Hunger on April Food Day

Writing about hunger today on April Food Day, inspired by Ari Herzog. His main concern is this charity, Feeding America. Although I have seen with my own eyes that also America has its share of extreme poverty, malnutrition seems to be a much bigger problem than hunger and with equally devastating short- and long term consequences. If you enter their homepage and click on the real-life stories, the pictures illustrate my point. A good deal of these people, apparently suffering from hunger, are obese. So, they are not hungry, but malnourished. I find that, from checking on their homepage, they don’t focus enough on nutrition and have no statistics to tell us whether it’s possible to buy enough healthy food for the family with the same amount of money that these families clearly spend on food with no nutritional value.

Honestly, I don’t have anything to say on the subject of hunger that others haven’t already expressed much better than I ever could. So below I’m linking to a few filmed speeches (from TED) and posts/websites, which touch on this subject in original and intelligent ways. Enjoy!

The first is Eleni Gabre-Madhin, who works for the International Food Policy Research Institute.

This one is two years old and doesn’t specifically address hunger. But if you take the time (just under 20 min.) you’ll be rewarded with some of the most amazing statistics you’ve ever seen AND with data about the developing world, which is actually uplifting. The Swedish statistics genius Hans Rosling:

On a much less optimistic note is an article from NYT about hunger in India – a much overlooked problem, because other parts of India are developing fast and it’s a democratic country.

Hunger as weapon. Andrew Sullivan in the Daily Dish blog on the Atlantic. Really, really horrible!

In the American Foreign Affairs magazine (often much more interesting than the title suggests) there’s an article by an Oxford economist, with whom I do not agree at all. He promotes large scale farming to solve the hunger problem, mainly in Africa. To offset his claims read the reply from employees of the World Bank.

Finally some links to organisations that focus on hunger. Action Against Hunger focuses on sustainable solutions to the world’s hunger crises. The One organisation is the one founded by Bono. I know you’re supposed to think that he’s a selfrighteous prick, but I actually think that he’s chosen to do something worthwhile with his fame and his money. So there…

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To eat meat or not, is that really the question?

Tech:

This is an absolutely brilliant post by a young PR wizard about technophobia. Particularly addressing privacy issues, something I often find myself discussing with people. This young man addresses it very well. It was Jesse Newhart who twittered about him.

Google seems to be headed towards semantic search. Well explained on Mashable.

Another PR guy who knows what he’s talking about is Brian Solis. Check out his blog. He’s come up with this model of how online conversation is taking place – if you look at the prism directly on Flickr you can see Solis’ notes by moving the cursor. Quite brilliantly done. Thanks  to Gabs for pointer.

Model from Brian Solis Flickr page.
Model from Brian Solis' Flickr page.

Politics:

I like watching 24 on the telly, it’s highly addictive. But I often think to myself that the show in almost every episode indicates that torture gives results, although all research shows that it doesn’t. People will say just about anything to be freed of the pain. This guy clearly hasn’t revealed anything of any interest to anyone, but that didn’t keep the US back from holding him imprisoned in Guantanamo for almost five years… it’s so embarrassing for the free world that we’re complicit in this!

Quite a few Twitterers have pointed to Newswipe, a new programme on the BBC, and – having just finished watching it on the Iplayer – I must say it’s just fantastic! The middle part about the power of the PR agencies over the oh-so-slack media is saddeningly sobering. Likewise the last bit about a tiny demonstration, which was blown completely out of proportion by the media.

News about one of my Most Hated Organisations. NRA. Obama, don’t let them get away with it!

Feminism:

Do you love or hate chick flicks? A rather learned article on the subject. Including some depressing figures about women in the film biz.

Food:

Oh, please give me something to do that doesn’t have a downside to it? The newest environmental fad, which I’m also following, is to eat less meat. An article on BBC News tells me that that’s not an altogether good thing to be promoting, since people in the developing world need the protein they get from their livestock. The article is sort of made to look like there are two conflicting views here, but I don’t really think there are! No doubt all of us in the West could benefit from eating less meat? Healthwise and environmentally? That doesn’t mean we’re aiming at stopping African herders from eating their cattle!? Come on!

Science:

How the brain tends to switch off completely when put in front of a so-called expert. Avoid them, I say!

Ever wondered what’s on the other side of the planet? Literally? Wonder no more. For me? Ocean. Pointer from Sheamus.

Scientists are getting closer to finding the cause(s) of the demise of the honey bee. Good news, eh? Then we just need to do something about it!

Environment:

An article in Newsweek has this question:

How do you keep people interested in green initiatives and saving the environment at a time when people are concerned about their jobs?

That seems like such a silly thing to ask, when the vast majority of things you can do yourself for the environment is about being frugal? The article is interesting enough though, since it tries to answer the overlying question, which is whether there’s political will in a time of recession to invest heavily in the environment.

Growing hemp could be one of the answers to Newsweek’s question.

Where not otherwise indicated the above links are found via my own RSS feeds or via the busy, busy Nerdnews on Twitter.

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GOP response to Obama's speech in Congress

At the time when Obama’s package was coming together, I looked high and low for an alternative. All the republicans could say was: Lower taxes. Here’s a speech now, which is hailed as the Republican Party’s response to the rescue package – why they voted no. It’s delivered by the Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

A word of warning – I haven’t counted (don’t have time), but I do believe he says “Americans can do anything” more than 20 times… The above Youtube video is only the first part of the speech. If you’re not completely nauseated when you’ve sat through that bit, jump to Youtube to see the other half.

Notice his interesting reference to Hurricane Katrina (he is from Louisiana, after all). Bureaucracy was why the help went haywire, he says. Hm. And then there’s the ever-present tax cuts. The Republicans cut taxes for eight years, consistently. Example: Those who made $1 million/year got a tax relief of $53,000. And those who made $20,000 a year got a $375 tax relief. When Bush came into office, it was with a $237 billion surplus. When he left, it was with a deficit hovering around $1 trillion.

Only after 10 minutes does governor Jindal acknowledge that the Republicans didn’t quite live up to all his blabber, when they were in office. But that’s HISTORY now, he says. Now the Republicans WILL cut bureaucracy and government. And they will work towards bi-partisanship, as long as the Democrats will cut bureaucracy and government. I wont comment on what he says about the American healthcare system. Listen to it yourself… Towards the end of the speech he says something else that sounded a bit strange to my ears. He said “Americans won the struggle for civil rights”. ‘Scuse me, but since it was a STRUGGLE and since no other nations were involved, it must have been some Americans who won over some other Americans?

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Random kindness and other kindnesses and randomnesses

I subscribe to a rather charming newsletter about digital photography and related subjects called Photojojo, recommended to me by a family member, who owns this site. Today the Photojojo newsletter had a very cheerful and Fridayish story. A geek who’d left his computer behind and had gone hiking found a Sony digital camera at the bottom of a river. It was completely rusted, but the (self-confessed) geek took it home to see if he could rescue the memory-card and thus maybe return the photographs to their rightful owner. He made a blog about it and after only one week, the rightful owner was found. See that’s a nice story. There are actually kind and considerate people out there, isn’t that nice to know? It turns out that there (why didn’t we just guess that?) is a website dedicated to finding the owners of lost cameras/photos. See it here and make use of it if you ever find a camera or buy a “new” memory-card with pictures on it, as apparently a number of people have tried.

Another random note comes here: A really good search tip, which as an almost-information pro I should have known, is that you can use Google’s superior search to find stuff on large websites with less superior search functions. Read about it here in PC World. I WARMLY recommend it. I quickly tried to do a search on PC World itself both ways. It works miraculously!

Here’s a story from Financial Times. I don’t know whether it should make you laugh or cry. It’s about a host of abandoned luxury cars in Dubai’s international airport with keys in the ignitions and maxed out credit cards in the glove compartments… The pointer came from Marginal Revolution.

As I’ve mentioned previously Alex Tabarrok from Marginal Revolution is a TED speaker this year. He tells about his experience and also brags a little (I would too!!!!!!) about having met and talked to Peter Gabriel. He recommends Gabriel’s website, which empowers the powerless, Witness.

One of the three TED prize winners was a person and a project that I’ve previously written about here. José Antonio Abreu and his El Sistema. Briefly explained, El Sistema uses music to drag poor children out of poverty. It originated in Venezuela, but has since been succesfully exported to other countries. I can only approve. LOUDLY! Viva Music!

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Money for nothing

is a song I hate. It’s so playing up to the little man’s envy or whatever you call it. But that was what I thought of when I read this article in the Washington Post.

18 billion $ have been paid out to Wall Street financiers over the last few months. In Merrill Lynch, the article tells us, where bonuses are usually paid out in January, they hurried to pay out 3-4 mill. $ in bonuses in December, before they were taken over with billions in debts. That’s 9 zeros. 000000000. Or 000.000.000. In sterling that’s around 5.6 billion. Let’s split that up in brand new cars. Brand new envy-inspiring cars.

Audi Q7
Audi Q7

Are you ready? App. 307,000 of these lovely cars. I don’t even think Audi produces that many Q7s! (They are around 41,000£ each). Hm. That’s still too big a number to really sink in! Let’s try with houses.

5 bedroom house in Richmond - a very attractive neighbourhood just outside London
5 bedroom house in Richmond - a very attractive neighbourhood just outside London

OK. The above house sells at £2,1 million. Let’s say we get it at the bargain price of £2 million. So the Wall Street guys – don’t know exactly how many people split the 18 billion, but a safe bet is that it’s definitely more than one Audi per head – can get 6,300 houses like this.

I’m actually not at all against bonuses and rewards for high performances. What I’m deadset against though is when bonuses are paid for doing an appallingly bad job or for serving the share-holders’ short term interests (which are sometimes not at all beneficial to the company) rather than the company’s AND the shareholders’ long term interests.

Added 4/2: Capac alerted me to a wrong link to the above mentioned Washington Post article. It is now mended. The wrong link was actually to a pretty funny article – it’s here and it’s not about money but about Iphone apps…

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Sunshine promotes optimism

Here, where I am, the sun peaks out now and then and there’s that smell, you know, of earth outside. And I found a few snowdrops, just outside our front door!

Snowdrops in January.
Snowdrops in January.

In Davos the sun has also been out and one of my favourite BBC reporters, their financial guy Robert Peston has interviewed Richard Branson. Branson is virtually brimming with optimism! I couldn’t embed this video, but just click here.The clip is 5 minutes long.

This article (also BBC) describes one of the “secret” meetings in Davos, where some of the economists who’ve been predicting this crisis for quite a while were gathered. The interesting bit of course was to hear if they had any predictions as to the length and gravity of the crisis. Nothing super-soothing, but they did agree that the crisis will not deepen into a depression like the one in the 30ties with unemployment rates around 25%. They attribute this to the governmental packages, which I wrote about yesterday.

These economists (Crunch Cassandras, as the BBC so charmingly has named them) who turned out to have well functioning crystal balls are quite interesting. One of them has written a book, which I’ve had on my Amazon wishlist for quite a while. Now I’ve moved it up in the world – into my shopping basket… Nassim Taleb is his name, the book is called The Black Swan. His homepage is highly unusual and well worth a visit.

Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University, has been preaching gloom for years and has suffered ridicule among his peers. One might say that this year’s Davos is his vindication. The last of the three is a controversial historian, Niall Ferguson. I don’t quite know what to make of him…

Well, enough economy, cake baking next. It’s Friday is it not?

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If it looks like a bank and quacks like a bank…

we’ve got to capitalize it as a bank,” Lord Turner said.

This is MY money...
This is MY money...

It’s a quote from this article on CNBC, which briefly explains the ideas behind the bank rescue packages both here in the UK and in the US. The heart of the matter is the so-called Bad Bank (just Google it if you want to have it explained). I kind’a like that term ;-)

Here’s a few video-clips from Davos, the World Economic Forum. One of them is with Rupert Murdoch, who not surprisingly is against the rescue package. I don’t know if he explains the alternatives later on in his speech (apart from a quick little war (another one?) to get the wheels spinning), but I’m still looking through blog-posts, news articles, video clips etc. to find a viable alternative.

Here’s a syndication of comments to the package, divided into YES, it will work & NO, it won’t work. I’ve read through the first four of the Nos, but apart from BIGGER TAX CUTS, there are no alternative solutions in sight. Am I looking in the wrong places? Please direct me to somewhere, where I can read in clear an understandable language, what would be a good and viable alternative to the stimulus packages, which are now under way on both sides of the Atlantic.

Here’s the British Conservative Party’s idea of an economic rescue package. Tax breaks seem to be the answer here as well!

Here, in the Financial Times, Martin Wolf explains why the packages should be bigger and how a lot of other measures must also be taken into use, if the US is to overcome its financial woes. The article is quite a mouthful – i stumbled over the word deleverage several times…

If you hear speeches from Davos, you’ll also hear “the Swedish model” mentioned. It is explained here and here, where Tyler Cowen raises doubts as to whether it could work in the US and also whether it’s as good as they say.

Here’s cable news directly from Davos, if you want to delve into the speeches. And as you could expect, the New York Times Davos blog is excellent. That’s also where I found a reference to this clip. I think it more or less speaks for itself…

(It’s Michael Dell who asks the question)

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Economy for dummies

Here’s something every television station should broadcast. An easy-to-understand explanation of the credit crisis:

This talented guy is up there with BBC’s Robert Peston when it comes to educate the masses on these complicated matters. As almost always with things economic, it was Marginal Revolution with the pointer.

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Blog rounds

Before I start my round I want to complain! About you! I can see from my statistics that I have a steadily (okay, ever so slowly) growing group of readers. But so few of you ever bother to comment on my posts? Now, this last post about the Nobel Laureates. Honestly, a good chunk of you must be avid readers like me. So you must also have an opinion of one or more of the last 48 years of Nobel prize winners?

Anyway, that was that out of the way. Marginal Revolution points to an article in a magazine for people with excess money to spend – these guys and gals are very sorry for themselves presently, because they’ve lost money. Some of them big money. The magazine is called Portfolio and the writer Felix Salmon. There’s a great quote:

If you’re running an insolvent bank, and you get a slug of equity from Treasury, your shareholders will thank you if you use that equity to take some very large risks. If they pay off and you make lots of money, then their shares are really worth something; if they fail and you lose even more money, well, there was never really any money for them to begin with anyway.

The Chief Happiness Officer points to this job advert. One of the best I’ve ever seen!

Creative Commons photo found on Flickr.

On Squattercity we can read that the authorities’ reluctance to legalise squat dwellings can lead to uncontrollable fires, death and homelessness. When a fire starts and there are no fire hydrants, there’s not much to be done! The article is about a fire in a squatter city outside Durban, SA. 2000 people were made homeless.

Kevin Kelly, the Internet guru, writes a post that instantly got my attention. He calls it The Expansion of Ignorance. Good title, eh? It’s about how the amount of information, patents and knowledge is growing ever more rapidly. But what’s growing more than the answers is the questions! Which of course leads to his conclusion:

we have not yet reached our maximum ignorance.

And here’s something else to raise your eyebrows: Ezra Klein points to this editorial in the Los Angeles Times (a newspaper, btw, named as “liberal” by some of my Texan family). The editorial advocates a no to a proposal for a new law in the state of California, which will

“…require that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.”

The editorial recommends a NO. Because otherwise the state will loose its egg business…

It’s late and I’m tired, having just read a long but very rewarding article in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s been a while since I read anything new by him, but rumour has it that he has a new book out this autumn. The article is about prodigies vs. late bloomers. He focuses on late bloomers and explains the misconceptions we have about their lives and talent. His protagonist is the writer (who I’m afraid I’d never heard of, but who must now go on my Amazon wishlist) Ben Fountain. Gladwell writes fabulously – that alone should make you read the article. But if you’re also interested in what makes an artist an artist and why some geniuses might never bloom, you really MUST read it!

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Are we saved by the bell?

Oh my, a lot of water under the bridge since my last post. It’s certainly a fast-moving world we live in! Reading it now I can see that my previous post could sound like I am like those “staunch Republicans” who weren’t in favour of any intervention at all. But I am, just didn’t like Paulson’s original plan. I still don’t love the plan, but then, who does? There  was a great quote in the New York Times the other day from a Texan Republican. He said that voting for the plan would be voting yes to “the slippery slope to socialism”. HA! That’s so funny!

Here’s the article and here’s the full quote:

Early in the House debate, Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, said he intended to vote against the package, which he said would put the nation on “the slippery slope to socialism.” He said that he was afraid that it ultimately would not work, leaving the taxpayers responsible for “the mother of all debt.”

Today the Congress has luckily come to their senses and they’ve voted yes. So maybe all the Wall Street hysterics can calm down a little and realise that our society can’t really function if we can’t borrow money from each other. I thought those guys coveted Capitalism! But it’s probably only when the money flows into their pockets. Isn’t it funny how the state is always supposed to bail out banks in trouble? Who’s ever heard of banks easing the terms or lowering the rent a little to help out the state in a pinch?

On a related subject a friend posted a great video on Facebook the other day – it’s Sarah Palin explaining the bailout plan. It’s hilariously funny. If you can decipher what she’s actually saying (or what she means for that matter), please post it in a comment. On Supreme Court decisions, here’s her first answer. And here’s her answer after a couple of days of intense rehearsals. Impressive. But is it coherent?

A kind person has made a 10 minute version of last night’s vice-presidential debate with extra emphasis on all the gaffes. See it here. We’ve recorded the whole thing and when I’ve finished this post, I’ll go watch it with my husband. Better than any movie! But – before we get carried away I’ve found a very useful site. About.com has apparently taken over Urban Legends. That doesn’t make the site any less great. I WARMLY recommend it whenever you hear something or read something that has a bit of a false ring to it – or if it’s just too good to be true. Anyway, they’ve collected all the stories floating around the web about Sarah Palin and tells us which ones are true and which ones aren’t.

And now I need to go sit in the sofa. I’m so full! Made pizza tonight and ate too much. Also made a nice carrot cake. Will I find room for it?

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The bailout

Here’s the latest news on the development from Forbes. Both congress and senate seem to be dragging their feet.

And I think that’s a good thing. I’ve decided that there is probably more of a libertarian in me than I’d thought. I read through Paulson’s plan when it was first launched, long and dead-boring as it was. And I just couldn’t agree with the man. I haven’t read Dodd‘s counter plan, but had it explained here.

Here’s a couple of good quotes that pretty much sum up my feelings on the matter:

Tyler Cowen, professor of economics and prominent writer, explains the difference between the two plans:

Think of a barrel of apples, some good, some less good.  To oversimplify, the Paulson plan has the government buy some of the bad apples.  The Dodd plan has the government buy a 20 percent share in the barrel.  In both cases government buys something.

He points to this letter signed by a host of economists:

As economists, we want to express to Congress our great concern for the plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson to deal with the financial crisis. We are well aware of the difficulty of the current financial situation and we agree with the need for bold action to ensure that the financial system continues to function. We see three fatal pitfalls in the currently proposed plan:

1) Its fairness. The plan is a subsidy to investors at taxpayers’ expense. Investors who took risks to earn profits must also bear the losses.  Not every business failure carries systemic risk. The government can ensure a well-functioning financial industry, able to make new loans to creditworthy borrowers, without bailing out particular investors and institutions whose choices proved unwise.

2) Its ambiguity. Neither the mission of the new agency nor its oversight are clear. If  taxpayers are to buy illiquid and opaque assets from troubled sellers, the terms, occasions, and methods of such purchases must be crystal clear ahead of time and carefully monitored afterwards.

3) Its long-term effects.  If the plan is enacted, its effects will be with us for a generation. For all their recent troubles, America’s dynamic and innovative private capital markets have brought the nation unparalleled prosperity.  Fundamentally weakening those markets in order to calm short-run disruptions is desperately short-sighted.

For these reasons we ask Congress not to rush, to hold appropriate hearings, and to carefully consider the right course of action, and to wisely determine the future of the financial industry and the U.S. economy for years to come.
 

In today’s New York Times there are several good articles and an interesting op-ed. The Economix blog, economy writer Vikas Bajaj‘s very informative piece “Plan’s mystery (…)”

And there’s another thing that I can’t help thinking about. What about the US’ economy in general? If this bail-out goes through, half the American economy will be based on loans in foreign currency. Most of it in yuan (Chinese money). Is that better than having some banks and some mortgage brokers go under?

Here’s a quote from BBC:

Ballooning state debt: The plan would swell the budget deficit, which could fuel inflation, economists warn (Mr Paulson has asked to raise state borrowing to $11.3 trillion, from $10.6 trillion).

A picture of Meg Ryan from The Women? Oh no! No pictures of face-lifted women on my blog. So here’s cute George. Picture borrowed from Styletraxx.

OK, some of you would probably much rather know what I thought of the film The Women, which I saw yesterday. Well, it stinks! I remember being pleasantly surprised by The Devil Wears Prada, which I watched on one of the long-hauls on our trip. Entertaining, funny and with a bit of bite. This one was/had neither. And tooooo looooong! My fingers were literally cutting through the air in some scenes… So, don’t go there. But I saw trailers for two films that I’m longing to see: Brideshead Revisited (oh, how we swooned in front of the TV, when the series was shown in the 80’s!). And the new Coen Brothers film. I’ve seen all their films and I just looove them… and George Clooney ;-)

PS: You’ll want to be wary of the above Wikipedia links (economy). All the articles are highly controversial. So – if you want to go in-depth with any of this, seek other sources as well.

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How to…

I think I read about this wonderful site in The Times, but can’t be sure, it’s a while ago.  Go spend some time there. Check the film about sleeping comfortably with your partner. And to the new (or old as it is) owners of Iphones there are also helpful films. Send a link to the people you know who claim they can’t cook.

And – speaking of food: What did you have for dinner tonight? Anything interesting? Wholesome? Satisfactory? Not? Well, I did for once. That’s the awful thing about holidays. Either you eat out expensively and it is (or at least should be) enjoyable. Or you eat out inexpensively and it is rarely enjoyable, rarely healthy, rarely anything other than filling! Or you make something quickly at home, because it’s the holidays and you can’t be bothered to cook. Or at least that’s how it is for me. And it’s stupid really, because when else do you have this much time to cook a wonderful meal?

It can’t be sushi every day…

Back to what we had for dinner: Couscous mixed with lightly fried vegetables, sundried tomatoes, apricots, pinenuts and coriander. Fried scallops on top. Quickly made, tasted lovely and there’s more in the fridge. Why is it that I don’t pull myself together and make something simple yet wholesome like that more often? Too frequently I fall back to the good old meat, potatoes & 2 veg. Fine. But BORING and often too expensive. Tomorrow night a friend is coming for dinner, so I’ll cook a proper dinner. Will report back to you…

Here’s a couple of websites I go to, when I’m drained of inspiration but still haven’t given up: Epicurious, I think the biggest on the web. They have a section called Quick & Easy. Good Housekeeping and Sainsbury’s are behind Love your Leftovers. Quite good! Then there’s the Recipe of the Day from the New York Times. But that’s not exactly for your Monday night with the family. Good inspiration though! And I can recommend How to Cook like your Grandmother. Fabulous, when the elderly relatives come for dinner. Very untrendy and ever so American is Every Day with Rachel Ray – 30 minutes recipes. But they do work and they do take 30 minutes to prepare.

Finally a little jab about the credit crunch. Oh, I do feel sorry for the young families who can’t get a mortgage. And even more so for those who got one, but can’t renew it. And yes, we can also feel the rise of the petrol prices and food prices. But dear friends – relax a little. Unemployment rates are not skyrocketing, inflation is not exactly worrying and it’s not like the banks are rolling over in death cramps. So why not just take the opportunity to ask ourselves an extra time before we buy anything, whether it’s really something we need or which will make us truly happier? And I think I’ll start buying groceries weekly at Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s and have them delivered. That way I have to plan meals better and will use less petrol.

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