Just as many teenagers in Baghdad worry about finding a job as do in New York. Teens around the globe think the war on terror has made the world a more dangerous place, but they believe people should be able to settle in whichever country they choose. So says a fascinating new BBC World Service poll of thousands of teens in 10 cities around the world. Some notable results:
Be sure to check out the rest of the poll for interesting answers on AIDS, climate change, religion vs. science, overpopulation, crime, and abortion. For my part, I'm still trying to wrap my brain around these results:
Anxiety about China is a favorite Indian pastime. Whether it's China's proliferation of missile technology to Pakistan or its lead in the economic race, China's rise is matched with a rise in Indian apprehension.
Exhibit A: The current uproar in India over a TV interview by the Chinese ambassador, in which he said that his country "claims" the entire Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. Chinese maps have claimed the area as "South Tibet" since at least 1962. Negotiations have gone nowhere over the years. Despite being separated by the tallest wall in the world, the Himalayas, the two countries are still without a mutually-defined border. But last year the two countries signed a deal and relations seemed to be moving forward.
But the ambassador's statement is causing some Indian commentators like Brahma Chellaney to renew their charges that there's a pattern of Chinese expansionism at play. In his article, "Autocratic China becoming Arrogant," Chellaney writes:
[The ambassador's statement] brings out clearly that China is unwilling to settle the border issue on the basis of the status quo. Not satisfied with the Indian territories it has occupied, either by conquest or by covert encroachment, Beijing wishes to further redraw the frontiers with India, even as it keeps up the charade of border negotiations."
It's unclear whether the offending statement was a gaffe or an intentional attempt to put pressure on the ongoing border negotiations. But as far as gaffes go, it was a pretty big one. Witness some of the editorials it set off: "Tackling the Mandarins," "Why I remain wary of China," and "China: Not Trustworthy." The ambassador's timing is also terrible. Hu Jintao is scheduled to visit India later this month to discuss trade relations and the statement is likely to hang over his visit like a dark cloud. He was expected to raise the issue of Indian restrictions against Chinese firms with ties to the People's Liberation Army. India has refused to let one such Chinese company submit a bid on a harbor reconstruction project because the same company was also building a Chinese port in Gadwar, Pakistan. It seems Hu Jintao, who in the last year has done some stellar traveling diplomacy, will have his work cut out for him in India.
[W]hile New York remains the dominant global-exchange center, we have been losing ground.... In 2005 only one out of the top 24 IPOs was registered in the U.S., and four were registered in London. London is gaining ground in other areas too, but it is not only London we need to worry about. Next year, more money will be raised through IPOs in Hong Kong than in either London or New York.
We cannot ignore these warning signs."
That was the conclusion reached by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer in a recent op-ed they jointly penned for the Wall Street Journal. But if New York loses its position as the center of global trading, what financial center will replace it? In this week's FP List, we take a look at some of the front runners.
It's not even coming out for another two months, yet the film "Blood Diamond" is already generating controversy. The movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, and Jennifer Connelly, is about how rebels in Sierra Leone seized diamond mines in the 1990s used the proceeds from the sales to buy weapons which they used to slaughter civilians. Today's L.A. Times has a story about how the film's December release has the diamond industry on edge. De Beers, which controls most of the diamond industry, is worried that moviegoers may stop buying diamonds after watching the movie and has issued pre-emptive press releases explaining how they purchase gems to avoid buying conflict diamonds.
For an amazing story on the rise of De Beers in the diamond industry, read my friend Nick Stein's award-winning story which appeared in Fortune five years ago. And to learn more about blood diamonds, see former Washington Post West Africa bureau chief Douglas Farah's book, "Blood From Stones," about how al Qaeda was involved in the diamond trade. Farah is also co-author of an article that will be published in the November/December issue of FP, so watch this space in the next couple weeks. And, of course, FP published a fantastic photo essay last year, "A Trail of Diamonds," from mines to showrooms.
As if there weren't enough grounds for Afghan-Pakistan animosity: the Times of India is trumpeting the success of Bollywood films in Kabul.
While the West is a sought after destination for many in the subcontinent, India is seen as a desirable location by many Afghans. And all kudos for this positive perception goes to Bollywood and Indian television. Almost all afternoons see a complete halt in any sort of work that happens in Kabul. Not because it's prayer time but because a familiar tune reverberates through the almost empty streets of Kabul. It's time for Zamane Khushu Hum Arush Bood, Dari name (Afghan-Persian dialect) for what we popularly know as Kyunki Saans Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.
India has generally tried to keep its diplomatic forays into Afghan affairs relatively quiet, but there's no hiding its booming cultural influence.
FP's September/October cover story argues provocatively that what's remarkable five years after the attacks of September 11 is how little the world has changed. Globalization, trade, the movement of goods and people have not come to a screeching halt. In fact, in many cases, economic and social forces that we expected to suffer have actually grown.
And then there are some indicators that perhaps aren't so surprising given the dawn of the war on terror:
According to a recent U.S.Congressional investigation, for every dollar paid by honest American taxpayers, seven cents is stashed away by big companies and wealthy individuals in offshore tax havens. There's an estimated $11.5 trillion parked in tax havens worldwide, with much of it coming from money launderers, criminals, and elites in the impoverished developing world. But the 70 or so tax havens worldwide may not be all bad. Harvard and Michigan economists have shown that not only do tax havens flourish, they stimulate economic growth in nearby countries as well.
Regardless of their merits, tax havens are in bad shape. In June 2000, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development released a list accusing 35 jurisdictions worldwide of engaging in harmful tax practices. Since then, all but five have agreed to clean up their acts and cooperate with international authorities. After 9/11, the U.S. joined the crackdown on tax havens as part of the war on terror. And politicians everywhere are closing legal loopholes that have for years allowed companies to save billions by moving their profits offshore.
Tax havens may be on the decline, but they still hold a lot of the world's treasure. In this week's list, FP looks at six of the world's leading tax havens to find out whether their future is more stashing - or just crashing.
The Guardian has put together its list of the top 15:
On Saturday night I picked up a friend of mine at New York's JFK Airport. He's a Canadian citizen who lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. When I met him at the airport, he spent a good 30 minutes giving me a tongue lashing over America's "Soviet-style tactics" of photographing and fingerprinting foreign tourists as they come into the country. I had some sympathy for his gripes. I was dubious of the "US-VISIT" program when it was announced.
But, four weeks out from the fifth anniversary of 9/11, news that 11 Egyptian men are "missing" in the United States makes me wonder if there isn't some wisdom in the program. The men were admitted into the U.S. 10 days ago to study language and other subjects in Bozeman, Montana. But they never showed up for classes. FBI spokesman Special Agent Richard Kolko released the following statement around 5:30 p.m. last night:
The FBI, in conjunction with our ICE partners at DHS, issued a BOLO (be-on-the-lookout) for eleven Egyptian students that arrived in the U.S. at JFK Airport on July 29, 2006. The FBI and ICE would like to locate these eleven students in order to speak with them. At this point all they have done is not show up for a scheduled academic program and their student visas have been revoked. We do not know of any association with any terrorist or criminal groups. There is no threat associated with these men. We have simply asked law enforcement’s assistance in locating them so that the FBI and ICE may interview them. If anyone has information on their whereabouts, they are requested to contact the FBI or ICE.
The 2006 Branding Survey, done by InterBrand and Business Week, is out and it includes all sorts of interesting tidbits. On the list of most valuable brands, Ford, Gap and Kodak are down while Google, Starbucks, and Citi financial services are up. Burberry, the pride of British fashion, broke into the top 100 for the first time. American brands are by far the most valuable—the United States claims 13 of the top 20 spots. The State Department's beleagured public diplomacy shop must be green with envy.
Forget the stalled Doha round of international trade talks. The biggest trade story of the last several years will happen tomorrow, when the Japanese government is expected to announce that it will resume imports of U.S. beef. Combined with record high oil prices that are helping drive demand for ethanol, this decision means that U.S. farmers and ranchers are having a pretty good summer. Japan is traditionally the largest importer of U.S. beef, but has banned imports since 2003, when bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) was found in Washington state. The U.S. had threatened to smack Japan with $2.7 billion in sanctions if the ban on U.S. beef was not lifted by mid-August.
The next time you drop a few quarters at a toll booth, your change may be going to the most unlikely of places: the coffers of a foreign firm. Introduce a cash-strapped state government to an international corporation flush with capital and the result just might mean the privatization of Indiana's toll road system.
Indiana has leased a 157-mile toll road for 75 years to a Spanish-Australian consortium for $3.8 billion. Instead of getting the cash the old-fashioned way through tolls, Indiana now gets a lump sum up front. The private company takes the tolls and the responsibility to maintain the road. Could these leases be the first in a growing trend? If the project is successful, we may well see more states leasing infrastructure to foreign firms for quick cash.
Since the [Indiana] General Assembly approved the plan in March, national transportation experts have recognized the state as being at the vanguard of a movement toward road privatization. A growing pack of states also are considering privatizing their roads. In one of the bigger deals, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley signed off on a 99-year lease of the Chicago Skyway for $1.8 billion.
While Americans were busy barbecuing and fire-working to celebrate 230 years of independence, a couple of South American leaders got together on July 4th to celebrate a new union of their own. Argentine President Nestor Kirchner joined hands with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez yesterday to celebrate Venezuela's official entrance into MERCOSUR, South America's expanding customs union. Venezuela has now tied a knot of sorts with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, forming an economic club that accounts for 78% of South American GDP.
Is this a move by Chávez to expand his influence south, or are his neighbors simply trying to reign him in by getting him to commit to MERCOSUR's standards on such things as tariffs, foreign relations, and conflict resolution? Or could it be a little bit of both? For now, it's a little bit of neither. Venezuela has up to four years to adopt MERCOSUR standards.
A South American version of the EU may still be a long way off, but let's not forget that the Brussels behemoth also started out as a customs union. And while South American integration is young - MERCOSUR just turned fifteen - it's moving at a healthy clip.
As David noted in today's Morning Brief, billionaire Warren Buffett is donating a huge hunk of his fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on global health and education. In terms of global health, the Gates Foundation has spent a lot of money so far on the Big Three: HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. At this afternoon's press conference, a reporter asked Buffett and the Gateses if they could be more specific about what programs the money will go to. Melinda Gates replied that although they hadn't worked out details yet, she anticipated that there would be a lot of funding for ailments further down on the list, including neglected diseases like kala azar or guinea worm. For a look at some of the work that doctors and researchers are already doing on neglected diseases with Gates Foundation funding, see Erika Check's Quest for the Cure, in the current issue of FP.
I have plenty of issues with Microsoft and Bill Gates: a general dislike for his necessary but dysfunctional software that I use every day, and an annoyance at some of his strong-armed business tactics. But the Microsoft founder just announced that in two years he's going to step down from a day-to-day role at his company and devote himself full-time to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
That's good news for those working to improve global health and education. It wasn't that many years ago that people accused Gates of not contributing to society with philanthropy, even though he's the richest man in the world. To his credit, Gates has certainly more than stepped up to the challenge. His foundations have donated more than $6 billion to the eradication of neglected diseases, as Erika Check describes in her story "Quest for the Cure" in the upcoming issue of FP. Some scientists, who can't get funding from pharmaceutical companies or governments, are using Gates's money in very creative ways to get medications to those who need it the most. It's good to hear that Gates will spend his twilight years focusing on these issues 24-7.
Fans of Apple's ridiculously popular iPods have long been called "slaves" to their gadgets, even by their own admission. A report this weekend in the British Mail on Sunday suggests there might be more to that charge, at least for the people who assemble some of the machines.
The article, which isn't available online, profiles several factories in China where the iPods are assembled, and finds that the largely female workforce resides in "iPod cities" with as many as 200,000 employees. Outsiders are forbidden, and 15-hour workdays are the norm. As you might expect, the wages are low, even for China. The average income of $50 a month means that a worker in one of these factories would have to work eight months to buy a top-of-the-line iPod that she assembles.
The report also offers rare interviews with some of these workers:
"We have to work too hard and I am always tired. It's like being in the army. They make us stand still for hours. If we move, we are punished by being made to stand still for longer."
The charges sound deplorable, in that they could reveal the sad truth that Apple is not unlike any other successful global company that relies on cheap labor in poor countries to produce its machines. It might particularly shock the relatively wealthy customers whose attractive little iPod packages proudly proclaim that they are "Designed for Apple in California."
In the Washington Post's Outlook section today, Foreign Policy editor-in-chief Moisés Naím writes that it is time to rethink our traditional notions about borders. Technological and economic innovations, as well as illicit activities, have rendered geographic borders far less important.
Governments and citizens are used to thinking of a border as a real, physical place: a fence, a shoreline, a desert or a mountain pass. But while geography still matters, today's borders are being redefined and redrawn in unexpected ways. They are fluid, constantly remade by technology, new laws and institutions, and the realities of international commerce -- illicit as well as legitimate. They are also increasingly intangible, living in a virtual and electronic space.
OK, I'm just so enamored, I had to post again. From an interview on the Eurovision website with Mr. Lordi, in his own words:
Mr. Lordi is the monster of monsters. He leads a group of five monsters from different ages and different dimensions. We have an alien, we have an Egyptian mummy. On the musical side, we are a rock band, a heavy rock band, playing melodic 80s hard rock.
Herra Jumala! The Finnish heavy metal band Lordi has won the Eurovision competition. Conan O'Brien must be so proud. If you haven't already (and I'm sure you have), check out the website: eurovision.tv. It must be seen to be believed.
Yes, the land of the midnight sun, naked saunas, salty licorice, and Santa Claus (not to mention home of the Air Guitar World Championships and the Wife-Carrying World Championships) has pulled a major upset and beaten out the rest of the continent. If you've spent any time in Finland, you'll know what a glorious victory it is for ALL non-Indo-European-language-speaking Finns, not just the ones who wear leathery satanic masks; sport long, stringy wigs; glare with bloodshot demon eyes; clad themselves in reindeer fur and capes; and spend a lot of time around smoke machines. Just imagine the national pride....ahhhh, sigh! (Just for the record, having spent a year as an exchange student in Finland as a teenager, I tease, because I love.) Onneksi olkoon! Hyvää Suomi!
Manohla Dargis has a nice report from the Cannes Film Festival in today's New York Times. She ruminates on a globalized world where you can have a Paraguayan film that's financed from the Netherlands, Spain, and Argentina:
My point isn't that filmmakers from countries with underdeveloped cinemas should bear the burden of cultural representation more heavily than those from rich countries with mature (or decadent) cinemas; a Paraguayan director should not have to speak for his homeland any more than, say, Brett Ratner, who is here representing American national interests with the latest "X-Men" movie. The benefits of advanced technology and porous borders are inarguable, including the increased ease with which we can consume world cinema, but does this accessibility also help dilute national voices?
I think the answer to her question is yes, which makes me think that the French have got something right. Having a government ministry of culture isn't such a bad idea.
Sunday, the Baltimore Sun published the kind of story that makes my mouth water.
Fifteen years ago, Steve Phillips, of the Phillips Foods company, was looking for a way to add more crab to his restaurant menus. The trouble was, harvests of the beloved Maryland blue crab were in decline because of over-fishing and environmental strain. So Steve set out for Asia, seeking the Blue swimming crab, rumored to be just as tasty as the Maryland variety. What he found was more crab than he could sell. Thai fishermen were more than willing to sell off a catch they considered to be junk, so Steve launched an aggressive marketing campaign in the U.S. to create demand for his new, inexpensive "Maryland style" crabmeat.
Today the blue swimming crab, fished from the waters of Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and elsewhere outnumbers Maryland crab on U.S. dinner plates upwards of 3 to 1. It has exploded into a $300 million globalized industry that has changed the landscape, threatened the environment, and padded the fortunes of many Asian fishing villages.
Sun reporters Gady A. Epstein and Stephanie Desmon asked a local Thai seafood broker, Somsak Choeyklin, what he thinks of the blue crab now:
[He] raises up his arms - his left wrist adorned by a diamond-encrusted gold Rolex that matches his wife's; his right wrist encircled by a solid-gold chain inscribed with a Superman-style S - and he declares triumphantly, "The [blue] crab is god!"
So if you're hungry for the best authentic Maryland crab you can buy anywhere, here's my vote: Cantlers Riverside Inn in Annapolis, Maryland.
Last month when GM offered buyouts to 100,000 workers, the airwaves were filled with the familliar eulogy of the American auto worker. If anything keeps America from being competitive in the world marketplace, it's our bloated salaries, corrupt unions, and aging workforce, sang the chorus. But if that's true, why are Japanese companies falling all over themselves to build car plants in the U.S.?
"The domestic auto industry is as healthy as it has ever been," says Eric Noble, president of Car Lab, an industry consulting firm in Santa Ana, Calif. "The names on the plants are just changing." - Business Week (February, 2006)
In fact, as of this month, Japan now builds more cars in North America than General Motors. And they build an average new car in 18 hours, compared to GM's 20. Don't they hire the same workers as GM and Ford? (and pay nearly the same wage?) Why aren't Honda and Toyota laying off tens of thousands of employees?
The answer is simple. US companies spent the 1990s trying to recover from a legacy of producing poor quality automobiles, and they let innovation fall by the wayside. And on top of that, quality is still job #2. It's no wonder there isn't a single American car among Consumer Reports' top 10.
Passport, FP’s flagship blog, brings you news and hidden angles on the biggest stories of the day, as well as insights and under-the-radar gems from around the world.