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CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS, TRENDS & IDEAS

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The Precariat – When Insecurity Dominates

in Economics/Politics by

Only one in four people in the work force worldwide have a secure job with a permanent contract. The remaining three-quarters are employed “on temporary or short-term contracts, working informally without contract, self-employed, or in unpaid family jobs,” according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). As a graduate student, finding this out has done nothing to allay fears of becoming gainfully employed after graduating, although quite frankly, and perhaps more depressingly, the findings are not exactly surprising. The post-crisis era has seen a marginal recovery in some economies, but job creation is slow and the actual jobs being created are only designed for part-time employment. Temporary jobs, albeit inherently insecure, are not all bad; they are the first jobs people go into after graduating to get a foothold in their desired career. There used to be the expectation of guaranteed progress towards a more permanent position. These expectations are now laughable. The financial crisis has forced people who were laid off from these permanent positions to pick up whatever odd jobs they could find to support themselves—a step down from which it is still hard to recover from even now. This lack of security, combined with the lack of a…

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Israel’s Other Human Rights Catastrophe: The Negev Bedouin

in Human Rights/Law/Middle East/Politics by
Bedouin Israel Child

The plight of the Negev Bedouin continued as Israel’s Supreme Court recently ruled that the village of Umm al-Hiran would be destroyed and its inhabitants removed to make way for Israeli settlers. The NGO Human Rights Watch criticized the ruling, which also applied to a similar village in the West Bank, with its Middle East and Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson stating “The court decisions in the Umm al-Hiran and Susya cases ignore international law in upholding discriminatory evictions by the Israeli authorities in Israel and the occupied territories”.

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The Business of Death

in Asia/Business/Economics/Politics by

The Chinese life insurance market has grown exponentially since the start of the millennium. Now the fifth largest life insurance market globally, sales have risen from 98 billion yuan in 2000 to 994 billion yuan in the first half of 2014. What perhaps makes this feat more impressive is not only the speed at which the market has expanded, but also the success of being able to market such a product in a culture where discussing death used to be completely taboo. To understand what exactly happened here, we need to rewind the clock a bit, and add a little contextual color. Just as the phrase “to have a good life” can mean multiple things, “a good death” is equally as ambiguous. In the west, Christian cultures in particular view death as a promise (or threat) of an afterlife, depending on how you act during your earth-bound existence. In China, where Confucian values are heavily embedded into culture, the subject of death is rarely discussed mainly due to its ambiguity, and it is almost always negatively portrayed. As if mystifying it wasn’t enough, Taoist beliefs measure how good a death is based on its timing and nature—anything other than dying…

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Decentralization Process in Peru

in Latin America/Law/Politics by
Lima Peru City

Ideally the modern state is supposed to generate the necessary basic conditions for its citizen’s wellbeing and continuously improve its own systems in order to improve its citizen’s quality of living. The globally trending prescription to achieve these aims is decentralization and local governance. Several countries, such as Korea, Brazil, Thailand, Uganda, Indonesia, and Peru, among others, have all recently tried to strengthen local governments. In larger countries and countries with diverse populations, such as Peru, it is especially necessary to disseminate the central government’s power and authority to local and regional governments. In that way, each sub-government can communicate with citizens directly and can serve them faster and more efficiently. According to The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Peru has developed its GDP 5.2% in the past 10 years. In addition, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) shows an increased HDI rate from 0.67 in 2002 to 0.73 in 2012. However, the problem that Peru faces is that the development of the country did not happen evenly in each region, but is rather predominantly concentrated in Lima, the capital of the country and the location of the central government. It would…

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Something’s Rotten in Silicon Valley

in Business/Politics/US by
google campus sign

Silicon Valley has long been trumpeted as both the ideal and center of America’s entrepreneurial energies and business acumen. It has been an envious example for foreign governments, particularly in Asia, seeking to spur creativity and international success stories in their economy. Most recently, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to help small Japanese firms enter Silicon Valley in an attempt to help jumpstart the Japanese economy and promote its firms long term competitiveness. Beyond the economic capital Silicon Valley has generated among Americans, increasingly these firms are starting to command considerable domestic social and political capital. In the debate over net neutrality it was these tech firms that came out on the side of the “common man” that led to considerable positive coverage from bloggers on these companies. While Silicon Valley may be the shining exemplar of America’s best on the surface, lurking just below the warm shimmer is a growing rot that is going largely unnoticed. As Mark Ames of Pando Daily first uncovered, from 2005, Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt illegally agreed not to recruit each other’s employees, share compensation details, and to publish workers who violated these terms. As discovered by Ames, the agreement grew in scope to cover…

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Iran: Why Nuclear Weapons Made Sense

in Diplomacy/Middle East/Politics/Security/Technology by

The nuclear talks between Iran and the Six Powers have dominated headlines for the first week of April. After days of tense negotiations, a deadline extension, and flaring tempers, an agreed upon framework has finally emerged. And, unsurprisingly, there has been no shortage of critics. The more hawkish American and Israeli lawmakers voiced displeasure. Iranian hardliners found it inadequate. And both countries seem to be reporting different versions of the framework. And to top it all off, there still is no concrete deal in place. March 31st was only a soft deadline important to only the United States to placate the demands of its Congress. The negotiations are far from over and there’s plenty of work left to be done. Everyone understands the dangers of nuclear proliferation. More pointedly, everyone understands the dangers of a nuclear Iran. Thus far, the dominating narrative of Iran’s quest for nuclear capabilities is that of an aspiring regional hegemon capitalizing on the instability caused by the Syrian conflict, American interventionism, and the Arab Spring. This conjures up images of a state hell-bent on destruction making a mad grab for power. This is seriously lacking. This narrative does negotiators and the American public no favors…

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Lee Kuan Yew & The Curious Legacies of “Benevolent Dictators”

in Asia/Economics/Human Rights/Politics by

As has been widely reported in global media, the former prime minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew has passed away at the age of 91. Immediately following his passing, coverage of the conflicting nature of Singapore’s political system and the man responsible for it has proliferated. One of the most widely read is The Economist‘s piece which succinctly summarizes the phenomenal economic success that has come to represent Singapore. Lee remarkably was able to turn a tiny nation that had went through British and Japanese occupation in addition to being unceremoniously booted from its larger neighbor Malaysia, without fresh water or natural resources, into a global success story that has inspired many as a political and economic model. At the same time, Lee is also known for his decades-long (31 years as PM and 21 years as an advisor) authoritarian rule in Singapore. In addition to the famous tough definition and punishment of crimes, Lee also used defamation suits against those in the media and the opposition who opposed his rule. One recent point of criticism has been the way in which his family members have benefitted from their father’s position. His eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, can be considered the most prominent,…

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Rising Challenges for Urban Refugees Under Thai Military Junta

in Asia/Human Rights/Politics by

Images of elephant rides through the jungle, bustling markets, and sipping a Singha on a white sand beach are often what come to mind for tourists in Thailand. However, a growing number of foreigners are arriving in the country due to persecution rather than pleasure. Last year, the number of asylum seekers in Bangkok quadrupled. The majority of new arrivals are Christians and Shiite or Ahmadiyya Muslims from Pakistan who have fled targeted religious and ethnic attacks. In addition, a growing number of Syrian and Palestinian war refugees are choosing Thailand as a first country of refuge. Bangkok’s burgeoning asylum seeker population combined with stricter regulations of undocumented persons under the military run government has created an increasingly dire situation for some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Most urban asylum seekers arrive in Bangkok with a desire to gain official refugee status and then move on to a third country such as the U.S., Canada, or Australia. Thailand is a popular destination due to the relative ease of entering the country, the higher living standards compared with neighboring countries, and because it is home to the regional UN refugee agency headquarters. While life in Bangkok may be considered a…

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Coping with Demographic Realities: The Case of Kawane Village

in Asia/Politics by

Trends in urbanization are often accompanied by even more significant trends of depopulation in rural areas. Japan presents an extreme case in population changes as in addition to being an incredibly urbanized state; it has one of the lowest birthrates in the World. As a consequence, the care of the elderly who remain in rural areas is of growing concern. Efforts from the Japanese government to date have revolved around consolidating the small rural hamlets into larger administrative units. While this drastically improves the efficiency in fund allocation from a governmental standpoint, the services provided to the residents of these hamlets, who are overwhelmingly aged and vulnerable, has significantly decreased. Previously, funds were allocated to each individual hamlet and decisions on utilization were done on the basis of personal connections. After consolidation, the increased geographical distance of the officers from the citizens meant that those residents who needed services were often unable to promptly or adequately receive them. Consequently, self-organization has become a trending topic of research. Significant difficulty exists in implementation of self-organization however, as trends in urbanization have led to severe depopulation in rural communities. As a result, to date, successful examples of this self-organization in Japan have…

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How to Design a Truly Smart City

in Politics/Technology by

For hundreds of years, people have been flocking to cities where jobs, ideas, and wealth are generated. Cities have been perceived as a symbol of opportunities for success, attracting millions of youths and ambitious individuals every year. According to the United Nations’ projections, by 2050, the urban population will rise to almost 6.5 billion, and 64.1% of the developing countries and 85.9% of the developed countries will be urbanized. In response to rising urban population, some countries, such as China and India, have been spending heaps of money to build new cities for the accommodation of mounting city dwellers. Growing urbanization has caused several problems (e.g. environmental degradation, excessive energy consumption, and traffic congestion). City planners have selected Information Technology (IT) as a solution to some of the urbanization problems as well as a means to promote economic growth. Smart grids, for instance, have been installed to reduce the peak demand of electricity and to conserve energy. The Economist introduced a calculation, which states that if America’s power grid were only 5% more efficient, it would save the equivalent of the greenhouse-gas emissions of 53 million cars. Thomas L. Friedman also claims in his book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, that…

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