industrial revolution”. In response, organisations are focusing on innovation – hackathons, innovation labs and design jams are popular. Unfortunately, many innovations do not make it through to implementation.

Many explanations are offered. One is change resistance, but this is oversimplified and usually inaccurate. A more nuanced view is that implementing innovations is much harder than thinking them up in the first place.

An essential factor in being able to implement innovations is to diagnose the sources of resistance. One major source is the routines we find in all organisations.

Routine works at various levels

An organisational routine is the collection of knowledge, systems, processes and practices that form the fabric of “how we get things done”. Routines can exist at several levels:

>macro – organisational, inter-organisational and even national routines

>meso – policies, processes, information systems, knowledge and ways of doing things

>micro – the way people perform their jobs from day to day.

Routines exist to enable the organisation to function more efficiently, and to help people carry out their jobs.

For example, school or university teaching is usually divided into terms of, say, 14 weeks and then into 50-minute periods. Students and educators organise their personal teaching and learning routines around this model.

This is supported by meso-level routines. For example, school terms are integral to the management of the institutions themselves, including hiring, holidays and timetabling.

At a macro level, teaching routines are part of the fabric of wider society. For example, legislation governs the number of days that schools are required to open each year.

Let’s imagine a university lecturer who wants to implement a seemingly trivial innovation. They want to make attendance at class optional; deliver course materials online in a series of 12-to-15-minute “mini-lectures” instead of 50-minute lectures; and allow students’ progress to be self-paced, so they are not required to complete the course within the normal 14-week term. This plan quickly runs into trouble due to the existence of organisational routines based on the term structure.

The disruptive effects occur even at a macro level. For example, if an institution is funded on the basis of the number of students who complete courses, then uncertain completion dates make this hard to estimate. Full-time students might receive income support, and full-time status is difficult to determine if courses have no fixed completion time.

At a meso level, staff workload management systems would be disrupted. Existing processes and information systems might not be fit for purpose.

At a micro level, staff would need to structure their course materials differently, and students would need to change the way they study.

All of these routines would need to be rebuilt for the innovation to be successful.

Even a seemingly minor innovation can pose implementation conundrums. Often these are legitimate and have nothing to do with resistance to change.

The good news is that routines can often be flexible. Compromises might be possible to achieve the benefits of the innovation without stretching routines to breaking point. In our example, a choice of 14-week and 28-week course completion options could be offered, rather than making the completion date entirely flexible.

However, “flexing” or redesigning organisational routines is probably not going to happen in response to every promising prototype that comes out of the innovation lab.

Five ways to promote innovation

Based on our understanding of organisational routines, we have some suggestions to help implement innovations.

  1. Analyse affected routines as part of the implementation plan. The scope should include micro-level routines (how people perform their jobs), meso-level routines (organisational systems, IT systems, processes, knowledge and shared understanding), and macro routines (inter-organisational or national policies and systems, legislation). Be realistic about the scale of the change required. Does the value of the innovation justify it?
  2. Modify the innovation to reduce major disruption to routines. Can the innovation be modified so existing routines can be “flexed” rather than disrupted completely? Can you remove or limit macro-level disruption, as these routines will be the hardest to change?
  3. Develop new routines to replace the old ones. Organisations need routines to function efficiently. The innovation implementation process needs to include the design of new or changed routines.
  4. Create a separate organisational unit or brand. New routines can be developed and trialled before being rolled out to the whole organisation.
  5. Aim for a more agile organisation overall. Many apparently promising innovations genuinely do not justify the effort involved in implementation. However, if there is a regular pattern of innovations never making it out of the lab, a wider examination of your organisation’s agility and change readiness may be required.

The very routines that make organisations great at the way they currently do things can also be major obstacles to change, and pointing this out does not mean your colleagues are dinosaurs. Being savvy about the role and importance of organisational routines is essential for successfully implementing innovations.

Saturday Special: Dummies Guide to Negative-Emission Technologies

The world has delayed reducing carbon emissions for so long that humanity will need to suck enormous amounts of carbon dioxide back out from the air to avoid catastrophic global warming. That’s one of the conclusions of a new report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Earlier this year, Environmental Research Letters published three studies reviewing the need for negative emissions and laying out the state of development for the technologies that can help us achieve them. Quartz has synthesized those reports to help you understand the technologies that may be required to capture as much as 20 billion metric tons each year to prevent catastrophic climate change.

To be sure, as the chart above shows, the deployment of negative-emissions technologies has to be alongside zero-carbon technologies that displace the use of fossil fuels or abate their emissions. In other words, we will also need more solar, more wind, more nuclear, along with the deployment of more batteries, electric cars, and carbon capture and storage for industries, such as cement, steel, and ethanol.

  1. Afforestation and reforestation

Annual capture potential: between 0.5 and 3.6 billion metric tons. Current estimated cost of capture: between $5 to $50 per metric ton.

It’s a “mature technology” and is the simplest to understand: Just plant more trees, and replace the ones that have been cut down. The downside: just planting trees is not enough, as the annual capture potential is lower than what’s needed.

Trees need a lot of land and soil (along with a supporting climate) to grow optimally, and it’s not clear that we have enough to support a massive effort to plant more. There are other problems: Converting large pieces of arid land into forests will reduce the amount of light and heat that is currently reflected back into space, known as the “albedo effect,” which reduces the carbon-cutting effect of new forests. And, finally, forests only store carbon dioxide for decades to centuries at most. That’s a blink of an eye compared to geological formations that can store carbon for thousands or even millions of years.

  1. Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS)

Annual capture potential: between 0.5 and 5 billion metric tons. Current estimated cost of capture: between $100 and $200 per metric ton.

This technology combines two separate innovations. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) injects CO2 deep underground, where it’s stored in rock foundations—essentially like extracting natural gas but in reverse. Some 19 plants around the world have store approximately 40 million metric tons underground each year. Most climate scenarios require carbon capture to mitigate emissions from power plants and industry.

Bioenergy is the use of biomass to generate heat and power. In theory, burning wood is considered carbon neutral because it is only releasing carbon dioxide that was captured in the first place when the plant was growing. If CCS is used to store those emissions underground, then the total emissions from the process would arguably be negative.

The trouble is that scientists aren’t yet sure if biomass can always be considered carbon neutral. As Quartz previously explained, “The carbon dioxide released by burning trees, some experts say, is not recaptured back by new trees for many years. In that period, the greenhouse gases released will have contributed to heating up the planet—a process that cannot be negated by the new trees. In addition, felling a tree tends to release carbon that’s been trapped by the soil surrounding the plant.”

There are also concerns that, if we rely on using the technology for all negative emissions, we may not have enough land to grow the trees needed to be burned. That may even push against the world’s need to keep feeding a growing population. Finally, though we know there is enough potential to store carbon dioxide underground, the types of rocks and regions needed are not evenly spread out. That means, to make BECCS work, we will need to also build infrastructure to move carbon dioxide from where it is produced to where it can be stored.

  1. Direct air capture

Annual capture potential: between 0.5 and 5 billion metric tons. Current estimated cost of capture: between $200 and $600 per metric ton.

Direct air capture takes BECCS one step further. The idea is to directly suck carbon dioxide out of the air and store it underground. There are currently three startups in the world that have working technologies, but the costs are so high that the startups have only built demonstration projects so far.

Climeworks, a Swiss startup, estimates its costs are between $600 and $800 per metric ton of CO2 captured. Carbon Engineering, a Canadian startup, puts it at closer to $250 per metric ton. In either case, the cost is many times the cost of CCS applied on coal or biomass power plants.

But the technology has the advantage that it doesn’t need to be located where the CO2 is produced. Instead, it could be placed where the CO2 is to be injected.

  1. Soil carbon

Annual capture potential: up to 5 billion metric tons. Current estimated cost of capture: between $0 and $100 per metric ton.

A worker turns soil containing biochar in a corn field at the Villa Carmen Biological Station in Pilcopata, Cusco.

The amount of carbon contained in the soil is a balance between carbon inputs—litter, residue, roots, manure, etc.—and carbon outputs—respiration or soil disturbance. To increase the amount of soil carbon, inputs need to do be more than outputs.

The methods of achieving the goal vary, including adding manure, decreasing soil disturbance, grazing optimization, and the planting of legumes among many others. Each of the techniques is designed to help add more carbon to the soil.

The challenge: As soils are enriched in carbon, it gets progressively harder to add more carbon, and the process becomes more expensive. There are also concerns of that the amount of carbon stored in any particular year may not always remain stable in the soil.

That said, the researchers note that soil carbon has been managed for millennia (knowingly or unknowingly), because the upshot is improved agricultural production. Thus there is intimate knowledge among farmers in different regions of the world. Better still, the technology could be deployed today, and the monitoring needed to ensure soil carbons stay there can catch up later.

  1. Biochar

Annual capture potential: between 0.5 and 2 billion metric tons. Current estimated cost of capture: between $90 and $120 per metric ton.

Biochar, a charcoal-like product made from human waste, used as cooking fuel or fertilizer, shown in an exhibition in New Delhi, India.

Biochar is created by the thermal degradation of biomass, usually wood, in the absence of oxygen. When added to soil, it has the ability to increase the amount of soil carbon—more than what can be achieved through conventional means. Beyond storing carbon, the use of biochar leads to greater retention of water in soils and reduction in methane and nitrogen emissions.

The difficulty with this technology is that so far most studies have only been done on a small scale. Additionally, if it does scale up, it will consume vast amounts of wood, which, if not harvested sustainably, could have other impacts on the climate.

  1. Enhanced weathering

Annual capture potential: between 2 and 4 billion metric tons. Current estimated cost of capture: between $50 and $200 per metric ton.

In Oman, scientists collect samples from one of the world’s only exposed sections of the Earth’s mantle to uncover how a spontaneous natural process millions of years ago transformed CO2 into limestone and marble.

Some minerals have the ability to react with and capture carbon dioxide, as the natural forces cause the rock to break apart and expose unreacted parts. Enhanced weathering accelerates that process by grinding the rock and then spreading it on a piece of land to increase its exposure to the atmosphere. As a side effect, the alkalinity (opposite of acidity) of weathered rocks can also help improve soil quality.

In Oman, for example, peridotite exists in vast quantities. When exposed to air, it reacts and forms carbonate minerals that can be seen as white-colored veins in rocks. It is estimated that the region could help store as much as 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

As with biochar, there aren’t large-scale studies of enhanced weathering’s impact on geochemical cycles and on the biomass and carbon stocks in the soil and in plants. The cost is also highly dependent on where the rocks are mined, and where and how they are crushed and spread.

Adultery and the Cheating Hearts!

The Indian Supreme Court decision to quash the archaic adultery law has brought a taboo topic into drawing room conversations.

‘Adultery is rare in India’ proclaimed a newspaper headline. As readers gagged and self-proclaimed moralists preened at the simplistic statement, those in the know smirked and felt vindicated at the well-kept open secret.

Of course a nearer truth would have been ‘adultery is rarely talked about in India’.
And yet, the Supreme Court’s decision to quash the archaic 19th century adultery law has made the taboo topic a hot drawing room discussion. Men with sheepish grins and women with an air of sanctimony are sharing their views on adultery with impunity, interspersing these with juicy tidbits from real life.

As clandestine lovers heave sighs of relief in dimly-lit boudoirs, married couples are at pains to maintain it makes no difference – because of course they would never think of an extra-marital affair, would they? Blissful denial! Truth is that perhaps India was never more adulterous than at present. With increased opportunities, peaking individualism and availability of technology that allows instant private communication, adultery has an unfettered run. A recent survey showed that most Indian men and women do not consider adultery sinful. And now it’s not illegal either!

If art is the mirror of life, the use of infidelity as a constant theme with literature and movies proves how rampant it is. Some of the most enduring books such as Anna Karenina, The Great Gatsby, Madam Bovary, Doctor Zhivago, The Unbearable Lightness of Being have all dealt with adultery as a central theme. Many contemporary Indian authors such as Shobhaa De, Anita Nair, Novoneel Chakraborty, Ravinder Singh, Farrukh Dhondy, Sujata Parashar and Tuhin Sinha have dealt with infidelity. Regional languages deal with the subject with even more rigour and honesty.

The Bridges of Madison County is everyone’s favourite film. The central theme is adultery of course. Arth, Astitva, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Silsila and Life in a Metro are some Bollywood movies that dared to deal with the subject. Other classic Hollywood infidelity films are American Beauty, The Graduate, The Last Seduction, Brokeback Mountain and Eyes Wide Shut.

The beauty of romance translates into sordid adultery when it happens between people married to others. In order to retain social acceptance, most books and films paint either the erring woman or the spouse black – thus giving her an excuse and a sanction to indulge in adultery. Very few dare show a good woman indulging in an affair on the side – underlying that adultery is the realm of evil women. The man of course is always portrayed as a slave to desire – never needing any other excuse than his own weakness to be adulterous.

So what difference will the Supreme Court quashing of the adultery law make? Will it take away the delirious thrill of indulging in the forbidden? Will it turn the surreal into quotidian? Be that as it may, the big difference now is that the law cannot punish two consenting adults for giving in to their desires, a woman’s consent is as important as the man’s, and while neither can be arrested for it, adultery can still be used as the reason to file for divorce.


Global Economy Grow by Aid of Transparency

Countries around the world spend an estimated $9.4 trillion a year on procurement – 15% of global GDP. Indeed, UN figures estimate that public procurement can account for 15-30% of GDP for many countries. However, according to the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 10-25% of the value of public contracts is lost to corruption.
This means that corruption – such as fraud, waste and abuse by government contractors – costs up to $2.35 trillion globally on an annual basis.
As Transparency International states in its July 2018 report on recommendations for open contracting: “Procurement is one of governments’ most economically significant activities, but it also poses one of the greatest public sector corruption risks.”
One of the main reasons this corruption can flourish? Countries have a lack of transparency when it comes to work being done by government contractors operating on an hourly basis. In virtually every country, government contractors work on an “honour system” where there are no procedures in place to verify invoices for the hours worked by these contractors.
In its 2017 report Fraud, Waste and Abuse in Social Services – Identifying and Overcoming this Modern-Day Epidemic, Accenture refers to this phenomenon as “self-certifying”: “Two primary issues are at the root of overpayments. The first is the frequent reliance on the customer to provide data and information that is then used in calculating their benefits. This ‘self-certifying’ of data can lead to customers making small changes and misrepresenting their situation in the knowledge that this will provide a higher amount of benefit.”
This occurs in both developed and emerging countries: Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 found high corruption in more than two-thirds of nations.
One of the index’s five recommendations states: “Civil society and governments should promote laws that focus on access to information. This access helps enhance transparency and accountability while reducing opportunities for corruption.”
The value of transparency as an essential strategy to prevent fraud and waste has been cited by many organizations. In a May 2016 report, Corruption: Costs and Mitigating Strategies, the International Monetary Fund states:
“Although transparency is a general prerequisite for the proper functioning of the market, it is also a core component of an effective anti-corruption policy. Transparency plays a critical role in ensuring the efficient allocation of resources by allowing the market to evaluate and impose discipline on government policy, and by increasing the political risk of unsustainable policies. In addition to these important functions, transparency can play a key role in preventing corruption and promoting good governance. By providing the public with access to information relating to government decisions and financial transactions, transparency can effectively deter illicit behaviour. Indeed, a number of studies demonstrate a positive correlation between corruption and the lack of public budget transparency. The more transparent the budget in a given country, the less corrupt the country is perceived to be.”
More recently, the Americas Business Dialogue, in its 2018 report, Action for Growth: Policy Recommendations and Plan of Action 2018-2021 for growth in the Americas, states: “Productivity, transparency and effective accountability are intrinsically connected (…) Empirical evidence has shown that a lack of transparency and integrity can affect a country’s productivity and economic growth.”
Indeed, the call for greater transparency is one of the core principles of the Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) Open Government Declaration, which was founded in September 2011 by eight founding governments (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States) who originally pledged to the Declaration. Now, more than 70 countries have committed to the OGD and to making their governments more accountable.
One of the declaration’s three other core principles is that greater transparency in governments can be achieved around the world through increased access to new technologies: “We commit to engaging civil society and the business community to identify practices and innovative approaches for leveraging new technologies to empower people and promote transparency in government.”
It is clear that advances in technology have given governments more effective tools to identify and prevent fraud by government contractors and, by partnering with the private sector, governments can leverage even more resources for transparency to become more productive, efficient and valuable to its citizens.
Every year, the US spends $530 billion on procurement and as such, faces the same challenges as other countries when it comes to abuse of the procurement process. While legislation, such as the False Claims Act, has been enacted to prevent fraud by government contractors, it continues at an alarming rate.
One of the most notable cases is that of the computer contractor SAIC, which overbilled New York City $500 million on one municipal project. At the federal level, the Pentagon accused Defense Logistics Agency in 2013 of allowing taxpayers to be overbilled $757 million because of the company’s failure to verify that contractors’ invoices were accurate.
By enacting something as simple as the verification of billable hours through readily available software, countries can take a significant step forward in promoting a more effective government that better serves its people. Furthermore, such a step comes with no risk or cost, as the cost of the software is borne by the contractor.
As the Americas Business Dialogue states: “Transparency is a central element for achieving sustainable economic growth and improving lives[.]”
Through technology and public-private partnerships, it is now possible for both emerging and developed countries to advance transparency in government which will save millions of dollars that can be utilized to better serve citizens and strengthen nations. With stronger countries comes a stronger global economy

Weekend Special: AI is subtly powering your life

AI can do everything from using drones for medical deliveries to helping lawyers prepare for court.

To fans of science fiction, artificial intelligence may remind them of robots like C-3PO, the loquacious but harmless golden droid in Star Wars, or Skynet in the Terminator movies, a calculating sentient computer that subjugated mankind. But AI is more than just a machine with human-level intelligence scientists hope they could one day create. It is a set of algorithms and technologies that is already powering many tasks in everyday life.

When Google Photos groups images of people using facial recognition, it deploys the deep learning techniques of AI. Chatbots that converse with you in Yahoo, Facebook and other sites use AI. Alibaba harnesses deep learning to find a handbag matching the one in the photo you uploaded to its shopping site. Digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant use AI to provide information or execute tasks.

The advancements continue. Computers are now able to generate an image that 40% of people could mistake for a photographed face, according to Lukasz Kaiser, senior research scientist at Google Brain, who spoke at the recent AI Frontiers conference in Silicon Valley. Previously, computers could only fool about a tenth of the people. “We’re very close to generating photos that look like real faces.” AI can also take search queries and reference web pages to create an article, such as a person’s biography, based on everything about him or her found on the internet, he said.

More companies are jumping into AI development. Frank Chen, a partner at top venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, said many of the roughly 1,500 startups his firm sees annually began turning to AI two years ago. “Now, 60% to 70% of the companies we see self-identify as an AI startup,” he said at the conference. Chen predicted that AI will become as pervasive in business as databases did because of its usefulness. Databases are “so generally useful, they got assigned to all the applications. AI is exactly the same,” he added. “AI is going to get into everything.”

Chen added that investors will soon stop looking specifically for AI startups, and instead assume that all startups are using AI in some form. It’s the same trajectory that mobile technology and cloud computing followed. In 2009, being a cloud native was “new and different,” and startups also began distancing themselves from desktops to identify as mobile-first. “Now, if we see a startup that’s not cloud native and not mobile-first, we ask, ‘What’s going on with you?’ AI is going through the same exact thing,” he said.

AI Startups

Startups deploying AI can do everything from using drones for medical deliveries to helping lawyers prepare for court. Chen said his firm has invested in Zipline, an AI startup that uses drones to deliver blood to remote places such as western Rwanda. The service is critical to locations that are hard to access by land. “By the time a truck can get there, it may be too late,” he said. Medical personnel in the field use an app to order blood by type. Half an hour later, a drone drops it out of the sky. The drone has a 75-kilometer range and accuracy of five feet. Chen said Zipline is making up to 500 delivers a day and is looking to expand.

Everlaw helps lawyers prepare for trials. The first step in any trial is the gathering of evidence. The startup uses AI to do things like read documents to find ones helpful to the lawyer’s case and identify those that need to be sent to the opposition to avoid a mistrial. “This categorizes documents automatically so you don’t miss documents that are important,” Chen said.

Naturali is a China-based firm that uses AI and speech recognition to speed up the access and usage of apps. For example, to order an Uber ride, you have to unlock your phone, click on the Uber app, type in the destination, choose the type of ride and then book it. “Wouldn’t it be nice if you can just tell your phone — ‘Uber ride Crowne Plaza San Francisco’ — and then the Uber app just gives you the car?” said Dekang Lin, Naturali’s co-founder and chief technology officer. “We upgrade apps with a speech interface … to translate speech into clicks and swipes.”

Voicera aims to make meetings more productive. It created Eva, a digital personal assistant for the workplace. Omar Tawakol, founder and CEO of the startup, said the most used forms of business collaboration are instant messaging and email. But during meetings, employees are disconnected from this workflow and may forget to do follow-ups. Moreover, “the vast majority of the conversations are lost in the ether,” he said. Eva will take notes, process the meeting and send a summary of it to participants. It also could be instructed to do action items, such as send a copy of a presentation to everyone in the meeting.

Shield AI is a startup that developed drones to fly through combat or crisis situations. For example, the drones can map a building in real time to construct 3D maps and identify the people inside. “Today, when we’re in hostile territory, we send young people with guns inside buildings,” Chen said.

C3 IoT helps companies solve business problems by leveraging four big tech trends: big data, cloud computing, AI and machine learning as well as the Internet of Things. For example, it helped one Italian utility detect fraud using smart meters. About 3% of electricity in that country is stolen, said Zico Kolter, chief data scientist. Some people even put car cables around the electricity meter to siphon it off. “We predict the probably of fraud and probability of recovering energy,” he said. In another case, the startup monitored oil and gas wells to see which are more likely to fail and cause environmental issues.

BioAge Labs is a life extension startup that uses machine learning to help people live longer. “They look for small molecules in your blood stream that are predictive of mortality,” said Chen, whose firm has invested in the company. “What they’ve done through machine learning is identify … molecules to focus on for drug discovery that might help us extend life.”

Airware is a drone analytics startup serving industries such as mining. For example, mine owners need to follow many safety regulations and one rule is to use rocks as road markers to guide vehicles. The rule is that these rocks need to be twice as high as the tallest wheel of the vehicle. Mine owners usually send people out to measure the height of the rocks. Airware simplifies the process by using drones to analyze imagery and identify rocks that are too short. It can also analyze a road’s steepness and recommend that drivers take another route to save on fuel.

Boomerang Effect of #MeToo

If the earlier generation of what constituted the second wave of the women’s movement in India had not agitated and legislated, #MeToo may not have played out in quite the same way as it does today.

The siren call of #MeToo simply refuses to die down. For a year now, its insistent ululation has sounded, first from distant shores but now in our very ears. No longer constrained within the domain of feminist discourse and activism, it is now sounding within nunneries and temple precincts, on movie sets and sporting fields, in science labs and lecture halls, rudely disrupting the silence, cruelly disturbing the status quo.

Significantly, it has brought together women from discrete spaces, varied backgrounds and with heterogeneous experiences to articulate three common themes: The ubiquitous nature of patriarchy and sense of male entitlement which are closely entwined with class and caste privilege; the strong linkage this has with the way in which working spaces are structured and run; and, finally, a sense that their experiences of sexual harassment, intimidation and assault constitute an important reality that is not just theirs alone to address but one that demands a response from society.

Some questions are, therefore, in order.

Why did it take so long for this siren to sound seeing that sexual harassment is one of the most familiar patterns of human subjugation, having played out across the millennia from tales told in the Mahabharata to confessions emanating from the Clinton White House? #MeToo emerged from the serendipitous coming together of a bunch of circumstances — a tide in the affairs of women which taken at the flood had led to a worldwide response. If, for instance, the Harvey Weinstein story had not appeared in an international newspaper like The New York Times a year ago, if his deeds of sexual predation were not so blatant, if Hollywood had not been a world cultural capital of sorts, if some of its most well-known stars had not shared their experiences or mounted unqualified support for those violated by him, perhaps none of this would have happened. Here, in India, there is a different set of “ifs”. If Tanushree Dutta had not returned to Mumbai with her 10-year-old story concerning one of the biggest stars in India, if Sri Reddy had not stripped herself to expose the casting couch in the Telugu film industry, if young women journalists had not revealed sexual harassment in newsrooms of today, this story would have dissipated in a trice.

Which brings me to another query, often put to me personally, as to why women journalists of an earlier era had preferred to keep silent when confronted by such instances. My answer may seem like a personal exculpation but I would argue that calling out male privilege in all its man-ifesations (couldn’t resist the pun), should be seen as a continuum. As a journalist who first came into the profession in the later 1970s, I had benefited from some of the gains achieved by the women who had come into the newsroom before me, including things as basic as toilets, more substantial beats, and trade union rights. Ours was the generation that wrote about India’s incipient new feminism, understood the importance of “consent” in sexual relations — popularly theorised in that brilliant ‘An Open Letter to the Chief Justice of India’ (September 1979) — argued for epistemological changes ranging from displacing the universal “he” in our text to bringing in gendered news stories on to the front page and prime time. We also occasionally came out against sexual harassment — but in episodic and case-determined ways that could be dismissed or ignored by the male decision-makers within newsrooms and managements or allowed to run on for years in courts of law.

The fact remains that while some of us articulated these issues — even, in the process, being called “activists”, with all the implied opprobrium — we did go on to achieve a degree of upward mobility within our professional space. That upward mobility also perhaps signified that we had simultaneously gained admittance into a largely male club with its status and privileges. Was this a pact with the establishment, bristling with secrecy and “good behaviour” clauses, that was entered into by those of us deemed “worthy enough”? For our personal “empowerment”, did we fail to rock the boat when we had to? Did we trade in the well-being of a larger cohort outside the door that identified itself as female? These are questions that don’t go away easily.

But it is also true that if the earlier generation of what constituted the second wave of the women’s movement in India had not agitated and legislated, #MeToo may not have played out in quite the same way as it does today. A communication technologies angle also needs to be brought into the frame. What we are now seeing is the network effect. Paul Mason, in his book ‘Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere’, got it right when he observed that “not only is the network more powerful than the hierarchy — the ad-hoc network has become easier to form (thanks to new communication technologies)”. #MeToo is all about how online network trumped the hierarchy, allowed the spread of ideas even as they were being generated, expedited the sharing of strategies of resistance, and of course lowered the threshold of being part of a global partnership of storytelling.

I end with a final question: Can an online campaign like #MeToo, with its “weak ties”, upend patriarchy with its millennia-long history and which is buttressed by bottomless reserves of cash and class status? I would advise everybody enthused by it to watch out for the blowback. Although it is difficult to predict the form that such a blowback would take, it will surely come. A recent piece in The New Yorker by Jia Tolentino, ‘One Year of #MeToo: What Women’s Speech Is Still Not Allowed to Do’, is rife with post-Kavanaugh angst: “It will be said that Kavanaugh was confirmed despite the #MeToo movement. It would be at least as accurate to say that he was confirmed because of it. Women’s speech. has enraged men in a way that makes them determined to reestablish the longstanding hierarchy of power in America.” Would it not be overly optimistic to believe that the same will not happen
in India?

Brexit Today & Roman ‘Brexit’ 1500 Years Ago

162 days. That’s how long Britain has left to negotiate its release from the European Union. It sounds like plenty of time, but it’s not—not when you consider the number, complexity and magnitude of the issues that need to be negotiated and agreed between now and March.
Exacerbating the problem is the state of British politics in general and Prime Minister Theresa May’s government in particular. It’s no secret that most of Britain’s elites have little to no interest in leaving the EU. They lack the political and moral courage to implement the will of the British people. More than anything, this is a CRISIS OF CHARACTER AND LEADERSHIP; this is the main reason why Brexit now feels so utterly intractable.
For those who haven’t followed Brexit closely, this is what the United Kingdom potentially faces in the coming weeks and months.
First, nearly everyone now believes that it will be impossible to secure an acceptable deal before March 29, 2019. The operative word here is acceptable. Any agreement that Theresa May (or her replacement) negotiates will have to be acceptable to both the EU and the British Parliament. Enough evidence now exists to conclude that this will be virtually impossible.
Second, many British no longer have confidence in Theresa May’s ability or even desire to secure a suitable Brexit deal. Even many within her Conservative Party have lost faith; some colleagues are actively working to undermine her. Rumors abound that a vote of no confidence is inevitable and that the Tories will have to select a new prime minster (this will not be straightforward).
Third, there is talk of another Brexit referendum. Many elites and media pundits are actively pushing for another vote on Brexit. If this happens, it will not only portray the nation to the world as equivocating, but also infuriate millions of British who already voted on this issue in June 2016.
Fourth, there is concern that Brexit will spark a constitutional crisis. If the government somehow hammers out a compromise that the EU agrees to, the deal will still have to pass the British Parliament. This will be difficult to impossible, and many are already worried that the government will go so far as to alter the constitutional process in order to force the deal through.
Fifth, there is concern that the Brexit crisis could literally split up the United Kingdom. The EU wants to separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. Meanwhile, Scotland is threatening to hold its own referendum and break away. Scotland and Northern Ireland breaking away from England seems unimaginable, but the fear is very real.
Finally, many think that an emergency general election is now inevitable. This would open the door for a potential Labour Party victory and the installment of the hard-left, anti-Semitic, socialist Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister.
Leaving a major political body is nothing new for mainland Britain. In 409AD, more than 350 years after the Roman conquest of 43AD, the island slipped from the control of the Roman Empire. Much like the present Brexit, the process of this secession and its practical impacts on Britain’s population in the early years of the 5th century remain ill-defined.
As with the UK and Brussels, Britain had always been a mixed blessing for Rome. In around 415AD, St Jerome called the island “fertile in tyrants” (meaning usurpers) and late Roman writers portrayed a succession of rebellions in Britain, usually instigated by the army – many of whom would have been born in the province.
Around 407AD, the latest usurper, Constantine III, left Britain, taking the remaining elements of the army with him. The late Roman writer, Zosimus, then wrote that the pressure of Barbarian invaders obliged the British to throw off Roman rule and live “no longer subject to Roman laws but as they themselves pleased”, a phrase guaranteed to warm the heart of any Brexiteer.
This episode, around 409AD, seems to have been the end of Roman government in Britain. No “Romans” left, beyond the small number of soldiers who went to the continent to fight with Constantine III. Instead, the end of Roman Britain was, like the proposed present Brexit, a change in a relationship with a distant administration. But how did this change actually affect the people who lived in the island? And what were the consequences?
Roman life disappearing
One of the remarkable things about the first decades of the 5th century was the apparent speed with which the things we associate with Roman life disappeared.
The use of coins seems to have been an early casualty. Coins were always supplied by Rome to do the things that the Roman government cared about, such as pay the army. The latest coins to be sent to Britain in any number stopped in 402AD. Coin use may have continued in places for some years after, using older coins, but there was no real attempt to introduce local copies or substitutes (as sometimes happened elsewhere). This suggests there was no demand for small change or faith in the value of base metal coinage.
Industrial pottery manufacture (widespread in the fourth century) also vanished by about 420AD, while villas, some of which had achieved a peak of grandeur in the 4th century, were abandoned as luxury residences. Towns had already undergone dramatic changes, with monumental public buildings often abandoned from the 3rd century onwards, but signs of urban life vanish almost entirely after about 420AD. The forts of Hadrian’s Wall, beset by what the 6th-century writer Gildas termed “loathsome hordes of Scots and Picts”, seemingly turned from Roman garrisons into bases of local leaders and militias.
Many archaeologists have argued that the change was more drawn out and less dramatic than I’ve described. Equally, our own views of what is and isn’t “Roman” may not coincide with those held by people living during the 5th century. The notion of what was “Roman” was as complicated as “Britishness” is today. It’s also clear that many aspects of Mediterranean Roman life such as towns and monumental building never really took off in Britain to the extent that they did elsewhere in the empire and much of what we consider to be “Roman” never saw much enthusiasm across large parts of Britain. Nonetheless, we can be fairly certain that people quickly lost interest in things like coins, mosaics, villas, towns and tableware.
What came next
Although external forces such as Barbarian invasion are often blamed for the end of Roman Britain, part of the answer may lie in changes to the way that people living in Britain viewed themselves. During the 5th century once Britain was no longer part of the Roman Empire, new forms of dress, buildings, pottery and burial rapidly appeared, particularly in the east of Britain. This may be partly associated with the coming of the “Germanic” immigrants from across the North Sea whose impacts are so bemoaned by writers such as Gildas. However, the change was so widespread that the existing population must also have adopted such novelties as well.
Paradoxically, in western Britain, at places like Tintagel, people who had never shown much interest in Mediterranean life began in the 5th and 6th centuries to behave in ways that were more “Roman”. They used inscriptions on stone and imported wine, tablewares (and presumably perishable goods like silk) from the eastern Mediterranean. For these people, “being Roman” (perhaps associated with Christianity) assumed a new importance, as a way of expressing their difference from those in the east who they associated with “Germanic” incomers.
Archaeology suggests that late Roman Britain saw the same challenges to personal and group identities that the current Brexit debate stirs today. There can surely be little doubt that, had they lived in the 5th century, those who now identify as Leavers and Remainers would have debated the impact of foreign immigration and the merits of staying in the Roman Empire with equal passion. We must hope that some of the more dramatic changes of the 5th century, such as the disappearance of urban life and a monetary economy, do not find their 21st-century equivalents

Cost of Truth

In the age of alternative truths and post-truth, some say it’s useless to talk about truth. But it’s actually more critical to define, diagnose and defend truth now.
The truth is easiest to define in the physical realm. We all agree on the names of common physical objects. Those who don’t are jesters or crackpots. Scientists broadly agree about earthly physical laws. But going deep into space or matter, they too start disagreeing. Luckily, those discords don’t affect our daily lives, even though there are few social issues all social scientists agree upon. This intense discord about social truths often causes great strife for us.
The pursuits of social bonds, wealth and power have always been common human pursuits. But a few shunned them and traversed mountains, deserts and forests to pursue the truth, creating the view that truth refers to great hidden mysteries about social issues buried in isolated places, which seekers discover and then share upon return. In reading such seekers, though, one is startled to find that truth merely means viewing social realities and cause-effect links more objectively.
Oddly, few do that, due to the huge personal, family, religious, gender, class, race, national and other biases drilled into our minds. Women are weak, Jews are greedy: such biases distort the truth that there are good people in all groups.
If finding simple truths is hard, speaking them openly is infinitely harder.
The reason for the extensive travels of sages was to detach themselves from their social milieu and slowly shed their biases for more objectivity. Besides objectivity, they also searched for worthy life aims that would give long-lasting satisfaction. And deep contemplation led to only one answer: pursuing wealth and power for one’s self and identity group give short-lived and shallow satisfaction. There is then this urge for more power and wealth, which soon brings us into conflict with others seeking them too, leading to constant conflict locally and globally.
What then are worthy aims? The sages smile mischievously and say the most critical aim is the pursuit of truth itself. That truth doesn’t consist of only one right opinion on every social topic known only to an all-knowing expert. It is the truth about deep social biases and the futility of the endless pursuit of wealth and power which divide people and create hatred and violence.
Pursuing truth endlessly doesn’t bring one into conflict with others. In fact, it provides deep satisfaction, optimism, inner unity and peace. It gives enormous courage. Truth creates empathy and bonding globally based on — not creed — but injustice being suffered by others. It gives boundless energy to work, clarity of thought and creativity.
To this basic goal, one can add others that minimise a focus on material wealth and power, such as reading, writing, painting, travelling, and bonding with close ones. However, there is one major problem with seeking social truth: it creates a huge urge to further pursue and vocalise it. If finding simple truths is hard, speaking them openly is infinitely tougher. Firstly, they undermine the aims of powerful forces in society who monopolise and falsify public narratives on faith, nationalism, progress, etc. Spreading religious, national and other biases expands their hold. They silence those opposing their views.
More irksome is the apathy of even ordinary people towards social truth. Various biases, identity group pride, wealth and power are far more valued goals for most. One soon becomes lonely and intellectually cut-off from one’s social circles. Some are even banished and ostracised. One then recalls a pithy couplet: zaban mili hai magar hum zaban nahin milta (I want to converse but can’t find an attuned converser). TV and newspaper folks express their inability to risk presenting truths openly. One desperately wants to speak clearly about dodgy verdicts, pre-poll rigging by strong forces and abuse of faith and rationality in a big Islama¬bad dharna in 2017, but can’t find platforms to do so.
The dodgy acts of clergy, military and judiciary in many states become taboo topics. This muzzling of truth inflicts a heavy price on nations and individuals: hatred, greed, violence, injustice, and the stifling of creativity.
This, then, is the cost of social truth globally: you discover it only after much effort, but can’t then express it effortlessly.
This leads to the troubling query of whether it’s worth pursuing truth at all, or is one better off pursuing common petty aims with a dead mind? But such is the power of truth as opposed to wealth and power that it becomes your constant friend. It soothes, calms and encourages and gradually connects you with others struggling similarly. Still, there is no certainty that truths will prevail one day.

The New Cold War

US Vice President Pence last week declared a new Cold War against China. America has now decisively stepped into the Thucydides Trap — the Ancient Greek historian’s thesis that a confrontation between an established and a rising power is almost always inevitable.
China was accused by Pence of multiple wrongs: unfair trade, technology theft, targeted tariffs, interference in the US electoral process, a military buildup, militarisation of the South China Sea islands (to keep the US out), ‘debt diplomacy’, anti-US propaganda and internal oppression. Pence declared that the US “will not stand down” in opposing these alleged Chinese policies.
Some believe that the US salvo was mainly designed to divert attention from the ongoing investigation into Trump’s possible collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential elections and/or to mobilise votes for next month’s mid-term elections.
The confrontation between the US and China is likely to escalate in words and deeds.
Yet, a deeper analysis indicates that Pence’s broad anti-China indictment reflects the American ‘establishment’s’ considered policy. The speech was preceded by national strategy papers describing China and Russia as America’s adversaries, trade tariffs and investment restrictions, sanctions on Chinese military entities, renewed weapons sales to Taiwan and expanding US Freedom of Navigation operations in the South China Sea.
Chinese efforts to build a so-called ‘win-win’ relationship through trade concessions and cooperation on Korea and Afghanistan have clearly failed.
Chinese anger was visible during US State Secretary Pompeo’s Korea-related visit to Beijing a few days ago, when Foreign Minister Wang Yi reportedly demanded that the US stop its confrontational ‘behaviour’. The confrontation is likely to escalate in words and deeds. It will become increasingly difficult for either side to ‘stand down’.
Apart from the raves of right-wing Americans, the Trump administration is unlikely to get much joy from the open confrontation with China.
The trade tariffs Trump has imposed are unlikely to return many manufacturing jobs to America since most Chinese goods will continue to be cheaper than their alternatives. US consumers will pay higher prices. The China-located supply chains of many US corporations will be disrupted, while China’s supply chains are mostly outside of the US. Nor will technology restraints significantly dent China’s 2025 technology programme, since it has already achieved considerable technological autonomy.
The Sino-US economic confrontation will have extensive consequences for the global economy. The IMF estimates that the US and China may lose one per cent and two per cent of growth respectively, while global growth would be trimmed by around half a percentage point. There are fears of another global recession as other economies become infected by the Sino-US trade war.
The prospects of the US “containing” China in the Indo-Pacific are also marginal. This is China’s front yard. The US allies and friends in East Asia — even Japan, Australia and South Korea — are economically intertwined with China and will be reluctant to confront it. US Freedom of Navigation operations could lead to accidental conflict, as almost happened recently. Short of war, the US cannot wrest the South China Sea islands from China. A reckless US decision to discard the One-China policy could unleash a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
Despite US objections, and Western propaganda, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is unlikely to be derailed. Developing countries will not forego the opportunity to build infrastructure with Chinese financing. The ‘debt trap’ argument is misleading. Infrastructure investment rarely offers commercial returns. But no country can industrialise without adequate infrastructure. The US, with its parsimonious outlays on development cooperation, cannot offer an alternative to China’s BRI.
The new Cold War will change the structures of global interaction and governance. Cooperation among the major powers on global issues (non-proliferation, climate change, terrorism) and in regions of tension (North Korea, Afghanistan, the Middle East) may be frozen. China, Russia and the countries in the Eurasian ‘heartland’ will draw closer together. Alternative trade, finance and development organisations will emerge to circumvent US domination of existing institutions.
The strategic dynamics of South Asia could also be transformed. Although India is attracted to America’s overtures for an anti-China alliance, it also wishes to avoid the ‘cost’ of confrontation (Doklam) and to secure the benefits of trade and investment with China (the ‘Wuhan spirit’) as well as to maintain its arms supply relationship with Russia. The escalating Sino-US confrontation will compress the time and space for India to get off the fence and make a strategic choice between America and Russia-China.
Unlike India, Pakistan’s choice is clear. Its strategic partnership with China is critical for its national security and socioeconomic development. This choice automatically implies a strategic divergence with the US. The only question is whether Pakistan can maintain a modicum of cooperation with the US despite the strategic divergence. Pakistan has some room for manoeuvre so long as the US remains in Afghanistan, with or without a political settlement there.
If India chooses to remain aloof from an alliance with US, and moves closer to China and Russia, it could radically alter the calculus of the political and economic relationships in the entire region. A Sino-Indian rapprochement would increase the prospects of Pakistan-India normalisation and a compromise ‘solution’ for Kashmir. The visions of regional ‘connectivity’ would become reality. However, this scenario is highly unlikely until after the 2019 Indian elections.
Although the new Cold War is wider and more complex than the old one, there is hope that it may not be as prolonged. US public opinion will soon see that confrontation with China (and Russia) is costly and counterproductive. A post-Trump Democratic administration may well decide to opt for the ‘win-win’ relationship proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Restoring basic civility, not‘fixing the creep who groped me’ is needed

“At least I didn’t rape her, yaar!” Heard that one? I have. Not once, but several times. It is said with utmost exasperation and a sense of fatigue. Women are supposed to feel relieved, even grateful that they got away cheaply that one time. The man is saying something of  enormous consequence when he states he could have raped a woman, but didn’t. The reasons for not raping her even though the opportunity presented itself, may vary. But the argument stays the same.

So now we are dealing with seven degrees of molestation. Every woman who has ever been in the presence of a predatory man has to recognize what those are. The man who was kind enough to spare her is as guilty as the one who goes ahead with the assault. The humiliation and pain remain identical — with or without penetration. Is that so tough to understand?

Think of life before social media. Before screen shots and emails and sexting and skyping. Yes, there was no ‘proof’ to produce in a court of law that would establish a woman’s case in a watertight way. So what? Before any of this, women possessed a far more powerful tool — memory. Today, it is this memory that is being desecrated and devalued. “What utter rubbish! How can she remember what happened 20 years ago? She must be making it all up.” This is a fairly common response — not just from men, mind you. Why should a woman’s memory be judged, doubted and dismissed? Why should anybody assume a woman ‘forgets’ or obliterates an incident that has gutted her and left her feeling violated. Who else but the woman herself can decide the intensity of that memory?

Women who have spoken up about their traumatic experiences in the workplace are being subjected to the nastiest probes that question their integrity, morality and just about every other aspect of their lives. That idiotic question — “Why now?” — is thrown at her, as if memory itself comes with a time limit. All sorts of insinuations and motives are being attributed to some of the more prominent women who have named the perpetrators and boldly described exactly what they had to endure till they found the courage to step forward and shame their tormentors. Are the tormenters feeling any shame? Doesn’t look like it! What we know is that they are feeling enraged. Enraged, not ashamed. Enraged at being exposed. Enraged that the world now knows just how low and awful they are. That’s all. Some of those forced apologies sound so hollow, one wonders whether top PR professionals have been engaged to construct a damage control campaign.

Reading the graphic accounts of the assaults penned by responsible women, it is obvious they are hurting so many years later. Those superficial apologies mean nothing to them. But it is still a little comforting to know it’s finally out there and they no longer have to live with the dark, twisted secret they have been too ashamed to acknowledge over so many years.

One important realisation has finally been tabled: women need to be listened to with more respect and sensitivity going forward. That is the only way. Had this realisation dawned earlier, so many anguished cries for help would not have been callously ignored. Listening is an obligation, not an option. When a woman complains about sexual harassment — pay attention! Do not treat her like an attention-seeking, hyper-touchy so and so. If she says she has been molested, do something about it immediately. Don’t be dismissive and tell her to sleep over it. Don’t tell her she is over-reacting and “he didn’t mean it that way.” Oh yes, he did! There are no alibis, no excuses. “I was sloshed… didn’t know what I was doing,” has got to be the most pathetic excuse ever. Power goes to the head in any case — why blame alcohol?

Before MeToo fatigue sets in, and we all move on, we should start by examining our home environment with the same level of scrutiny as the work environment. How healthy is it? Do the girls feel safe and confident within the family? Are they treated equally? Do they see their mothers and other female family members being discriminated against in ways subtle or obvious? Are the men in the family allowed to get away with blatant bullying because they are men? If that is so, chances are the girls will expect the same loathsome traditions to continue at the workplace. And they may meekly submit if caught in a nasty situation, just as they do at home. For MeToo to sustain itself and be converted into a permanent attitudinal shift in real terms, we need to move beyond hashtags and tokenism. This is not about the politics of vendetta and ‘fixing the creep who groped me’. It is about restoring basic civility and propriety both at home and in the office. It’s time to give men a chance to rethink the meaning and misuse of power. If they still don’t get it, well then … it’s war.


Is global economy about to crash?

Last week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published a dire warning about the state of the global economy. In the latest IMF Global Financial Stability Report,Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned that “large challenges loom for the global economy to prevent a second Great Depression.”

The fact that the IMF is warning about a possible second Great Depression got a lot of people’s attention—and rightly so. It’s not hard to find alarmist economists out there who warn about imminent economic collapse. It is far rarer for an organization with the stature of the IMF to issue a warning titled “A Decade After the Global Financial Crisis: Are We Safer?”

This is not just fearmongering. The possibility of a second Great Depression becomes more and more probable every day.

One of the main subjects covered in the report is the massive global debt. Remember the 2008 global financial crisis? Nations got out of that crisis by borrowing and printing a ton of money. That got the world out of trouble temporarily. However, 10 years on from that recession, we still haven’t paid off any of the money we borrowed in 2008. In fact, the world is even deeper in debt than it was 10 years ago at the depths of the recession. If another recession hits, how could we stop it from spiraling completely out of control?

“The extended period of ultralow interest rates in advanced economies has contributed to the buildup of financial vulnerabilities,” warned the IMF. “The large accumulation of public debt and the erosion of fiscal buffers in many economies following the crisis point to the urgency of rebuilding those defenses to prepare for the next downturn.” The report when on to state, “Some of the crisis management tools deployed in 2008–09 are no longer available … suggesting financial rescues in the future may not be able to follow the same playbook.”

Just before the 2008 crisis, the total debt of states, households and nonfinancial companies equated to more than double (210 percent) the value of of the entire global economy. Now, global debt is at 250 percent of the global economy. It would take everything the world could produce for 2½ years to pay off all of those debts.

This is unsustainable.

The IMF report points out that debt is a critical issue at every level of the economy. It’s not just federal government debt; it’s state government debt, local government debt, household debt, business debt, pension debt and more. Just about every level of the global order has borrowed itself into oblivion.

An economic collapse is a danger in its own right. But it would also intensify all the other disturbing trends we see around us.

“Alarmist as that may sound, it’s worth keeping in mind that all the major geopolitical processes we’ve been tracking for the past several years have occurred in a time of relative economic stability. It won’t last forever,” wrote Geopolitical Futures. “When money gets tight, geopolitical fault lines are more likely to rupture.”

Look how divided America is today. What happens when unemployment shoots up, pensions disappear, and cities go bankrupt? The Middle East is a mess already. What happens when economic problems topple two or three regimes? Europe is already struggling to avoid an economic crisis in Italy as it is. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote for the Telegraph on October 10, paraphrasing a projection from think tank Notre Europe: “The eurozone will not survive another global recession as currently designed.”

Recrafting Journalism: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction

Once upon a time, Denmark was known for being a transparent country with no corruption. Not anymore. The CEO of Denmark´s biggest bank, Danske Bank, recently had to resign after admitting that approximately €200 billion had been siphoned through its Estonian branch, making it the worst case of money-laundering in the recent history of this small country.

This is happening at a moment when the media, Denmark’s political and moral watchdog, is in its deepest crisis. Investigative journalism is suffering as newspapers and tv channels are reducing costs and firing people who could be part of the check and balance system which makes democracy sustainable and accountable.

However, there are absolutely, some benefits of living in a small country like Denmark, which, apart from its banking sector, is still a well-managed country. The other day in Copenhagen, I was returning from a social function arranged by Air India, and Divya Gauba, the country manager in Denmark, had chosen the venue for the event to be close to where the Prime Minister of Denmark has his residence.

Copenhagen and Delhi are now directly connected and Air India has four flights every week, making it possible for the common Dane and Indian to reach their mutual destinations faster than ever before. Peter Taksø Jensen, the Danish ambassador to India, had come all the way all the way from Delhi, and during the social event Danes in Denmark were given the chance to get a glance of India in its period of social and economic transition. In a span of one hour, I was able to converse with both the Danish ambassador to India at the social event and with the Danish Prime Minister, right outside the venue. It is still possible to meet the politicians and bureaucrats in small well-functioning societies without meeting a barrage of security guards.

The Danish society values the contribution of women in the workplace and hence, when the Air India crew appeared on the stage with both pilot and co-pilot being female, it did create its impact. I was attending the function because Air India had invited journalists from all the Scandinavian countries, and I was part of that group visiting India, to see with our eyes and write authentic stories in the Scandinavian newspapers about a country that is fast changing and creating its impact on the global scene.

What interests Scandinavian journalists is often the journey of transition that India is making from being a primarily rural society to now experiencing a shift towards becoming more urbanized. Or from being primarily a traditional society to now becoming modern with reliable institutions.

The role of the Supreme court of India fascinates the Scandinavians because of the recent judgment of striking down homosexuality as a criminal offence and considering adultery as a criminal act. In Danmark, news of both these landmark judgments has primarily reached the population through the social media. Sweden is always an exception,  and the mainstream media in Sweden makes a point of bringing positive stories from around the world.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen, The Prime Minister of Denmark, leader of the center-right coalition, emphasized that he had met the Indian prime minister of India in Stockholm, and as  Prime Minister, he felt proud of having taken steps to bring India and Denmark closer. He said that he had chosen one of the best and most competent ambassadors, Peter Taksø Jensen, to represent Denmark in India. Peter Taksø Jensen has published a report which formulates the new guidelines and priorities of the Danish foreign policy. This is a bipartisan report which attracts the attention of the political parties of both sides of the political spectrum. Both Denmark and India, choose ambassadors who are not politically engaged, are neutral and as genuine bureaucrats try to maximize the commercial and diplomatic gains for their respective countries.

But even though the interest in India at large is increasing among both politicians and the common man, the mainstream Western media is still more or less focusing on the negative news, resulting in cementing and reproducing negative stereotypes about immigrants and their respective cultures. Rape gets coverage, but an all-female plane crew with a woman pilot and co-pilot does not.

Take one of the controversial news items recently brought in the Western media about a survey conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which had ranked India as the world´s most dangerous country for women. The obvious question is, how can Syria, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan,  where women do not even have basic rights, score better than India? This was published at a time when ISIS was holding women captive as sex slaves in Syria and Iraq. It is obvious for anyone to see that such research is flawed, even if 548 experts are involved. Indian women were not asked about their position in society, yet the research was conducted and concluded just on basis of expert advice. Such surveys undermine the reliability of the news media.

During this very week, Villy Søvndal, the former Foreign Minister of Denmark, from a left-leaning party, while speaking on his book, “Med håbet som drivekraft. Fortællinger om Politik, Fremskridt og Verdens Tilstand” (“With Hope as an Incentive. Tales of Politics, Progress, and the State of the World”) published by Gyldendal, the largest and oldest publishing house in Denmark, said the following: “The world is full of good news and positive developments, but the public media does not cover it. We are not telling the world that that the number of people living in absolute poverty has decreased. Millions of people, especially in China and India have joined the middle class and more and more are getting an education. More women are joining the workforce”. Replying to another question asked by a university student in the audience, Villy Søvndal mentioned that India deserves a place as a permanent member of the Security Council, so that the United Nations reflects and represents the new world we live in.

In a nutshell, politicians from both sides of the aisle in Denmark are seeking a nuanced picture of the world. Yet, the media chooses to focus on negative news, making young people resort to the social media, because there now is a feeling of saturation. You do not want to see and hear about death tolls, rape and violence every evening before you sit down to your dinner.

It is also becoming an increasingly difficult task for the common man to distinguish facts from fiction. On the one hand, we see constant meddling into national affairs by outside forces. The Americans have become wary of both Russian and Chinese meddling in the social media world, to manipulate election results.

The challenge is to make the public reasoning robust and sturdy in its capacity to distinguish facts from fiction. The role of disinformation and fake news ought not only to be an issue during elections in USA or Europe, but it also deserves to be complemented with the larger debate on what essentially is the function of journalism in the 21st century.

The former Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, who was attached to the newspaper from 1995 till 2015, has recently published a book with the title: ”Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why it Matters Now.”

He summarizes the dilemma facing the newspapers of especially the Western world, and I am quoting from the book; “I became editor in 1995 – taking charge of a comparatively small British newspaper. We printed stories on newsprint, produced once a day. By the time I stepped down 20 years later that world had been turned upside down. By then, just 6 per cent of the young (18 to 24-year-old) readers were getting their news from print; 65 per cent were relying on online sources, including social media, for their news.”

Alan Rusbridger finds the term “social media” insipid but is clearly aware of the fact that we no longer live in a vertical world as when he became the editor of The Guardian. In a vertical world, news was published by newspapers and readers took for granted that what was passed on was true. After his book was published he has explained in several interviews that the world has become horizontal and now 4 billion people are communicating directly with each other without much interference from the vertical world of news submitted by newspapers as it used to be in late 1990s.

The economic system under which newspaper readers paid money, bought the paper, indirectly brought even more money from advertisements and hence one could support journalists with this income. Today that economic model has collapsed, being replaced by the dominance of the social media giants from the West Coast of USA. Newspapers, especially in the Western world, lack capital and money from advertisements and hence cannot hire enough journalists to carry out investigative journalism. So even though the stakes for truth have never been higher, it is becoming difficult to imagine how in future we will be able to sustain a system which would employ and retain reliable journalists who can help its readers to distinguish facts from fiction.

Disinformation and fake news have been held responsible for causing Brexit, and without reliable journalism, corruption will increase and mistrust will grow. Journalism has to regain trust, and therefore it has to learn to distinguish facts from fiction to a much greater extent and help its readers get involved in the exercise so they can themselves make that distinction.



Can #MeToo Morph into a Political Party for & by Women?

As the American diplomat, Henry Kissinger never said, but the comment is widely attributed to him, ‘No one will ever win the battle of the sexes because there is too much fraternising with the enemy.’ This is true at first glance, but if we ruin a perfectly good quote with a second glance we know this to be false, especially in our times. Something extraordinary is underway.

In India, a powerful movement is exposing male public figures who have assaulted or harassed women, with some unfortunate flirts as collateral damage. In the US where the war is nastier, Donald Trump said it was a “difficult” and “scary” time for young men in America who, he claimed, were at risk of being falsely accused by women. Like the many views of Trump, this one may have a deeper appeal among regular men, and even women, than is apparent in the mainstream media.

Trump is doing something men usually do not do — he is framing them as a single collective organism. It is exactly what influential women, too, are doing across the world — but their effort is to show this collective organism called men as a pathogen. In the history of human struggle, a collective identity was usually given to the persecuted, or the underdogs. Jews, for instance, or even women.

But now men as oppressors of women are overtly perceived as a planet-wide organism, and not merely as isolated fellowships of patriarchs. This automatically frames women of all classes as a single collective and such a bloc is always a political entity. So, will “women” organise themselves as a monolithic political force? Very simply, will there be a women’s political party? Actually, there have been several in the past in the US, Europe, and even India. But they have not survived or stormed their electorate. That is odd. If at all a political organisation can have a sharp and powerful focus, it is a party for and by “women” against a world designed for and by “men”.

India has so many political parties that there probably doesn’t exist a single Indian who can name all. The 2014 elections for 543 seats were contested by 484 parties. There are mainstream and fringe parties for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, farmers, communists who are Marxists and communists who are not Marxists apparently, and even for atheists and lovers. Yet, there has not been a major political party for women.

In other parts of the world, significant women’s parties failed for the same reasons why many political parties do — differences of opinion among founders, and the fact that people can be framed as a collective for some time but eventually they vote as individuals who have not one but several identities. But now, as the circumstances, women and the media have changed, as the enemy is deemed more unbearable than before and clearly defined, will our age be remembered as the time when women became a single massive voting bloc that terrified men?

The answer lies in the matter of class. People who ignore class in their analysis of their nation usually get not only their nation wrong, but also their own gender.

The most common expletive in the war against men is the word ‘privileged’. Yet, most of the women at the helm of the war are privileged themselves. That is as it should be. Like in any war of independence, it is natural this war too will be first fought between elite colonisers and the elite among the colonised. Through moral causes, like equality and justice, the elite rebels co-opt the lower classes to join a selfish but transformative battle against the ruling elite.

But in a more informed world does the underclass believe it can benefit from the change of their masters — from, say, privileged upper-class men to privileged upper-class women? The answer to this question is in Nelson Mandela’s iconic reply to what may first appear to be a very different matter. When he visited the US, a news anchor asked him why he was not condemning America’s villains like Yasser Arafat, Colonel Gaddafi and Fidel Castro. Mandela said, “One of the mistakes which some political analysts make is to think their enemies should be our enemies. Our attitude towards any country is determined by the attitude of that country to our struggle. Yasser Arafat, Colonel Gaddafi (and) Fidel Castro support our struggle to the hilt.”

There are Mandelas among influential women, who do not blindly consider the arch-villains of privileged women as their own enemies; who will support their own versions of Arafats and Gaddafis and Castros among men, including Modi and Trump. An amiable co-existence of different classes and races of women is a myth of academic intersectional feminism. In the real world, class beats gender. And in a level of existence called real life, women are not a single collective organism. Nor are men.

Forces To Alter the Way of Work

Technological and social forces are transforming how work gets done, who does it, and even what work looks like. And while technology can make workers more productive, there will be significant turbulence as organizations grapple with the complexity and unpredictability of a changing workforce.
There are seven powerful disruptors reshaping work as we know it. In order to address these disruptors, business leaders need to engage in transformative thinking that will not only re-design but re-imagine the way work gets done in their organizations. They need to think big, start small, become more agile, and—ultimately—move faster than the new realities of work.
Are organizations ready for Industry 4.0?
Deloitte’s Readiness Report explores senior executives’ views on the impact of Industry 4.0, that is, the industrial change associated with automation and digital technologies. According to the report, business leaders are uncertain they have the right talent to be successful in this new era of technological advancement. Only 25% are highly confident that their workforce has the skill sets needed for the future. Only 14% are highly confident in their ability to harness the changes associated with Industry 4.0. Yet 86% of business leaders think they are doing all they can to build the right workforce. Even more surprising, less than 20% of business leaders regard talent and HR issues as a high priority. In a nutshell, leaders don’t seem to think radical change is needed to get them where they need to go.
But radical change is needed. Consider the impact of automation. It’s been estimated that 57% of all jobs are at risk of being automated within the next 5 years. Emerging economies in the ASEAN region (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) are the most vulnerable to job automation. But developed economies will be impacted as well. In Singapore, for example, workplace automation is expected to double in the next three years.
To be sure, the likelihood of an entire profession disappearing due to automation is low. It is far more likely that parts of an occupation will be replaced by technology. Human talent will be working alongside artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing—or anything that can replace tasks in a business process and make them quicker, more accurate, and less costly. In this scenario, the most suitable resource, be it technological or human, can now be matched to deliver the most productive outcome.
Naturally, this has implications for the workforce and completely disrupts traditional talent models. Organizations will have to find the right balance of humans and machines to complement each other, re-designing roles to maximize talent and potential.
Augmentation also challenges current talent structures and practices by making them more flexible. Workforces will become more and more contingent, with off-balance sheet workers (freelancers, contractors, and gig workers) increasingly utilized by businesses who want to capitalize on access to the smartest people to solve complex business problems. In fact, in the United States, more than 90% of net new jobs in the past five years were performed by off-balance sheet workers. Respondents to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2018 report indicate that only 42% of their workforce is made up of salaried employees.
From the workers’ perspective, such augmentation through technology means people can now decide where best to work, whether it’s from an office or at home, in a satellite space, or in shared workspace. This fits the Millennial and Gen Z value of flexibility in the workplace—a key finding from the Deloitte Millennial Survey 2018. For these workers, the gig economy’s increased income potential and flexibility hold great appeal. According to the survey, a clear majority have already taken on such roles or would consider doing so.
This is of particular importance in Asia, where almost 60% of the working population is 28 years old, compared to 40% globally. With the vastly different career expectations of this age group, organizations need to adjust talent models to attract and retain the workers that will take their business into the future.
Remaining relevant in the future of work
The half-life of a skill has dropped from 30 years to an average of 6 years. This holds true even for fresh university graduates. This means that the model of “learn at school” and “do at work” is no longer sustainable and constant reskilling and lifelong learning will be a way of life at work. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, reskilling is the top priority for organizations looking at their future workforce strategy. And with working lives getting longer, reskilling is important for all workers, not just the young.
Individuals, companies, and educational institutions must find collective and elegant solutions that work for everyone and must push for smart ways to promote fairness and progressive thinking at work. Governments and policy makers can play a role in this new paradigm by showing bolder leadership in education and labor market regulations and by developing standards that enable and accelerate future of work opportunities. A collective response will create the platforms that enable and empower individuals to reinvent themselves to embark on new pathways and progress their careers.xxxx
Business leaders can no longer be passive consumers of ready-made human capital. They need to put talent development and workforce strategy front and center in their growth plans. This requires a new mindset to understand the challenges workers face and evolve talent programmes and models that unlock their potential.

# MeToo Guide for Dummies

A revolution is not a runaway train, the philosopher Walter Benjamin famously observed, it is the emergency brake. It is the status quo that is painful, daily life is the crisis.

The genesis of ‘Me too’ phrase goes back to 2006 when Tarana Burke, an American social activist and community organizer used it for the first time.  The original purpose of “Me Too” as used by Tarana Burke in 2006, was to empower women through empathy, especially young and vulnerable women. Later on, the phrase was popularized by American actress Alyssa Milano on Twitter. The phrase was tweeted by her for the first time on 15 October 2017. Alyssa Milano encouraged using the phrase as a hashtag to help reveal the extent of problems with sexual harassment and assault by showing how many people have experienced these events themselves.  Milano encouraged victims of sexual harassment to tweet about it and “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”.  This was met with the success that included but was not limited to high-profile posts from several American celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow,  Ashley Judd, Jennifer Lawrence, and Uma Thurman.

Millions of people started using the phrase, and it spread to dozens of other languages, the purpose changed and expanded, as a result, it has come to mean different things to different people. This movement has grown to include both men and women of all colours and ages, as it continues to support marginalized people in marginalized communities.

There had been a widespread discussion about the best way for sufferers of sexual abuse or harassment to stop what is happening to them at work. There is general agreement that a lack of effective reporting options is a major factor that drives unchecked sexual misconduct in the workplace. In France,  as stated by Rubin, Alissa J. in his publication “Revolt’ in France Against Sexual Harassment Hits Cultural Resistance”, a person who makes a sexual harassment complaint at work is reprimanded or fired 40% of the time, while the accused person is typically not investigated or punished. In the United States, a 2016 report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that although 25–85% of women say they experience sexual harassment at work, few ever report the incidents, most commonly due to fear of reprisal. There is evidence that in Japan, as mentioned by Rich, Motoko in his publication “She Broke Japan’s Silence on Rape”, as few as 4% of rape victims report the crime, and the charges are dropped about half the time.

Therefore the propagators believe that the lists provide a way to warn other people in the industry if worried about punishment, or if complaints have already been ignored, and also helps victims identify each other so they can speak out together. Sometimes these lists are kept for other reasons, for example, a spreadsheet from the United Kingdom called “High Libido MPs” and dubbed “the spreadsheet of shame” was created by a group of male and female parliamentary researchers, and contained a list of allegations against nearly 40 ConservativeMPs in the British Parliament. It is also rumoured that party whips (who are in charge of getting members of Parliament to commit to votes) maintain a “black book” that contains allegations against several lawmakers that can be used for blackmail.  When it is claimed a well-known person’s sexual misconduct was an “open secret”, these lists are often the source. In the wake of #MeToo, several private whisper network lists have been leaked to the public.

The people who see this movement with suspicion often base their views on victimization of alleged accused as a consequence of “witch hunt”. There has been a discussion about the extent to which accusers should be believed before fact-checking. Some have questioned whether the accused are being punished without due process confirming their guilt. However many commentators have responded that the number of false reports is expected to be low, citing figures obtained by the US Department of Justice and other organizations which estimate the number of false rape accusations to be around 2–10%.

The #MeToo movement has been criticized for putting, too, much public focus on the consequences of specific individuals who have been accused of sexual misconduct, as opposed to discussing policies and changes to institutional norms that would help people who are currently experiencing sexual abuse.   It’s been noted that although allegations surrounding high-profile public figures tend to attract the most attention, the stories of regular workers often go unacknowledged. Yet to ensure meaningful change, these workers’ experiences must be at the centre of any policy solutions that lawmakers pursue. The media attention is on the perpetrator rather than to focus on specific steps to help current and future sufferers.  The focus must be on addressing the systems that have enabled workplace sexual abuse for so long.  It is natural to focus on individual stories because they are “gripping and horrible”, but determining the best workplace changes is the most positive thing this movement aims at.

The hashtag has trended in at least 85 countries, including India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. The European Parliament convened a session directly in response to the Me Too campaign after it gave rise to allegations of abuse in Parliament and in the European Union‘s offices in Brussels. Cecilia Malmström, the European Commissioner for Trade, specifically cited the hashtag as the reason the meeting had been convened.

#MeToo on social media spread quickly in India especially in recent few days when the names of celebrities like Nana Patekar, Alok Nath, Sazid Khan, Suhel Seth, Subhash Ghai, Varun Grover, Vivek Agnihotri, Chetan Bhagat, Rajat Kapoor, Kailash Kher, Utsav Chakraborty and others started pouring in as alleged offenders in under the hashtag.

Though sexual harassment at workplace is grossly condemnable. How far the allegations are correct is a matter of trial. But the agony which the alleged accused would face especially in the perspective of ‘media trial’ is also not to be jettisoned.  In this respect, the views of Naina Lal Kidwai, the ex-CEO of HSBC is worth noting when she mentioned that at times women use sexual harassment tool to cover up their underperformances if any. Further, the excessive publicity of such cases would deter the male bosses to keep women employees, assistant or subordinates in their place of work as it takes years to build up a reputation and a single stint to finish all of it. And lastly, not only women employees but male employees may also be sexually harassed by their female bosses/colleagues. To what extent the male employee would get justice in pre-dominantly women oriented sexual offences laws of India is a matter of great concern.

After Raya Sarkar’s list of sexual harassers in academia last year, and a long uncomfortable silence, the MeToo movement has exploded in India. Through the last week, women across journalism and the creative industries have been outing their oppressors on social media, demanding accountability. They have been pouring out their pain, finding community and strength in each other.

Indian media can no longer pretend that sexual predation is out there in Hollywood, or that it’s a rare or remarkable occurrence. It’s in here, and it implicates us intimately — our friends, families, colleagues, ourselves.

Innocent in their power, most men just don’t seem to get what this is about. Some are actively hostile, others are wary of misuse and reckless smears, many are just confused about this abrupt uprising, and how to behave now. “Beware! Today’s ‘sweetu’ may be tomorrow’s ‘MeToo’,” warned a WhatsApp forward on my husband’s school group. In another cartoon, an older woman tells her boss: “All the other women in the office are suing you for sexual harassment. Since you haven’t sexually harassed me, I’m suing you for discrimination.”

Even the nice men, who are sympathetic on behalf of their friends and wives and daughters, seem to be missing something basic. MeToo is not about MJ Akbar or Nana Patekar or other powerful men who are now in trouble; it is about questioning a culture marinated in male sexual entitlement, and the inequality that undergirds it. If this feels destabilising, it’s because it is — it’s about changing what’s normal.

Ask yourself honestly — in a sexual harassment story, who is real and vivid to you? The man who pressed himself on an unwilling woman, or the woman who felt violated by it? In the wider reaction to MeToo, the main concern is about potential false accusations rather than the tsunami of urgent testimony. Our attention swivels to the man, we empathise with his humiliation, we want to hear his side, protect him with “due process”. Women have such a credibility deficit that it takes several of them to testify before we even consider an accusation serious.

This reflex, of caring more for a man’s reputation than a woman’s trauma, what the philosopher Kate Manne calls “himpathy”, is implanted by patriarchy, and both men and women hear it in their heads. Look at how so many women are quick to feel for those being shamed, making sure we are scrupulously correct, wondering if we overstepped, policing each other, expressing concern for the wives of these predators. Meanwhile, far fewer men have jumped to express solicitude about the women who have been injured.

This injustice is drilled deep in our institutions, our homes and workplaces. It is not about men being bad by default or women always being victims; it’s about the structures of domination that let one impose their sexual will on another human being. Men have more power, and therefore more opportunity to abuse that power. If you push your tongue down someone’s throat, or touch them, or persist despite their lack of interest, you simply don’t care what they want. Romance would be reciprocal; this is just sexual entitlement.

But even well-meaning men see MeToo as a purely technical matter of nailing dangerous predators, a few bad apples in an organisation. Women know it’s a continuum of danger, from loutishness to rape, and other forms of denial that render us merely service providers and accessories to men. Nobody needs to explain nuance, the difference between misguided flirting and active intrusion, we know it. But you don’t know the extent to which we are harmed by a system that serves you.

Men simply don’t have access to women’s realities. How can you? For thousands of years, we’ve lived with a shoddy transaction where men have resources and power, and women provide sexual and domestic services. It’s only in the last century and a bit that women have been pushing back, asserting the idea that they are equal, full humans, not your “better half”. You still get paid more, you own the assets. You dominate the state, legislatures and courts and police. You run most businesses and religious institutions. You shape the news, you make the movies and pop songs, you give the women their speaking lines, which misinform the world that no means yes.

No wonder you don’t relate to our common experience, our struggles. You know women mainly as small fry in your workplace, for you to benevolently mentor, overlook, or exploit. You can’t really imagine us as peers, you don’t know what it is to exist alongside as equals.
So, good men, MeToo doesn’t need you to feel saddened, it needs you to hack away at these arrangements. Patriarchy isn’t so great for you either. Masculinity maims you too, it forces you to suppress your full self, stunts your emotional expression. It condemns you to enact dominance, crush vulnerability in yourself and in others. It makes you brittle, and weak in a different way.

MeToo is a call to shrug off those gendered straitjackets. Equality would make workplaces better, it would make love and sex better, and it would make our public sphere and our homes better. Go on, change