As various reports on progress in Iraq are discussed by the US administration The Economist offered a briefing on Strategy in Iraq. You may browse Waiting for the general (and a miracle) America agonises over the pitfalls of staying in Iraq – and of leaving. This table sums up the dire situation, and, yet again, underlines the need for a more enlightened approach.
Dynamic new French President Nicolas Sarkozy has added his voice to the calls for education reform. Like those of Gordon Brown and his team in the UK change is desired. Sarkozy sent a 30 page letter to teachers to catalyse change. The Economist notes his laments:
not enough respect or authority in the classroom (pupils, he says, should stand up when the teacher enters); too little value placed on the teaching profession; too little art and sport in the curriculum; too much passive rote-learning; and too much “theory and abstraction”. France, the president concludes, needs “to rebuild the foundations” of its education system.
It is good that education method and infrastructure is reviewed and improved, but it will be a challenge to actually make changes simply because the incumbent system is inflexible and pedagogists have little agreement on how to enhance methods. Sarkozy’s intentions are, however, in the right direction. We reiterate our support of natural education systems (such as those espoused by J. H. Pestalozzi 200 years ago) which encourage emotional intelligence at primary level and expand to cognitive intelligences in secondary; encourage experiential learning; include ethics and values as part of the curriculum in all subjects; and start with personal focus expanding to local, then regional, global and universal perspectives.
I’ve always taken issue with closed environments like office buildings, airports, hotels and conference arenas. Invariably the first noticeable thing on entering them is teh whiff of chemistry. Its either materials used, cleaning agents or just stagnant, fetid air. It slows down life and in some cases can cause more sever ailments. BusinessWeek offers a primer on the problems and solutions for turning a sick office in to a healthy one. Perhaps it will help you improve your lifestyle.
This report by The Ecologist is an eye opener, even for the eco-aware. It describes the banana industry today through the supply chain from plantations, with virtual slavery and toxic chemical use, through the monopolistic supply chain to the supermarket. The author points out “As the pursuit of competitive production has fuelled the race for minimal social and environmental standards, it is inevitable that those at the very bottom of the supply chain will ultimately pay for ‘economy’ foods, through their health and the environment”.
In the UK, bananas are now the single biggest profit-making item sold by supermarkets, with Tesco generating an average £800,000 profit every week from banana sales alone! Just four retailers – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – currently account for 70% of all banana sales in the UK. This represents over one million individual sales every week, which should be used as a vote for Fairtrade alternatives. Next time you buy your breakfast banana please make it fairtrade, or diet.
The Columbia Program on International Investment and the Economist Intelligence Unit published World Investment Prospects to 2011: Foreign Direct Investment and the Challenge of Political Risk. The report contains the first authoritative data on FDI flows for 2006 and forecasts flows until 2011, with 2007 set for a new record. It pays special attention to the rise of FDI protectionism and regulatory risk. Download pdf of the World Investment Prospects to 2011 report.
A special report by Ethical Corp Magazine summarises the global weight of junk food marketing aimed at children. This revealing article is peppered with data on this billion dollar advertising niche and offers some links with more advice.
I came across a recent compilation of presentations from various events entitled Integrity: A Positive Model that Incorporates the Normative Phenomena of Morality, Ethics, and Legality (page down to find link to full study). The authors present a positive model of integrity that provides powerful access to increased performance for individuals, groups, organizations, and societies. They note that integrity is thus a factor of production as important as knowledge and technology, however its role in productivity has been largely ignored by economists and others. Their model reveals the causal link between integrity and increased performance and value-creation, and provides access to that causal link. The point: honesty is good business.
BusinessWeek reviews Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of The Unconscious which discusses the science cited behind the bestseller Blink. The book helps understand how and why intuition works, but perhaps fails to elaborate on associated processes that help it work well – like being well informed. The social profile in which the scenarios work also offers insight in to the sheep mentality of consumer behaviour. Importantly it helps the reader come closer to merging their emotional and intellectual intelligences.
Carlyle, the large successful private equity firm, has always been a cause for concern because its claim to excellence at its inception a decade ago was the raft of politicians on its board. The New York Post revealed recently that it paid $12.3 million in fees to a company tied to former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s top political consultant. Carlyle, which invests $1.3 billion for the state pension fund, paid the fees to Searle & Co., of Greenwich, Connecticut, from 2003 through 2006, when Hevesi served as comptroller. Apparently the fees were “in connection with Hank Morris’ work as a placement agent related to [state pension-fund] investments”. Searle, is not the medical company which was run by Rumsfeld which “lobbied” for approval of aspartame, but a small financial-service firm headed by Robert Searle, a longtime personal friend of Morris. Morris has been employed by Searle since 2003. Connections and behaviour like this do not depreciate the value of Carlyle, which is expected to launch an IPO soon. Investors prefer conflicted connections to integrity.
Here is a link to the consultation report by Sir David Walker on the UK private equity industry: Disclosure and Transparency in Private Equity. It offers a profile of the current industry and recommends guidelines for improving transparency. It does not focus on tax treatment, though there are implications for this.
Ethical Corp magazine reviews it here.
The consultation response period ends 9 October.