Is Pakistan moving Towards Autocracy?

National progress is gauged along three main axes: economy, security and politics. Since 1999, we have had around 10 years each of autocratic and elected rule. What progress did we make overall since then and under the two governance modes, and where are we headed now?

Political progress means moving towards a democratic system which ensures citizen rights, fair polls and good governance. The stated aim of even autocrat Gen Pervez Musharraf was real democracy and new leadership. But he handed back power meekly to the same two parties he had blatantly tried to eliminate for 10 years while relying on the inept PML-Q. This shows how little political progress he achieved. Rights were trampled on and polls rigged. Legislation and institutional reform was largely limited to local bodies and reserved seats for women and minorities. But even the former was not sustained. Everyday service delivery quality was patchy.

Economically, progress is not just about growth, but also apt drivers, quality, equity and durability. The driver of his much-touted growth was short-term US aid linked to its fleeting regional security aims. This made the growth non-durable after the 2008 global recession, and once US aims changed. Even the few years of growth suffered from low equity and quality. It failed to ignite structural economic changes, such as strengthening industry and exports or resolving our perennial external and fiscal deficits.

The US aid was linked to the Afghan war. This along with Musharraf’s coddling of certain political parties and jihadists for political gains unleashed huge violence across Pakistan for over a decade. In summary, Musharraf gave superficial political and economic progress but long-term and deep security problems. The results of the earlier two military eras were similar.

The pendulum is now moving back towards autocracy.

These problems became the legacies for the recent 10-year elected era. The most notable feat of this era was curbing the violence, the seeds Musharraf had planted. Some give the credit for this only to the military. Operationally, that may be correct. But strategically, the issue is why the security apparatus could not curb the violence in its own era. The simple answer is that once in the saddle, it developed political compulsions from which it was only freed by democracy’s return.

Politically, there was progress, though with delayed, long-term impact. Everyday governance was poor. But more in-depth analysis shows many long-term gains in the emergence of a more open, tolerant political arena where media, civil society and political opponents were not hounded, unlike under autocratic eras. So while Musharraf vainly promised a new leadership, it actually emerged easily in this more open era in the form of the PTI.

There was also significant legislative work done that autocratic eras never attempted, eg, devolution, electoral reform and the Fata merger.

Economically, the progress was unimpressive. But notably, there was an attempt to replace short-term security-linked US aid as the main driver of growth (the pet formula of all our dictators) with long-term Chinese economic investment. This strategy did not yield the desired results quickly enough. So like Musharraf’s, this era too failed to strengthen industry and exports or durably resolve external and fiscal deficits. Nevertheless, this era delivered much better political and security outcomes than autocratic eras.

Unluckily, the pendulum is now moving back towards autocracy. We have a civilian regime brought in via dubious polls as a thin veneer for autocratic rule. Political gains made in the last era are eroding as media, civil society and political opponents get hounded. The PTI’s handling of the economy has made things only worse and inspires little trust that it will do better than others. The security gains are largely intact, but the security situation is worse than it was in 1999. Ominously, a premature US withdrawal, our grandiose regional aims and crackdown on the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement could unleash violence again.

So despite some progress during the elected era, we still made little overall progress across 20 years, being stuck in the sand as most regional states moved ahead. There may be more roads, universities, etc. But at the headline level, there is little progress along the three key axes. We are also now headed up the wrong way. The main reason is the lack of political progress, which undermines progress on the other two axes too. The political failure stems from the presence of the elephant in the room that no one talks about. The country remains hostage to security-focused views and interference in politics. Till we find a way out, Pakistan will continue to lag behind even in Saarc.

A Tale of Two Leaders: Trudeau & Macron can learn from each other

If one thing became clear during the prime minister’s three-day overseas trip, it is that Justin Trudeau has much to learn from French President Emmanuel Macron and vice versa. Whether or not people are on the same political page as Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President of France Emmanuel Macron, a number of social media users see eye to eye on one thing: they look great together.

As the torch-bearers for liberal, progressive democratic ideals, the two are often on the same page on issues such as gender equality and climate change.

Given the number of times they agreed with each other’s statement or point of view at a closing news conference Friday, one could be forgiven for expecting them to finish each other’s sentences.

They have — in their own ways — benefited from being treated like international political rock stars, albeit ones who have recently lost their shine.

Both telegenic and smooth defenders of Western democratic values, they have railed against the rise of authoritarianism, the far-right and extremism.

They have together faced a populist backlash in their countries, leading to sagging poll numbers that, in the case of Trudeau, raise the possibility of defeat at home this fall.

The Trump factor

But the two of them are studies in contrast in ways you might not expect, and that was also made clear this week as they navigated the convoluted, contradictory tides of Donald Trump-era alliances.

Whereas Trudeau has a cool, somewhat restrained relationship with the U.S. president, Macron appeared to have been quite chummy, choosing to spend D-Day commemorations in Normandy with Trump rather than with his intellectual soulmate.

We need to show democracy is effective – Emmanuel Macron, French president

It was, most certainly, an exercise in realpolitik, given the importance of the United States, but Macron used the occasion of his speech on the beach to defend multilateral institutions straight to Trump’s face.

Asked whether he thought he’d gotten through to Trump, Macron almost shrugged: “I cannot vouch for what other people take from my statements.”

Western democracies “are undergoing a crisis,” he said. “We need to show democracy is effective.” 

That he could get away with saying many of the things he does, and not face a rolling thunder of Twitter rage from Trump, as Trudeau did following last year’s Charlevoix, Que., G7, is worthy of note by the prime minister.

Both leaders appear to have come to the conclusion that Trump will do what Trump will do, but Macron appears to be more effective in getting the mercurial U.S. president to at least listen to things he may not like or appreciate.

It will be extraordinarily critical in the coming months to have more than one credible voice arguing for Western democratic values.

And it is on that point that Macron could take a few lessons from his Canadian friend.

Town hall boost

Love him or hate him, Justin Trudeau puts himself out there to answer questions, from the media, and from the public in the venue of unscripted town halls.

There was clearly an edginess and impatience in the French president’s demeanour as stepped forward to answer questions from journalists on Friday.

Thirty minutes into the ordeal, after delivering a 10-minute windy, largely empty, opening statement and following the posing of only one question, Macron slipped a note to an aid suggesting he had had enough.  

It was clear what was going on as the aid slipped around the edge of the room to the Canadian delegation to deliver the bad news that the event would be shut down after one additional question from a French journalist. 

So it was much to the annoyance and anger of the assembled media. The aid tried to smooth it over by saying Macron had been answering questions for 60 minutes, when in fact most digital recording counters showed from the beginning to end just over 40 minutes had passed.

Trudeau looked uncomfortable, even annoyed, as he and Macron slipped away from the podium. It was clear he was prepared to answer more questions.

Shutting down media early

It is, according to some of the prime minister’s staff, not the first time the French have shut down media events early. 

The moment is instructive because it plays straight into the narrative of populists who claim the global elite are not only out of touch but unaccountable. 

There is value in being a Trump whisperer, but often there is no better nor more dramatic demonstration that democracy is effective than when leaders put themselves out there and don’t just pay lip-service to the notion of accountability.

It is important to have effective, credible voices on issues such as gender equality, the environment and social justice because in 2020 the world’s leading democracies, the G7, will gather in the United States for their annual meeting (France hosts in 2019), and the world’s leading economies, the G20, will be hosted by Saudi Arabia. 

Hyperlink a Grand Alliance

With two of largest economies in the world — the European Union (EU) and China — developing their own digital economy frameworks and governance systems, and seeking to export those to their respective spheres of influence, the US and India risk being isolated.

With its comprehensive digital economy regulatory regime, including limits on cross-border data flows, onerous privacy rules and aggressive anti-trust enforcement directed at US internet companies, EU is seeking to export its digital governance model globally. China is doing the same.

China’s strategy of a protected domestic market, coupled with a State that is a massive provider of data to Chinese IT firms, is being exported through its digital Silk Road initiative.

If India and the US don’t want to live in an increasingly bipolar digital world — with some nations in the EU digital regulatory block and others as digital colonies of China — it is time for a high-level digital alliance between India and the US.

Today, the two countries are already partners in areas ranging from trade and investment, defence and counterterrorism, science and technology, and energy and health. Goods and services trade between the two countries topped $142 billion in 2018, with a joint resolve of taking it to $500 billion by 2024.

As India is a leader in IT services, fielding global leading companies like Wipro, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Infosys, and the US is home to the world’s leading digital economy firms, becoming partners in digital is the next logical step.

However, increasingly, economic policy in the two countries is fuelled by ‘nation-first’ rhetoric. Such an approach has the potential of putting both countries at loggerheads.

For instance, India’s position on local storage of sensitive data of its citizens, particularly in payments, e-commerce and social media sectors, has raised the hackles of American companies, as have a series of restrictions against US firms from entering the ecommerce market.

Mutual Strengths Yet, apparent discord is no reason to weaken the resolve of deepening engagement in existing areas and expanding in others. In fact, such episodes must prompt a course correction through comprehensive review of causes, and designing of mechanisms to prevent and promptly resolve possible discords in future.

One key Indian position is primarily informed by the difficulty of its law enforcement agencies to get timely access to data of potential rogue elements that may be stored outside India.

Yet, rather than ban cross border data transfers to the US, a well-negotiated arrangement between the two countries that inter alia minimises restrictions on cross-border data flow, maintains high levels of data protection, and does not compromise the ability of GoI to access necessary data in genuine cases, will be a win-win situation for both countries.

Resolving these kinds of existing and potential disputes through formalised mechanisms like advance notification and structured consultation could go a long way in deepening the partnership.

However, the scope of digital alliance need not be limited to dispute resolution. The emerging new IT-based innovation wave is bringing stakeholders across jurisdictions closer than ever.

A range of intermediaries has emerged to increase convenience, safety, speed and economy of digital experience, within and across borders. Regulation on accountability, dominance, grievance redress and taxation in digital economy will need greater cooperation among governments than ever before.

India and the US can lead the way in working towards establishing best practices by entering into early engagements at senior government levels on these issues, under a broader digital alliance. The ongoing 2+2 dialogue on defence and security issues could be a good template.

The digital alliance can also benefit from close partnerships between industry and civil society of the two nations. Finally, each nation leads in certain areas, with India ahead of the US in programmes like smart cities and digital identity systems.

Also, India has taken important steps in fighting digital piracy, with the Delhi High Court’s recent decision that provides a new tool for rights-holders to better protect the creativity tied up in their copyright.

Digital Partners

The US leads in broadband and progress to 5G and e-government. When it comes to these kinds of digital policy innovations, a formal partnership can help two-way learning and implementation with appropriate customisation.

India and the US are not only naturally placed to develop a shared global vision for digital economy, but they are also equally equipped to present an optimal alternative to the Chinese or EU approaches. The leadership in both countries needs to actively work towards achieving this before it’s too late.

Sunday Special: Secret of Better & Longer Living

Old age demands to be taken very seriously–and it usually gets its way. It’s hard to be cavalier about a time of life defined by loss of vigor, increasing frailty, rising disease risk and falling cognitive faculties. Then there’s the unavoidable matter of the end of consciousness and the self–death, in other words–that’s drawing closer and closer. It’s the rare person who can confront the final decline with flippancy or ease. That, as it turns out, might be our first mistake.

Humans are not alone in facing the ultimate reckoning, but we’re the only species–as far as we know–who spends its whole life knowing death is coming. A clam dredged from the ocean off Iceland in 2006–and inadvertently killed by the scientists who discovered it–carried growth lines on its shell indicating it had been around since 1499. That was enough time for 185,055 generations of mayfly–which live as little as a day–to come and go. Neither clam nor fly gave a thought to that mortal math.

Humans fall somewhere between those two extremes. Globally, the average life span is 71.4 years; for a few lucky people, it may exceed 100 years. It has never, to science’s knowledge, exceeded the 122 years, 164 days lived by Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who was born when Ulysses S. Grant was in the White House and died when Bill Clinton lived there.

Most of us would like a little bit of that Calment magic, and we’ve made at least some progress. Life expectancy in the U.S. exceeds the global average, clocking in at just under 79 years. In 1900, it was just over 47 years. The extra decades came courtesy of just the things you’d expect: vaccines, antibiotics, sanitation and improved detection and treatment of a range of diseases. Advances in genetics and in our understanding of dementia are helping to extend our factory warranties still further.

None of that, however, changes the way we contemplate the end of life–often with anxiety and asceticism, practicing a sort of existential bartering. We can narrow our experiences and give up indulgences in exchange for a more guardedly lived life that might run a little longer.

But what if we could take off some of that bubble wrap? What about living longer and actually having some fun? A Yale University study just this month found that in a group of 4,765 people with an average age of 72, those who carried a gene variant linked to dementia–but also had positive attitudes about aging–were 50% less likely to develop the disorder than people who carried the gene but faced aging with more pessimism or fear.

There may be something to be said then for aging less timidly–as a sort of happy contrarian, arguing when you feel like arguing, playing when you feel like playing. Maybe you want to pass up the quiet of the country for the churn of a city. Maybe you want to drink a little, eat a rich meal, have some sex.

“The most important advice we offer people about longevity is, ‘Throw away your lists,’” says Howard Friedman, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and co-author of The Longevity Project. “We live in a self-help society full of lists: ‘lose weight, hit the gym.’ So why aren’t we all healthy? People who live a long time can work hard and play hard.” Under the right circumstances, it increasingly seems, so could all of us..

Every year, the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging (CFA) ranks the best metropolitan places for successful aging, and most years, major cities sweep the top 10 spots. No wonder: cities tend to have strong health systems, opportunities for continued learning, widespread public transportation and an abundance of arts and culture. That’s not to say that people can’t feel isolated or lonely in cities, but you can get lonely in a country cottage too. In cities, the cure can be just outside your door.

“We all long to bump into each other,” says Paul Irving, the chairman of the Milken Institute CFA. “The ranges of places where this can happen in cities tend to create more options and opportunities.”

It’s that aspect–the other-people aspect–that may be the particularly challenging for some, especially as we age and families disperse. But there are answers: a 2017 study in the journal Personal Relationships found that it can be friends, not family, who matter most. The study looked at 270,000 people in nearly 100 countries and found that while both family and friends are associated with happiness and better health, as people aged, the health link remained only for people with strong friendships.

“[While] in a lot of ways, relationships with friends had a similar effect as those with family,” says William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University and the author of the study, “in others, they surpassed them.”

If the primacy of family has been oversold as a key to long life, so has the importance of avoiding conflict or emotional upset. Shouting back at cable news is no way to spend your golden years, but passion, it’s turning out, may be more life-sustaining than apathy, engagement more than indifference.

In a study published by the American Aging Association, researchers analyzed data from the Georgia Centenarian Study, a survey of 285 people who were at least (or nearly) 100 years old, as well as 273 family members and other proxies who provided information about them. The investigators were looking at how the subjects scored on various personality traits, including conscientiousness, extraversion, hostility and neuroticism.

As a group, the centenarians tested lower on neuroticism and higher on competence and extraversion. Their proxies ranked them a bit higher on neuroticism, as well as on hostility. It’s impossible to draw a straight line between those strong personality traits and long life, but the authors saw a potential one, citing other studies showing that centenarians rank high on “moral righteousness,” which leads to robust temperaments that “may help centenarians adapt well to later life.”

At the same time that crankiness, judiciously deployed, can be adaptive, its polar opposite–cheerfulness and optimism–may be less so. Worried people are likelier to be vigilant people, alert to a troubling physical symptom or a loss of some faculty that overly optimistic people might dismiss. Friedman and his collaborator Leslie R. Martin, a professor of psychology at La Sierra University in Riverside, Calif., base their book on work begun in 1921 by Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman, who recruited 1,500 boys and girls born around 1910 and proposed to follow them throughout their lifetimes and, when he died–which happened in 1956–to have successors continue the work. Friedman and Martin have been two of those successors, and they’ve learned a lot.

“Our research found that the more cheerful, outgoing children did not, for the most part, live any longer than their more introverted or serious classmates,” says Friedman. “Excessively happy people may ignore real threats and fail to take precautions or follow medical advice. It is O.K. to fret–if in a responsible manner.”

One tip for long life that is not coming in for quite so much revisionist thinking is exercise–and some seniors are achieving remarkable things.

Few physicians would recommend that all octogenarians pick up a three-hour-a-day running habit, but adding even a small amount of movement to daily life has been repeatedly shown to be beneficial, for a whole range of reasons. “Exercise likely works through several mechanisms,” says Dr. Thomas Gill, director of the Yale Program on Aging. “Increasing physical activity will improve endurance; it benefits muscle strength and balance and [reduces] occurrence of serious fall injuries. It also provides a benefit to psychology, by lifting spirits.”

Exactly how much–or how little–exercise it takes to begin paying dividends has been one of the happy surprises of longevity research. A 2016 study found that elderly people who exercised for just 15 minutes a day, at an intensity level of a brisk walk, had a 22% lower risk of early death compared to people who did no exercise. A 2017 study found that exercising even just two days a week can lower risk for premature death. Researchers from McMaster University in Canada even found that breaking a sweat for just 60 seconds may be enough to improve health and fitness (as long as it’s a tough workout).

Healthy eating is something else that may have a lot more wiggle room than we’ve assumed, and if there’s such a thing as a longevity diet, there may be more on the menu than seniors have been told. “I have my wine and ice cream,” says Bedard without apology. Similarly, 90-year-old Ashdown phones her takeout orders into Tal Bagels on First Avenue, not some trendy vegan joint.

“It really is an issue of moderation,” says Peter Martin, a professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State University, who runs an ongoing study of centenarians. Martin notes that while most centenarians eat different but generally healthy diets, one consistent thing he has picked up from work with his 100-plus crowd is breakfast. “They rarely skip breakfast,” he says. “It’s often at a very specific time, and the routine is important.”

Alcohol has its place too. An August 2017 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that light to moderate alcohol use (14 or fewer drinks per week for men and seven or fewer for women) is associated with a lower risk of death compared to people who don’t drink at all. If you’re a nondrinker, that’s no reason to start, and if you drink only infrequently, it’s no reason to drink more. Still, among the more than 333,000 people in the study, light and moderate drinkers were 20% less likely to die from any cause during the study period compared with their completely abstemious peers.

There’s also an argument for letting go of diet obsessiveness, especially if you’re at a reasonably healthy weight already. A 2016 study found that women over age 50 who were categorized as normal weight, but reported fluctuating (dropping more than 10 lb. and gaining it back at least three times) were 3½ times more likely to experience sudden cardiac death than those whose weight stayed the same. The takeaway: simply stay in a healthy range; striving for a smaller size isn’t necessarily doing you any longevity favors.

Finally, as long as seniors are enjoying themselves with some indulgent food and drink, they may as well round out the good-times trifecta with a little sex. It’s no secret that remaining sexually active has been linked to life satisfaction and, in some cases, longer life. One celebrated study, published in the British Medical Journal in 1997, followed 918 men in a Welsh town for 10 years and found that those with a higher frequency of orgasm had a 50% reduced risk of mortality. Friedman and his colleagues, working with the Terman group, found something similar–though not quite as dramatic–for women. A 2016 study from Michigan State University was less sanguine, finding that older men who had sex once a week or more were almost twice as likely to suffer a cardiovascular event than men who had less sex; that was especially so if the more active men were satisfied with the sex, which often means they achieved orgasm. For older women, sex seemed to be protective against cardiovascular event.

The problem for the men was likely overexertion, but there are ways around that. “Older adults have to realize that it’s intimacy that’s important,” says Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. “If the focus is on pleasure rather than achieving orgasm each time, it can be fulfilling.”

In this and other dimensions of aging, Kennedy cites pianist Vladimir Horowitz, who died at age 86 and was still performing into his 80s. Conceding the limitations of age, he left the most demanding pieces out of his performances; of those that remained, he would play the slower ones first, making the faster ones seem faster still by comparison. “He would optimize, not maximize,” says Kennedy.

There is an admitted bumper-sticker quality to dictum like that, but compared with the familiar age-related wisdom–take it slow, watch your diet, stay cheerful–it’s bracing. There are, Kennedy says, no truly healthy centenarians; you can’t put 100 points on the board without getting worn out and banged up along the way. But there are independent centenarians and happy centenarians and centenarians who have had a rollicking good ride. The same is true for people who will never reach the 100-year mark but make the very most of the time they do get. The end of life is a nonnegotiable thing. The quality and exact length of that life, however, is something we very much have the power to shape

Preparing for Hybrid Jobs That are the Need of the Time

If you’ve been looking around for a new job lately, and especially if you’ve been working in your field for a decade or two, you may have noticed that more and more companies are looking for combinations of skills that aren’t usually found on the same resume—and may, until now, even have been thought of as opposites. Marketing roles call for expertise in statistical analysis; software engineers and IT project managers are supposed to bring creativity, visual design, and “soft” skills like teamwork with them; and moving up in sales takes expertise in CRM software.

What’s going on?

Welcome to the era of the “hybrid” job. Technology is reshaping the way work gets done in more than 250 occupations, according to a report from workforce analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies, drawn from its database of more than 1 billion current and historical job postings. The trend toward more complex, multi-skilled jobs isn’t new—Burning Glass first started tracking it in 2015—but it’s speeding up. The study projects that hybrid jobs will grow by 21% over the next decade, more than twice the 10% growth rate of the job market overall.

One example of hybridization: Mobile app developers, whose job didn’t even exist until the first smartphones came along a decade ago, might seem at a glance to require, like other software developers, mostly great coding skills. But no. Designing mobile apps takes knowledge of programming, of course—but also user interface design, content, and marketing.

Image: Burning Glass Technologies

Or take data analysis. In 2010, the Burning Glass study says, there were only 150 job openings for people adept at applying statistics to business problems, and most of those were on Wall Street. In 2018, by contrast, more than 1.7 million job postings, across every every conceivable industry, asked for data science skills.

For people trying to plan a career in the throes of constant change (that is, most of us), the rise of hybrid jobs is terrific in two ways. First, the more unusual combinations of skills employers need, the fewer qualified candidates they can find. “Recruiters call them ‘purple squirrels’,” notes Matt Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass. To snare these scarce creatures, employers are willing to pay a premium—often a big one. Marketing managers with expertise in data analysis, for instance, often earn 40% more than those without it.

The second great advantage to hybrid jobs is that they’re resistant to automation. According to the Burning Glass study, about 42% of all employees could one day find themselves replaced by artificial intelligence. By contrast, hybrid jobs are so complex, and rely so heavily on expert judgment calls and “soft” skills like empathy and imagination, that Burning Glass predicts automation could eventually take over only 12% of them.

So how do you turn yourself into a purple squirrel? “A traditional stable career, where you do essentially the same work for decades and then retire, is now possible only in trade unions and maybe the post office,” says Sigelman. “For everybody else, lifelong learning is an essential route into these hybrid jobs. In fact, it may be the only route.”

The catch, of course, is that figuring out which skills you’ll need to learn is not so easy. Sooner or later, Sigelman believes, employers will find recruiting enough purple squirrels so difficult that they’ll have to step up their efforts to train and develop more of the employees they already have. In the meantime, one way to tell what you need to add to your repertoire is to read job postings in your field—lots of them. “In many industries, companies are now trying to hire for combinations of skills they believe they’ll need in the near future and don’t yet have,” Sigelman explains. “If you read enough job postings, you’ll begin to see patterns emerge that will show you where to focus your efforts.”

Paying close attention to the trade press in your industry, and to what influencers in your field are talking about at conferences and in LinkedIn groups, can yield important insights, too. Most of all, as hybrid jobs proliferate, it helps to think like hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. A reporter once asked him what his secret was. “I don’t skate to where the puck is,” Gretzky said. “I skate to where it’s going to be.”

Now, there’s a skill worth cultivating.

Osaka G20 meet may usher a new global order

The Pittsburgh G20 meeting held in 2009 played a significant role in coping with the unfolding Great Recession. The coordinated measures taken by the world leaders, led by President Barack Obama, helped the world avert a 1929-like calamity. The G20 meeting underway this week in Osaka will likely be remembered for ushering in the birth of a ‘one world two systems’ global order.

The rivalry between the US and China may not be a new cold war, but the emerging trade, economic, technology and security divergences could make conflict more likely.The most consequential meeting in Osaka will be between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who are still trying to resolve their bitter disputes over trade and technology – a proxy struggle between the democratic capitalism of the West and China’s authoritarian state capitalism. Trump has accused China of ‘raping’ the US with its mercantilist, state-backed trade policy, garnering an annual $378 billion (2018) trade surplus and forcing American companies to transfer their technology. Trump has imposed stiff tariffs and threatens even more until China agrees to address American grievances. The US has also banned Huawei, China’s leading technology company, dealing a serious blow to its ambitions of world domination.

Beijing believes American pressure tactics have little to do with unfair trade and are instead designed to block China’s rise. To satisfy American demands, China will essentially have to restructure its entire economy, unwinding its state-owned business model and its aggressive ‘borrow and steal’ policy to achieve technological supremacy. The growing tariff war has hurt both countries, but for Xi to accept the system change demanded by the US would be tantamount to political suicide. For Trump, continuing the dispute might increase his stature with his blue-collar base but could also damage his re-election prospects by inflicting more pain on his rural supporters. A stop-gap solution is possible, but over the longer term, it seems inevitable that the rise of these two opposing systems will require countries to take sides.

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently appealed to China and the US not to “create rival blocs, deepen fault lines, or force countries to take sides”. But divisions are already becoming apparent. While seeking to stay above the fray, Australia’s newly re-elected prime minister this week asked countries to be prepared for a “decoupling” of the US and Chinese economic systems. Australia itself has angered Beijing by passing laws designed to reduce Chinese meddling in national politics, and barred Huawei from taking part in its 5G network as it would empower China’s surveillance capability. The US has sought to harden the technology divide by warning countries against using Huawei equipment. It has similarly discouraged participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which secretary of state Mike Pompeo warned comes “not with strings attached, but with shackles”.

Of course, merely joining BRI or using Huawei technology alone would not divide the world into two camps. It is the entire financial and technological ecosystem surrounding China’s signature infrastructure project – and the surveillance-based governance, military, and security cooperation accompanying it – that has the makings of a different political system. Perhaps the most serious challenge to the one globalised world would come from disruption of intricate supply chains that sustain today’s manufacturing and trade. Facing the US imposed tariff on Chinese goods which are often assembled from parts produced in countries all over the world (a Huawei phone has parts made in the US, Japan, Germany and South Korea) suppliers have begun to scramble. Even if the US and China paper over their dispute the recent experience is bound to reshape the supply chain, with supplying countries choosing which system to ally with.

China’s economic rise came because of its decision to couple with the West by joining the WTO. Will the rise of a ‘one world two systems’ paradigm now weaken China or give new impetus to its dream of becoming the reigning superpower?

Saturday Special: Lessons from our ancestors about diet

Breakfast, we are told, is the most important meal of the day. Over the last 50 years, we have been bombarded with messages extolling the health benefits of processed cereals and porridge oats. We are told breakfast helps us reduce weight by speeding up our metabolism – this helps us avoid hunger pangs and overeating later in the day.

These are not just marketing messages, they are core to nutritional guidelines in developed countries, such as in the US, UK and Australia, prepared by expert scientific panels. These messages are mirrored in the media and websites worldwide. But what if the benefits of breakfast are just another diet myth?

No word for breakfast

It’s popular these days to follow the nutritional regimes of our ancient ancestors, but no one seems to be studying whether or not they ate breakfast. The Hadza people in Tanzania are the last true hunter-gatherers in East Africa who we believe live much like our ancestors. Living with them, we noticed a definite lack of a breakfast routine. They also have no regular word to describe “breakfast”.

After waking up, the men usually leave on a hunting or honey-gathering trip without eating, maybe grabbing some berries a few hours later, en route. If they stay in camp in the morning or even all day, a handful of honey late morning – or even consumed as late as early afternoon – may be all they eat until a larger, evening meal. That said, there is no routine and eating patterns are highly variable, depending on the camp size and season.

The women stay close to the camp and on some days make simple food, like baobab porridge, or they eat some stored honey, but rarely before 9-10am, giving them a fasting time since their evening meal of over 15 hours. Lacking a regular breakfast routine has not made them fat or unhealthy and they lack most Western diseases. Perhaps we should take a leaf from their book. At least, that’s what the latest scientific evidence suggests.

An honest mistake

The health benefit of breakfast has now been completely debunked by a new systematic review and meta-analysis of 11 randomised trials that investigated the impact of skipping breakfast on weight and metabolic rate.

The studies vary widely in duration and quality, and seven looked at changes in weight as well as changes in energy usage. Their conclusion is the same as in recent reviews that have been largely ignored, namely, there is no evidence to support the claim that skipping meals makes you put on weight or adversely reduces your resting metabolic rate.

There is now considerable evidence from these studies that skipping breakfast can be an effective way to reduce weight for some people. So why has the field got it so wrong in the past?

One reason is the belief in “grazing” rather than “gorging” to avoid “stress” on the body from having to digest large meals, especially later in the day when glucose and insulin peaks are higher and metabolic rate lower. The flawed rationale was based on lab rodents and a few short-term human studies. While the concept of over-compensation later in the day was correct – breakfast skippers do eat more lunch and slightly reduce their activity – it is not nearly enough to make up the energy deficit in a real-world setting outside a lab.

Scientists were honestly misled in the past by many observational studies showing that obese people skipped meals more often than thin people. This mindset became ingrained in nutritional dogma. But these observational studies were seriously biased. Breakfast skippers were more likely, on average, to be poorer, less educated, less healthy and have a poorer diet. Overweight people were more likely to diet and, after a binge, more likely to feel guilty and skip a meal.

Despite these flaws in the science and the steady increase in opposing evidence from randomised controlled trials, the idea that skipping meals is unhealthy has prevailed for decades. It’s still part of current NHS recommendations by Public Health England and one of its eight key healthy diet messages, part of USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as well as the Australian Guidelines for Nutrition.

Another common pro-breakfast argument is that, as well as reducing obesity, it is essential for the mental well-being and attention span of children, even if well nourished. Again the evidence of over 20 trials, when reviewed independently, is at best weak and inconsistent, and probably biased in the same way as for adults.

Evidence is also accumulating that restricted eating times and increasing fasting intervals can help some people lose weight. Some of these recent developments that seem counterintuitive to traditional thinking, make sense when we consider the importance of the gut microbiome on our health and metabolism. The community of 100 trillion gut microbes have a circadian rhythm and vary in composition and function in fasting and fed states. Data suggests microbial communities could benefit from short periods of fasting. They, like us, may need to rest and recuperate.

Some of us are programmed to prefer eating food earlier in the day and others later, which may suit our unique personal metabolism. Around a third of people in developed countries regularly skip breakfast while many others enjoy it. This does not mean that everyone overweight would benefit from skipping breakfast. There is no one size fits all, and prescriptive diet guidelines filled with erroneous information look increasingly counterproductive and detract from important health messages.

Different populations have their own varied breakfast habits, but before you next go hunting, why not try your own personal breakfast skipping experiments – it may suit you.

Stories of Yeti and fire breathing dragons keep magical places alive

It was an improbable coming together of two worlds when in April the pragmatic Indian army sent out a tweet saying that it had sighted a mythical beast of snow. With photos of 32 inch long footprints, the army said it had evidence of the Yeti near Makalu-Barun national park in Nepal. The Yeti straddles the worlds of both folklore and scientific enquiry.

The Yeti is supposed to be an ape like creature that lives in the high altitude Himalayas, walking on two feet. Hergé, who created Belgian detective Tintin, wrote a comic where Tintin goes looking for a Yeti in Tibet. In the book, not only did the creature exist, it was also intelligent and considerate. And others have referred to it as the ‘abominable snowman’, its elusiveness making it a monster.

Be that as it may, there is still no proof the Yeti exists and so an incredulous press and twitter verse laughed off the army’s claim. A Nepal army spokesperson was reported as saying the footprints may have belonged to a bear. In fact, earlier studies of genetic material thought to be Yeti’s have also belonged to brown bears. Yet despite this scepticism, there is something of merit here. And that is the capacity to experience scientific curiosity and feel a sense of wonder for nature.

By itself a claim such as this cannot stand without modern science; for the answer to scientific curiosity is science itself. The army has said it has further proof which it has handed to subject experts. This should be taken to its logical conclusion. One of the methods is the environmental DNA process, wherein a swatch or sample from the pugmark or footprint can be used to ascertain which animal it belongs to.

Through this incident, two important aspects emerge. Firstly, it shines a light on how wild nature can awe and move us, because places like the mighty Himalayas are still unknowable. If not the Yeti, the Himalayas have their own grey ghost: the snow leopard. An animal not of fictional myth or legend, but certainly legendary. The Makalu-Barun area is conserved for this agile big cat which prefers the high-altitude, snowy mountains of Central Asia and the Himalayas. And in the Indian East Himalayas in Arunachal Pradesh, exciting camera images from late last year have shown another big cat in the snow: a tiger, found in Dibang valley, more than 3000 metres above sea level.

None of this should lead to complacency. A just-released report by the United Nations backed Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), has found that a staggering one million wild species are threatened with extinction. Sourced from 15,000 scientific publications and reports, the findings stress over 75% of Earth’s land area is significantly altered. The reason is human led – our pressures on Earth have altered the destinies of both ecosystems and their wild inhabitants. Alarmingly, it also finds that 20% of endemic (region-specific) species have seen a decline in major biomes. While more details are awaited, many other studies show how threatened the Himalayas are by human pressures and planetary warming.

This leads us to the second aspect: science and wonder should work together for the betterment of all, especially since time is running out. A wondering curiosity can fuel more discoveries, and set unwavering conservation goals. But perhaps because of the grimness of present reality, we seem to like mythologies more than what is extant on Earth.

The Game of Thrones, arguably the world’s most watched TV show, is stuffed with mythical creatures like fire breathing dragons. A fire breathing dragon which never lived may be more exciting than a real life Indonesian komodo dragon, which like the dragons in the show, can lay eggs without mating. And I would argue it’s far more important to preserve what we have, while still enjoying a good story.

Myths fuel our fantasy, but science-led conservation can keep magical places alive, possibly providing discoveries for future myths. Conservation of what exists today should be immediate and scientific. There’s no time to lose. Because whether the Yeti exists or not, we owe it to him or her to save its habitat – the very seed for future stories.

Decentralised water management is the future of South Asia

Water management is arriving, if it has not already, at a crossroads where long-established and successful approaches are deemed inadequate in meeting the ambitious Sustainable Development Goal targets. Large-scale, centralised infrastructure, which was the hallmark approach to water management in the last two centuries, has certainly allowed us to make great progress in urban water supply access, but progress on rural water supply lags behind. In South Asia, around 206 million people lacked access to basic drinking water in 2015. Of these, 81% lived in rural areas. Addressing this inequitable access to water supply services will be at the heart of water management for the future.

Given this context, there have been increasing calls for decentralised solutions to address inequities in access to water. Decentralised water systems complement traditional centralised ones in meeting not just the interim needs of urban slums, but the needs of scattered villages too, where centralised systems are not viable. Part of the reason for this is that cost per capita of constructing traditional water systems is higher in rural areas, given the smaller population scattered over a large area. This leads to high operating costs to be recovered by fewer users. Decentralised systems solve this problem, because they are low-cost yet adaptable. These systems can be expanded into fully centralised ones as communities grow, without locking in too much capital. Moreover, such systems allow for innovation while also providing income opportunities locally.

Learning from past mistakes

But not all decentralised solutions will do. Past experience shows that decentralised water and sanitation solutions from NGOs and charities have been unsustainable, with donors building water infrastructure and leaving, without providing beneficiaries the training or market infrastructure for upkeep. This problem is best demonstrated by the handpump crisis in Africa, where tens of thousands of boreholes in rural communities have fallen into disrepair. What the next generation of water management calls for are market-based, decentralised solutions from social enterprises. This requires moving from a ‘charity’ approach of giving free or subsidized water to people, towards enabling them to invest for themselves to ensure sustainability.

One criticism of this approach has been that the entry of private actors may make it more expensive for marginalised communities to access a resource that the public sector should provide. The reality is not so black and white.

The 1990s saw a massive privatisation of water supply utilities, with different results in different countries. In Uruguay and South Africa, this wave of privatisation had devastating consequences – extreme price hikes resulting in poor people losing all access to water. In the case of South Asia – and Asia in general – public service provision is extremely poor and the private sector has played an important role to ensure affordable service delivery, for example in Singapore. Usually, to ensure public interest, some form of balance is arrived at such as a public-private-partnership management contracts.

For decentralised projects, local governments in many South Asian countries still largely do not have the ability to maintain their own budget or deliver services. This means that they are unlikely to invest in solutions, or be motivated to maintain existing solutions. When the local governments fail to provide solutions, many good – but some exploitative – solutions will appear from the private sector. It is not wrong for the private sector to provide public services for which there is demand, nor is it wrong for them to charge for this. However, a better model is one where a balance is struck and the private sector innovates and operates, while the public sector oversees to ensure public interest is maintained.

A surge of entrepreneurship

This is the perfect time to explore such a balance. We live in times when impact investors and tech philanthropists are keen to invest in entrepreneurial solutions to meet the most pressing issues like water.

In South Asia alone, there has been a surge in social enterprises in the past decade, many of which are working on water – a resource that for long was exclusively managed by the government. India, in particular, has been a breeding ground for innovation, with many local businesses demonstrating success across the water supply delivery chain. Online apps such as TrolleyFresh are becoming commonplace in urban centres as they deliver drinking water to customers at their preferred time and place. Water kiosk franchises such as WaterWalla are helping entrepreneurs in Mumbai and Dharavi establish micro-businesses to sell and distribute water by giving them a storefront, marketing assistance and access to technology. Other start-ups like NextDrop are using mobile phones to collect real time water delivery data to ensure transparency and enhance utility performance.

India is not the only country demonstrating innovation in the water sector. In Bangladesh, micro-franchise enterprises like Drinkwell provide local entrepreneurs with low-cost technology that removes arsenic and fluoride from water, so that these entrepreneurs not only have a livelihood for themselves, but are able to provide clean water to nearly 200,000 villages in rural Bangladesh.

But are these enterprises the exceptions? And can these innovations really solve South Asia’s water woes? While there is hype around these enterprises – especially those using mobile technologies, given South Asia’s IT boom – there is also doubt from the public sector on whether such enterprises can really understand the depth of the problem and deliver on their ambitious goals. Such doubts exist for good reason, because managing sectors like water requires an understanding of the entire institutional, legal and political systems that surrounds it. In South Asia, in particular, it is often not the lack of infrastructure or technology that is the largest hurdle in providing access to water – it is the more parochial and political issues.

Take the example of Xyla Water, a start-up born out of an acceleration program in Norway but with most of its operations in Lahore. The startup aimed to provide low-cost, low-energy filters to poor communities in Pakistan, and received significant support and grants to develop its business. Ultimately though, the start-up failed to deliver. One reason was that it put too much focus on product development, but very little on determining the appropriate market, business model or service delivery chain for disseminating the filters. Moreover, the team was not only scattered across the globe but had little knowledge of the water landscape within Pakistan. After all, while filters can purify water and remove pathogens, they still have to be part of a combined solution that looks at the cause of the problem, which could have more to do with sourcing and distribution of water, or sometimes perverse policies.

Xyla’s story is not unique. Many start-ups suffer from this dilemma: they tend to be too focused on developing a solution, be it a technology or product, rather than understanding the actual problem itself and determining the appropriate solutions that would address that problem.

Then, there is the story of Sukoon Water, a social enterprise founded – and recently ended – by Stanford-graduate Rehan Adamjee, as penned in his start-up postmortem post. After graduation, Rehan had returned to Pakistan filled with the drive to fix a social problem – in his case, to provide access to clean water free from faecal contamination in Shirin Jinnah Colony in Karachi. Though his enterprise showed promise and growth early on, it could not reach a level of sustainability to continue operations. After a few years, his market had plateaued to a few households educated enough to know the value of buying clean water; the remainder continued using contaminated water sources. The enterprise thus failed to grow because it operated on a false assumption of expected behaviour change from consumers. Moreover, as Rehan began to understand the depth and scale of the water challenges in Karachi, he began to feel that his “work began to not only feel small, it began to almost feel irresponsible and irrelevant.”

Embracing failure

Rehan’s story, however, can be seen as a success, because he realised that for his enterprise to really succeed, not only did the business model need to be sustainable, but that it should address the actual root of the problem. This is the start of building better, sustainable enterprises.

Yes, entrepreneurs in Pakistan – and overall in South Asia – have a long way to go in addressing water challenges. But like start-ups in any other sector, water start-ups will need to fail first (and perhaps multiple times) before they learn how to build sustainable business models that can work independent of grants and subsidies. They will need to focus on designing solutions to actual problems, not just glamorous solutions that win recognition. Sometimes, that could also mean working without the support of foreign grants, which can be easy to get hold of in low-income countries, but only skew perceptions of long-term financial sustainability.

The responsibility lies on the shoulders of the public sector as well. For local entrepreneurs to really deliver impactful solutions, governments need to not only engage with big business but support and encourage young entrepreneurs, many of whom are oblivious to issues like water. They also need to equip businesses with the necessary data and knowledge about the sector to develop relevant solutions. In the end, what works in the water sector is a grounded business model that fits within the legal and institutional framework, addresses a problem, has an existing market and can work with the government to provide an integrated solution.

A guide for cryptocurrency business

It may seem like it’s too late to enter the game, but in reality, we are on the very early days of the crypto revolution. Think of it like the days when the concept of money was just getting created. A majority of experts accept that in the next couple of years, the crypto market and blockchain will become mainstream. You will for sure start seeing a lot many interesting Blockchain Use Cases becoming a hit.

BitExchange provides a variety of Turn-key scripts, using which anyone can start a Cryptocurrency business instantly. The company is targeting budding entrepreneurs who wish to start up a cryptocurrency business of whatever kind. The products they provide are based on different niche Use Cases – with all the required Tech, bundled for you to download and use.

Here are some of the interesting ready-made software they provide:

Cross border Money Transfer App: Money Transfer across countries has always been a complex task to date. Many enterprises and startups have tried to solve this problem in different ways. But with the introduction of technologies like Blockchain and Cryptocurrency, the perfect solution seems to be very near. Already companies like Ripple and Stellar are taking this problem head-on and working on it. Starting a Fintech business using crypto as the underlying transfer mechanism can be a perfect cryptocurrency business idea for 2019.

An Asset Token: Gone are the days of just ICO tokens. Recently a variety of tokens are becoming dominant (Security tokens, Asset baked tokens, Stable coins, etc.). A popular saying goes “All it takes to get rich in Crypto is an idea and a coin “.

A Cryptocurrency Exchange: As more tokens get created and more investors buy them, there is always an evergreen market for new Exchanges. Based on the type of exchange you want, BitExchange has a ready-made software for each type of crypto Exchange. Some the different types of exchanges are Centralised Cryptocurrency Exchange, Decentralised Token Exchange, Security Token Exchange, Over the counter ( OTC ) Exchange, etc.

Penny Auction portal: Real-time bidding and auction platform is a very interesting business model. When the purchase of Bids in a Penny Auction platform is powered by Crypto or tokens, it becomes a killer business idea. It would also prove as a channel for bidders to buy your tokens and utilize them for bidding on items.

Ride-Hailing App: We all know the power of ride-hailing business models like UBER, Lyft, etc. Just imagine the entire idea being put on the blockchain and powered by Cryptocurrency. It would provide complete transparency in vehicle records, passenger safety, and payments. Would provide a truly decentralized ride-sharing platform for people to use across the globe.

Crowd Funding platform: Cryptocurrency and tokens by itself are used for funding the idea behind the coins. Imagine an entire Kickstarter like platform only to power different ideas using crypto. If you can integrate your token inside a crowdfunding platform and enable people to fund projects with your tokens, it becomes a unicorn in the making.

Likewise, there are many Cryptocurrency and Blockchain use cases available on the BitExchange website. For each of the use case, they provide ready-made software and documentation to hit the road running. Also, you can get dedicated Technical support on demand. As more developers start creating apps powered by Cryptocurrency and Blockchain, the adoption of cryptocurrency will grow among the masses.

G-20 or G-2 at Osaka

Everything from climate change to women’s empowerment is now discussed at G-20 summits while really important business gets done in bilaterals on the sidelines.

Eleven years after its creation, the Group of 20 (G-20) has emerged as an important forum of most of the world’s systemically important economies. Iran is among the very few important countries left out. India made its mark within the G-20 from its very inception with Prime Minister   Manmohan Singh being one of the important voices at the first three summit meetings in 2008-09. As the host of the 2022 summit, India has a stake in ensuring the continued relevance of G-20 for global policy.

The G-20 came into being in the midst of a financial crisis. It meets over the next two days in Osaka, Japan, in the midst of a crisis in world trade. In its early years, the G-20 shied away from talking trade. While it has focused on trade policy issues since 2013, the G-20 has not been able to revive the Doha Development Round of multilateral trade negotiations at the World Trade Organisation. Nor has it succeeded in arresting the drift towards mercantilism on the part of both the US and China — the world’s biggest trading nations. Host Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has done well to focus on trade policy as one of the three key issues to be discussed at the Osaka Summit, along with environment and the digital economy.

As of today, the G-20 owes its reputation mainly to its ability to restore stability to the global financial system following the trans-Atlantic financial crisis in 2008-09. As stock market indices from New York through London to Tokyo began to fall to new lows, the price of gold and oil declined sharply and the euro slumped against the dollar, then President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, flew into Camp David for a hurriedly set up meeting with US President George W Bush and suggested that heads of government of major economies should get together to manage the enveloping crisis. That was October 2008, a month after the collapse of Lehmann Brothers, one of America’s biggest financial corporations. The two leaders came out of their huddle and announced the convening of the first summit level meeting of a group of finance ministers called the G-20.

A decade before that, in 1999, the G-8, a club of developed economies, created a group of finance ministers of 19 major economies and the EU to form the G-20 finance ministers’ forum. Bush and Sarkozy elevated this finance ministers’ group into a leaders’ summit. The US and the European Union (EU) knew that the one country they wanted across the table, in October 2008, to help deal with the fallout of the financial crisis was China. Should G-8 be expanded into G-9? Japan was certainly not comfortable with the idea. The US and the EU too were not ready yet to invite China to the high table of a rich man’s club. Two years after inviting Russia into G-7, some of the original G-7 members were already a bit uncomfortable with Russia’s elevation into a rich economies club when it was nowhere as prosperous an economy as the G-7.

But China had to be brought to the discussion table because China had the dollars and the means to save the Euro and stabilise Wall Street. That’s the dilemma Sarkozy solved for the West by converting an existing G-20 finance minister’s forum that included developing countries like Brazil and India into a leaders’ summit. It may be easier getting China to help the West in a group that would include other developing countries. Voila! The G-20 was born.

Since the immediate challenge was a financial crisis, the group focused on global financial issues. Once the global financial system stabilised, the G-20 summits lost steam and focus. Everything from climate change to women’s empowerment is now discussed at G-20 summits while the really important business gets done in bilaterals on the sidelines. This year, President Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping are expected to discuss bilateral trade issues on the sidelines of the G-20 summit. Their meeting threatens to overshadow the summit.

The summits have invited this fate with their diffused focus. In the run-up to the Osaka summit, there have been several ministerial meetings covering subjects ranging from environment and agriculture to women’s empowerment and the digital economy. Along with the summit, an entire circus comes to town. There is a B-20 for business leaders, Y-20 for youth, an L-20 for labour, S-20 for science and so on. Even a T-20 for think-tanks!

Since G-20 summits are annual gatherings of the world’s most important leaders, they should have an agenda that focuses on the here and now and a means of monitoring progress. At the end of each year, the host country should present a report to the next summit on progress made on agenda points. There are many other plurilateral and multilateral forums to discuss the myriad other challenges facing humanity. The B-20, Y-20, T-20 and other such parallel gatherings have become either farcical talk-shops of pretentious busybodies or networking opportunities for business leaders. Just as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and WTO ministerial meetings have been trivialised and turned populist by parallel gatherings of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the G-20 too runs the risk of becoming a ritual event with no concrete outcomes.

Osaka should bring sharper focus to G-20 proceedings by concentrating minds on today’s threats rather than tomorrow’s challenges. The US-China trade war, American unilateralism in trade policy and China’s opaque trade and other economic policies have emerged as major threats to global economic growth and stability. The G-20 must discuss these issues because all G-20 economies have a stake in the outcome of the US-China bilateral talks. The G-20 cannot be reduced to a G-2.

Weekend Special: Life Altering Voice Technology

The consumer world is being overhauled, from how we access products, services, content and education to how we build relationships, both with each other and with the world around us, how we engage with the devices that power our every day, how we live in our homes, and how we discover.

What’s the force of innovation transforming how we live, in increasingly innumerable ways? Voice technology.

The technology itself is changing at an exponentially increasing rate. Early 20th-century research and development efforts at innovation hubs such as Bell Labs, IBM, Carnegie Mellon and DARPA have set the stage for the rapid proliferation of AI-powered voice technology platforms and devices over the last decade. These devices are now in our kitchens, workspaces and pockets.

Innovators from Fortune 500 companies, cutting edge start-ups, academic institutions and other public sector organizations are pushing the limits of voice technology through the exploration of areas including accent and language, emotions, multi-voices and context adaptation. In addition, increasing numbers of industries, from messaging and gaming companies to education-focused organizations, biometrics companies and law enforcement, are applying for patents related to voice technology as they find ways to integrate it into their processes, remove friction and create more positive consumer outcomes.

Innovation in voice technology is happening in a culture where issues of security and privacy linger around any actions that individuals take in the digital world. As the technology gets smarter and more intuitive, and becomes embedded in an increasing number of devices and spaces that we interact with on a daily basis, so does our relationship with it. Its role in our lives has changed over time, and will continue to do so in ways we only recently could have imagined. We have established the five foundational stages of the evolution of voice technology in that context.

1. Instruct

As modern-day voice technology began to take shape in the late 2000s, we entered into what we call the “instruct” phase in the evolution of this technology. This is the type of relationship that many users have with their home device or digital assistant. We ask it to play a specific song, to order a particular item for the pantry, to answer that question we just can’t remember, and so much more.

We see our voice tech-driven devices as we would a servant, providing instant gratification and satisfying one’s curiosity. A study by Accenture revealed that 52% of consumers trust intelligent devices to shop for food, while 49% trust them to shop for other items such as clothing and accessories. Furthermore, the projected $40 billion market for voice tech-driven purchases in the UK and US by 2022 illustrates just how much this “instruct” relationship will continue to impact our everyday consumption routines.

We currently find ourselves in the second stage of this evolution, which we call the “interact” phase. We are treating our voice assistants more like a waiter – someone who has the ability to take our order, identify patterns in one’s ordering and offer up suggestions that augment the human decision-making process. It makes recommendations rather than just takes orders. Technology leaders such as Amazon and Google are filing new patents designed to monitor more effectively what we say and do in order to serve up better recommendations and more relevant advertising and offers through their voice platforms. This trend for more precision-based, personalized recommendation engines driven by voice tech will only continue.

3. Predict

Soon, we will start to see voice-driven AI increasingly able to recognize your emerging needs before you do. It will proactively ask whether you want to refill your soon-to-be-depleted product, reflect things like weather shifts in recommendations, and more. We refer to this as the “predict” phase in our relationship with voice technology.

A futuristic scene from the film Minority Report comes to mind, in which a virtual shop assistant pops up in real-time to make recommendations to Tom Cruise, based on past purchases, as he walks through a Gap store. This kind of scenario is already starting to take shape. Its precision will rapidly increase and, accordingly, consumers’ embrace of it.

4. Empathize

The next phase in the process is when things start to get serious between humans and their voice AI companions. This iteration of the technology acts almost like a caregiver, flagging potential health issues based on the nuances of one’s voice, using emotion recognition and biometric monitoring. The voice AI may recommend a glass of water if one sounds thirsty, or a moment of zen if one sounds stressed out. Amazon, for example, has recently filed a patent related to detecting physical and emotional well-being based on voice tech interactions.

We also are trusting these devices with helping to care for our children. Accenture studies show that 39% of consumers trust intelligent devices to monitor babies and children, and make adjustments to surroundings based on comfort or security. There are also implications for caring for older cohorts. Two billion people globally will be over the age of 60 by 2050, and with this massive demographic shift will come increased demands that human caregivers may not be able to meet alone. Voice technology will likely play an increased role in caring for the world’s ageing population.

5. Relate

Finally, we will reach the full-blown “relationship” phase. Films such as Her and Blade Runner 2049 show the types of deep, emotional interactions we may eventually have with voice tech-led AI technology. We will see voice AI as a friend or even a partner, and we will share our emotions with it.

For some, a voice AI companion will be a supplemental connection to their human relationships, while for others, voice AI may become their predominant and grounding relationship. In research by Cigna, nearly half of Americans report experiencing feelings of loneliness. This trend is most pronounced among younger generations – Gen Z and millennials. With the increasing global loneliness epidemic, there is a growing opportunity for voice AI to fill this void and provide companionship to those who lack it.

Today’s situation, where the relationship between voice and consumer is largely transactional, barely scratches the surface of possibility. All this will change sooner than we think. Voice technology has the potential to touch multiple dimensions of consumers’ day-to-day lives – and markedly, because it can so easily address enduring and underlying consumer needs with a very human experience. While we can see a very positive place for this technology to enhance consumer well-being, there are also extremely real and serious implications for consumer privacy which governments, research organizations, technology developers and industry players will need to work together to address.

Leonardo da Vinci’s design for a ‘smart city’ centuries ahead of its time

The word “genius” is universally associated with the name of Leonardo da Vinci – a true Renaissance man, he embodied scientific spirit, artistic talent and humanist sensibilities. Exactly 500 years have passed since Leonardo died in his home at Château du Clos Lucé, outside Tours, France. Yet far from fading to insignificance, his thinking has carried down the centuries – and still surprises today.

The Renaissance marked the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity, after the spread of the plague caused a global crisis resulting in some 200m deaths across Europe and Asia. Today, the world is on the cusp of a climate crisis, which is predicted to cause widespread displacement, extinctions and death, if left unaddressed. Then, as now, radical solutions were called for to revolutionise the way people live and safeguard humanity against catastrophe.

Around 1486 – after a pestilence that killed half the population in Milan – Leonardo turned his thoughts to urban planning problems. Following a typical Renaissance trend, he began to work out an “ideal city” project, which – due to its excessive costs – would remain unfulfilled. Yet given that unsustainable urban models are a key cause of global climate change today, it’s only natural to wonder how Leonardo might have changed the shape of modern cities.

The birth of urbanism

Although the Renaissance is renown as an era of incredible progress in art and architecture, it’s rarely noted that the 15th century also marked the birth of urbanism as true discipline.

The rigour and method behind the conscious conception of a city had been largely missing in Western thought until the moment when prominent Renaissance men pushed forward large-scale urban projects, such as the reconfiguration of Pienza, the expansion of Ferrara and the construction of the fort town Palmanova.

These works surely inspired Leonardo’s decision to rethink the design of medieval cities, with their winding and overcrowded streets and with houses piled against one another.

Discovering Leonardo’s city

It is not easy to identify a coordinated vision of Leonardo’s ideal city because of his disordered way of working with notes and sketches. But from sources including the Paris manuscript B and the Codex Atlanticus – the largest collection of Leonardo’s papers ever assembled – a series of innovative thoughts can be reconstructed, regarding the foundation of a new city along the Ticino River, designed for the easy transport of goods and clean urban spaces.

Leonardo wanted a comfortable and spacious city, with well-ordered streets and architecture. He recommended “high, strong walls”, with “towers and battlements of all necessary and pleasant beauty”, and felt the place needed “the sublimity and magnificence of a holy temple” and “the convenient composition of private homes”.

His plans for a “modern” and “rational” city were consistent with Renaissance ideals. But, in keeping with his unconventional personality, Leonardo included several innovations in his urban design. Leonardo wanted the city to be built on several levels, linked with vertical staircases. This design can be seen in today’s high-rise buildings, but was absolutely unconventional at the time.

Indeed, his idea of taking full advantage of the interior spaces by positioning flights of stairs on the outside of the buildings wasn’t implemented until the 1920s and 1830s, with the birth of the Modernist movement. While in the upper layers of the city, people could walk undisturbed between elegant palaces and streets, the lower layer was the place for services, trade, transport and industry.

But the true originality of Leonardo’s vision was its fusion of architecture and engineering. Leonardo made designs for extensive hydraulic plants to create artificial canals throughout the city. The canals, regulated by locks and basins, were supposed to make it easier for boats to navigate inland and transport goods.

Leonardo also thought that the width of the streets ought to match the average height of the adjacent houses: a rule still followed in many contemporary cities across Italy, to allow access to sun and reduce the risk of damage from earthquakes.

Fiction and the future

Although some of these features existed in Roman cities, before Leonardo’s drawings there had never been a multi-level, compact modern city which was thoroughly technically conceived. Indeed, it wasn’t until the 19th century that some of his ideas were applied. For example, the subdivision of the city by function – with services and infrastructures located in the lower levels and wide and well-ventilated boulevards and walkways above for residents – is an idea that can be found in Haussmann’s renovation of Paris under Emperor Napoleon III.

It is necessary to wait even until the 20th century to see the same ideas represented in the vertical city of Futurist architects, or in the modern city of Hilbeseimer or Le Corbusier – as well as in dystopian tales such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Philip Dick’s Blade Runner. Certainly, creating a city with different levels opens up the possibility of greater inequality between city-dwellers.

Today, Leonardo’s ideas are not simply valid – they actually suggest a way forward for urban planning. Many scholars think that the compact city – built upwards instead of outwards, integrated with nature (especially water systems) with efficient transport infrastructure – could help modern cities become more efficient and sustainable. This is yet another reason why Leonardo was aligned so closely with modern urban planning – centuries ahead of his time.

Justin Trudeau Minimizes Canada’s Queen

Shortly after his 2015 election, Trudeau said Canada is the world’s first post-national state. He proclaimed, “There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada.” This, of course, is complete rubbish. The prime minister is trying to erase history.

The Canadian federal government has decided to no longer send free prints of the Queen’s picture to those who request it. Canadians can now only download a digital copy instead. The subtle change exposes an ongoing and broader agenda at work by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government.

It may seem like a small step to bring an outdated law into the 21st century, but when you put it alongside other moves by the Trudeau administration, it’s part of a clear trend that undermines Canada’s historical heritage and law.

Robert Finch, president of the Monarchist League of Canada, isn’t happy. “It’s important for Canadians to see the picture of the Queen on the wall,” he said.

Finch feels that the change will negatively impact the Canadian public’s perception and awareness of the monarchy. “In everyday life, I think it is important for Canadians to sort of have that gentle reminder that we live under the crown,” he said. “So the most common way to get that message across is a picture of the Queen in public spaces.”

The nonprofit Monarchist League of Canada has worked in partnership with the government to distribute the Queen’s photo, helping to absorb some of the costs. Even with that help, Trudeau’s government rationalized the change by citing environmental considerations and rising costs. Canada’s federal auditor general was recently forced to cut his audit on this department, so the truthfulness of these assertions won’t be known any time soon.

This isn’t the first change that the Trudeau government has made regarding the image of the Queen. Just after being elected to office in 2015, Trudeau’s Foreign Affairs department (now Global Affairs Canada) removed a large portrait of the Queen from its reception room. Some Canadian art was rehung in its place. It caused a stir at home and in Britain.

At the time, Finch said he found the change “puzzling and frustrating,” especially since the Liberals said they supported the monarchy. Trudeau said that the decision was not to be taken as a debasement of the Queen, but rather as a restoration of Canadian art to its rightful place in the Canadian consciousness.

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly exposed the truth: Removing the image of the Queen and installing the new art was about installing “symbols of progressiveness.” The Queen and all she represented needed to go.

Joly told the Globe and Mail that the Heritage department was “the ministry of symbols.” Robert Everett-Green wrote, “What kinds of symbols? Not the ones promoted by the Harper government [2006–2015], which seemed to view Heritage as a rudder with which to steer the imaginations of Canadians toward the glorious past we had before revisionist historians got hold of it. No, Heritage is now the ministry of progressive symbols, said the rookie Montreal [member of parliament]. ‘It’s very interesting to be in charge of symbols of progressiveness. That was the soul of our platform.’”

The symbolic shift is a strike at the heart of inherited Canadian institutions and law.

Canada is a constitutional monarchy. The Queen is its head. Its system of government is founded on English common law, which has both direct and indirect connections to God and Scripture. Scripture has formed or modified Canadian laws on adultery, theft, perjury, marriage, punishments and more.

For generations, the image of the British monarchy and its law has given Canada unity and stability.

He is working to make a void and then fill it with progressive, radical lawlessness. Canadian government and law with its biblical underpinnings is under attack.

The majority of Canadians don’t agree with the prime minister. Nearly 60 percent of the eligible electorate voted for parties other than Trudeau’s Liberals. Yet the Liberals won about 8 percent more votes than the second-place Conservatives, and Trudeau continues to unilaterally impose his radical policies on the majority of Canadians. His personal popularity has plummeted, and a recent poll shows nearly 70 percent of those polled don’t want him in power. Yet he thinks he knows what is best for Canada.

The prime minister is dividing and weakening Canada.

The results will be extremely difficult to reverse, especially since many bureaucrats support his radical changes, and the prime minister has been ginning up a climate of hyper-partisanship against his political opponents and any Canadian who doesn’t go along with his policies. Even now, his government is working to erode and suppress free speech with a number of newly announced initiatives and other legislation he is considering.

There has been a major change with the British monarchy. The British monarchy is undergoing its own troubles. The latest subtle change to the Heritage Canada policy over the image of the Queen signals that there are many more radical changes in store for Canada.

Canada is becoming profoundly enfeebled.

Emulating China Can be Disaster for India

Many in India suffer from the optical illusion- the Mirage of a strong state: China dazzles many Indians, but emulating China could pave the road to catastrophe. For many, the BJP’s resounding mandate of May 23 is a victory for the ideal of a strong centralised state. This is what India needs, it is being said. This is the only way to ensure maximum governance.

No one would dispute that India can benefit from improved governance. But what model of state can best deliver that? As our intellectuals look around, many have fixated on the success of China, a country that was comparable to India across most socio-economic parameters until the early 1980s, but which has far outpaced us in economic development since.

In trying to emulate China, those intellectuals – driven by an intoxicating mix of envy and strategic fear – locate the solution in its strong centralised state. This is a dangerous lesson to draw. It is dangerous because it indicates a rather shallow understanding of China’s historical experiences and an inattention to the vastly different contexts, historical and contemporary, within which the Indian and Chinese republics operate.

An assessment of China that cannot balance the spectacular growth of the past four decades against equally devastating missteps is bound to produce a simplistic view of the past and lead to solutions that will only generate deep structural problems in India.

Those who are able to study Chinese history with a critical eye may well see their enthusiasm for state centralisation dimmed. China’s dramatic progress has come at significant cost to large sections of its people. An excess of state capacity certainly provides the ability to execute policy effectively; but it often does so regardless of whether the policy makes sense or not.

I offer here only the most well-known examples. From 1958 to 1961, China was set down a radical path of economic and social reorganisation known as the Great Leap Forward. It resulted in arguably the worst man-made disaster in history – a famine that killed, by broad scholarly consensus, at least 30 million people.

The One Child Policy that came into effect in 1980, fundamentally altered China’s demographic composition and has generated a host of social problems. How China adapts to becoming an ‘old country’ in the coming two decades remains to be seen.

Since the 1980s, restrictions on rural to urban mobility have created a floating migrant population nearly the size of the United States. This floating labour is the engine of China’s economic boom, but it has not seen the benefits of that boom.

A few days ago was the 30th anniversary of the crackdown in and around Tian’anmen Square, when units of the People’s Liberation Army opened fire on peaceful protesters – students, workers, and other civilians – killing hundreds. Tian’anmen was not only about quelling dissent among the people but also within the party, concentrating power among only a handful of people.

Most recently, the Chinese state is building a system of surveillance that incorporates an individual’s facial and biometric data, online activity, physical movements, and purchasing habits. Once perfected, the technology can be used just as easily to provide services or to curtail them, to “dissident” and “patriot” alike.

Central to the Chinese state’s success is its ability to crack down on any dissenting voices and to rewrite history. It continues to expend considerable resources to elide embarrassing missteps from school curricula and from public consciousness. Today, most Chinese students have to travel abroad and enroll in foreign universities to engage critically with their own history.

Among the first things many of them do is Google 6/4 (June 4, the date of the Tian’anmen crackdown). Even the basic facts of their common past have been denied them. This applies as much to contemporary developments: many in China remain unaware that their own state has over the past two years put over a million of their fellow citizens, Uighurs who reside in the western province of Xinjiang, into concentration camps.

The point is not that a powerful state cannot do good, but rather that in uncritically lusting for such a state we create the conditions for it to do tremendous harm. If that expansion in capacity is accompanied by a weakening of existing institutions, whether it is the election commission, the judiciary, the media, or a free and independent educational system, then we are complicit in the dissolution of our ability to check that state power. It remains axiomatically true: non-accountable systems generate abuses of power.

The Indian political experiment is built on accommodation of vast heterogeneity. It is a normative ideal, still well short of realisation, but one that says that a society’s norms ought not to be determined by the relative dominance of one group over another. This is what distinguishes it – warts and all – from almost all its contemporaries. Today, we seem hell bent on sacrificing that accommodative spirit at the altar of maximal state capacity.

The historical study of other parts of the world is a serious business and we have neglected it for too long in India. Tragically, current trends suggest we are becoming even more parochial in our approach to both ourselves and to the world. A little learning is a dangerous thing. To take pride in it can be catastrophic.

Dream or Nightmare? India should postpone its electric vehicle plans for ten years

Most discussions on electric vehicles (EVs) focus on benefits and sidestep serious questions. For example, do we know if a faster adoption of EVs would be in India’s interest? Is the currently used EV technology robust enough? Will EVs make us dependent on China?

Answers are straightforward. We just need to look at the most critical part of an EV – the battery. What the internal combustion engine is to a petrol car, the battery is to EV. Currently, all EVs use lithium-ion batteries (LIBs). It is the limitations of LIBs that will prevent widespread adoption of EVs. LIBs are expensive and do not support long-distance travel. Worse, raw materials needed to make LIBs are in short supply. Let us understand the seriousness of the issue.

The battery used in a typical EV is a massive 500 kg pack consisting of hundreds of large lithium-ion cells that use metals like lithium, cobalt, nickel and manganese. Each metal serves a useful purpose. For example, lithium generates a flow of electrons and helps charge the battery. Cobalt prevents battery overheating. The problem is the world does not have enough of lithium or cobalt reserves needed to replace current automobiles with EVs.

Worse, most reserves are located in a few countries. So, 65% of lithium reserves are in Bolivia and Chile, while 60% of cobalt reserves are in Congo. Short supply has made both expensive. No wonder the battery accounts for 70% of the cost of two wheelers and 50% of cars.

So, all EV dreams depend on supply of cobalt and lithium from a few countries. This is a big worry for large players like Tesla and all countries except China. Always a long term planner, China has secured a supply of essential metals with purchases of mines in Congo, Bolivia, Chile and Australia. It controls half the cobalt mines in Congo.

With raw material supplies in place, China set out to become a global battery and EV hub. With shrewd policy and generous state support, Chinese firms command over 60% of global battery market share. China was also the largest EV producer with more than a million vehicles sold in 2018.

On average, an EV is twice as expensive as the comparable petrol vehicle. No wonder most manufacturers lose money on EVs, which can never replace currently used automobiles without a breakthrough in battery technology.

Realising this, many countries are investing in developing next-gen batteries that would replace LIBs. Panasonic, Tesla, Toyota and Chinese manufacturers are at the forefront of research. They are trying to reduce the use of expensive cobalt. Many firms are experimenting with sulphur, sodium and magnesium to replace cobalt.

Use of fuel cells is another big idea. Fuel cell EVs powered by hydrogen emit only water vapour and warm air. A significant challenge is to bring down the cost. General Motors and Airbus are part of the global Hydrogen Council which plans to push a transition to fuel cells.

A country then has two broad choices to pursue EV dreams. Buy expensive cobalt and lithium, develop expertise and make the battery. Or else import batteries. It is easy to talk about plans for setting up domestic battery manufacturing units but impossible to match the prices of subsidised imported batteries. Due to a global rush to set up large battery manufacturing units, already an enormous surplus production capacity exists.

Most firms take the import route. For example, India imports 90% of electric scooter components from China. Currently, an Indian car uses 10-15% imported parts. EVs will increase import dependence to 70% or more.

EVs are the future of mobility. But the future will happen only when an inexpensive next-gen battery is in the market. Work on that is at the beginning stage, and no market-ready batteries are expected before ten years.

Considering the above, India should not push for large scale adoption of EVs in the next ten years. Heavens will not fall. EVs are not new. Japanese EVs came into the market ten years back but could not break even because of limitations of battery technology. But even the new EVs use the same old LIBs.

India should use this time to take care of two pressing issues.

First, prepare for the coming disruption in the automobile industry. EV electric motors produce a constant torque at all speeds, eliminating the need for auto parts like multiple speed transmission system, clutch and gearbox. And no exhaust pipe since the EV is emission free. An EV has 20 moving parts, while a regular petrol or diesel vehicle has more than 2,000.

For this reason, when fully adopted EVs will kill most auto component firms. Survivors will have to move to an industry 4.0 format. India would also need to reskill a large number of motor mechanics. They cannot repair EVs because of the sophisticated electronics. End of ubiquitous roadside motor garages.

Second, and, more important, India should use the next ten years window to become a leader in next-generation battery technology. This is an honourable way to pursue EV dreams without being critically dependent on any country. This will require setting up of a high-ambition, well-funded institution headed by a recognised expert. That would be a project worthy of investing our national pride in.

Donald Trump’ Alter Ego Set to Become Britain’s Next Prime Minister

Just a few years ago, the Guardian was a fierce campaigner against press intrusion into the private lives of celebrities and politicians. But since the target of that intrusion is Boris Johnson, we’ve been given all the lurid details—the cries of “Get off me” and the sounds of plates smashing, and the hurled accusation that “You just don’t care for anything because you’re spoiled.”

I’m not here to defend Johnson. Parts of that story seem worrying. But the main thing I want to point out is the unhinged way the media and leftists are responding to him. They’re treating him the same way they treat United States President Donald Trump.

Boris Johnson is well on his way to becoming Britain’s next prime minister. Over the next month, he and his rival, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, will compete for the support of the 160,000 Conservative Party members. Whoever wins a majority becomes the leader of the Conservative Party and thus, the prime minister.

Polls indicate Johnson will win easily. And so the media is going berserk. Over the weekend, stories of a row between Johnson and his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, have dominated British front pages. In the early hours of Friday morning, Johnson’s neighbor—a passionate anti-Brexiteer—heard angry shouting. Quickly, she sprang into action. Her first response was to hit record on her phone. Then she called the police. And then, when the police informed her that everything was fine, she called Britain’s most left-wing mainstream news outlet—the Guardian—and offered it the recording of the argument.

This opposition goes beyond the normal back-and-forth of politics. The hatred for Johnson goes so far that he’s treated as unworthy of normal human decency. Protesters now stand outside that private house that Johnson shares with his girlfriend. “We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live,” reads one sign. “Camberwell welcomes migrants, not Boris,” reads another. The rest are unprintable. According to one report, because of the demonstrations, Ms. Symonds is now too scared to go home.

“Doesn’t this cross a line?” asks Brandan O-Neill in the Spectator. “Protesting against politicians is one thing …. But turning up to the private apartment of a politician’s girlfriend to hurl expletives is something else entirely.”

Like President Trump, Johnson’s personal life is subjected to exacting scrutiny by the press. And like President Trump, he is also subjected to unhinged accusations of Russian collusion. His opponents are going over everything he’s said or written that can be used as evidence against him—often by stripping the words of their context and twisting their meaning. Does this sound familiar?

It’s not just the press or the protesters who are crossing lines. Scottish National Party leader Ian Blackford repeatedly accused Johnson of being racist on the floor of the House of Commons last week. The rules of the Commons forbid members of Parliament from questioning another’s motives or honor—accusations of racism are clearly forbidden. The Speaker dutifully asked Blackford to withdraw his accusation. He refused. In normal circumstances, Blackford would be ejected from the house. But because the object of his accusation was Johnson, he was allowed to stay.

I’m not the only one to spot the similarities between the treatment of Trump and that of Johnson. It’s so obvious, everyone and his dog seems to be making the observation.

Even before news of Johnson’s domestic row broke, Fraser Nelson wrote in the Telegraph, “Boris drives people quite mad.” He’s repeatedly subjected to “attacks that are so rabid and so hysterical that they end up strengthening their target.” “Such attacks helped take Donald Trump to the White House, and it may now do the same for Boris,” he wrote.

One of the Spectator’s cover articles, before the row with Symonds, was titled “Are You Suffering From Boris Derangement Syndrome?” “In the U.S., Trump Derangement Syndrome, or TDS, is a well-established phenomenon,” wrote Toby Young. “The journalist Fareed Zakaria defined it as ‘hatred of President Trump so intense that it impairs people’s judgment’ and it has led to well-respected columnists describing him as a ‘fascist,’ a ‘white supremacist’ and a ‘Nazi.’” He continued, “So far, Boris Derangement Syndrome, or bds, hasn’t reached those heights, but we’re not far off.”

Then, news of the row hits, and bds jumps quite close to those heights. The Telegraph’s Sherelle Jacobs wrote yesterday that “although Boris has not been elected prime minister yet, this weekend he was officially inaugurated as Britain’s Donald Trump.” “Boris is our Trump candidate,” declared another Telegraph column.

A couple of weeks ago, managing editor Brad Macdonald wrote about the similarities between Britain’s “deep state” and America’s. It’s fascinating to see that parallel continue—even in the way the system treats a leader who wants to go against its will.

How is it that the press in Britain and America are behaving in such similar ways? Both countries are experiencing a growing willingness to break rules, traditions and standards. When the speaker of the house allows accusations of racism to stand, he’s allowing members to break clear rules that have stood for centuries. Protesters are violating what used to be regarded as basic standards of human decency. For many on the left, rules and standards don’t matter. Getting Boris does.

For the United Kingdom, the major factor here probably isn’t even Boris Johnson himself. This frenzied attempt to take down the front-runner for the prime minister’s office is not about Johnson but about stopping Brexit.

But it’s part of the same spirit of lawlessness that we see in both Britain and the U.S. Political debate no longer takes place within the rules of law and traditions of political processes the way it once did. There is a fake liberal dimension to America’s decline that most people do not see. That is true for Britain too. This dimension is crucial to understanding the weirdly extreme level of hatred toward both Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. Otherwise, it cannot be explained rationally.

Forging Indian National Security

The Pulwama terror strike and its sequel saw a major shift of political focus with national security issues being accorded prime importance in election rhetoric.Each of India’s post-Independence conflicts has seen the Indian public aroused by intense patriotic fervour; a phenomenon duly accompanied by suitable bombast from politicians. But no sooner has the crisis passed, that more mundane and pressing concerns about issues like “roti, kapda, makan, naukari”, rightly, resume their significance in the lives of people as well as “netas”.

India’s politicians have, traditionally, not considered national security worth their time and attention because it was never a “vote-catching” issue. Therefore, for 70 years, they happily left the management of defence and security to the bureaucracy, and devoted themselves to political survival.

The run-up to the 2019 general election seems to have changed this forever. The Pulwama terror strike and its sequel saw a major shift of political focus with national security issues being accorded prime importance in election rhetoric. Post-election analysis has convincingly shown that the ordinary voter was indeed swayed by security issues. The NDA government’s show of resolve, as demonstrated by the September 2016 cross-border raids and the February 2019 air strikes on Pakistani targets, was noted and applauded. These audacious actions also seemed to have mitigated resentment on account of demonetisation and overtaken concerns regarding unemployment and other issues amongst both rural and urban voters.

While this dramatic paradigm shift may have upset the Opposition’s calculations and led to their rout, it should bring cheer to the security and defence establishments. National security, having proved itself a prime “vote-catcher”, is guaranteed henceforth to garner the politician’s close attention. Another more recent development that prima facie bodes well for national security is the upgradation of the NSA from minister of state to cabinet rank.

The prime minister, by creating a full-fledged “Minister for Security”, has added a sixth member to his Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), currently comprising ministers of home, defence, finance and external affairs. The present NSA’s credentials and expertise in the fields of internal security and intelligence as well as the affairs of our “near abroad” are well-known and his elevation could be the key to ensuring that focus is retained on national security.

There are, however, certain critical aspects of national security where the current state of play leaves room for ambiguity and uncertainty, starting with haziness of the concept itself. Theoretically defined as “multifaceted and all-encompassing”, national security is often stretched to include a mind-boggling diversity of issues. This is precisely the reason why repeated endeavours at formulating a national security doctrine have failed. India’s bureaucracy is simply incapable of digesting and processing draft doctrines that have attempted to address vast agendas ranging from economic, food, cyber and energy-security to border-management, governance and Centre-state relations.

There is clearly a need to view national security through a narrower prism and evolve a less ambitious doctrine that focuses on matters directly related to defence and security. It must provide strategic guidance to the military within clearly defined national aims and objectives. But for this to happen, a crucial “grey area” in our higher defence organisation (HDO) needs to be addressed.

The Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), has many key roles to play in the HDO but his current status and empowerment constitute a serious national security lacuna, which has neither been acknowledged nor rectified by successive governments. As the senior-most serving officer of the armed forces, the primary function of the Chairman COSC is to oversee functioning of “joint” formations like the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) and the Andaman & Nicobar Command, as well as tri-service training institutions through an Integrated Defence Staff, created post-Kargil to support him.

Far more critical is the chairman’s role in the nuclear command chain. As “boss” of the CinC SFC, who tasks the army’s missiles, the navy’s submarines and air force fighter-bombers for nuclear weapon delivery, he constitutes the key link and military interface between the prime minister, who is the head of India’s Nuclear Command Authority, and India’s nuclear forces. Bringing clarity to the role and responsibilities of Chairman COSC will reinforce the credibility of our nuclear command and control, especially with nuclear-armed INS Arihant and the Agni-V inter-continental ballistic missile on the horizon.

Under existing rules, this post is held in rotation by serving Chiefs who discharge the chairman’s duties on a part-time basis. The enormous incongruity and farcical nature of this system has recently been demonstrated. The retiring Naval chief passed the mantle of Chairman COSC to the Air Chief, who has three months to serve, before the latter hands it over to the Army Chief, who retires just three months later!

Both the UPA and NDA governments have, over the past 15 years, spurned expert recommendations that India’s nuclear-deterrent, as well as demands of 21st century warfare call for urgent defence reforms, the most vital being creation of a Chief of Defence Staff. As an interim measure, they suggest the appointment of a full-time “Permanent Chairman COSC” with a fixed tenure. Having ignored this advice, the last government went on to constitute a Defence Planning Committee (DPC) headed by the NSA to “facilitate comprehensive and integrated planning for defence matters”. This step, sidelining the Raksha Mantri, was another reminder that the NSA’s role and charter in the nuclear command chain and his relationship with the Chairman COSC need early formalisation and promulgation.

Given the radical military transformation, modernisation and down-sizing recently undertaken by China, it would be extremely myopic for India to stall defence reforms any longer. Such reforms, the world over, are wrought by visionary and enlightened politicians often in the face of fierce opposition by service chiefs. In the UK, three defence ministers — Sandys, Heseltine and Nott — are celebrated for their reformist role in creating a genuinely integrated MoD and enforcing jointness. In the US it took herculean struggle by two pro-active politicians, Senator Goldwater and Congressman Nichols, to bring about radical security reform through an act of the US Congress.

Trump’s Reversal of Attack Iran Decision Explained

Geopolitics in the Middle-East region has been complex with multiple fraction, ethnic groups, power centers, and international player. In this region, the economy is driven by the oil produced in the region. Countries like USA eye on this region for their energy security by importing cheap oil and for their hegemony in Asia to counter Russia and China from capturing the vacant space. There is also present a rivalry between Iran and Saudi-Arabia with whom the USA is having a close tie up. The other two big international players like Russia and China have their economic interest more in terms of connectivity and port openings. Russia’s warm water port policy and the Chinese policy to access the European market through Belt and Road Initiative are driving force for their unchanged interest in this region.

In the aftermath of the growing tension between Iran and the USA , everyone was predicting a strong military retaliation from the US. However, no such possibility is in the air now as the president of the USA has himself shown a deeper sense of restraint. This restraint on the part of Mr. Trump is quite rare observing the change in previous policy regarding the nuclear deal with Iran plus the recent crisis of shot down of US drone by Iran. There is a changing scenario in the Middle-East region that is not quite favorable from Trump to attack Iran. All with this the cost involved in this war is enormous which no country, even the mighty USA, is ready to accept.

In this backdrop, the attack on Iran by the US could have involved multiple players if not immediately but in the long run which the US would not be happy to accept. Iran has a very good relationship with Russia, China and India as far as energy security, connectivity projects like the North-South corridors are concerned. So, these players could have come together to diplomatically oppose the US’ s attack on Iran. Any instability in the region would affect the global oil prices which no country would want in an already restrained economic condition.

From a military point of view, Iran has considerable power to sustain in a war for a longer duration with the support of proxy militia and favorable home conditions. Further, it is having the capability to block the strait of Hormuz responsible for one-third shipment of global oil. Iran too has ballistic missile capability and in case of escalation, the next targets could be the US base in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria. If by any chance Iran would attack Israel or Saudi- Arabia considering them as the allies of the US then the matter would be the worst.

The US is also not being supported by the move to attack Iran by the European Union as they still believe in the joint comprehensive agreement signed with P-5+1(Germany). This act of aggression against Iran by the US would have diplomatically isolated the US. Back home in the US, the economy is still in a fragile phase after the shock of the global economic crisis of 2008 and rising economic powers like China-US are engaged in a trade war with one another. So, the US can’t afford another war whose end result and complexities are unknown.

In the post-Afghanistan and Iraq war, there is strong popular resentment against the loss of life of young American in territories outside the USA for useless wars. The higher expenditures in wars have affected the social indicators because of more and more budget cut.

Perhaps taking all the pragmatic factors into consideration, the USA president took a route that was the need of the hour. The declaration of the US that Iran has not been engaged in killing American citizens and hence attacking and killing the Iranian would be unfair was the right approach for de-escalation. If the US wants to stop Iran from making atom bombs then they should go for diplomatic pressure instead of war which is far more devastating and destabilizing not only for the two countries but also for the world as a whole. The world needs more peace instead of war and hopefully the countries, their leaders understand that.

Ways to boost social inclusion and economic growth

Traditionally, boosting growth has been seen as the best way to create job opportunities and raise living standards. But governments should now look at this the other way around: by better equipping their citizens to navigate the world of work, countries can most effectively boost their economic growth and development.

Growth is decelerating in Europe, the United States, China, Japan, Canada and other leading economies, as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank recently highlighted by revising their global forecasts for this year substantially downward. At the same time, political and business leaders know they need to do more to prepare workforces for the labor market in an age of rising automation, stagnant wages, and greater part-time, temporary, and contingent employment.

These two challenges – reinvigorating economic growth and preparing people for the future of work – are linked, but not necessarily in the conventional sense that macroeconomic stimulus or improved efficiency constitutes the best way to create job opportunities and raise living standards. The experience of recent decades shows that growth alone is not enough to reduce the increased inequality and insecurity accompanying the transformation of work. Moreover, high debt levels and historically low interest rates have left policymakers with fewer traditional tools to stimulate the economy in the event of another recession.

In this new era, government and business leaders need to view the relationship between growth and labor markets the other way around. It is by upgrading their social contracts and better equipping their citizens to navigate the world of work that countries can most effectively boost their economic growth and development.

That is the conclusions recently reached by an independent Global Commission on the Future of Work, organized by the International Labour Organization and co-chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.

The commission recommended three practical steps – all of which involve investing more in people – that countries can take to improve social inclusion and economic growth simultaneously. Investing more in people is not only essential to strengthen countries’ social contracts with citizens at a time of rapid technological change. It can also form the basis of a new, more human-centered growth and development model that may be the best hope for sustaining the world economy’s momentum as the two growth engines on which many countries have relied for years or even decades – extraordinary macroeconomic stimulus and export-led industrial production – continue to lose steam.

First, countries should increase public and private investment in their citizens’ capabilities, which is the most important way they can durably lift their rate of productivity growth. Some governments chronically underinvest in access to quality education and skills development. But policymakers everywhere need to do more as populations age and automation disrupts both manufacturing, on which developing economies have traditionally relied to industrialize, and services, in which much advanced-economy employment is concentrated. The commission therefore called on countries to build a universal framework to support lifelong learning – including stronger and better-financed labor-market training and adjustment policies, expanded public employment services, and a universal social-protection floor.

Second, governments, together with employers’ and workers’ organizations, should upgrade national rules and institutions relating to work. These influence the quantity and distribution of job opportunities and compensation, and thus the level of purchasing power and aggregate demand within the economy. Specifically, the commission called for a Universal Labor Guarantee under which all workers, regardless of their contractual arrangement or employment status, would enjoy fundamental rights, an “adequate living wage” as defined in the ILO’s founding constitution 100 years ago, maximum limits on working hours, and health and safety protection at work.

Moreover, collective representation of workers and employers through structured social dialogue should be ensured as a public good and actively promoted by government policies. From parental leave to public services, policies need to encourage the sharing of unpaid care work in the home to support gender equality in the workplace. Strengthening female voices and leadership, eliminating violence and harassment at work, and implementing pay transparency policies are also important in this regard.

Third, countries should increase public and private investment in labor-intensive economic sectors that generate wider benefits for society. These include sustainable water, energy, digital, and transport infrastructure, care sectors, the rural economy, and education and training. The Business and Sustainable Development Commission has estimated that achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals could generate $12 trillion of market opportunities in four areas alone – food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and wellbeing – and create up to 380 million jobs by 2030. Capitalizing on these possibilities could help countries to compensate for the labor-displacing and potentially demand-suppressing effects of automation and economic integration.

These three steps constitute a strategy for all countries, regardless of their level of economic development, to strengthen both social justice and economic growth – and, by extension, public faith in political institutions.

In the heat of the financial crisis a decade ago, leaders of G20 countries pledged to build a more balanced and sustainable growth model that embodied lessons from the economic imbalances and policy mistakes of the past. The world has since made little progress toward realizing this goal. But the path it must take is clear: sustained, increased investment in people’s capabilities, purchasing power, and job opportunities.

India Shifting Focus on the Indo-Pacific

In its first term, the Narendra Modi government accorded high priority to maritime stability and security. It emphasised regional connectivity and growth through Security and Growth for All in the Region .

The prevailing and emerging international order, characterised by a new form of internationalism and hazy geopolitics, finds centrality in the Indo-Pacific region. It is the new arena for strategic rivalry, within the bounds of interdependence, and all major players have made Indo-Pacific-related policy and posture pronouncements in the recent past. The region’s share of world merchandise trade is over 75 per cent and its seaports are the busiest in the world. Its contribution to global GDP is around 60 per cent. The region is also critical to world energy flows, for both suppliers and consumers. The rise of China (and President Xi Jinping’s grand Belt and Road Initiative), the realignment of US global strategy, the new approach adopted by India, Japan, ASEAN, France and other key players and new partnerships have further underlined the salience of the region.

It is true that the Indo-Pacific has some very diverse sub-regions, where systems, environments and challenges differ widely. Yet, the region is now a coherent strategic space due to its increased interconnectedness. The geographical expanse of the region, however, is open to interpretation. While the US considers this region to be from “the West Coast of the United States to the western shores of India”, the other perception includes the area from “the East Coast of Africa to the West Coast of the United States”.

There is an increasing recognition of the importance of maritime security, maritime commons and cooperation. In the last few years, almost every joint or vision statement at the end of summit-level talks or meeting between major maritime powers accords high priority to maritime security and stability.

China has made a decisive move from a continental to maritime mindset, with its maritime orientation becoming central to its overarching ambition of seeking a new model for great power relations. The Chinese posture has underlined the need for an equal and equitable world order, and has stressed that the American approach to global and regional issues has become redundant. The US Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, released on June 1, outlines the US posture and plan to retain its influence in the region, through partnerships and preparedness. It underlines the strategic rivalry with China, identifying it as “a revisionist power, which is undermining the international system from within”. It considers the Chinese economic model for the region, of inducements and penalties, as “predatory,” with China operating in the “grey zone” between peace and hostilities. It also identifies Russia as a “revitalised malign actor”. The report consistently emphasises the “Rules-based international order” and “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”. It also stresses on the Freedom of Navigation.

India, in recent years, has moved from being a reluctant maritime power to a conscious one. It has sought to align its Indo-Pacific strategy with national maritime interests, and has developed partnerships accordingly. In its first term, the Narendra Modi government accorded high priority to maritime stability and security. It emphasised regional connectivity and growth through Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). Few key logistic and support bilateral arrangements have been finalised, and some are in the pipeline. The Blue Economy has been given fresh impetus, particularly through Project Sagarmala. Cooperation on the Blue Economy was also included in the action plan at the BIMSTEC meet in Kathmandu. Efforts have been sustained to further enhance India’s credibility as a reliable maritime power, with Indian Navy and other agencies taking new initiatives.

But more needs to be done. This is recognised by the new government, as evident from the invitations for its swearing-in ceremony on May 30. The prime minister’s maiden visit in his second term to Maldives and Sri Lanka is in part due to this recognition. In order to sustain the focus on the Indo-Pacific, the new government may look into the following.

First, pursue a proactive strategy for the region, including a decisive move to the next level of maritime orientation, and play a key role in the evolving narrative. There is a need to give shape and substance to SAGAR, with an appropriate implementation plan. Bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral, and multilateral partnerships in the Indo-Pacific should be strengthened. India should initiate new cooperative projects, and accelerate the momentum of ongoing projects in infrastructure, manufacturing, trade and tourism, with special focus on connectivity, coastal areas and ports. While the Blue Economy and Resource Resilience initiatives can be progressed at bilateral and sub-regional levels, its potential at the regional level can be suitably leveraged to enhance stability and prosperity.

Second, India can play a leadership role in developing a common understanding on Freedom of Navigation. Almost all countries agree that there ought to be Freedom of Navigation in maritime commons. However, the interpretations of international maritime law (IML) related to Freedom of Navigation differ widely. This is particularly relevant with regard to provisions in the UN Convention on the Laws of Sea (UNCLOS), like passage, surveillance and exercises through different maritime zones, and some entitlements in the Exclusive Economic Zone. Further, domestic maritime laws in some countries are at considerable variance with IML. While it is important to stress Freedom of Navigation at key meets, it is equally important to delve deeper in order to develop a common understanding. India’s record of abiding by IML and its credibility as a maritime power, make it an ideal candidate to lead such an effort.

Third, increase operational reach, sustenance and the footprint in the Indo-Pacific. This would enable a longer presence in the areas of interest, and concurrently strengthen stability. Bilateral logistic and support arrangements, already agreed to, need to be operationalised and new arrangements finalised.

Fourth, make a tangible impact through Project Sagarmala, with a focus on port development, connectivity, port-led industrialisation, and coastal community development. Investments — planned and forecast — and the potential creation of direct and indirect jobs, should be realised in a timely and effective manner. Similar projects, in partnership with other countries, should be explored. Concurrently, capacity augmentation of the Indian merchant fleet should be undertaken.

And fifth, India should examine the setting up of a Centre for Indo-Pacific Studies, preferably at Port Blair, in Andaman and Nicobar islands. This should be a multi-discipline centre, and may be created following a public-private partnership model.

Outrageous, but Surprising, Stats About Gender Inequality

Around the world, the achievements of women are being celebrated on International Women’s Day, which began back in 1911. But the day also highlights the work that remains to be done in order to achieve gender parity.

The theme for this year is #BalanceforBetter – encapsulating the idea that a gender-balanced world benefits everyone, economically and socially. And it’s up to everyone, men and women, to make it happen.

As the following statistics show, there are huge differences in the types of inequality faced by women in different parts of the world – from cultural representation to domestic burdens and child marriage. But through collective action and shared ownership, change is possible.

1. Women are 47% more likely to suffer severe injuries in car crashes because safety features are designed for men

In their 2011 study of more than 45,000 crash victims over 11 years, researchers from the University of Virginia found women drivers were much more likely to be injured in a crash than men.

They said this was because car safety features had been designed for men. The positioning of head restraints, as well as women’s shorter height, different neck strength and musculature, as well as their preferred seating position, meant they were more susceptible to injury.

2. 33,000 girls become child brides every day

Globally, 12 million girls each year get married before the age of 18 – roughly 33,000 every day, or one every two seconds. There are some 650 million women alive today who were child brides.

The reasons behind it vary between communities, but it’s often because girls are not valued as highly as boys and marrying them off at a young age transfers the ‘economic burden’ to another family.

3. Women in rural parts of Africa spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water 

In rural parts of sub-Saharan Africa, a lack of services and infrastructure, combined with an expectation of household duties and limited employment opportunities for women, means they shoulder an unequal burden of gathering water and wood for their families.

According to the UN, collectively these women spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water. 

4. It will take 108 years to close the gender gap

At the current rate of progress, it will take another 108 years to reach gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum’s most recent Global Gender Gap report. 

Across the 106 countries covered since the first edition of the report, the biggest gaps to close are in the economic and political empowerment dimensions, which will take 202 and 107 years to close, respectively. 

5. Only 6 countries give women equal legal work rights as men

The World Bank’s recent Women, Business and the Law report measured gender discrimination in 187 countries.

It found that only Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden scored full marks on eight indicators – from receiving a pension to freedom of movement – influencing economic decisions women make during their careers.

A typical economy only gives women three-quarters the rights of men in the measured areas. 

6. 22% of AI professionals are women – and it could be down to lack of confidence 

Image: PISA 

According to the Forum’s Global Gender Gap report, only 22% of the world’s AI professionals are female, compared with 78% who are male. This accounts for a gender gap of 72% yet to close – and reflects the broader STEM skills gap. 

In 2012, just 14% of women starting university in OECD countries chose science-related subjects, compared with 39% of men. 

A 2015 PISA report found even high-achieving girls underachieved when they were asked to ‘think like scientists’. Girls were less confident at solving science and maths problems and reported higher levels of anxiety towards maths. 

In a study of students at Cornell University in 2003, psychologists found that women rated their scientific abilities lower than men, even though they performed roughly the same in a quiz.

The researchers said: “Women might disproportionately avoid scientific pursuits because their self-views lead them to mischaracterize how well they are objectively doing on any given scientific task.”

7. For every female film character, there are 2.24 men

The Geena Davis Institute analysed 120 theatrical releases between 2010 and 2013 in 10 countries – and found that of the 5,799 speaking or named characters, less than a third (30.9%) were female and more than a third (69.1%) were male.

Liberal’s Bugbear: Review of the Nature of Human Rights by US State Department

Aquinas’s observation that human law either ratifies natural law or perverts it is a good North Star in promoting human rights around the world.  “Every human law has just so much of the nature of law as is derived from the law of nature,” Thomas Aquinas wrote. “But if at any point it deflects from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of the law.”

Aquinas’s observation that human law either ratifies natural law or perverts it is a good North Star in promoting human rights around the world. 

Now that the State Department is looking to form an advisory panel to ponder whether the debate on human rights has departed from these principles, however, progressive groups are running around crying foul.

The panel, officially to be called the State Department Commission on Unalienable Rights, “will provide fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.”

It is a much-needed corrective to what has taken place for several years. To be fair to the liberals, they do have much to fear. The entire edifice the left has built in the United States and abroad is based on a foundation of laws and policies that depart from defensible ideas about the natural rights of humans. Instead, we have been promoting compulsions that trample these rights.

America decided at its very beginning that the individual has unalienable rights to free speech, freedom of conscience, self-defense, private property (which is the physical manifestation of our labor), and so on. 

Good governments secure these universal rights, while bad governments abridge them. The founding documents say that these are God-given rights, a statement that nobody from Aquinas to John Locke to Thomas Jefferson (who wrote those words into the Declaration of Independence) would have found controversial. One does not need to have faith, however, to understand that these are universal axioms that precede the creation of government.

We can observe in our own human nature, for example, what Leo Strauss—one of the 20th century’s leading proponents of the theory of natural rights—called “the equality of all men in regard to the right of self-preservation.” 

We don’t need government—or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), for that matter—to tell us that each of us would fight to prevent our murder. The right to liberty and property are really extensions of our survival instinct.

There is a debate within conservative circles at the moment as to whether rights regarding freedom from government interference are truly universal or, just like rights regarding freedom from want, they are the product of tradition and cultural values.

Strauss has Aquinas clarifying the matter this way: “the axioms from which the more specific rules of natural right are derived are universally valid and immutable; what are mutable only are the more specific rules.”

In other words, cultural habits tend to produce governments that put a premium on the defense of universal natural rights, and others that do not. The United States and other freedom-loving nations have the responsibility to criticize those governments that quash the universal rights to religious conscience, to life, to property, etc.

These nations also have an obligation to stay out of each other’s internal debates over the size of the welfare state, for example. Ditto for such issues as abortion, same-sex marriage, or identity group rights, about which we ourselves continue to have a robust debate.

The promotion of these cultural values would undermine real universal rights. As The Heritage Foundation’s Emilie Kao and Grace Melton write, in a warning about United Nations mischief-making, “creating new rights based on membership in special identity groups corrodes principles of equality and universality.”

 “The freedom to live according to one’s conscience is integral to the flourishing of all human rights,” Kao and Melton add, yet Europe and the U.S. provide “numerous cases” of “non-discrimination laws being used to force individuals to endorse a new sexual orthodoxy by supporting same-sex relations or same-sex marriage, under threat of economic punishment.”

Progressives may have a problem with these issues being considered at the State Department; no one else should.

Radical ideology in Kashmir has to be neutralised slowly, smartly and continuously

There are no easily found definitions of the commonly used term ‘religious radicalism’. Counter radicalisation and de-radicalisation also remain wishful thoughts in relation to Jammu & Kashmir because we remain inadequately clear about definition and application. More than a precise definition it needs to be understood that those who believe in the universal application of only their faith, belief and ideology without the right of others to exist, are clearly radical. It goes a step beyond – those willing to adopt extreme violence to pursue a path towards eventual domination of their belief and ideology indeed classify as radicals.

In Kashmir the linkage with security involves Pakistan’s avowed aim to force away the traditional inclusive ideology of the people, and instead force new generations of Kashmiri Muslims to identify with a puritanical form of Islam which brooks no adjustment and no tolerance. Consciously Pakistan worked on a slow transition, financing it through conduits going back to parts of the Arab world. The mosques changed their outlook as a new clergy was supplanted and Kashmir’s Islam too started turning puritanical and exclusivist.

It happened through the 90s and the early millennium but raised no eyebrows due to lack of realisation in India’s security establishment about what lay in store for them to eventually handle. Now, it is not as if we are countering a phenomenon at its outset or early stage; full scale radicalisation stares us in the face and therefore there are very few soft options. Conceptually, clearer understanding must emerge among those involved in the formulation and execution of strategy. Some principles on which a strategy in Kashmir may be based are outlined below.

The first step should be to set up sufficient research support which can provide rationale against radical belief. This research will sustain the effort and give it longevity. The strategy cannot be a fixed one; it has to be flexible and evolve as very few such efforts around the world have succeeded. While efforts to neutralise foreign funding continue there must be availability of sufficient funds to help wean away the hardcore elements. It is in no way being suggested that illegal funds be used. But responsible spending, with full accountability, must not be curbed for the sake of bureaucratic procedures.

In one of the most successful models of counter radicalisation in the world, Singapore focussed on its small Muslim population to protect it from extraneous influences. It identified prisons, educational institutions, labour camps and clubs where radicalisation could occur. It placed surveillance over these and tackled them by employing selected clerics with proven secular credentials. Contact programmes were run for those involved in these institutions. Internet was used for education and to counter radical beliefs, where the clerics went by the fancy name of ‘internet imams’.

The threat pattern in Singapore was miniscule in comparison to Kashmir. In addition there is already an extreme violent streak in Kashmir’s society today. Contact with people is therefore not easy. But here too the key to countering radicalisation lies with a certified pluralist clergy. The state should harness institutional support from important seminaries such as Darul Uloom Deoband. India’s media is sufficiently developed and internet penetration and social media so rife that through them an institution of such repute, with state guidance, can play a major role in influencing its followers and many more. It’s a question of believing in India’s pluralist credentials.

The biggest obstacle to countering radicalism is the lack of a political consensus on tackling J&K separatism. But a counter radicalisation strategy run exclusively by the Centre is a non-starter; it needs the total involvement of the state and its administrative machinery. Without this any campaign will be reduced to tactical measures much like the army’s Operation Sadbhavana which though hugely successful as military civic action, has never been able to transform into a strategic exercise in outreach, information operations and winning hearts and minds.

More than 500 Islamic clerics turned up at Vigyan Bhawan at the invitation of the government in March 2018, to listen to King Abdullah of Jordan who is reputed for his experiment of the Amman Message. It stressed the need to re-emphasise Islam’s core values of compassion, mutual respect, tolerance, acceptance and freedom of religion and was endorsed by 200 Islamic clerics from diverse Islamic sects, way back in 2004. Can the proven plurality of India’s Islam create such an initiative, the message of which must reach J&K and form the bedrock of our counter radicalisation?

Kashmir has to be internally stabilised on a sustainable basis, its population has to be firewalled from extraneous radical influence, and the elements promoting this influence have to be weeded out. None of this can ever happen by force. Just as it got ingrained slowly over time, radical ideology has to be neutralised slowly, smartly and continuously.

Sunday Special: Truth Hurts

Many Chinese young people know nothing about the Tiananmen Square massacre of college students and others demonstrating for democracy that took place 30 years ago. The Communist leadership calculated that it would be safer if they didn’t know.

The Soviet Union treated history as a tool to be used to gather support for whatever the Communist party line happened to be at the moment. As a recent New York Times editorial correctly pointed out, “authoritarian regimes are firm believers in the George Orwell dictum ‘Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ The Soviet Union was forever rewriting or blotting out its history, and China has similarly sought to manipulate national narratives and memories, whether through censorship or by force.”

Is US slowly moving towards a similar approach to the past?

Possibly. Yet if it is, this movement isn’t the result of state control so much as our cultural resistance to facts which challenge our narratives of past events and heroes. Often, what we see is that when confronted with new historical evidence, the culture’s auto-immune response is to attack the messenger and reject the new facts as unreliable and illegitimate.

In some circumstances this response is actually helpful, because the truth is that much historical revisionism is driven by ideology and tendentious readings of hazy or incomplete evidence. So an impulse to conserve cultural memories is not, necessarily, unhealthy.

But striking a balance between reasonable skepticism and blind rejection is difficult.

And the difficulty is compounded by our current political atmosphere where the truth is often denigrated and false narratives are often substituted in the name of protecting cherished stories that we enjoy telling ourselves. As historian Kevin Kennedy has pointed out “national pride must never be allowed to distort historical reality.”

Two recent challenges to our accepted truth are D-Day and the character of Martin Luther King Jr. The accepted narratives on these two subjects are so ingrained that it’s difficult to believe that they might not be true. And yet they may be.

The sacrifice made at D-Day by the brave men who stormed Omaha Beach is indeed worthy of remembrance, especially in this year of the 75th anniversary, when the aging survivors of the assault will soon all be gone.

The successful Allied landings in Normandy accelerated Germany’s defeat, but historian Kevin Kenndy argues “they didn’t bring it about.” Yes, the men who fought and died played a major role in Nazi Germany’s eventual defeat, but the events of that day were not among the most important battles of the war, much as it has often been portrayed. What it did accomplish, however, was to stop Stalin’s goal of having the Red Army take control of Italy and France as well as Eastern Europe. Had Stalin succeeded, this would have led to the imposition of totalitarian governments in those two countries—and the attendant crimes against humanity seen throughout the Soviet Union.

This does not diminish the importance of D-Day, but changes our understanding of it in important ways. A startling article recently appeared in the Washington Post which reassesses the battle of Pointe du Hoc, which has become the most famous event of the D-Day invasion. The point was the 100-foot promontory that overlooks Omaha Beach. American GI’s secured it, leading to the dismantling of the battery of long-range German guns that had moved inland.

In a speech at a previous anniversary, Ronald Reagan saluted the soldiers, of whom the surviving members of that force seated in front of him. The Allies, he said, “had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.” In words that will inspire for decades to come, he said “These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”

But this may not be quite right. A man named Gary Sterne, an artifact collector and historian, has since discovered a complex called the Maisy Battery, that covered 144 acres a mile inland between Omaha and Utah beaches. The complex he unearthed had a bombproof German ammunition bunker, a field hospital, and a command and control center—all which had been buried underground and lost to history. Sterne concludes that the assault at Omaha Beach was unnecessary and that “U.S. military leaders should have targeted Maisy and its battery of heavy artillery guns instead of Pointe du Hoc, which the Germans had largely abandoned by the time of the Normandy invasion.”

Military historians can dispute Sterne’s conclusions and assess the evidence he found. They may agree or disagree with his reading. But rather than do that, Sterne has received nothing but opprobrium. As journalist Scott Higham puts it, “Those who challenge the story do so at their own peril.”

It’s easy to understand why. If the new evidence were to prove Sterne correct, it would mean that scaling the point was unnecessary and many men died unnecessarily.

And as a follow-on problem, taking Sterne seriously means that a celebrated would-be war hero who is central to the Pointe du Hoc narrative is also misunderstood. For years George G. Klein has lectured about the battle; he was feted at the 73rd anniversary event as “one of the great celebrities of the battle.”

But Sterne and others proved that Klein was in Ireland on D-Day. Confronted with a mountain of evidence which cast doubt on his decades worth of story-telling, Klein finally admitted that he had made it all up. Sterne was right. Klein was wrong. And a cherished piece of our history suddenly took on a new light.

But the road to this shifting understanding is always the same: Historians who discover new evidence and argue for different conclusions are condemned for the very fact of presenting them.

Which brings us to the controversy over David Garrow’s article on Martin Luther King that appeared in Standpoint. Garrow’s revelation that King forced himself on scores of women and witnessed and egged on a rape were shocking. But those who disagreed did so not only by challenging Garrow’s research, but with personal and vitriolic attacks on Garrow.

The first charge made against Garrow was that he should not have given credibility to what is in FBI files. Historian Jeanne Theoharis told the New York Times that “It is deeply irresponsible for a historian to cast such F.B.I. sources, which can be deeply unreliable, as fact. Most scholars I know would penalize their graduate students for doing this.”

In an op-ed appearing in the same paper, black feminist historian Barbara Ransby made it personal. Garrow, she says, wrote an “irresponsible account, drawn from questionable documents, has serious shortcomings and risks turning readers into historical peeping Toms by trafficking in what amounts to little more than rumor and innuendo from F. B.I. files.” She went on to call his words “reminiscent of the racist manner in which black sexuality has been described historically: insatiable and as the F.B.I. wrote three times, ‘unnatural.’” Ransby concludes that Garrow is trying to “complete the job J. Edgar Hoover failed to do two generations ago.”

Calling the Pulitzer-Prize winning historian—and the man who literally wrote the book The F.B.I. and Martin Luther King, Jr.—a tool of the Hoover-era FBI is both inaccurate and unfair. Garrow is the man who brought to light the Bureau’s sordid attempts to destroy King. To portray him as now trying to do Hoover’s hatchet work is either dishonest or a grave mistake.

Garrow ably defended himself in the op-ed page of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Rather than get down in the gutter with his critics, he tried to remind everyone that the job of a historian is to enhance the historical record by telling us how newly found documents forces one to reevaluate old views and analyses, regardless of the consequences. Sometimes that means a hero is knocked a bit off the pedestal.

He also explained that he believes the FBI files are valuable to scholars. “When information came from telephone wiretaps and hotel room microphones,” he writes, “where agents with tape recorders captured King’s every utterance, the FBI’s accuracy was extremely high.”

It has always been thus. Defenders of Alger Hiss attacked the late historian Allen Weinstein, when he wrote his best-selling book on the Hiss case in 1978. I saw this sort of treatment up close when I was attacked for the research I did on the Rosenberg case. My critics insisted that the FBI files I relied on were inaccurate and possibly even had been forged—even though the material in the files was verified by other sources. It took many years, but most people now acknowledge that Hiss and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were all Soviet agents.

Garrow’s answer is short and direct: “No matter how unpalatable some of their content, for any serious scholar professionalism must trump politics. . . . Enriching and enlarging the historical record is a scholar’s uppermost responsibility, irrespective of whoever finds such new information unwelcome.”

Seeing historians and political commentators continue to put ideology above the search for truth isn’t new. But it’s a sadness nonetheless. And while some of these people might mean well, they are doing society a grave disservice. In the end, the truth is always best

India’s Security Interests Vis-a-vis the US

US-India relations from the beginning of the 21st Century have reached new heights with renewed gusto leading to a robust political and defence relationship. Both have signed agreements which makes India at par with any formal ally as far as defence cooperation is concerned. The impression, an observer might get is that India is taking sides and abandoning its non-alignment principles as India’s national security is threatened through nibbling of territory on the eastern borders and countering state sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. 

As India continues to grow, the threat on its borders will continue to grow, which has led to India procuring and developing modern weapons and defence systems to deter the growing threats on its borders. The U.S has not made any comments on India’s defence budget unlike its European allies who were accused of not increasing their defence budget and put burden on NATO, but, the U.S does have a problem with where India buys its weapons from, which is evident from the  threat of sanctions India might face if it goes ahead with decision to buy the Russian S-400 missile system which although not battle tested is better as far as range and setup is concerned compared to its competition.

The U.S reaction to India buying S-400 from Russia can be compared to a strikingly similar reaction back in the 1960s when India went ahead and bought the MiG 21 supersonic jet from the Soviet Union after the Sino-Indian war which made India look for options beyond the British, who were the primary defence supplier at the time. The reaction at the time was, of course, one of shock and surprise to the west, who like now, in those times saw India as a balance to China but in line with Pax  Britannica. The U.K of course, today does not hold the same sway in India as it did for a couple of decades after India’s independence while also ceding ground to American and Soviet influence as the Cold War progressed. However, the U.S has stood the test of time and is still a superpower while facing economic and military challenges from China and still perceives Russia as a geopolitical threat. The time might be different, but the threat to both US and India remains the same, but US concerns, like the threat, about buying India buying from Russia hasn’t changed either.

The threat of sanctions now is not that different from the consideration in the 1960s to stop aid from the US to help facilitate India’s third five–year plan which would have led to a collapse of the Indian economy. The Chinese threat to U.S hegemony in Asia then, and today, the world should ideally be the reason for the U.S to not really push India to take hard decisions which might undermine all the progress the bilateral relationship has made and might affect the future U.S plans for enhancing defence and security cooperation with India . The Senate Foreign Relations Committee cut 25 percent from India’s aid package in the 1960s, and now, the possibility of sanctions after buying S-400 shows the U.S near stubbornness not to understand India’s security predicament. 

There is although a slight change of how the west responded at the time and how the U.S is responding now as this time an alternative has been offered. India had exhausted all options in the 1960s to procure western supersonic jets because of political and financial reasons. The U.S based F-104 Starfighter was expensive and complicated to manufacture compared to its Soviet counterpart. The U.S, today in response to India buying S-400 has offered to sell the Patriot missiles and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense(THAAD). The U.S might have offered its top of the line air defence equipment but its relatively more expensive as was the case with the F-104 Starfighter. This is not to say that India hasn’t bought military equipment from the U.S ,  India  recently bought the National Surface to Air Missile System-2 (NASAMS-2) which will act as a robust air defence against any attack on New Delhi along with a host of other military equipment including heavy lifting helicopters and aircrafts which India has deployed in its forward base.

In the light of both countries signing Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) which ensures India and the U.S millitaries communicating through high end encrypted data and share satellite data the U.S argues in response to India’s purchase of S-400 that it would affect the interoperability between the two armed forces, an argument which the U.S has been making against Turkey buying the same air defence system and retaliating by blocking F-35 equipment even when it is an industrial partner. 

The U.S Senate passed Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) primarily targeting Iran, North Korea, and Russia without any waiver provisions which makes the decision to buy the air defence system a diplomatic and militarily complicated proposition for India. This is not to say that relations have soured over this issue as the U.S has helped India on various occasions including the endorsement of its inclusion as a permanent member of the UNSC, attesting India’s entry into NSG among many important progressive stances beneficial for India on the world stage. The S-400 purchase though is also not the only issue which thaws the now rapidly growing relationship as India is also facing the extended brunt of tariffs imposed by the U.S along with not granting waivers to countries which were dependent on Iranian oil due to the renewed unilateral sanctions with a host of other problems which mars the relationship.

The Indo-US relationship is now too big to go into a cryogenic state as it did after Kennedy’s death in 1963 until the advent of the 21st century and enhanced after 9/11. There is no doubt that the relationship has been beneficial for India which was the case in the post–independence years until Kennedy was assassinated and later, the U.S got heavily involved and invested in conflicts in South East Asia.

The U.S now after making so much progress with India bilaterally should not jeopardise relations with India as it is its second largest arms supplier and should be less threatening and accept the deals made by India and understand that non-alignment is not a principle but contextual , and at the time the recent aggression on India’s western borders by Pakistan and the Doklam stand-off in 2017 has made India look for viable, affordable and analyse  life-cycle costs of the new arms it imports. Finally, the U.S should realise, rather what it should have realised when India bought the MiG’s from the Soviets that for India to even out China it has to have strategic autonomy which it expects from major powers due to the situation on its borders which for years now has been nothing less than a powder keg. 

The U.S foreign policy has been a banquet of paradoxical discreets. China was the U.S’ best partner for over two decades during the cold war. The situation has turned over its head at the time turn of 21st Century. The foreign policy behavious has one de jure constant, U.S national interest. In a similar temper, India’s foreign policy will be changed by its own interests. The U.S will have to learn to concede to India’s exigencies, sooner the better. 

U.S. Military Must Rethink Strategy or Risk Defeat

 The United States is investing an enormous amount of resources in “flawed” concepts that will fail to succeed in a full-scale war. This was the verdict of a report released on June 12 by the Center for a New American Security and authored by former U.S. Army Ranger Chris Dougherty. It warned that without a complete overhaul of strategy, America would likely lose a conventional war against a major power, such as Russia or China.

The main claim of the report is that high defense spending creates a false sense of security, but much of that money is misspent. It stated: “For the first time in decades, it is possible to imagine the United States fighting—and possibly losing—a large-scale war with a great power.”

Adapting to a Changing World

The current strategy pursued by the U.S., writes Dougherty, “rests on a foundation of strategic and operational assumptions that were the product of an anomalous historical period of unchallenged U.S. military dominance …. The assumptions from that period are now deeply flawed or wholly invalid and must be updated for an era of great-power competition.”

Today’s reality of warfare differs from the last decade in substantial ways. For example, during campaigns in the Middle East, the U.S. mainland was not threatened in nearly the same way it would be if Russian or Chinese missiles were inbound on a daily basis. In a war with other great powers, the U.S. would have to compete with its adversaries without relying on “safe havens” in the U.S. being free from attack.

America also needs to stop expecting to fight on its own terms, Dougherty warns. If war were to break out with a major adversary like Russia or China, no longer would American forces be able to choose the time and location of their battles, as they did with regional threats in the Middle East. American forces would be compelled to fight when and where their enemies decided to attack.

Mobilization speed could also be a problem. Using current strategies against a major power, the U.S. is unlikely to bring its overwhelming force to bear before the enemy seizes vital territory and resources.

Spent in Vain

Dougherty also criticizes the entire U.S. approach to confronting area-denial weapons possessed by Russia and China. The two nations’ missile strategies are aimed at making it too risky for an enemy to operate large assets like aircraft carriers in certain strategic zones, forcing them to stand off and attack or defend from farther away.

He warns that U.S. strategists have focused so much on directly countering these new missiles that they are neglecting solutions that would exploit their adversaries’ weaknesses.

“When you get into a fight where somebody’s got a shield, you don’t spend your entire time slamming your sword into their shield,” he explains. “You try to find a way around that shield.”

“U.S. armed forces are the most powerful in the world by a wide margin, and yet they increasingly run the risk of losing a future war with China or Russia,” warns Dougherty.

Looking at the U.S. military’s wasteful spending, showing that money does not necessarily buy security is revealing. In recent wars, America has spent mountains of money, but made little progress.

Real Solutions

The Vietnam War was a turning point.  By the time that conflict ended with America’s retreat and the fall of Saigon, American strategy in East Asia and its global prestige were severely damaged.

Since then, America has had no real victories, only drawn-out conflicts costing it dearly in both money and blood. America had indeed won its last war.

America’s misspending is only part of the problem. No matter how advanced the U.S. military’s capabilities are, they will not be able to win another war.

Saturday Special: Challenge Yourself to Remain Young

As we get older, our thinking skills often deteriorate: we get slower, more forgetful, less good at learning new things. Yet not everyone experiences these changes to the same degree. Some remain mentally sharp into their sixties, seventies and beyond; others experience declines which can make it harder for them to live independently.

Researchers see hope in this variation. It is a sign that decline might not be inevitable. Together with the fact that people are tending to live longer, it’s no surprise that this is an area being pursued by specialists around the world.

Broadly speaking, the thinking skills that decline earlier are the ones that allow us to quickly process information or respond to things. This perhaps starts in our early twenties. On the other hand, we retain and may even continue to develop mental skills associated with accrued knowledge through midlife and into old age. A good example would be our vocabulary.

Another thing that happens as we get older is our brains get smaller – known as brain atrophy. One relatively recent report indicated that adults in their seventies experienced about 0.7% loss of grey matter per year, and about 1% of white matter. Both are important for our thinking skills – our “little grey cells” might be the familiar term regarding what underlies complex thinking skills like language and reasoning, for example, but the white matter plays a vital role in connecting different areas of the brain.

Brain atrophy is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline, albeit the research is not entirely consistent. But crucially, this shrinkage varies from person to person. In the same study of seventy-somethings, for example, men were found to lose a bit more grey matter than women. Those who are less physically active have also been shown to have more shrinkage.

The fear factor

This much we know, but we’re still developing our understanding of what might influence our thinking skills as we age. In the meantime, there remain challenges in providing the public with clear information about how best to preserve their brain health.

Changes in thinking skills are often reported to be among people’s greatest fears about ageing. On the one hand, it is a good thing to have a healthy concern about this issue, since it might encourage people to make sensible lifestyle choices to maximise their health. Having said that, some of these fears may be the result of misinformation. News headlines often wrongly use phrases like dementia and Alzheimer’s as shorthand for any research into changes in thinking skills, for example.

The middle-aged adults in the survey were more pessimistic than over-70s about when mental decline might begin. The 40-year-olds expected it between ten to 15 years earlier than the older respondents – possibly a sign that the reality does not live up to the scaremongering when you get there.

Nine in ten respondents thought there were things we can do to protect or maintain thinking skills, though fewer than six in ten were confident about what these might be. This suggests room for improvement, though it is arguably a strong foundation on which to build further public health messages.

The hacks and the whack

So how best to preserve our brains? For some lifestyle choices, the evidence is relatively consistent. Smoking, for example, is detrimental. It thins the outer layers of the brain, which are vital for functions including memory, reasoning and language. The good news for former smokers is that this thinning appears to “reverse” if you give up, though a full return to thick cortical layers is estimated to take about 25 years.

Being physically active is also generally linked to better thinking skills and brain health. For the inactive among us, even making initial changes in terms of walking more have been documented as worthwhile.

For some other things, the evidence is flimsier. Headlines that some game or puzzle is the key to remaining sharp won’t be going away. But to put it mildly, the whole “brain training” area is highly contested. You wouldn’t expect anything less for an industry already worth well over $1 billion (£774m) and predicted to top $6 billion by 2020.

In fact, the most recent review of the literature has concluded the same as previous ones: people tend to become better at whatever game they are playing over time, and there are instances where this transfers to other skills. Broadly, however, the benefits appear limited.Rather than playing the same repetitive game, perhaps a better possibility for boosting brain health is doing something novel and more challenging – learning a new thing, meeting people or engaging in new experiences. Learning a new language has been promoted, for example, while researchers are also finding some empirical support for the benefits of mastering digital photography or tablet computers, or volunteering. While these activities are quite diverse, the key ingredient is the new learning – and that can continue to increase as your expertise grows.

The bottom line is that brain ageing remains a developing research area with much still unknown. It is certainly worth getting a bit more active and giving yourself a bit of a challenge, but there is also much to be said for choosing that new activity according to whatever makes us happy – be it learning Russian, how to tango or whatever.

Retaining our thinking skills is obviously important, but happiness and fulfilment is linked with its own health benefits. I can’t promise that staying cheerful will allow you to retain the mind of a 20-year-old into your dotage, but it certainly looks worthwhile overall.

Whither Gender Equality in Canada

Hatred of women creeping into public debate, Trudeau tells equality conference. Women Deliver is a global advocate for gender equality and the health, rights and well-being of girls and women. The four-day conference is billed as the world’s largest event advocating for those rights.

The conference was attended by world leaders, including the presidents of Kenya, Ghana and Ethiopia, who joined Trudeau for a panel discussion following his speech.

Panel moderator Lyse Doucet, a BBC journalist, commended Trudeau for being one of the first world leaders to describe himself as a “feminist” and bring in a gender-equal cabinet.

But she noted he had a “tough year,” given that he brought “tough women” into his cabinet, and asked how it had affected his feminism.

Former cabinet ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott were kicked out of the Liberal caucus this year after they alleged the Prime Minister’s Office had pushed for Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin to avoid a criminal trial.

Trudeau said the experience has increased his feminism and made him think differently about it.

“Feminism and diversity and inclusion is not about making things easier. It often makes things a little more difficult,” he said. “To have strong voices sticking up for different perspectives means you’re going to get challenged, means you get 

At the ongoing Women Deliver 2019 Conference in Vancouver, Canada, the buzzword is clearly “Pushback”. Women Deliver CEO Katja Iversen mentioned the word during the pre-opening press briefing. She was seconded on this by none other than Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the opening ceremony who extolled the attending delegates to stand strong. Before that, his minister for women and gender equality, Maryam Monsef, asserted that Canada is strengthening investments in gender equality and pointed to the country’s Feminist International Assistance Policy and its committed CAD330 million funding towards international grassroots associations.

So what is all this pushback against? The answer is, although no one is saying this explicitly, the US’s Mexico City Policy. The latter was reinforced by the Donald Trump administration in 2017 and blocks US federal funding to international NGOs that promote, facilitate or advise on abortion. In fact, Washington recently expanded the Mexico City Policy, closing off loopholes that would allow NGOs to still receive US funding while decidedly having a pro-choice profile.

Against this backdrop, the Women Deliver Conference is an attempt to drum up support and strengthen collaborations to keep the women’s empowerment and gender justice movement going. And Canada under Trudeau has committed to promoting gender equality in all spheres of life, going against the global headwinds emanating from its neighbouring country. In fact, what Canada and Women Deliver are doing is truly commendable. After all, this is not about political ideologies. This is about evidence-based empowerment and natural justice. Keeping 50 per cent of humanity shackled through patriarchal mores is simply wrong when those women can add to global productivity, add trillions of dollars to the global economy and create a better world for everybody. And it is only fair that women have the same opportunities as men to realise their full potential.

Access to safe, legal abortion fundamentally empowers women by taking away the Damocles Sword hanging over their heads. This, in turn, empowers them to make life choices that impact society through multiple positive ways. And that, in turn, ensures everybody in society wins, including men. In other words, making abortion accessible to women also improves the lives of men. Therefore, seen in this context, gender justice and equality is everyone’s business, not just women’s or Canada’s. As the world goes through a complicated evolutionary phase, it is time to create equal opportunities for women so that they can help us steer through the choppy waters.

Gender equality is under attack and, in the age of social media, it’s never been easier to taunt and spread abhorrent views, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a global conference on the issue Monday.

The Trump administration has also reinstated a policy known as the “global gag rule,” which bans U.S. federal funding for non-governmental organizations abroad that provide abortion services. Shortly after the U.S. adopted the rule in 2017, the Trudeau government committed $650 million for sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide.

Trudeau said the history of women’s rights shows that every step forward is met by another push back, and women are still routinely facing misogyny, racism and hatred.

He said politicians are “shamefully” campaigning to undo women’s hard-won victories.

“That’s a daunting reality to face. My friends, we are not powerless. It’s up to us to fight back,” he said.

He also spoke to the crowd about the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, saying Canada can and must do better to end violence against all women.

His remarks were interrupted by a woman in the crowd who cried out, “Then do something!”

Another yelled, “Shame!”. 

“Let me be clear, our government will always be your partner, willing to admit when mistakes are made and working very hard to build a better future for all our children,” Trudeau said.

“My friends, I know and you know that we can’t take our foot off the pedal, not even for a moment. There’s simply too much at stake. Canada’s leadership isn’t going anywhere.”

But the contradiction- Is abortion not taking life? Must government and society – when contraceptives are available encourage this killing,

Why does the Hindu base fall for it every time?

Amit Shah inserted into his party’s manifesto that he’ll abrogate Article 370. Now he’s in pole position to do so. He’s already said that he’ll have zero tolerance for terror. When Sonia Gandhi ruled India, she took objection to the term zero tolerance. She said that it was an American concoction, from a people, the American, who has no tolerance for anything. One of her wise moments of witty candour!

When Maharajah Hari Singh acceded to India, he did so under J&K being allowed special status. That meant Article 370 inserted into the Indian Constitution. That meant autonomy to J&K, the autonomy that has slowly but surely been eroded. 

Amit Shah has sworn to uphold the Indian Constitution. Does that not mean Article 370 too?  Or is 370 not part of the Constitution? In any case, abrogation of 370 will necessitate a constitutional amendment, and such an amendment will require two-thirds majority in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

Nitish Kumar has already said that he doesn’t want to scrap 370, so even with all good tidings, the BJP/NDA combine will have about 320 votes in the Lok Sabha to abrogate 370. That is nowhere near a two-thirds majority of 364 seats required in a Lok Sabha of maximum 545 seats. In the Rajya Sabha, things are even worse. The BJP has only 74 seats there in a house of 245 seats, far from being even an absolute majority.

370 is therefore not going anywhere anytime soon. Removing it was just a ploy to gin up the base. The base believes that the Kashmiri Muslim doesn’t want to be part of India; if only the special privileges accorded him were removed, then he would be forced to rest content. The security forces and even influencers like Anupam Kher and Kangana Ranaut have fed off this narrative.

If only it was as simple as that. If only India did not have an “us versus them” Kashmir policy. If only India had any Kashmir policy at all, other than ham-handed tactics.

As with 370, so too with the Ram Mandir. Modi & Co were surprisingly quiet about building the Ram Mandir during his first tenure. So too during the election campaign. The excuse was that the matter was sub-judice, pending before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has already torn apart the Allahabad High Court’s judgment to parcel out the land to three parties. Now it has set up a team of mediators. Perhaps it’s trying to buy time, but how much time can it really buy? From 1992 to 2019 is a long time. The nation awaits, one way or the other.

But the Supreme Court is a group of wise men and women who will not do anything to tear apart the social fabric of the country. It will also not want to be seen to be taking sides. How then can the temple be built on the very site that the bhakt demands?

Modi 2.0 has so much more to worry about than building the temple. Elections 2019 were a close call for Modi even though it seems otherwise in hindsight. A one-term PM such as Rajiv Gandhi got known for computerization; another one-termer like Narasimha Rao got plaudits for economic reforms.

 What did Modi 1.0 get famous for? Calling Pakistan’s nuclear bluff at Balakot? Sure, but little else. Everywhere Modi looks, he sees a stark landscape and humongous challenges. Pakistan showed us after Balakot that our military is antiquated; that even a practically bankrupt country like itself has better equipment than us. Defence procurement has been mired in mud during the Sonia Gandhi era and then again with Rafale during Modi 1.0.

 The economy is even worse off than defence. Make in India proved to be just hype. What can India do to increase jobs? Manufacturing is always cited as the solution, but India has never been a manufacturing powerhouse. Trade with the US has taken a hit, taking along with it software jobs. It seems like a really bleak scenario, perhaps never as bleak as when before 1991. Can Sitharaman do a Manmohan Singh?

Foreign policy, and again India is jammed. The country has virtually no Afghan policy. Ties with the US have been hit because of trade. China continues to be unfriendly. Pakistan will self-implode but not do anything in India’s favour. The Russians are moving towards Pakistan. Traditional Muslim ally Iran has become wary because Modi has moved closer to its rivals, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. We are truly non-aligned today, that is we don’t seem to have any friends. Oh, how can you live in the world alone.

Modi definitely wants to leave a legacy a la Rajiv and Rao. He will let the Ram temple issue slide. The bhakt would once again have been had.

And then there is the uniform civil code. Triple talaq was an easy one, not just because it was so egregious, but also because so many Muslim countries, including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, have banned it. But any further creep into Muslim personal rights and Muslims are going to resist. Strongly. What will Modi gain by needling a somewhat already restive population?

When 2024 rolls around, the troika of 370, Ram Mandir, and UCC will be trotted out once again. Why doesn’t the bhakt understand that his idols have feet of clay and are not going to do anything for him in any of these regards? Why does the base fall right for the tricks of the politicians? One time and each time

The reforms India Needs Major Reforms to be Strong Society

With the re-election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fears are again being expressed of creeping authoritarianism in India. But I worry about the opposite problem. I do not fear a strong state but a weak and ineffective one. A weak state has frail institutions, especially a feeble rule of law that takes a dozen years to give justice and has 3.3 crore cases pending in the courts. A weak state does not protect the weak against the strong. A weak state creates uncertainty rather than predictability in peoples’ minds and allows policemen, ministers and judges to be bought. It also prevents quick action by the executive and slows reforms to a snail’s pace because of warped incentives within the bureaucracy.

One lesson that Modi should have learnt in the past five years is about the limits of the Indian prime minister’s power. A liberal democratic state rests on three pillars: an effective executive, the rule of law and accountability. We obsess over the third pillar when the real issue is the first. With the nation always in election mode, India’s problem is not accountability, it is about the ability of the state to get things done.

The Indian prime minister is weak also because real power resides with state chief ministers, who are the real rulers of India. Ironically, it was Modi’s performance as chief minister that got him elected in 2014, and we assumed that he would carry that magic when he became prime minister. It didn’t happen. Although Indira Gandhi came close to becoming a dictator, she too discovered the limits of her power.

In 2014, Modi asked the Indian people to give him 10 years to transform India. Well, here is his chance. That transformation must begin not with economic reform but with reform of governance. Modi can take inspiration from Margaret Thatcher, who saved up the more difficult reforms – the reforms of the state – for her second term. It will not be easy to enhance state capacity because India has historically been a weak state unlike China. Our history is that of independent kingdoms while China’s is a history of unitary empires. The four empires of India – Maurya, Gupta, Mughal and British – were weaker than the weakest Chinese empire.

Our first loyalty is to society – our family, our jati, our village. Although the state was mostly weak, India always had a strong society. Hence, oppression did not come from the state but from society – from the Brahmins, for example, and it needed a constant stream of renouncers and saints, like the Buddha, to protect us from oppression. Because power was dispersed historically, India could only have become a federal democracy 70 years ago and China could only have become an authoritarian state. The lesson from history is that we need a strong state to get things done and we need a strong society to make the state accountable.

China’s government today is ironically more popular than India’s because it has delivered outstanding performance. Not only has it wiped out poverty, making a poor country middle class, but it has relentlessly improved day to day governance. In the end, China has delivered better education, health and welfare to aam admi. The secret of its success is not authoritarianism but the fact that it has focussed on state capacity. While elections have given the Indian people more freedom (and this is a great achievement) the Chinese state has given its people a more predictable day to day life through better governance. This is not to suggest that Indians will exchange their system for the Chinese (nor should they) but if you try and put yourself in the shoes of the Indian and the Chinese aam admi, you must feel disappointed with our democracy.

China has succeeded in enhancing the capacity of its state by making its bureaucracy more motivated and effective. This means closely monitoring and rewarding the performance of officials. Promotions in the Chinese bureaucracy are not based on seniority but upon superior delivery of services to citizens. These incentives in turn motivate Chinese bureaucrats to be more pragmatic – unlike rule bound Indian officials – and they search for and re-apply the best practices that deliver on the ground.

India’s bureaucracy has suffered for decades because no political leader has had the guts to implement the crying reforms that everyone has agreed upon for 50 years. An honest and transparent tax collecting machinery will collect more taxes in the end. The same thing applies to reforms in the three other parts of the state – the judiciary, the police and the Parliament – where countless reform commissions have endorsed the same blueprints for change.

Will Modi be the strong leader who has the courage to take on vested interests and enhance the capacity of the Indian state? He certainly has plenty of experience, both in Gujarat and in the Centre, and he also knows the pitfalls in taking on vested interests. The way to begin is to catch low hanging fruit. This means to first implement existing laws; then only create new laws. When it comes to policy, it is not about the ‘what’ but about the ‘how’. Everyone knows what is to be done; the real question is, how to do it. India has plenty of laws but China has order. You need both ‘law and order’, as the American TV serial says.

Reforming institutions will be much tougher than economic reform but the rewards will also be greater. If he succeeds, Modi will go down in history as the one who fulfilled his promise of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’. India has done well when it has bet on its people; it is about time to bet on its government

The Paradigm of ‘White Male Privilege’

Must society neutralize the advantages of whiteness before it can heal? Nearly two dozen Democrats are vying to replace Donald Trump as the next president of the United States. And as they jockey for the highest office in the land, they are promoting and pushing into mainstream discourse some ideas that, until recently, would have been considered astonishingly radical.

One came from presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke in the midst of a public apology for a harmless joke that his wife was raising their three children “sometimes with my help.” “I’ll be much more thoughtful going forward in the way that I talk about our marriage,” he said, “and also the way in which I acknowledge the truth of the criticism that I have enjoyed white privilege. Absolutely. Undeniable.”

Ah yes, “white privilege.” Whiteness automatically confers unjust advantages on a person, we are now told. Not only that, maleness gives a person more unjust advantages. Heterosexuality gives even more. And being content with your biological sex—being “cisgendered.” And wealth. We are informed that society is a competition, and people who have these advantages are starting the 100-yard dash with a 50-yard head start.

People with such privileges must recognize this and apologize, we are informed. Society must award preferential treatment to minorities, women, homosexuals and transgenders. It must punish the wealthy and support the poor. Then we will have a truly fair world.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren believes true fairness requires giving reparations to black Americans. At a televised town hall interview, she answered a black woman who asked for “a public apology for 400 years of free labor” by saying, “I believe it’s time to start the national full-blown conversation about reparations in this country. And that means I support the bill in the House to appoint a congressional panel of experts, of people who are studying this, who talk about different ways we may be able to do it and to make a report back to Congress, so that we can as a nation do what’s right and begin to heal”.

According to this view, the problems afflicting the black community today are the residual effects of a practice that was abolished more than 150 years ago. The solution is to place our faith in a “congressional panel of experts” to decide on reparations. Then we can all just accept what the experts say, unanimously comply, at last put our slave-owning past behind us, and enjoy racial harmony. Who could possibly envision such a marvelous plan not working out?

They are being told that society lacks equality, they are at fault, and that politicians and bureaucrats need to artificially normalize for any factors that give one person an advantage over another.

O’Rourke and Warren are two prominent white people who have tried to downplay their whiteness. Warren infamously labeled herself an American Indian; in 1996, she was billed as Harvard Law School’s “first woman of color.” Beto O’Rourke is using a Spanish nickname, but his real name is Robert Francis O’Rourke. Why do these things if whiteness automatically affords such vaunted privileges?

The truth is that America is full of white people who work hard, who struggle, who face setbacks, who miss opportunities, who get overlooked, who get pushed aside, who are mired in debt, who must toil away at mundane jobs, who are effectively stuck in their circumstances, the same as black people, Hispanic people and others. Yet they are being lectured by politicians, media commentators, wealthy academics, celebrities and professional athletes about their “white privilege.” They are being told that society lacks equality, they are at fault, and that politicians and bureaucrats need to artificially normalize for any factors that give one person an advantage over another.

This thinking is insidiously wrong. The more we indulge it, the more individual lives will be destroyed, and the more we will tear our country apart..

A Fancy New Word

Among those falling prey to this error, a new theory of social justice has arisen. An impressive new term has entered the public lexicon: “intersectionality.” This is essentially a matrix for measuring the scale of your deprivation, and the benefits the rest of society owes you.

What is intersectionality? Black feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term in 1989. It’s an attempt to categorize and formalize people according to their race, gender, age, wealth, class, religion, disability and sexual orientation in terms of how disadvantaged they are in society. This concept enabled black feminists to argue that the feminist movement was ignoring racial grievances. White women were at a disadvantage, they said, but blackwomen were at a double disadvantage.

What does this mean in 2019 America? It is playing out in Democratic politics in a specific way. The party is attacking itself. Leftist politicians who are bona fide progressives, even cutting-edge revolutionaries, are being criticized as not leftist enough. Why? They lack appropriate intersectionality.

Sen. Bernie Sanders led the socialist groundswell in the 2016 presidential election. He excited flocks of youths to engage in politics and to embrace big-government, spendy socialist thinking. He is running again in 2020, but many on the left are less excited this time. Why? As Rich Lowry explained in Politico, “In the language of the modern left, the straight, cisgendered Sanders is burdened by his utter lack of intersectionality” (February 20).

Senator Sanders was asked on Vermont public radio how he, being old, rich, white and male, can lead a diverse Democratic Party. He said: “We have got to look at candidates, you know, not by the color of their skin, not by their sexual orientation or their gender and not by their age. I mean, I think we have got to try to move us toward a nondiscriminatory society, which looks at people based on their abilities, based on what they stand for.”

Sanders wants to move America “toward a nondiscriminatory society” based on merit and values. Most Americans would say we already are the most nondiscriminatory society on Earth and in history. The trouble for Sanders is, his political party is crowded with crusaders moving America toward a far more discriminatory society.

Predictably, these people attacked Sanders for his statement. Neera Tanden, from the Center for American Progress, posted this: “At a time where folks feel under attack because of who they are, saying race or gender or sexual orientation or identity doesn’t matter is not off, it’s simply wrong.” Former Clinton aide Jess McIntosh wrote: “This is usually an argument made by people who don’t enjoy outsized respect and credibility because of their race, gender, age and sexual orientation.”

People who are to the left of even Bernie Sanders are broadcasting that they do not want a society where you are judged by your abilities and what you stand for. They want a society where you are judged by race, gender and sexual orientation. They want to level the playing field, which means discriminating in these areas, bestowing advantages on those not white, not male, not straight, not “cisgendered.”

The less white you are—the less of all those privileged things you are—the more deserving you are of reparatory privileges. The more the government should use its power to take from others and give to you. They want to solve discrimination—by discriminating.

‘A Sad Descent Into Tribalism’

The truly liberal American ideal is that race should not matter. Martin Luther King Jr., an icon among liberals, dreamed of a nation where people would “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Yet those who claim to be his successors proclaim that people should be judged not by their character, but by their color, as well as their sex. But these are actually the most primitive aspects of a person’s identity. Human societies have been discriminating and judging each other based on these attributes for thousands of years!

More than any other nation ever, America has been a place where people of any race and any background can make a success of themselves, educationally, vocationally, financially, culturally, morally.

Leftists are dismantling this ideal. They are convincing people that this nation is actually the most unfair and discriminatory. And somehow, they are persuading people that the solution is to exalt race, sex and class as the defining aspects of their identity.

They want more diversity. Not intellectual diversity, not ideological diversity, not diversity of ability. No—they just want diversity of skin color, sex and “gender identity.”

This revolutionary effort to characterize our land of unprecedented opportunity as a country that victimizes a literal majority of its people (nonwhites, women and many others) has been shockingly successful. But it is also creating some problems of its own.

People do not want a society where you are judged by your abilities and what you stand for. They want a society where you are judged by race, gender and sexual orientation.

“Now the revolution cannot figure out its own hierarchy of authentic grievance groups,” Victor Davis Hanson wrote. “So it has agreed on a loose ‘intersectionality,’ in which over a dozen and often overlapping victim cadres agree that each degree of nonwhite-maleness adds authenticity and becomes a force multiplier of left-wing radicalism.

“Among leftists, Kamala Harris, as black and female, trumps Cory Booker who is just black, who trumps Elizabeth Warren who is exposed as just female, who trumps Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders who are reverse threefers as white, male and heterosexual” (American Greatness, March 3).

Hanson correctly described this development as a “sad descent into tribalism.” That is exactly what it is. It is not enlightened. It is not sophisticated. It is not just and fair. It is tribal. It is primitive. It is absurd.

And it is terribly destructive, individually and nationally.

A Dangerous Lie

There are countless factors that determine success or failure in life. That is why there are people who manage to overcome tremendous setbacks—family dysfunction, extreme poverty, lack of opportunity, bodily limitations—and become spectacular successes. That is also why there are those who have tremendous advantages yet become spectacular failures.

Success comes from hard work. It comes from diligence and discipline, from driving oneself in pursuit of worthy goals, making good choices, living the right way, having the right mindset. It comes from surmounting obstacles, again and again, and sometimes chance. But character determines what happens when someone catches the occasional good break, or when God opens a door.

The people decrying “white privilege” are believing a lie: that you reach success not by climbing up to it, but by bringing everyone else down.

Their message is: Focus on what the world isn’t doing for you. Don’t count your blessings—complain about your burdens. Don’t dream about possibilities. Don’t seize opportunities. Open your eyes to all the obstacles people are putting in your path! Your failures are someone else’s fault. Find people to blame! Resent those with success. They’re just unfairly privileged.

This thinking draws people’s energy away from responsibility, self-motivation, resiliency, improvement, achievement, contentment and happiness—and redirects it toward dissatisfaction, envy, hypersensitivity, offense, blaming others, protest and destruction. It traps them in their failures.

Radical leftists don’t want people to become diligent, disciplined, driven, resourceful, persevering people who take responsibility for their own lives. After all, if more people judge themselves and others not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character—what would they need the Democratic Party for?

Leftist leaders have the temerity to contend that they know—based on a short list of superficial identity markers—exactly who in society is privileged and who is marginalized. Somehow they can measure how much of each individual’s success or failure was earned, and how much was unfairly obtained because of bigotry against others. And with their unerring wisdom, they and their panels of experts will settle scores, resolve injustices of generations long buried, negate the effects of all prejudice and bias. They can do all this without being biased toward whatever decision will give them the most votes and the most power.

If we will just surrender more of the power we have over our own lives and give it to them, finally America can be a land of justice for everyone.

This is hubris on an epic scale. Beyond that, carrying out these utopian fantasies would take an unimaginable level of authoritarian power. It is beyond delusional to believe that congressional and bureaucratic panels and experts—and ultimately their armed agents—picking winners and losers based on identity will actually make the world a better place.

The Real Author

Here is a fact: Virtually everyone could focus on how unfair life is, if they wanted to. Human nature is adept at finding ways that life should be giving us a better shake.

Ironically, America has gotten closer to offering equal opportunity than any society ever has—yet people are being deceived into viewing it as the most unequal, unfair society in history.

Well, the world is unfair. Truly equal opportunity has never existed in any society in human history!

Ironically, America has gotten closer to offering equal opportunity than any society ever has—yet people are being deceived into viewing it as the most unequal, unfair society in history. 

Weekend Special: The future of work is jobs, not people, that will become redundant

 ‘The demand for human skills is not in decline’. I am likely stating the obvious but it needs to be stated as often as possible – the world is changing and it is changing fast. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is blurring the lines between the real and the technological world and challenging what it means to be human.

Yet people are clearly at the heart of all organizational transformations generated by this phenomenon. We see this, both in the transformation we are driving within Unilever but also when we look outside, across and beyond our industry.

All of this is affects how people will experience work, whether it’s new operating models that challenge hierarchy, new career models that allow for different experiences, a borderless workplace that allows for flexible resourcing, hyper-personalization in the workplace or the need to close a growing skills gap through a culture of lifelong learning.

There are, however, three things that I believe will remain an indisputable and a constant reality through all these changes and they are both grim and reassuring, depending on how you look at them.

1. An individual’s ability to earn a livelihood is changing and, in most cases, reducing. The impact of automation is redrawing the shape of all organizations. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2018 report suggests the human share of labour hours will drop from 71% to 58% by 2025. Machines and algorithms will increase their contribution to specific job tasks by an average of 57%.

Nearly 50% of companies expect that automation will lead to a reduction of the full-time workforce by 2022. The consumer goods industry is feeling the impact of this faster and more heavily than most other industries and Unilever is no exception.

2. The demand for human skills is not in decline. There is a net positive outlook for jobs despite significant job disruption, and human skills, as well as jobs with distinctly human traits, are still in demand. According to the Future of Jobs report, 75 million current jobs will be displaced by the shift in the division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms, but 133 million new jobs will be created as well.

I have always believed that technology can be used to help define and complement the human in all of us. As such, the need to keep developing our human capital has not diminished – it can be achieved through the power of purpose, the power of lifelong learning and the ability to harness everyone’s human potential.

3. Finally, the employee-employer relationship is transforming for two reasons:

  • We are clearly shifting to an increasingly borderless workforce in the form of the networks of people who make a living that is dependent on a specific company but work without any formal employment agreement with said company. Every company’s value chain consists not just of its own employees but millions of others including gig workers, contingent workers, partner employees and more. There is a greater need today than ever before to redefine an organization’s systems to embrace this outer core.
  • We are also dealing with increased human longevity which is creating new challenges of living and working that will require greater flexibility than ever before. Employees need the ability to go in and out of the traditional employee lifecycle, moving from the usual part-time and full-time arrangements to more fluid ones that allow them the flexibility of committing more sporadically while also making time for family, reskilling, the pursuit of a purpose or personal passion, and so on. When organizational strategies are juxtaposed against the above realities, it becomes clear that companies have a responsibility to address the human impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

We can deliver on this responsibility by:

Committing to generating and sustaining employability across our value chain and not just the inner core, while continuing to drive our organizational transformation through the power of purpose and lifelong learning coupled with radical new ways of reskilling and redeploying talent.

  • Driving transparency, accountability and action in the open talent economy in the form of new labour models that take advantage of this phenomenon in a responsible and sustainable way. There is evidence that suggests a distinct lack of social safety nets in this new labour model from wages to working conditions to diversity issues, and action is needed in this space.Committing to generating and sustaining employability across our value chain and not just the inner core, while continuing to drive our organizational transformation through the power of purpose and lifelong learning coupled with radical new ways of reskilling and redeploying talent.

We need to reimagine the future of work and employment by redefining the employee cycle as well as how workers help deliver our business and create a mechanism that integrates the two.

This is the new social contract of work. Jobs become redundant from time to time but people do not need to. It is possible to create employment for life if we are willing to learn, unlearn and relearn our entire lives

Pakistan Supreme Court’s Role in Decimating Democracy

Too many of us had to suffer at the hands of a judiciary so independent that it often acted independently of both the basic principles of jurisprudence and the very constitution it swore to uphold and protect. ~ Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

Pakistan’s 2nd Constituent Assembly drafted the Constitution for the nascent democracy in the year 1956. President Iskandar Mirza was unwilling to call for elections under the new constitution as he had lost his popularity. At his instigation, General Ayub Khan staged a coup and martial law was declared in October 1958. The General addressed the bewildered nation, ‘we must understand that democracy cannot work in a hot climate. to have democracy we must have a cold climate like Britain.’ The Law (Continuance in Force) Order 1958 was promulgated. It stripped the court’s powers of judicial review.

But the legitimacy of the Martial Law Administration came under judicial scrutiny in a strange and indirect way. One Dosso was convicted for murder by a Council Of Elders in the province Baluchistan. The Council had derived its power from an archaic 1901 law. The High Court struck down the decision. No such power, it said, existed under the Constitution of 1956. The appeal went up to the

Supreme Court of Pakistan. The Dosso case would inevitably decide the supremacy of the Constitution of 1956 and consequently the legitimacy of the Martial Law.

An ambitious Barrister and a confidante of the General, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, it is rumored persuaded the judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to endorse the martial law.

At this nascent stage of Pakistan’s history Chief Justice Munir and his brother judges wrote a stunning judgement signing the death warrant for Pakistan’s democracy. In Dosso, the judges invoked a spurious constitutional rationale called the doctrine of necessity. They resurrected the jurist Hans Kelsen who propounded that the legal system derived its validity from Grundnorm or new legal order. A successful coup d’etat or a revolution creates a new Grundnorm.

The judges concluded that a successful revolution took place under Iskandar Mirza. The Order of 1958 was therefore legitimate law. The Cambridge educated Justice Alvin Cornelius’ convoluted defence of the martial law and his feeble appeal to protect fundamental rights was rewarded with Chief Justiceship in 1960 by the benevolent general.

The infamy of the judgement did not deter its rampant and widespread use. Every despot across the globe cited this constitutional dictum to great success before pliant and ambitious judges.

It took 15 years for the Pakistan Supreme Court reverse its ignominy of Dosso. General Yahya Khan had taken over power in 1969. The indefatigable Asma Jilani was detained without trial under the new Martial Law of 1971. She challenged her detention by the new usurper. Chief Justice Hamoodur Rahman and his brother judges rejected doctrine of necessity and the judgment in Dosso. They found it untenable to give legitimacy to “every person who were successful in grabbing power”.

In 1977, General Zia ul Haq staged a coup and declared the Martial law. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the ten other leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party were arrested. The Supreme Court was petitioned by Nusrat Bhutto for the release of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The newly appointed Chief Justice was Sheikh Anwarul Haq, the general’s personal friend. The Court now did a reverse flip. It overruled Asma Jilani vs. Government of the Punjab. The Court did not dare resurrect the much maligned Dosso verdict or Kelsen. The court now propounded a new and dubious rationale. They gave judicial sanction to Zia’s regime by citing widespread disturbances, loss of confidence in the civilian administration, calls for fresh elections etc. Bhutto was sentenced to death by the very same Chief Justice heading the bench. It was ironic that it was Bhutto who once upon a time sought suspension of the Constitution and sanction for martial law.

Pakistan’s Constitution was broken once by its judiciary 1958, and that destroyed the binding threads that weaved its democracy. Emboldened by a reticent and timid judiciary, Pakistan has had to spend more than three decades post Independence under military rule headed by tyrants of various hues. And the rest of its years it has spent under feeble and tenuous civilian administrations forever fearful of a military takeover. The role played by Pakistan’s judiciary in decimating democracy will forever be a cautionary tale.

California’s Sexualized Curriculum and the Equality Act

Public schools in California are now a major battleground in education and old values seem to have taken on a whole new purpose. Adopted by the California State Board of Education on May 8, the newest revision of the state’s Health Education Framework guides teachers to force gender identity ideology on kindergarteners, educate elementary students about slang terms for genitals, and teach teenagers about the intricacies of perverse sexual acts.

California’s adoption of the 2016 Healthy Youth Act requires schools to give students from grades 7 to 12 “comprehensive sexual health education and HIV prevention education.” The Health Education Framework takes this to the next level. The Department of Education’s summary of this new curriculum guidance states, “It is permissible to teach knowledge and skills related to comprehensive sexual health and HIV prevention education in grades kindergarten through grade six (K-6), inclusive. … Content that is required in grades 7-12 [which includes sexual education] may be also be included in an age-appropriate way in earlier grades.”

That means 5-year-olds can be taught about “safe sex.” But that is far from the worst of it. As unheard of and appalling as this is, the direction that the Framework gives to school districts and teachers ranges far beyond sexual health instruction. It is about sexuality instruction.

Our government educators have created a curriculum that indoctrinates young, impressionable children who have no world experience—no other knowledge to deny what they are taught in school. When originally proposed, the Health Education Framework required a book titled Who Are You?: The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity. Due to statewide protests, the book is no longer required, but it is still recommended by Department of Education officials. This book, which is for children in kindergarten through third grade, states: “Some people say there are only two genders. But there are really many genders. And for some people, there are more than just two choices.” It then goes on to list a number of gender terms, such as gender-neutral, agender, neutrois, etc.

Another book that the Department of Education recommends is The ‘What’s Happening to My Body?’ Book for Boys. This book, made for fourth through sixth graders, lists colloquial and vulgar slang words for male and female genitals. It teaches boys—who have not yet even been through puberty—about perverted forms of sex and says, “Sexual fantasies can be a rich and varied way of experimenting with your sexual self.” This book is for 9-to-12-year-olds! The book teaches that homosexuality and other “preferences” are just ordinary, natural ways of life.

The Department of Education also suggests a book for high schoolers called S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties. This book gives detailed explanations of a host of perverted and dangerous sexual acts—while claiming to be about sexual health.

On May 17, a group called Informed Parents of California organized protests against the newly adopted education guidance. The protests were called the “SeXXX Ed Sit Out.” Informed Parents of California is a group that works to “expose the shocking truth about the sexualization and indoctrination of our children in California’s public schools.”

Parents involved in these protests took their children out of the public school system to show their disgust for government policies. One flyer at the rally said, “We’ve tried to reason with the districts. We’ve rallied, asking them to take action. We’ve spoken at the State Dept of Ed, and so far, they are ignoring us. Let’s show them that without our children there won’t be schools!”

California’s Health Education Framework is a huge tool used by the left to push its agenda, but it is by no means the only device.

Enter the Equality Act.

A new bill was recently passed by the United States House of Representatives that essentially would make it illegal not to teach transgender ideology in elementary school. This new law would make it illegal to prevent boys who say they identify as girls from competing against actual girls in track meets. It would criminalize someone who refuses to provide any service or good for events celebrating sexual perversion, no matter your religious beliefs.

Introduced to Congress by California Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on March 13, the Equality Act was approved and passed by the Democrat-controlled House a little over one month later. It is now being considered by the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.

This bill is meant to expand upon the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A summary of the act posted on Congress’s website reads: This bill prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit and the jury system. Specifically, the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation. …

The bill prohibits an individual from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.

In order to become law, the House-approved Equality Act still has to survive the Senate and avoid being vetoed by the president. It is unlikely the bill will last that long, but this doesn’t mean Americans will remain free from the tenets of the act.

In fact, much has happened already across America, signifying what the passing of this bill would entail. The California curriculum is one example. Even without the Equality Act, millions of children are subject to transgender indoctrination and “education” about mature-rated content.

Supreme Court rulings, such as Pierce v. Society of Sisters have upheld the fact that, constitutionally, parents have the right to govern their children’s education. Despite this, a number of states, including California, Colorado and New Jersey, already have laws enforcing the teaching of gender identity ideology. The Equality Act would enforce such laws nationwide.

The Heritage Foundation published an article on March 14 by Monica Burke, which highlights cases that have arisen because of laws and court rulings on the state and local levels similar to the Equality Act.

Gender identity laws and attitudes do not bring equality, but rather heartache, grief, abuse and a host of other problems.

For example, in May 2017, a rule was passed for all schools in Decatur, Georgia, requiring them to allow boys who identify as girls into female restrooms, locker rooms and other private female areas. Six months later, a kindergarten girl was sexually abused in the girls’ restroom by a boy who claimed to identify as “gender fluid.” Even after this, school authorities refused to change its transgender policy.

Further north, in Virginia, French teacher Peter Vlaming was fired in early December 2018. The reason: In order to uphold his Christian beliefs, he refrained from calling one of his transgender students by her preferred male pronouns. Vlaming tried to be accommodating without compromising, and he even called his student by her new, masculine name.

“I’m happy to avoid female pronouns not to offend because I’m not here to provoke,” Vlaming said, “but I can’t refer to a female as a male, and a male as a female in good conscience and faith.”

As a result of his precarious balancing act, Vlaming was fired because his refusal to refer to his female student as “he” and “him” was ruled discriminatory.

In 2018, a 17-year-old Ohio girl was removed from her parents’ custody because they refused to give her testosterone supplements that were recommended by the Cincinnati Children’s Gender Clinic so that she could transition into being a “boy.” The parents, who wanted their daughter to receive counseling, were charged with abuse and neglect.

Most recently, Selina Soule came in third place in Connecticut’s 2019 indoor track championship for a girls’ running event. In first and second place came Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood—two boys claiming to be girls. Miller set a new state record for the girls in this event. “We all know the outcome of the race before it even starts,” said Soule after the competition. “It’s demoralizing.”

If proposed legislation like the Equality Act becomes federal law, incidents such as these would become ever more frequent and severe.

The Heritage Foundation writes: The fight is already here. Catholic hospitals in California and New Jersey have been sued for declining to perform hysterectomies on otherwise healthy women who want to become male. A third Catholic hospital in Washington settled out of court when the [American Civil Liberties Union] sued them for declining to perform a double mastectomy on a gender dysphoric 16-year-old girl.

These cases would multiply under the Equality Act. This bill would politicize medicine by forcing doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to offer drastic procedures—not in view of new scientific discoveries, but by ideological fiat.

What we are seeing today is like nothing else in American history. And it is all part of a major war on family! A solid family structure is the very foundation of any stable and permanent society. But today, in the affluent countries, a conspiracy is developing which seeks to destroy marriage as an institution, as well as the family. … The threat is dual: 1) Unrealized by most, there is a widespread and aggressive conspiracy to destroy the institution of marriage. 2) Marital relationships and family life are breaking down, and divorces are increasing alarmingly.

 This movement is, in part, a well-organized movement to subtly influence college students to prefer alternatives to marriage. Now, the movement has gained so much momentum that it is hardly subtle at all—kindergarteners are being influenced to think that they can change their very gender!

The Equality Act, similar local-level laws already in force, and California’s Health Education Framework prove that. The war on family has been a long, drawn-out struggle. Its proponents did not start by saying that they wanted to destroy family and teach 5-year-olds that they can be whatever gender they feel like. They started by normalizing divorce. They started by making fornication and other forms of debauchery acceptable during the sexual revolution of the 1960s. The war continued as abortion was declared a woman’s right by the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade in 1973. The court then legalized homosexual acts in 2003 and same-sex “marriage” in 2015. Now, men can compete in women’s sports, elementary students are taught about perverse sexual acts, a teacher can be fired for not referring to his female student as “he,” and the list goes on and on.

Homosexuality has been normalized. Transsexuality is rapidly advancing along the same road. We have reached the point where leaders in the highest courts of the land willingly accept someone’s sexual self-identification. Lawyers, judges and journalists alike refer to men as women and women as men without a second thought. Yet proponents of this war against the family are not yet satisfied. They still want transgender ideology pumped into our youngest children, with no room for dissension.

Why is this community never satisfied? Hilliker continues, “They will never be satisfied, because—although they are woefully ignorant of this fact—the true leader of the movement is driving as hard and as fast as he can toward the complete and utter destruction of the family…The homosexual agenda is a full-out, satanic war on marriage and family.” 

Why Justin Trudeau Can’t Afford to Be Audited

Canada’s auditor general has revealed that his department, which performs audit reviews of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s liberal government performance, has not received proper levels of funding to fulfill its mandate and, consequently, must now cut the number of audits it is performing.

Interim Auditor General Sylvain Ricard told a House of Commons committee, “Although the 2018 federal budget provided us with some new ongoing funding, we did not get any of the new funding that we requested in the 2019 federal budget. … In the near term, we have no choice but to decrease the number of performance audits that we conduct.”

The deputy auditor general has said the department typically performs around 25 audits a year. That has now dropped to 14. Two of the five current audits being dropped includes protecting Canada’s north—an issue with the serious potential to negatively impact the liberals in the upcoming fall election—and heritage service to Canadians.

The lack of funds effectively blocks the auditor general’s ability to audit, to hold to account the internal financial programs of the Trudeau government, and to make sure the government is properly following the rule of law. It also prevents ordinary Canadians from getting an inside look into how their taxes are being spent. It prevents the auditor general from finding any misdeeds.

Just four years ago, Trudeau accused then Prime Minister Stephen Harper of leading the “most secretive, divisive and hyperpartisan government in Canada’s history,” and he promised Canadians transparency in his government. “We will make information more accessible by requiring transparency to be a fundamental principle across the federal government,” he said. Now that he is prime minister, Trudeau’s decision to spend lavishly in other areas while constraining funding for this vital department is deeply troubling.

The auditor general’s work is an important function in Canadian democracy. It often lifts the lid on wrongdoing of whatever government might be in power. In 2004, for example, the auditor general uncovered widespread lawbreaking by a liberal government. Ultimately, among other lawbreaking and kleptocracy, it was revealed that taxpayer funds were redirected to enrich the political fortunes of the liberal party and its affiliates. The total cost to taxpayers, whether through misappropriation of funds or through the subsequent inquires and commissions to get to the bottom of the theft, was more than $100 million (not adjusted for inflation). The scandal was later said to be a main reason for the defeat of the liberal government in the 2006 election.

The projected shortfall in funding for this crucial department of government accountability is $10 million.

Somehow, though, the prime minister has spent or earmarked money for other liberal projects in the hundreds of millions for foreign aid in sexual, reproductive and maternal health (funding abortion in foreign countries). Then there was $3 million budgeted for the liberal government’s Twitter account and almost $7 million for promotional items like branded pens. There also was the $24.4 million spent on Facebook and Instagram ads. Then there is $15 million more for a tree-replanting program, and another $12 million for a major grocery chain to help retrofit its refrigerators to make them more climate friendly.

There seems to be money available for everything but audits.

In fact, the Trudeau government is spending tens of billions in deficit spending every year. Trudeau has spent more money (on a per-person, inflation-adjusted basis) than any other Canadian prime minister in history. But he doesn’t want Canadians to know exactly how it is being spent.

It raises the realistic question: What does the current liberal government have to hide?

Since coming to power in 2015, Prime Minister Trudeau has been leading the most secretive, divisive and hyper-partisan government in Canada’s history. Canadians need to know why God is allowing these sudden, dramatic and perplexing changes. There is a hidden force at work, rapidly undermining the rule of law in Canada. The auditor general report is just one more example of the current hyper-partisanship afflicting Canada and the serious ongoing problems the Trudeau government has with the truth.

A Serious Question For Democrats: What Exactly Was Trump’s Crime?

Recently, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told reporters that President Trump was engaged in a cover-up. This week, she told a group of committee chairmen, “I don’t want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says that Trump has colluded with Russia in plain sight. When the Mueller Report established that wasn’t true, he continued his attacks.

Here are just a few highlights from the past week:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler says “there certainly is” justification for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

Nadler speaks to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer who doesn’t understand why he is hesitating on starting the impeachment process.

Turning to MSNBC, Nicole Wallace asks guests on a panel, “What’s wrong with him? (silence) No, I’m serious, really.”

One guest starts discussing Trump’s narcissistic personality disorder.

Then Wallace just trashes Trump. “He clearly appears less capable of sustaining his own thoughts for longer than four to six seconds. Used to be he couldn’t follow anyone else’s conversation, now he doesn’t seem to be able to follow his own.” Guests nod indicating they understand exactly what she means.

Fox News’ Judge Napolitano, one of Trump’s biggest critics, told viewers that Mueller dropped the ball, but not for the reasons one might think. He dropped the ball by not indicting Trump.

Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe offers advice to Pelosi. “Skip the Senate and let the House hold an impeachment “trial” for Trump.”

Breitbart News reported that “a woman from Palmetto, Florida, told law enforcement that her hatred for President Donald Trump drove her to stab herself in the stomach multiple times over the weekend, according to a police report.”

Just today, Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “More than anything else, this isn’t about my feelings or about retribution. Look, the lizard brain that I have says I hope bad things happen to this man because he has been so destructive to our Republic, to the concept of democracy, to the concept that internationally we are a light unto the nations.”

Democratic strategist Richard Goodstein told Fox News’ Shannon Bream, “Look, there are people who are living in a dream world that Donald Trump has done nothing wrong demonstrably, and if you read the Mueller report — and I encourage everybody, still, to do that — you will see the list of things, the elements of each crime of obstruction that he’s met.”

Oh, Trump should be removed from office because one day, after a year of being falsely accused of a crime, he asked the White House Counsel to have Mueller fired? Which the man refused to do. And even if he had acted on Trump’s order, it still would have been legal. Is that what you mean Mr. Goodstein?

Each day, a new aspect of the Mueller report is discredited.

Answer the question. Impeach Trump for what?

Specifically, what law did our President violate?

If you asked any one of them, really pressed them, they wouldn’t be able to come up with an actual crime. Trump is so vile and we are so virtuous and enlightened will no longer cut it.

Democrats have been repeating their mantra for so long, it’s become habit. Perhaps it comforts them to repeat the words “Trump needs to be impeached” several times slowly.

But now it’s time to name the crime.

Because America can no longer afford to indulge them.

Hacking Humanity

Science can get really scary. I say this after reading a report about Chinese scientists who decided to ‘improve’ a group of macaque monkeys by making them more intelligent. They didn’t do this by training the monkeys (that would be boring and conventional) but by inserting the human gene thought to be responsible for shaping human intelligence directly into the brains of these monkeys.

Of the 11 gene-hacked monkeys, six survived and while these transgenic primates have not (yet) started plotting our downfall they have indeed shown signs of higher intelligence than their ‘wild’ peers, which makes you wonder if Planet of the Apes is less a work of fiction and more a remarkably prescient documentary.

The scientists didn’t do this because they secretly long for a world where our Simian overlords place us in labour camps and zoos but because they feel such experiments will provide invaluable insight into genetic research and into how the human brain actually works.

More specifically, they want to study how humans developed the intelligence that has, in a relatively short span of time, made us the (admittedly cruel) masters of the Earth. This isn’t even the first instance of such (mad?) science as previously scientists in the US have injected glial cells from human foetuses into mice and ended up with … you guessed it … smarter mice.

From a purely scientific point of view, this is certainly ground-breaking work but it is also fraught with incredible, and utterly unique, moral and ethical dilemmas.

What if you could edit out emotion itself?

There are other possibilities being studied as well, such as introducing traits from the animal kingdom into humanity. Consider the tardigrade, also known as the water bear. This millimetre-long creature is considered virtually indestructible, and has been seen surviving and thriving in temperatures as cold as -237 degrees Celsius and as hot as 151°C.

In 2007 a group of tardigrades were sent into the vacuum of space for 10 days and not only did most of them survive, some even had babies! Tardigrades are also capable of surviving radiation doses of 5,000 to 6,000 grays (a measure of absorbed radiation) without much ill effect. Humans, on the other hand, can only handle four to eight grays of radiation. So it’s no surprise that scientists are trying to figure out how to use proteins from tardigrades to give humans greater resistance to radiation, theoretically allowing us to work in radioactive environments and even on other planets without much protective gear. Others have been studying the ability of geckos to generate limbs in an attempt to give the same ability to humans.

And then there is the question of understanding and tapping human biodiversity, though this field is a political landmine unlike any other and has the potential to fuel incredibly divisive racial theories, which is one reason it remains somewhat underexplored.

But consider the Bajau ‘sea nomads’ that have lived at sea in Indonesia for over 1,000 years and are capable of diving 70 metres without any equipment, can hold their breath for over 13 minutes and can see underwater with clarity that no other humans can match, all thanks to a genetic quirk and natural selection.

Or take the genetic traits that allow populations in Tibet, Ethiopia and parts of South America to adapt to low-oxygen environments and imagine the possibilities if these were harnessed and transferred? Currently, the only real barriers to unfettered genetic experimentation are largely ethical and in some countries, legal. But these are tenuous restraints at best and all it will take to spark a genetic arms race, so to speak, is for one country to take the plunge, and then others, for fear of being left behind, will also join in.

It may already have begun: in November 2018, Chinese scientist He Jiankui shocked the world by announcing that he had ‘created’ the world’s first gene-edited babies, a pair of female twins nicknamed ‘Lulu’ and ‘Nana’. He claims to have disabled a gene called CCR5 in the girls, which encodes a protein that allows HIV to enter cells.

Outraged Chinese authorities placed Jiankui under house arrest and he was also fired from the university he worked at and the twins have also been placed under medical supervision, and their eventual fate is uncertain at best. Whatever becomes of the girls and the doctor, this door, now opened, cannot be easily closed.

Sooner or later genetic engineering will be a reality, with all that it entails. What if you could ensure that no child is born with Down’s syndrome? What if you could edit away the South Asian propensity towards developing diabetes? Going further, what if you could edit out emotion itself and heighten musculature to create a new breed of soldiers? Or perhaps create genetically engineered geniuses with advantages their ‘normal’ peers could not match? In the quest to improve ourselves, would it not be a great irony if we were to engineer ourselves out of existence?

Learning Habit Common to to Successful People

People are captivated by the stories of individuals who eschewed traditional education yet still became titans in their field. Bill Gates, Ellen DeGeneres, Anna Wintour, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller; none of them has a college degree, but they have all achieved fame and a level of success few can match. How did they do this? They are self-directed learners.

Nowadays, self-directed learning is less of a cultural curio and more of an economic necessity. New knowledge accumulates so quickly, and industries change so rapidly, traditional education paths can’t keep pace. Unless your specialty is the pottery fashions of Ancient Greece, chances are your diploma is out of date before the ink dries. (Even then, you never know when some newly discovered Pompeii will upend terracotta paradigms.)

Need help getting into the practice? Here are seven habits shared by the best self-directed learners.

Take ownership of your learning

Self-directed learning is a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes.

The habits we’ll discuss here address all these points, but the first step is always to take the initiative.

There is this illusion that is created in our classical education system that someone is teaching it to you. Really, they are creating a context in which you need to pull information and own it yourself.

The difference is that self-directed learners need to create that context for themselves. They do this by engaging in learning through a growth mindset. Traditional education can inadvertently saddle students with fixed mindsets (i.e., students are either naturally gifted at a subject or not, and their grades will reflect this). A growth-mindset student, on the other hand, knows that improvement is possible, even if it isn’t easy.

Once you have the initiative, you need to set goals. Otherwise, rewards will always remain nebulous and unobtainable, and rewards are necessary if you are to remain motivated.

The best self-directed learners know to set SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-defined. Any goals you set should meet these criteria.

Pay close attention to realistic time management. Self-directed learning is generally done in our few, precious off-hours. Teaching yourself programming is great. Trying to program an entire video game within a year is a bit much. Break it down into smaller chunks and give yourself time.

If you’re curious, the opposite of a SMART goal is a VAPID one—that is, Vague, Amorphous, Pie-in-the-sky, Irrelevant, and Delayed. Don’t be a VAPID learner.

Benjamin Franklin’s five-hour rule

Benjamin Franklin was an author, statesman, inventor, and entrepreneur. He also left school when he was 10. How did he amass the knowledge necessary to succeed in so many trades with so little schooling? He set aside an hour every weekday for deliberate learning. He would read, write, ruminate, or devise experiments during that time.

Author Michael Simmons calls this Franklin’s five-hour rule, and he notes that many of the best self-directed learners use some form of the method. Bill Gates reads roughly a book a week, while Arthur Blank reads two hours per day.

Be sure to spread your five hours throughout the week. Your brain wasn’t designed for cram sessions, and trying to squeeze a week’s learning into one day will ensure you forget a lot of the material. Additionally,our brains’ neural networks need to time process information, so spacing out our learning helps us memorize difficult material more efficiently.

Active learning

Salman Kahn created Kahn Academy to engage learners with exercises they could do themselves. Active learning, he says, helps students better understand the material and know when to apply which skills.

It is easy to engage actively with gardening or math problems, but what about subjects like history, where participation comes mainly through reading books? Bill Gates has a solution for that. He uses marginalia—note-taking in the margins of a book—to turn reading into a vibrant conversation with the author.

“When you’re reading, you have to be careful that you really are concentrating,” Gates told Quartz. “Particularly if it’s a non-fiction book, are you taking the new knowledge and attaching it to knowledge you have. For me, taking notes helps make sure that I’m really thinking hard about what’s in there.”

Prioritize (the 80/20 rule)

In the early 20th century, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto noticed that 20% of Italy’s population owned 80% of its land. His analysis was later expanded into the Pareto principle (a.k.a. the 80/20 rule). This rule broadly states that 80% of your results will stem from 20% of your actions.

The best self-directed learners use this rule to prioritize their study time. They focus on the 20% of actions that net them the most results. If someone wants to learn to crochet, they don’t need to understand the history of primitive textiles to do that (as fascinating as that may be). They need to invest their learning time at hands-on applications and only use spare time to brush up on nålebinding (again, super fascinating).

Visit the library

This one may not apply to learners with the means of, say, Bill Gates, but for most of us, financial limits can interfere with our ability to accrue new supplies. Enter the library. A good research library has books on most any subject, has access to a host of online resources, and can connect you with like-minded professionals or groups.

Author Ray Bradbury couldn’t afford to go to college and instead visited the local library three times a week. He went on to become one of the most celebrated authors of the 21st century.

“A college cannot educate you; a library can educate you,” Bradbury said. “You go to the library to find yourself. You pull those books off the shelf, you open them, and you see yourself there. And you say, ‘I’ll be goddamed, there I am!'”

Employ your own motivation

The traditional education path gives you a very clear motivation: Get a good grade to get a good job. Self-directed learning provides no clear motivation, so you’ll have to create your own.

Entrepreneur Mark Cuban urges people to never stop learning. The near 60-year-old billionaire is currently teaching himself to code in Python. His reason? He believes the world’s first trillionaire will make their fortune with artificial intelligence, and he doesn’t want to be left behind.

“Whatever you are studying right now, if you are not getting up to speed on deep learning, neural networks, etc., you lose,” Cuban told CNBC. “The more I understand it, the more I get excited about it.”

Of course, your motivation doesn’t have to be finding the next million-dollar venture. It could be as simple as expanding your liberal education for self-improvement, learning a new skill set to advance in your field, or simply reading a book to share in conversation with others. Whatever the case, the motivation needs to come from you.

The Looming Reality of German Laser & Hypersonic Weapons

In December, Russia shocked the world with a successful test of its Avangard hypersonic missile system. While the United States, Russia and China are racing for new weapon technologies, Germany is racing too, but much more quietly. It is that secrecy, along with Germany’s history, that should greatly alarm the world.

On June 7, the German newspaper Die Welt reported that the German military is developing hypersonic weapons that hit their target at five times the speed of sound. The German Federal Armed Forces procurement agency started the project last year, as sales manager Peter Heilmeier of the German defense company MBDA announced. MBDA is Europe’s leader in developing missile systems.

Heilmeier said that developing hypersonic weapons is necessary due to “threats of the concrete kind—keyword Putin’s missile, or even the new Russian tank” . The simple principle is to develop missiles that are “so fast that the protective systems of the Russian tank becomes too slow.”

The first test-firings of the missiles are estimated to take place within the next three years. In the meantime, Heilmeier sees the possibility of integrating hypersonic missiles into air defense systems and possibly creating a “European hypersonic interception missile.”

There aren’t many details available on the secret project: It is run on the “for German eyes only” principle.

“In its hypersonic plans, the German subsidiary of the European MBDA group can fall back on the wealth of experience of its subsidiary Bayern Chemie,” Die Welt reported. “As early as 2003, the expert for guided missile propulsion had a record flight at seven times the speed of sound on ground level.”

MBDA Germany and Rheinmetall have worked for years on the development of laser weapons. In February, Rheinmetall successfully tested a new laser weapon station.

MBDA Germany and Rheinmetall are now also developing laser cannons for the German military. The first high-energy laser will be installed next year on a German warship.

Die Welt business editor Gerhard Hegmann wrote: The advantage of the laser weapons is the higher speed compared to fired ammunition and the high precision with which only certain components of a target can be hit.

As long as a laser weapon has enough power, it can be used. So it has no ammunition magazine that needs to be replenished. A big advantage is that laser weapons are scalable. … Their effect can be dosed, and thus an opponent may be warned first.

In cooperation with France, Germany is already leading the race in developing the next generation of tanks and a Future Combat Air System.

Heilmeier claims that the technologies are being studied for “purely defensive” purposes. But Germany’s history means that we should pay attention when it develops advanced weapons. After World War I, people paid little attention to German weapons development. But one man in Britain sounded the alarm about Germany’s deceptive tactics and advancements in developing military technology.

Concerning Germany’s growing air power, Winston Churchill said in a speech on Nov. 28, 1934, “So far, I have dealt with what I believe is the known, but beyond the known there is also the unknown. We hear from all sides of an air development in Germany far in excess of anything which I have stated today. As to that, all I would say is, ‘Beware!’ Germany is a country fertile in military surprises.”

Germany isn’t just militarizing in response to Vladimir Putin. It has planned this for a long time. From the very start of World War II [the Germans] have considered the possibility of losing this second round, as they did the first—and they have carefully, methodically planned, in such eventuality, the third round—World War III.

The weapons industry that enabled Hitler’s military power is again racing to win the arms race. Most nations boast about their military developments out of vanity or strategy. But Germany keeps them secret, especially after starting two world wars.

No other nation has a history of starting wars like Germany. It fought the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71 and thus become a unified nation. The unified German empire was involved in 11 more conflicts between 1871 and the start of World War I. But today, Germany is mostly remembered for starting World War ii as all other military endeavors fade in comparison.