Business Feed

Vivienne Westwood's bald ambition

CNN - Business Feed - Thu, 03/13/2014 - 5:59am
'Grandmother of punk fashion' Vivienne Westwood has shaved her head -- and it's got nothing to do with style.
Categories: Business Feed

Read 'Harry Potter' in 77 min.

CNN - Business Feed - Wed, 03/12/2014 - 10:12pm
CNN's Samuel Burke reports on new speed reading technology that makes reading 1000 words per minute a possibility.
Categories: Business Feed

Read 'Harry Potter' in 77 min.

CNN - Business Feed - Wed, 03/12/2014 - 10:12pm
CNN's Samuel Burke reports on new speed reading technology that makes reading 1000 words per minute a possibility.
Categories: Business Feed

Russia’s Best News Portal Decimated

Global Voices - Business Feed - Wed, 03/12/2014 - 3:27pm

So ends an era for Russian news portal Lenta.ru. Image mixed by author.

Galina Timchenko, long-time chief editor of Russia’s most popular news website, Lenta.ru, lost her job today. Following government censors’ second official warning to Lenta.ru in less than twelve months (a legal pretext for revoking the outlet’s media license), owner Alexander Mamut suddenly fired Timchenko, replacing her with Alexey Goreslavsky, who in the past has managed several pro-Kremlin media projects. The staff at Lenta.ru responded with a public letter of protest, published on the site’s splash page, which another news website, Slon.ru, claims is a letter of mass resignations. Individually, several of Lenta.ru’s most celebrated journalists, including Ilya Azar (still reporting from Crimea), have indicated on Twitter and Facebook that they refuse to work under Goreslavsky.

Lenta.ru’s troubles today began with news that Roscomnadzor (Russia’s communications regulatory agency) issued the site an official warning over a hyperlink that appeared in an article published on March 10, 2014. The offending link was inserted into an interview by Azar with Andrei Tarasenko, head of the Kiev chapter of the Ukrainian-nationalist paramilitary group Pravyi Sektor—an organization the Russian government frequently blames for unrest in Ukraine.

On March 3, Roscomnadzor complied with a ruling by Russia’s Attorney General, ordering Vkontakte, Russia’s most popular social network, to block access from Russian IP addresses to 13 Ukrainian nationalist groups, including Pravyi Sektor.

Though Azar’s interview was with a high-ranking Pravyi Sektor figure, Roscomnadzor objected only to a hyperlink in the text that redirected readers to a separate interview with Yarosh, published on a Ukrainian website in the summer of 2008. Lenta.ru quickly removed the hyperlink, leaving Azar’s interview online and accessible to the public. Still chief editor, Galina Timchenko wrote on Facebook this morning, “the whole problem was just in the hyperlink,” suggesting to readers that the day’s drama at Lenta.ru had ended.

Three hours later, Timchenko posted to Facebook again, announcing the end of her tenure at Lenta.ru, offering thanks for “interesting times.”

What happened?

Looking back, Timchenko’s fall and the collapse of public trust in Lenta.ru that her dismissal has precipitated are not so surprising. In May 2012, Timchenko spoke openly about resigning from Lenta.ru, saying she planned to leave in a couple of years, agreeing with characterizations that compared her to Boris Yeltsin shortly before he handed over power to Vladimir Putin. (“I’m tired, I’m leaving.”) Two years ago, Timchenko said that Russia’s 2011-2012 “Winter of Discontent” mass protests had no special impact on Lenta.ru, contrasting the site with TV Rain, a television station that transformed itself into a mouthpiece for the new street opposition.

Galina Timchenko, Lenta.ru's former chief editor, ousted today.

In an interview earlier this year, Timchenko compared herself not to Yeltsin but Vsevolod Rudnev, commander of the doomed Russian cruiser Varyag, which Rudnev scuttled rather than let it fall into Japanese hands in 1904. Roughly two years have passed since she signaled her plans to leave Lenta.ru, but Timchenko’s departure today is anything but voluntary.  

Her replacement, Alexey Goreslavsky, has managed two notoriously pro-Kremlin media projects: Vzgliad.ru, an openly pro-government news website, and Agency One, a public relations firm. Criticizing Goreslavsky’s appointment today, blogger Alexey Navalny called Vzgliad.ru a “complete failure,” despite its “inconceivable” (i.e., remarkably large) budget. Agency One, meanwhile, is responsible for a series of racist viral videos meant to help Sergei Sobyanin’s recent Moscow mayoral campaign. Last December, in his capacity as representative for Lenta.ru’s parent company, Goreslavsky was one of the only Russian media figures who was even remotely receptive to signing a controversial government memorandum on digital anti-piracy measures.

Lenta.ru’s independence survived multiple corporate shakeups, until early 2013, when owner Vladimir Potanin (apparently under Kremlin pressure to facilitate greater consolidation of Russia’s media outlets) agreed to merge operations with fellow tycoon Alexander Mamut. The merger might have spared Lenta.ru big changes, were it not for the loss of Rafael Akopov, who left Potanin’s company just months before the deal. According to TV Rain, Akopov was instrumental over the years in protecting Lenta.ru’s autonomy. With him out of the picture, in Russia’s jingoist climate today, it became far easier for owners and state authorities to meddle in the politics of the country’s most popular news portal. When Lenta.ru hyperlinked to comments by a Ukrainian nationalist—an extremist and an enemy of the state, says Moscow—it offered an ideal excuse to purge the website’s leadership.

Meet the result: Alexey Goreslavsky and the decimation of Lenta.ru’s reputation.

Categories: Business Feed

Russia’s Best News Portal Decimated

Global Voices - Business Feed - Wed, 03/12/2014 - 3:27pm

So ends an era for Russian news portal Lenta.ru. Image mixed by author.

Galina Timchenko, long-time chief editor of Russia’s most popular news website, Lenta.ru, lost her job today. Following government censors’ second official warning to Lenta.ru in less than twelve months (a legal pretext for revoking the outlet’s media license), owner Alexander Mamut suddenly fired Timchenko, replacing her with Alexey Goreslavsky, who in the past has managed several pro-Kremlin media projects. The staff at Lenta.ru responded with a public letter of protest, published on the site’s splash page, which another news website, Slon.ru, claims is a letter of mass resignations. Individually, several of Lenta.ru’s most celebrated journalists, including Ilya Azar (still reporting from Crimea), have indicated on Twitter and Facebook that they refuse to work under Goreslavsky.

Lenta.ru’s troubles today began with news that Roscomnadzor (Russia’s communications regulatory agency) issued the site an official warning over a hyperlink that appeared in an article published on March 10, 2014. The offending link was inserted into an interview by Azar with Andrei Tarasenko, head of the Kiev chapter of the Ukrainian-nationalist paramilitary group Pravyi Sektor—an organization the Russian government frequently blames for unrest in Ukraine.

On March 3, Roscomnadzor complied with a ruling by Russia’s Attorney General, ordering Vkontakte, Russia’s most popular social network, to block access from Russian IP addresses to 13 Ukrainian nationalist groups, including Pravyi Sektor.

Though Azar’s interview was with a high-ranking Pravyi Sektor figure, Roscomnadzor objected only to a hyperlink in the text that redirected readers to a separate interview with Yarosh, published on a Ukrainian website in the summer of 2008. Lenta.ru quickly removed the hyperlink, leaving Azar’s interview online and accessible to the public. Still chief editor, Galina Timchenko wrote on Facebook this morning, “the whole problem was just in the hyperlink,” suggesting to readers that the day’s drama at Lenta.ru had ended.

Three hours later, Timchenko posted to Facebook again, announcing the end of her tenure at Lenta.ru, offering thanks for “interesting times.”

What happened?

Looking back, Timchenko’s fall and the collapse of public trust in Lenta.ru that her dismissal has precipitated are not so surprising. In May 2012, Timchenko spoke openly about resigning from Lenta.ru, saying she planned to leave in a couple of years, agreeing with characterizations that compared her to Boris Yeltsin shortly before he handed over power to Vladimir Putin. (“I’m tired, I’m leaving.”) Two years ago, Timchenko said that Russia’s 2011-2012 “Winter of Discontent” mass protests had no special impact on Lenta.ru, contrasting the site with TV Rain, a television station that transformed itself into a mouthpiece for the new street opposition.

Galina Timchenko, Lenta.ru's former chief editor, ousted today.

In an interview earlier this year, Timchenko compared herself not to Yeltsin but Vsevolod Rudnev, commander of the doomed Russian cruiser Varyag, which Rudnev scuttled rather than let it fall into Japanese hands in 1904. Roughly two years have passed since she signaled her plans to leave Lenta.ru, but Timchenko’s departure today is anything but voluntary.  

Her replacement, Alexey Goreslavsky, has managed two notoriously pro-Kremlin media projects: Vzgliad.ru, an openly pro-government news website, and Agency One, a public relations firm. Criticizing Goreslavsky’s appointment today, blogger Alexey Navalny called Vzgliad.ru a “complete failure,” despite its “inconceivable” (i.e., remarkably large) budget. Agency One, meanwhile, is responsible for a series of racist viral videos meant to help Sergei Sobyanin’s recent Moscow mayoral campaign. Last December, in his capacity as representative for Lenta.ru’s parent company, Goreslavsky was one of the only Russian media figures who was even remotely receptive to signing a controversial government memorandum on digital anti-piracy measures.

Lenta.ru’s independence survived multiple corporate shakeups, until early 2013, when owner Vladimir Potanin (apparently under Kremlin pressure to facilitate greater consolidation of Russia’s media outlets) agreed to merge operations with fellow tycoon Alexander Mamut. The merger might have spared Lenta.ru big changes, were it not for the loss of Rafael Akopov, who left Potanin’s company just months before the deal. According to TV Rain, Akopov was instrumental over the years in protecting Lenta.ru’s autonomy. With him out of the picture, in Russia’s jingoist climate today, it became far easier for owners and state authorities to meddle in the politics of the country’s most popular news portal. When Lenta.ru hyperlinked to comments by a Ukrainian nationalist—an extremist and an enemy of the state, says Moscow—it offered an ideal excuse to purge the website’s leadership.

Meet the result: Alexey Goreslavsky and the decimation of Lenta.ru’s reputation.

Categories: Business Feed

The Land of Fires, Italy's “Gateway to Hell”

Global Voices - Business Feed - Tue, 03/11/2014 - 7:51pm

2014 began with renewed concern about pollution in a part of the Italian territory known as the “Terra dei fuochi” (Land of Fires) [All links lead to Italian-language web pages unless otherwise noted]. In this area, which is located between Naples and Caserta, the Ecomafia has been disposing of toxic waste for years.

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Since the '80s a union of interests between the Camorra (an organized crime group active mainly in Naples and the surrounding region of Campania), the industrialists and the Neapolitan and Campania political class has poisoned this part of Italy, which is amongst the most beautiful areas in the country. The blogger, Enzo Ciacco, writes on lettera43.it:

I territori colpiti dai veleni di camorra sono quelli tra le province di Napoli e Caserta. L’area è compresa tra i comuni di Qualiano, Giugliano in Campania, Orta di Atella, Caivano, Acerra, Nola, Marcianise, Succivo, Frattaminore, Frattamaggiore, Aversa, Mondragone, Castevolturno, Villa Literno, Pozzuoli, Bacoli, Marano, Cicciano, Palma Campania, Melito di Napoli. A Napoli, il quartiere Pianura.

A firmare il Patto per la Terra dei fuochi, l’11 luglio 2013, sono stati ben 57 comuni tra Napoli e Caserta. Ma la verità è che nessuno sa quanti e dove siano i rifiuti tossici sepolti nel corso degli anni nell’area. L’Arpac, l’agenzia campana per l’ambiente, ha contato più di 2 mila siti inquinati.

The areas affected by the Camorra's toxic waste are those between the provinces of Naples and Caserta. The area includes the towns of Qualiano, Giugliano in Campania, Orta di Atella, Caivano, Acerra, Nola, Marcianise, Succivo, Frattaminore, Frattamaggiore, Aversa, Mondragone, Castevolturno, Villa Literno, Pozzuoli, Bacoli, Marano, Cicciano, Palma Campania and Melito di Napoli. In Naples, the Pianura neighbourhood.

57 municipalities between Naples and Caserta signed the Land of Fires Pact on July 11, 2013. But the truth is that no one knows in how many places and where the toxic waste has been buried in the area over the years. ARPAC, the Campania environmental agency, has found more than 2,000 contaminated sites.

Enrico Ferdinandi quotes the reformed mafioso, Carmine Schiavone's 1997 declarations made in front of the parliamentary committee on Ecomafias, and whose confessions brought down the Casalesi clan.

Avevamo creato un sistema di tipo militare, con ragazzi incensurati muniti di regolare porto d’armi che giravano in macchina. Avevamo divise e palette dei carabinieri, della finanza e della polizia. Ognuno aveva un suo reparto prestabilito». I rifiuti, raccontò il pentito, venivano scaricati di notte e le pale meccaniche vi spargevano sopra del terreno. Ma talvolta la spazzatura finiva anche a 20 o a 30 metri di profondità.

Nei verbali si può apprendere che alcuni rifiuti radioattivi, per la precisione fanghi nucleari provenienti dalla Germania: «dovrebbero trovarsi in un terreno sul quale ci sono le bufale e su cui non cresce più erba».

We had created a type of military system, with boys with no criminal records and a valid firearms license in the car. We had Carabiniere, police and finance police uniforms and signalling disks. Everyone had their own set unit“. The waste, according to the the reformed mafioso, was unloaded at night and the bulldozers would cover it with earth. But sometimes the rubbish ended up 20 or 30 metres deep.

The records show that some radioactive waste, to be precise nuclear sludge, from Germany: “should be in a field where there are buffaloes and where the grass does not grow“.

The effects on health, above all, are disastrous. The website laretenonperdona.it indicates the illnesses that the population is suffering from:

In questi territori sono stati riscontrati picchi di patologie quali tumori allo stomaco, al rene, al fegato, alla trachea, ai bronchi, ai polmoni, alla pleura e alla vescica nonché malformazioni e difetti congeniti. 

In these areas rates of disease increased such as stomach, kidney, liver, throat, lung, bronchus, pleura and bladder cancers as well as malformations and birth defects.

Quoting Gaetano Rivezzi, president of the Italian section of the International Society of Doctors for the Environment (ISDE) [en] in Campania, the website liberainformazione.org published the following:

 … in alcuni distretti c’è stato un aumento del 300% di queste malattie in pochissimi anni. L’esempio più eclatante è il distretto di Frattamaggiore, 5 comuni con un bacino di 100 mila abitanti: qui i medici hanno registrato 136 casi nel 2008 diventati 420 nel 2012. Poi ci sono i numeri del distretto di Casalnuovo – precisa – qui i codici 048, cioè le persone con un tumore, passano da 384 a 622 in 5 anni. 

… in some areas there was a 300% increase in these diseases in just a few years. The most striking example is of the district of Frattamaggiore, containing 5 municipalities with a catchment area of 100,000 inhabitants: here doctors registered 136 cases in 2008 which rose to 420 in 2012. Then there are the figures of the Casalnuovo district – he adds – here the 048 codes, in other words people with tumors, have risen from 384 to 622 in 5 years. 

Map of the “terra dei fuochi” taken from “laretenonperdona.it”

Annalisa Tancredi on ambientequotidiano.it, analyses the consequences of this pollution, which affects the surface of the land, groundwater, plants, rivers, the sea and the air:

Il risultato è che questi campi agricoli, nonostante i divieti, sono ancora oggi coltivati dai contadini che producono verdure ed ortaggi di ogni genere – come pomodori, zucchine, cavoli, broccoli e altra frutta -, e li rivendono nei mercati ad aziende multinazionali per la produzione di passate di pomodori e minestroni surgelati che vengono rivendute non solo in tutta Italia, ma anche in Europa e all’estero….

Sempre nella zona della Terra dei Fuochi, ad essere contaminati non sono solo i terreni e le falde acquifere, ma anche gli allevamenti che mangiano e bevono i prodotti di questa terra. Un ex allevatore ha denunciato la morte di 2.700 su 3.000 capi di bestiame a causa di malattie, deperimento e malformazioni alla nascita: ha raccontato di veri e propri mostri delle malformazioni genetiche come agnelli con due teste o con la coda sullo stomaco.

The result is that these fields, despite the prohibitions, are still cultivated by farmers who produce all kinds of vegetables and pulses such as tomatoes, courgettes, cabbage, broccoli and other fruit -, and sell them on to markets and multinational companies who produce pasta sauces and frozen soups that are sold not only in Italy but also in Europe and the rest of the world…

In the Terra dei Fuochi area, not only the land and groundwater have been contaminated, but also the livestock that eats and drinks this land's produce. A former farmer has reported the deaths of 2,700 out of 3,000 head of cattle due to disease, decay and birth defects: he told of real monsters with birth defects like lambs with two heads or with a tail coming out of their stomach.

Faced with this situation, the inhabitants of the infected areas have many concerns. In a post Giuliana Caso comments on the people's anger and asks herself:

Photo from the TV investigation by the programme ‘Le Iene', but if they do not explain clearly we risk reducing all of Campania to the Terra dei Fuochi. Source the movimentopaceambasciatori blog

Perché tutto quello che ha saputo produrre l’ex ministro della sanità Renato Balduzzi è stato un miserabile progetto di studio? Che accidenti c’è ancora da studiare? Le pecore deformi di Alessandro Cannavacciuolo non sono abbastanza? Le decine di bambini morti non sono abbastanza? Le centinaia di casi di tumore non sono abbastanza? I contadini criminali e ignoranti che hanno irrorato i campi con il mix letale di concime e veleni del nord non sono abbastanza? Che accidenti ancora serve perché si dichiari lo stato emergenza?

Why has the former Health Minister Renato Balduzzi only been able to produce a pitiful draft project? What the hell is there left to clarify? Are Alessandro Cannavacciuolo's deformed sheep not enough? Are dozens of dead children not enough? Are hundreds of cases of cancer not enough? Are criminal and uneducated farmers who sprayed the fields with a lethal mix of fertilizers and poisons from the north not enough? What else do you need to declare a state of emergency?

While letteradonna.it notes that:

L’emergenza ambientale nella Terra dei Fuochi ha provocato un effetto psicosi nella vendita dei prodotti tipici, dalla mozzarella di Bufala Dop all’ortofrutta, crollate nell’ultimo mese del 35-40%. Lo dice la Cia-Confederazione italiana agricoltori, sottolineando che nonostante le rassicurazioni di istituzioni e associazioni di categoria, i consumatori continuano a identificare la Campania con quella limitata porzione di territorio regionale devastato da roghi e veleni.

L‘effetto-fuga dai prodotti campani può diventare pericoloso per l’economia e l’occupazione, visto che si tratta della terza regione in Italia per produzione agricola con oltre 136 mila aziende e 65 mila addetti.

The environmental emergency in the Terra dei Fuochi has caused a psychosis effect in the sale of typical products, from mozzarella to fruit and vegetables, which dropped by 35-40% last month. The CIA – Italian Farmers Confederation, points out that, despite the assurances of institutions and associations, consumers continue to identify the Campania region with that small part of the region ravaged by fires and toxins.

Avoiding Campania products can become dangerous for the economy and employment, as it is the third region in Italy for agricultural production with over 136,000 companies and 65,000 employees.

Following a letter from Cardinal Sepe and the bishops of the dioceses of the Terra dei Fuochi, the head of state, Giorgio Napolitano, has called on the government to deal firmly with this emergency. The website lettera43.it quotes his letter:

“IL GRIDO DELLE MADRI”. Nella sua lettera, Napolitano ha ricordato “il grido accorato delle madri dei bambini colpiti da gravi patologie tumorali ricondotte al criminale inquinamento dei vostri territori della Campania”, rinnovando “la mia intima partecipazione al loro dolore, confidando che non abbandonino la fiducia nell'impegno delle istituzioni, reso più coeso e credibile anche grazie alla partecipazione attiva della rete di comitati e singoli cittadini che non si contentano di denunciare i crimini subiti, ma sostengono con le loro iniziative, le operazioni di monitoraggio e di bonifica dei siti”. 

“THE CRY OF MOTHERS”. In his letter, Napolitano noted “the anguished cry of the mothers of children with serious tumours linked to criminal pollution of areas of Campania, [renewing] my intimate involvement with their grief, trusting that they do not abandon their trust in the commitment of the institutions, made more cohesive and believable thanks to the active participation of the network of committees and individuals who are not content with only denouncing the crimes suffered, but support monitoring operations and site decontamination with their initiatives.”

“Just think, this used to all be Campania” comic strip about the fires in the Terra dei Fuochi by Cecigian

The government branch directed by the Prime Minister Enrico Letta, decided in early January 2014 to send the army to Campania “to counter the eco-mafia”. However, according to the reactions reported by the media, many citizens question the usefulness of the army in these areas. Here are some comments made by the readers of corrieredelmezzogiorno.corriere.it:

gengiscano14 GENNAIO 2014 | 18.49

“Manderemo l'esercito per contrastare le ecomafie”. Cosa vuol dire , che i militari se vedono sversamenti abusivi di sostanze nel terreno possono sparare? Che se vedono gente appiccare fuochi all'immondizia possono arrestarli? Se non è questo , lasciamoli in caserma. Risparmiamo soldi. 

gengiscano14 JANUARY 2014 | 18.49

“We'll send the army to counter the eco-mafia”. What does that mean, that if the military see people illegally dumping substances in the ground they can shoot? That if they see people set fire to garbage they can arrest them? If that's not what they are here for then leave them in the barracks. Let's save money. 

Lettore_519922815 GENNAIO 2014 | 13.25

mossa solo demagogica. Meglio impiegare questi soldi per carabinieri e polizia e corpo forestale che hanno compiti investigativi. A che servono ora i soldati? Servivano venti anni fa quando gli sversamenti erano in atto, ora bisogna bonificare ed impedire roghi, cosa che può avvenire con indagini per capire chi ha interesse e chi è l'autore dei roghi tossici.

Lettore_519922815 JANUARY 2014 | 13.25

Only a demagogic move. It would be better to use this money for the Carabinieri and the police and the forest rangers who have investigative duties. What do we need soldiers for now? We needed them twenty years ago when the dumping was taking place, now we need to clean up and prevent fires, which can be done with investigations to find out who is to gain and who is creating the toxic fires.

Journalist  describes how migratory birds after long journeys to other continents are poisoned by drinking the toxic water of about a thousand ponds that are located in this area before continuing their flight in ilfattoquotidiano.it. His article was then picked up on by numerous blogs and elicited several comments from readers. 

Categories: Business Feed

Macedonian Students Campaign Against Unlivable Conditions in Dormitories

Global Voices - Business Feed - Tue, 03/11/2014 - 12:34pm

Macedonian students demanding better life conditions in public university dormitories published a blog entitled “Operacija studentski” [mk] (“Operation Dorm”) displaying photos of everyday life in the facilities and urging students to contribute. Many of the photos show highly inadequate living conditions in the student dormitories.

The blog and photos have gained much visibility on social networks, as many social media users react to the inactivity of the official student organizations sanctioned by the state. Prompted by “Operation Dorm”, many other students have also taken to social networks to post photos of the horrible living conditions in some of the state university dormitories. Since these dormitories are the only ones in the country, the competition to gain beds in them is fierce and mired with suspicions of corruption.

Dormitory reception with signs “There's no hot water, we are fixing the problem” and “Go to your boyfriends’ places to take a bath.” Photo by Operacija studentski.

The following video from A1on article [mk] about the dorms also displays the situation.

Sharing on social networks increased after posting of an imgur English-language photo gallery. This also spawned parodies, such as “an image of Alexander the Great appeared in the mold” [mk] (referring to recent development promoted by politicians), “Hollywood will rent the site to film horror movies” [mk], a comparison with Norwegian prison, and articles in foreign media [hr].

Categories: Business Feed

Macedonian Students Campaign Against Unlivable Conditions in Dormitories

Global Voices - Business Feed - Tue, 03/11/2014 - 12:34pm

Macedonian students demanding better life conditions in public university dormitories published a blog entitled “Operacija studentski” [mk] (“Operation Dorm”) displaying photos of everyday life in the facilities and urging students to contribute. Many of the photos show highly inadequate living conditions in the student dormitories.

The blog and photos have gained much visibility on social networks, as many social media users react to the inactivity of the official student organizations sanctioned by the state. Prompted by “Operation Dorm”, many other students have also taken to social networks to post photos of the horrible living conditions in some of the state university dormitories. Since these dormitories are the only ones in the country, the competition to gain beds in them is fierce and mired with suspicions of corruption.

Dormitory reception with signs “There's no hot water, we are fixing the problem” and “Go to your boyfriends’ places to take a bath.” Photo by Operacija studentski.

The following video from A1on article [mk] about the dorms also displays the situation.

Sharing on social networks increased after posting of an imgur English-language photo gallery. This also spawned parodies, such as “an image of Alexander the Great appeared in the mold” [mk] (referring to recent development promoted by politicians), “Hollywood will rent the site to film horror movies” [mk], a comparison with Norwegian prison, and articles in foreign media [hr].

Categories: Business Feed

Reducing the Gap Between Africa's Rich and Poor

Global Voices - Business Feed - Tue, 03/11/2014 - 3:57am

Thousands of people are demonstrating on the streets to protest against low salaries, the high cost of living and an insufficient state safety net.

A reaction to austerity measures in Greece? Or a follow-up to the Arab Spring? No, these are protests for greater equality in Sub-Saharan Africa, most recently in Burkina Faso.

The widening gap between rich and poor is as troubling in Africa as in the rest of the world. In fact, many Africans believe that inequalities are becoming more marked: A tiny minority is getting richer while the lines of poor people grow out the door. The contrast is all the more striking in Africa since the poverty level has been at a consistently high level for decades, despite the continent's significant average GDP growth.

The second most expensive yacht in the world, belonging to the son of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of Equitorial Guinea – Public domain

A columnist from the independent daily L'Observateur Paalga in Burkin Faso explains the general feeling of discontent [fr]:

Les uns prennent l’avion pour aller soigner un rhume des foins pendant que les autres bouffent les pissenlits par la racine parce qu’ils n’ont pas l’argent pour aller traiter un simple palu.

Some take a plane to get treated for hay fever, while others are pushing up daisies because they can’t afford basic malaria treatment.

However, growth in Africa is expected – the World Bank paints an optimistic picture of African potential, but warns against persistently high inequalities:

Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains strong with growth forecasted to be 4.9% in 2013. Almost a third of countries in the region are growing at 6% and more, and African countries are now routinely among the fastest-growing countries in the world [...] [however the report] notes that poverty and inequality remain “unacceptably high and the pace of reduction unacceptably slow.” Almost one out of every two Africans lives in extreme poverty today.

Revenue inequality in African towns via French documentation – Public domain

Denis Cogneau, responsible for research at the Institute of Research for Development (IRD), explains that these inequalities in Africa have a well-defined historical origin [fr]:

Les États postcoloniaux ont hérité d’institutions économiques et sociales extractives, caractérisées par un dualisme extrêmement marqué entre un secteur formel de taille réduite, et un vaste secteur informel incluant la paysannerie. De même, beaucoup de pays se caractérisent par un dualisme scolaire et sanitaire, caractérisé par la coexistence d’institutions d’élite publiques et privées coûteuses situées dans la capitale, et d’un secteur de base (écoles primaires et dispensaires) faiblement doté en personnel, médiocrement approvisionné et inégalement réparti sur le territoire. Dans ce contexte, l’école a joué un rôle très dangereux, car elle a été (et est toujours) l’une des clefs d’accès, «non seulement aux emplois dans le secteur moderne, mais aussi aux positions dans l’appareil d’État et au pouvoir politique, suivant en cela les évolutions des sociétés européennes». L’inégalité des chances dans l’accès implique, par conséquent, une reproduction plus accentuée des élites politiques.

Postcolonial states inherited extractive economic and social institutions, characterised by a sharply marked dualism between a small formal sector and a huge informal sector, including farmers. Similarly, many countries are characterised by a dualism in education and health, distinguished by the coexistence of expensive, private and public elite institutions situated in the capital, and a core sector (primary schools and health centres) lacking personnel, poorly stocked, and unevenly spread out across the region. In this context, school plays a very dangerous role, as it was (and still is) one of the keys of entry “not only to jobs in the modern sector, but also to positions in the state apparatus and political power, mirroring the evolution of European societies”. Consequently, the unequal chances of gaining access imply a more marked reproduction of the political elite.

What measures can be taken to reduce these inequalities?

At a a local level, efforts are often not made to understand the exact circumstances that lead to growing inequality. Several organisations have implemented tools to monitor the lives of vulnerable populations in order to clarify the reasons behind it.

In Madagascar, CIRAD (a French research centre working with developing countries to tackle international agricultural and development issues) has proposed the creation of an observatory to carry out monitoring and improve living standards in rural areas [fr]:

Le Réseau des observatoires ruraux (ROR) constitue un dispositif de suivi et d’analyse des conditions de vie des ménages ruraux. Un des objectifs principaux est d’appréhender l’évolution de la situation des ménages ruraux et l’impact des mesures publiques et des chocs externes sur ces ménages. Chaque observatoire comporte un panel de 500 ménages sur des sites choisis de manière raisonnée avec le bailleur. Le questionnaire couvre les principaux aspects des la vie des ménages sur une période de 12 mois. Les résultats permettent une comparaison des situations dans le temps (par année) et dans l’espace (entre les observatoires).

The network of local rural observatories (ROR) consists of a tool that tracks and analyses living conditions in rural households. One of the principal objectives is to gain an understanding of the evolution of the situation in rural households and the impact that public measures and external shocks have on these households. Each observatory is made up of a panel of 500 households in sites chosen in agreement with the landowner. The questionnaire covers the main aspects of household life over a 12-month period. The results mean we can make a comparison in time (per year) and in space (between observatories).

Sexual inequality in Burkina Faso has been identified as a significant barrier to development, as studies have shown that the participation of women in the active life of a country has a considerable impact on its development. Bougnan Naon explains what the Dakupa Association is doing [fr] on this topic in the Boulgou province:

L'enjeu du projet est de permettre la création d'un réseau fonctionnel avec des membres compétents pour influencer les attitudes/pratiques traditionnelles, ainsi que les politiques et stratégies locales de lutte contre les inégalités de genre [..] (L'objectif est de): former 50 acteurs-clefs locaux aux stratégies de prise en compte du genre dans la mise en œuvre des projets et programmes par an, d'organiser des suivis-supervisions pour faciliter l'application effective de l'approche (maîtrise des outils et de l'identification d'actions genre pertinentes) par les ONG au profit de leurs cibles.

The aim of the project is to enable the creation of a functional network with competent members in order to influence traditional attitudes/practices, as well as local policies and strategies which fight against gender inequalities [...] (The objective is to) create 50 local key players with strategies to ensure gender is taken into account when launching projects and programs each year, and for the NGO to get closer to its targets by organising supervisors to facilitate the effective application of the approach (learning the tools and identifying pertinent gender actions).

Categories: Business Feed

Reducing the Gap Between Africa's Rich and Poor

Global Voices - Business Feed - Tue, 03/11/2014 - 3:57am

Thousands of people are demonstrating on the streets to protest against low salaries, the high cost of living and an insufficient state safety net.

A reaction to austerity measures in Greece? Or a follow-up to the Arab Spring? No, these are protests for greater equality in Sub-Saharan Africa, most recently in Burkina Faso.

The widening gap between rich and poor is as troubling in Africa as in the rest of the world. In fact, many Africans believe that inequalities are becoming more marked: A tiny minority is getting richer while the lines of poor people grow out the door. The contrast is all the more striking in Africa since the poverty level has been at a consistently high level for decades, despite the continent's significant average GDP growth.

The second most expensive yacht in the world, belonging to the son of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, President of Equitorial Guinea – Public domain

A columnist from the independent daily L'Observateur Paalga in Burkin Faso explains the general feeling of discontent [fr]:

Les uns prennent l’avion pour aller soigner un rhume des foins pendant que les autres bouffent les pissenlits par la racine parce qu’ils n’ont pas l’argent pour aller traiter un simple palu.

Some take a plane to get treated for hay fever, while others are pushing up daisies because they can’t afford basic malaria treatment.

However, growth in Africa is expected – the World Bank paints an optimistic picture of African potential, but warns against persistently high inequalities:

Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) remains strong with growth forecasted to be 4.9% in 2013. Almost a third of countries in the region are growing at 6% and more, and African countries are now routinely among the fastest-growing countries in the world [...] [however the report] notes that poverty and inequality remain “unacceptably high and the pace of reduction unacceptably slow.” Almost one out of every two Africans lives in extreme poverty today.

Revenue inequality in African towns via French documentation – Public domain

Denis Cogneau, responsible for research at the Institute of Research for Development (IRD), explains that these inequalities in Africa have a well-defined historical origin [fr]:

Les États postcoloniaux ont hérité d’institutions économiques et sociales extractives, caractérisées par un dualisme extrêmement marqué entre un secteur formel de taille réduite, et un vaste secteur informel incluant la paysannerie. De même, beaucoup de pays se caractérisent par un dualisme scolaire et sanitaire, caractérisé par la coexistence d’institutions d’élite publiques et privées coûteuses situées dans la capitale, et d’un secteur de base (écoles primaires et dispensaires) faiblement doté en personnel, médiocrement approvisionné et inégalement réparti sur le territoire. Dans ce contexte, l’école a joué un rôle très dangereux, car elle a été (et est toujours) l’une des clefs d’accès, «non seulement aux emplois dans le secteur moderne, mais aussi aux positions dans l’appareil d’État et au pouvoir politique, suivant en cela les évolutions des sociétés européennes». L’inégalité des chances dans l’accès implique, par conséquent, une reproduction plus accentuée des élites politiques.

Postcolonial states inherited extractive economic and social institutions, characterised by a sharply marked dualism between a small formal sector and a huge informal sector, including farmers. Similarly, many countries are characterised by a dualism in education and health, distinguished by the coexistence of expensive, private and public elite institutions situated in the capital, and a core sector (primary schools and health centres) lacking personnel, poorly stocked, and unevenly spread out across the region. In this context, school plays a very dangerous role, as it was (and still is) one of the keys of entry “not only to jobs in the modern sector, but also to positions in the state apparatus and political power, mirroring the evolution of European societies”. Consequently, the unequal chances of gaining access imply a more marked reproduction of the political elite.

What measures can be taken to reduce these inequalities?

At a a local level, efforts are often not made to understand the exact circumstances that lead to growing inequality. Several organisations have implemented tools to monitor the lives of vulnerable populations in order to clarify the reasons behind it.

In Madagascar, CIRAD (a French research centre working with developing countries to tackle international agricultural and development issues) has proposed the creation of an observatory to carry out monitoring and improve living standards in rural areas [fr]:

Le Réseau des observatoires ruraux (ROR) constitue un dispositif de suivi et d’analyse des conditions de vie des ménages ruraux. Un des objectifs principaux est d’appréhender l’évolution de la situation des ménages ruraux et l’impact des mesures publiques et des chocs externes sur ces ménages. Chaque observatoire comporte un panel de 500 ménages sur des sites choisis de manière raisonnée avec le bailleur. Le questionnaire couvre les principaux aspects des la vie des ménages sur une période de 12 mois. Les résultats permettent une comparaison des situations dans le temps (par année) et dans l’espace (entre les observatoires).

The network of local rural observatories (ROR) consists of a tool that tracks and analyses living conditions in rural households. One of the principal objectives is to gain an understanding of the evolution of the situation in rural households and the impact that public measures and external shocks have on these households. Each observatory is made up of a panel of 500 households in sites chosen in agreement with the landowner. The questionnaire covers the main aspects of household life over a 12-month period. The results mean we can make a comparison in time (per year) and in space (between observatories).

Sexual inequality in Burkina Faso has been identified as a significant barrier to development, as studies have shown that the participation of women in the active life of a country has a considerable impact on its development. Bougnan Naon explains what the Dakupa Association is doing [fr] on this topic in the Boulgou province:

L'enjeu du projet est de permettre la création d'un réseau fonctionnel avec des membres compétents pour influencer les attitudes/pratiques traditionnelles, ainsi que les politiques et stratégies locales de lutte contre les inégalités de genre [..] (L'objectif est de): former 50 acteurs-clefs locaux aux stratégies de prise en compte du genre dans la mise en œuvre des projets et programmes par an, d'organiser des suivis-supervisions pour faciliter l'application effective de l'approche (maîtrise des outils et de l'identification d'actions genre pertinentes) par les ONG au profit de leurs cibles.

The aim of the project is to enable the creation of a functional network with competent members in order to influence traditional attitudes/practices, as well as local policies and strategies which fight against gender inequalities [...] (The objective is to) create 50 local key players with strategies to ensure gender is taken into account when launching projects and programs each year, and for the NGO to get closer to its targets by organising supervisors to facilitate the effective application of the approach (learning the tools and identifying pertinent gender actions).

Categories: Business Feed

Japanese growth disappoints

CNN - Business Feed - Mon, 03/10/2014 - 10:07pm
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to PIMCO's Richard Clarida about how Japan can grow it's economy.
Categories: Business Feed

How safe is the Boeing 777?

CNN - Business Feed - Mon, 03/10/2014 - 10:06pm
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is Boeing 777. That model is known as one of the safest planes in the sky.
Categories: Business Feed

Where in the world is Russian money?

CNN - Business Feed - Mon, 03/10/2014 - 12:37pm
As Russia risks its economic ties with the West, CNN takes a look at where the country's wealthiest have spent their money. It's on some of the most expensive assets in the world.
Categories: Business Feed

China's Tencent to Step Up Competition With JD.com Stake

Global Voices - Business Feed - Sun, 03/09/2014 - 11:44pm

Tencent, Asia’s largest Internet company, is poised to buy a 16-percent stake in China’s leading online retailer JD.com, according to Chinese media reports, a big move in China’s e-commerce market. The official announcement is expected next week.

The move is widely viewed as a strategic collaboration to shore up the two parties against their common competitor Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce company.

Tencent is best known for its WeChat messaging service, which has more than 272 million monthly active users, mainly in China. It had appointed Barclays bank to advise it on a potential purchase of JD.com shares, the Wall Street Journal reported last month.

The company could merge its less popular e-commerce services Buy.qq.com and Yixun.com with JD.com, China’s second-largest online retailer, in return for the latter’s stock. JD.com would benefit from Tencent’s huge social network traffic, especially through WeChat, to help it compete with Alibaba. JD.com’s founder Richard Liu would still hold over half of the voting rights.

Tencent and JD's CEOs (Photo from Sina Weibo)

JD.com is currently preparing for a 1.5 billion dollar U.S. listing, ahead of a much anticipated listing by bigger rival Alibaba Group Holding.

An operational tie-up between Tencent and JD.com could create a strong competitor to Alibaba, which has thus far dominated China's e-commerce market. 

JD.com’s presence in e-commerce is small compared with rival Alibaba, but an alliance with Tencent could create a bigger player. JD.com, like Amazon.com, is a direct seller of goods, while Alibaba runs eBay-like online marketplaces where many merchants sell items directly to customers. Analysts say Tencent could turn WeChat's vast user base into a platform for offering other services such as mobile shopping, and a partnership with JD.com could provide Tencent with more resources in running e-commerce operations.

JD.com wants to take advantage of Tencent’s overwhelming online presence, especially in the mobile area, while Tencent wants to put its online payment system into better use by working together with JD.com’s well-established e-commerce sector.

Tencent could sell its e-commerce assets, tiny compared to JD.com, at a good price and focus on core business of social networking and promising financial business.

An e-commerce consulting company CEO “Lu Zhengwang” was optimistic about the deal:

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After packaging Paipai.com and Yixun.com to JD.com and building a solid online shopping payment entry, WeChat would have more opportunities to construct mobile shopping platform. A small mobile shopping ecosystem would pop up after WeChat payments are opened, stepping up competition with Taobao mobile. JD.com would be more confident in its coming IPO with Tencent’s investment and traffic resources from PC and mobile devices. The situation will become that Paipai.com + JD.com versus Taobao + Tmall

A netizen “About Yao Zhonglin” said the potential merge signaled that China’s Internet is entering into an oligopoly:

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What’s more interesting is that two giants are starting to contact nearly all Internet companies, negotiate about potential investments or acquisitions. China’s Internet industry has started a ‘take sides’ game. Even such small companies like JD.com and 360 have been reported to receive investments from Tencent and Alibaba respectively. Nearly all valuable Internet firms will be asked to choose a side. It signals that China’s Internet is headed toward twin oligopolies.

Chinese netizens responded on tech social media Huxiu.com with a variety of opinions to the report of Tencent and JD.com’s potential collaboration:

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Floating over desert”: Richard Liu would “marry” Tencent only after Tencent sent its e-commerce sector to JD.com. This is likely to happen. JD.com would end up just one of many sites without Tencent; Tencent’s e-commerce sector would be unable to achieve bigger success without an e-commerce giant like JD.com. For Tencent, time is worth more than money in the mobile Internet era. It’s likely that the situation has settled, whether to transfer Yixun to JD.com would just be a chip on negotiating table.

113478127: ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

I don’t want Tencent to buy a stake in JD.com. For us common consumers, the more e-commerce companies there are, the fiercer the competitions becomes, the more benefits we’ll gain. We’re going to lose if there is just oligopoly in market.

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Laughing and cursing to survive: Tencent has become more like an investment bank. It may have realized that its own e-commerce business would hardly grow into a giant, so now is the time to sell. It could focus on core businesses like social networking and promising Internet finance. Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp has proven the potential value of social networking. Along this trend, Tencent could sell its flat video sector. Tencent’s e-commerce sector like Yixun.com seems not very valuable for JD.com, but may improve JD’s listing story and add to its valuation. The merger could also help JD get Tencent’s social network traffic.   

Categories: Business Feed

#CNNwomen chat: As it happened

CNN - Business Feed - Sat, 03/08/2014 - 12:25pm
To mark International Women's Day, CNN hosted a Tweetchat on gender equality with a slew of special guests including Nobel Peace prize laureate Tawakkol Karman. Here's what you missed.
Categories: Business Feed

#CNNwomen chat: As it happened

CNN - Business Feed - Sat, 03/08/2014 - 12:25pm
To mark International Women's Day, CNN hosted a Tweetchat on gender equality with a slew of special guests including Nobel Peace prize laureate Tawakkol Karman. Here's what you missed.
Categories: Business Feed

Gambler loses $500k, sues casino

CNN - Business Feed - Fri, 03/07/2014 - 10:43am
A California man who lost $500,000 at blackjack and pai gow is suing a new Las Vegas casino, alleging he was too drunk to be allowed to gamble over a 17-hour period just before Super Bowl weekend.
Categories: Business Feed

Opinion: Get smarter about quotas

CNN - Business Feed - Fri, 03/07/2014 - 9:31am
There is a big debate in the world of those advocating gender parity and it goes like this.
Categories: Business Feed

Opinion: Get smarter about quotas

CNN - Business Feed - Fri, 03/07/2014 - 9:31am
There is a big debate in the world of those advocating gender parity and it goes like this.
Categories: Business Feed

Build a world where ...

CNN - Business Feed - Fri, 03/07/2014 - 9:31am
In honor of International Women's Day on March 8, CNN's Leading Women team asked you how we can come together to build a more equal world for all.
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