Archive for the ‘News’ Category
In Singapore, we En-bloc, In China, they just confiscate your land, flatten your house, and kill your husband
Human Rights Will Overshadow Beijing As Olympics Approach
A recent Reuters article on Chinese looming issues says that “Groups such as Free Tibet campaigners or China’s growing band of domestically dispossessed are hoping to use the Olympics to highlight their complaints in front of a massive global audience.”
One of the biggest issues that China will face in 2008 is the assault that will inevitably come over China’s public image on certain issues. China is often denounced for the censorship that it carries out against ideas that are commonly spread outside of Chinese borders. From a liberty standpoint, this kind of restraint on society is unthinkable.
The article does suggest that China isn’t taking the criticism lightly and the cause of humans rights activists may be misguided because China does adhere to acceptable human rights standards. “Human rights, as a concept, have become a constitutional principle, a mainstream subject in the political life of both the Party and the state,” it quoted Dong Yunhu, vice president of the China Human Rights Research Association, as saying.
BEIJING (Reuters) – China exuded optimism on Tuesday about the 2008 Beijing Olympics, saying its centuries of culture and history would light up the world, even as organizers came under renewed pressure to fulfill a media freedom pledge.
“We will show the world 5,000 years of splendid Chinese history, the significant achievements of modern China and the zeitgeist of the Chinese people,” said the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, in a New Year’s Day editorial.
While recognizing that unprecedented challenges lay ahead for the year as a whole, the editorial said that there would be far more opportunities than challenges.
For those interested in further learning about China and their ’successful’ approach to Censorship, you might want to read this article from CNN: China and Internet Censorship
The story’s unlikely source was the staid World Bank, which published updated statistics on the economic output of 146 countries. China’s economy, said the bank, is smaller than it thought.
About 40% smaller.
China, it turns out, isn’t a $10-trillion economy on the brink of catching up with the United States. It is a $6-trillion economy, less than half our size. For the foreseeable future, China will have far less money to spend on its military and will face much deeper social and economic problems at home than experts previously believed.
What happened to $4 trillion in Chinese gross domestic product?
Statistics. When economists calculate a country’s gross domestic product, they add up the prices of the goods and services its economy produces and get a total — in dollars for the United States, euros for such countries as Germany and France and yuan for China. To compare countries’ GDP, they typically convert each country’s product into dollars.
The simplest way to do this is to use exchange rates. In 2006, the World Bank calculated that China produced 21 trillion yuan worth of goods and services. Using the market exchange rate of 7.8 yuan to the dollar, the bank pegged China’s GDP at $2.7 trillion.
That number is too low. For one thing, like many countries, China artificially manipulates the value of its currency. For another, many goods in less developed economies such as China and Mexico are much cheaper than they are in countries such as the United States.
To take these factors into account, economists compare prices from one economy to another and compute an adjusted GDP figure based on “purchasing-power parity.” The idea is that a country’s GDP adjusted for purchasing-power parity provides a more realistic measure of relative economic strength and of living standards than the unadjusted GDP numbers.
Unfortunately, comparing hundreds and even thousands of prices in almost 150 economies all over the world is a difficult thing to do. Concerned that its purchasing-power-parity numbers were out of whack, the World Bank went back to the drawing board and, with help from such countries as India and China, reviewed the data behind its GDP adjustments.
It learned that there is less difference between China’s domestic prices and those in such countries as the United States than previously thought. So the new purchasing-power-parity adjustment is smaller than the old one — and $4 trillion in Chinese GDP melts into air.
The political consequences will be felt far and wide. To begin with, the U.S. will remain the world’s largest economy well into the future. Given that fact, fears that China will challenge the U.S. for global political leadership seem overblown. Under the old figures, China was predicted to pass the United States as the world’s largest economy in 2012. That isn’t going to happen.
Also, the difference in U.S. and Chinese living standards is much larger than previously thought. Average income per Chinese is less than one-tenth the U.S. level. With its people this poor, China will have a hard time raising enough revenue for the vast military buildup needed to challenge the United States.
The balance of power in Asia looks more secure. Japan’s economy was not affected by the World Bank revisions. China’s economy has shrunk by 40% compared with Japan too. And although India’s economy was downgraded by 40%, the United States, Japan and India will be more than capable of balancing China’s military power in Asia for a very long time to come.
But don’t pop the champagne corks. It is bad news that billions of people are significantly poorer than we thought. China and India are not the only countries whose GDP has been revised downward. The World Bank figures show sub-Saharan Africa’s economy to be 25% smaller. One consequence is that the ambitious campaign to reduce world poverty by 2015 through the United Nations Millennium Development Goals will surely fail. We have underestimated the size of the world’s poverty problem, and we have overestimated our progress in attacking it. This is not good.
There is more bad news. U.S. businesses and entrepreneurs hoping to crack the Chinese and Indian markets must come to terms with a middle class that is significantly smaller than thought. Investors in overseas stocks should take note. Companies with growth plans tied to the Indian and Chinese markets could face disappointing results, and the high prices of many emerging-market stocks depend on buzz and psychology. Investor sentiment on China and India may now be significantly more vulnerable to future bad news.
China’s political stability may be more fragile than thought. The country faces huge domestic challenges — an aging population lacking any form of social security, wholesale problems in the financial system that dwarf those revealed in the U.S. sub-prime loan mess and the breakdown of its health system. These problems are as big as ever, but China has fewer resources to meet them than we thought.
And there is the environment. With poor air quality, acute water shortages, massive pollution in major watersheds and many other environmental problems, China needs to make enormous investments in the environment to avoid major disasters. Globally, it will be much harder to get China — and India — to make any sacrifices to address problems such as global warming.
For Americans, the new numbers from the World Bank bring good news and bad. On the plus side, U.S. leadership in the global system seems more secure and more likely to endure through the next generation. On the other hand, the world we are called on to lead is poorer and more troubled than we anticipated.
Maybe the old Chinese curse says it best: We seem to be headed for interesting times.
Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is the author of “God and Gold: Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World.”
The US sub-prime mortgage crisis has lead to plunging property prices, a slowdown in the US economy, and billions in losses by banks. It stems from a fundamental change in the way mortgages are funded.
LONDON – He wears a $15 watch, flies economy class and does not own a house or car. For years. few guessed that Chuck Feeney was one of the world’s biggest philanthropists, secretly giving away his billionaire fortune.
Born in New Jersey during the Depression to a blue-collar Irish-American family, Feeney co-founded Duty Free Shoppers (DFS), the world’s largest duty-free retail chain. He liked making money but not having it, and gave it away for years in strict secrecy.
Journalist Conor O’Clery’s new book “The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune” (Public Affairs $26.95), reveals that Feeney may be destined to go down in history as one of the greatest American philanthropists.
Witty, self-deprecating, frugal and astute, Feeney was listed by Forbes Magazine in 1988 as the 23rd richest American alive and worth $1.3 billion, richer than Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump. He wasn’t.
Four years earlier, Feeney had placed most of his money in charitable foundations.
Inspired by the great 19th century philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, Feeney helped fund schools, hospitals, universities, medical research and human rights from the United States and Ireland to South Africa and Vietnam.
‘I set out to work hard, not to get rich’
“I had one idea that never changed in my mind — that you should use your wealth to help people. I try to live a normal life, the way I grew up,” Feeney said. “I set out to work hard, not to get rich.”
Feeney made money in his youth selling Christmas cards door-to-door, clearing snow from driveways and caddying at golf courses. He loved the challenge of making money but had little use for it.
After serving as a U.S. Air Force radio operator in Japan during the Korean war, he graduated from Cornell University and launched his career selling duty-free liquor to American sailors at Mediterranean ports in the 1950s.
The business expanded rapidly to embrace airport duty free concessions. By the late 1960s business was booming thanks to sales of duty free from Anchorage to Hong Kong. Over the decades his fortune mushroomed and so did his determination to give it away.
He rejected the trappings of the jet set, giving his money away to worthy causes with the same alacrity with which he had built one of the biggest retail empires of the 20th century.
Feeney kept his generosity secret for years, saying he did not want to “blow my own horn” or discourage others from giving to the same deserving causes.
Some careers cost time and money to take up. But don’t expect a big paycheck.
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – Most of us work hard for a living. And if we’re lucky, we’re well compensated for the effort.
But there are some jobs you should take only if you really love the work because the investment you make to get the job and the hours you keep aren’t necessarily commensurate with what you earn.
Not that all careers in this category are necessarily low-paying, at least not by national standards.
But they may require a great deal of time and money in graduate education, offer working conditions that only passion can excuse, and there may be such a long run for the roses that you forfeit prime working and child-bearing years just to achieve a salary that college peers were earning a decade earlier.
Here are just three of those jobs.
For every Philip Johnson or Frank Lloyd Wright in a generation of architects, there are countless more who work without fanfare on the everyday buildings where we work, live and shop.
Architects may spend up to seven years completing undergraduate and master’s-degree studies, or up to three-and-a-half years in a master’s program if they majored in another area during college. To be eligible to take the licensing exam, they also must log three years as interns working for licensed architects.
Architects with a master’s might enter the work force with between $50,000 and $80,000 in student loan debt. But as first-year interns, they might earn only $34,000, the national median according to the 2005 compensation survey by the American Institute of Architects. Meanwhile, several steps up the ladder, senior architects earn a median of $68,900.
There’s a reason they say if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. Restaurant kitchens usually aren’t air conditioned, so temperatures can top 100 degrees in the summer, said Stephan Hengst, spokesman for the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).
Since most restaurant chefs are not on track to become the next Jean-Georges Vongerichten or Wolfgang Puck, they can expect far more modest incomes.
Culinary school graduates who might have spent two to four years and tens of thousands of dollars to get their degrees might get a low-level job on the kitchen line paying around $32,000 soon after graduation (more if they had experience prior to culinary school).
By the time they work their way up to sous-chef after perhaps three or four years, they might make around $55,000, Hengst said.
Benefits are more likely to be included if they work for a chain rather than a small, independently owned restaurant.
And the hours they log on their feet average about 12 hours a day, Hengst said, although 80- to 100-hour weeks aren’t unusual for some.
When you work behind the scenes in a restaurant, kudos aren’t delivered directly by the customer, but rather indirectly by their returned plates: the emptier, the better.
Academic research scientists
A career with one of the most disproportionate ratios of training to pay is that of academic research scientist.
A Ph.D. program and dissertation are requirements for the job, which can take between six and eight years to complete. (See correction.) Add to that several years in the postdoctoral phase of one’s career to qualify for much coveted tenure-track positions.
During the postdoc phase, you are likely to teach, run a lab with experiments that require you to check in at all hours, publish research and write grants – for a salary that may not exceed $43,000.
The length of the postdoc career has doubled in the past 10 years, said Phil Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. “It’s taking longer and longer to get there. You can’t start a family. It’s really tough.”
And it’s made tougher still by the fact that in many disciplines, there aren’t nearly as many tenure-track positions as there are candidates.
So, to those who earn their MBAs in two years and snag six-figure jobs soon after graduation, your jobs may be hard, but maybe not quite as hard as you think.