Posts Tagged ‘ Japan ’

Japan’s Disaster Toll Rises With 18,000 Deaths

By Eric Talmadge and Mari Yamaguchi for The Associated Press

The toll of Japan’s triple disaster came into clearer focus Monday after police estimates showed more than 18,000 people died, the World Bank said rebuilding may cost $235 billion and more cases of radiation-tainted vegetables and tap water turned up.

Japanese officials reported progress over the weekend in their battle to gain control over a nuclear complex that began leaking radiation after suffering quake and tsunami damage, though the crisis was far from over, with a dangerous new surge in pressure reported in one of the plant’s six reactors.

The announcement by Japan’s Health Ministry late Sunday that tests had detected excess amounts of radioactive elements on canola and chrysanthemum greens marked a low moment in a day that had been peppered with bits of positive news: First, a teenager and his grandmother were found alive nine days after being trapped in their earthquake-shattered home. Then, the operator of the overheated nuclear plant said two of the six reactor units were safely cooled down.

“We consider that now we have come to a situation where we are very close to getting the situation under control,” Deputy Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama said.

Still, serious problems remained at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex. Pressure unexpectedly rose in a third unit’s reactor, meaning plant operators may need to deliberately release radioactive steam. That has only added to public anxiety over radiation that began leaking from the plant after a monstrous earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan on March 11 and left the plant unstable. As day broke Monday, Japan’s military resumed dousing of the complex’s troubled Unit 4.

The World Bank said in report Monday that Japan may need five years to rebuild from the catastrophic disasters, which caused up to $235 billion in damage, saying the cost to private insurers will be up to $33 billion and that the government will spend $12 billion on reconstruction in the current national budget and much more later.

The safety of food and water was of particular concern. The government halted shipments of spinach from one area and raw milk from another near the nuclear plant after tests found iodine exceeded safety limits. Tokyo’s tap water, where iodine turned up Friday, now has cesium. Rain and dust are also tainted.

Early Monday , the Health Ministry advised Iitate, a village of 6,000 people about 30 kilometers (19 miles) northwest of the Fukushima plant, not to drink tap water due to elevated levels of iodine. Ministry spokesman Takayuki Matsuda said iodine three times the normal level was detected there — about one twenty-sixth of the level of a chest X-ray in one liter of water.

In all cases, the government said the radiation levels were too small to pose an immediate health risk.

But Tsugumi Hasegawa was skeptical as she cared for her 4-year-old daughter at a shelter in a gymnasium crammed with 1,400 people about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the plant.

“I still have no idea what the numbers they are giving about radiation levels mean. It’s all so confusing,” said Hasegawa, 29, from the small town of Futuba in the shadow of the nuclear complex. “And I wonder if they aren’t playing down the dangers to keep us from panicking. I don’t know who to trust.”

All six of the nuclear complex’s reactor units saw trouble after the disasters knocked out cooling systems. In a small advance, the plant’s operator declared Units 5 and 6 — the least troublesome — under control after their nuclear fuel storage pools cooled to safe levels. Progress was made to reconnect two other units to the electric grid and in pumping seawater to cool another reactor and replenish it and a sixth reactor’s storage pools.

But the buildup in pressure inside the vessel holding Unit 3’s reactor presented some danger, forcing officials to consider venting. The tactic produced explosions of radioactive gas during the early days of the crisis.

“Even if certain things go smoothly, there would be twists and turns,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters. “At the moment, we are not so optimistic that there will be a breakthrough.”

Growing concerns about radiation add to the overwhelming chain of disasters Japan has struggled with since the 9.0-magnitude quake. The resulting tsunami ravaged the northeastern coast. All told, police estimates show more than about 18,400 died. More than 15,000 deaths are likely in Miyagi, the prefecture that took the full impact of the wave, said a police spokesman.

“It is very distressing as we recover more bodies day by days,” said Hitoshi Sugawara, the spokesman.

Police in other parts of the disaster area declined to provide estimates, but confirmed about 3,400 deaths. Nationwide, official figures show the disasters killing more than 8,600 people, and leaving more than 12,800 people missing, but those two lists may have some overlap.

The disasters have displaced another 452,000, who are living in shelters.

Fuel, food and water remain scarce. The government in recent days acknowledged being caught ill-prepared by an enormous disaster that the prime minister has called the worst crisis since World War II.

Bodies are piling up in some of the devastated communities and badly decomposing even amid chilly rain and snow.

“The recent bodies — we can’t show them to the families. The faces have been purple, which means they are starting to decompose,” says Shuji Horaguchi, a disaster relief official setting up a center to process the dead in Natori, on the outskirts of the tsunami-flattened city of Sendai. “Some we’re finding now have been in the water for a long time, they’re not in good shape. Crabs and fish have eaten parts.”

Contamination of food and water compounds the government’s difficulties, heightening the broader public’s sense of dread about safety. Consumers in markets snapped up bottled water, shunned spinach from Ibaraki — the prefecture where the tainted spinach was found — and overall expressed concern about food safety.

Experts have said the amounts of iodine detected in milk, spinach and water pose no discernible risks to public health unless consumed in enormous quantities over a long time. Iodine breaks down quickly, after eight days, minimizing its harmfulness, unlike other radioactive isotopes such as cesium-137 or uranium-238, which remain in the environment for decades or longer.

High levels of iodine are linked to thyroid cancer, one of the least deadly cancers if treated. Cesium is a longer-lasting element that affects the whole body and raises cancer risk.

Rain forecast for the Fukushima area also could further localize the contamination, bringing the radiation to the ground closer to the plant.

Edano tried to reassure the public for a second day in a row. “If you eat it once, or twice, or even for several days, it’s not just that it’s not an immediate threat to health, it’s that even in the future it is not a risk,” Edano said. “Experts say there is no threat to human health.”

No contamination has been reported in Japan’s main food export — seafood — worth about $1.6 billion a year and less than 0.3 percent of its total exports.

Amid the anxiety, there were moments of joy on Sunday. An 80-year-old woman and her teenage grandson were rescued from their flattened two-story house after nine days, when the teen pulled himself to the roof and shouted to police for help.

Other survivors enjoyed smaller victories. Kiyoshi Hiratsuka and his family managed to pull his beloved Harley Davidson motorcycle from the rubble in their hometown of Onagawa. The 37-year-old mechanic said he knows it will never work anymore. “But I want to keep it as a memorial.”

 

Pray for Japan

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

It has been a week, and as we see this disaster in Japan continuing to unfold, I wonder if we will notice and apply how these events or some other catastrophe which could befall us and affect us in our own daily lives. Maybe some people have related the events in Japan of the last week to their own life, but for many others, it is entirely possible that for them, the events in Japan are too far away and do not personally touch them in anyway to be relatable.

We are far too guilty of thinking to ourselves that Japan, or Haiti, or Pakistan or Egypt or Libya are far away from here. These events do not affect me or any of my loved ones. Why should I have such a personal stake in events in countries and places so far away that will never affect me?

Will we finally see that all this is impermanent? Will we learn to care about our planet and our fellow human beings? Will we finally learn to be proactive about these things? Or will we wait till these disasters become all too real and unmanageable before we wake up from our slumber?
We pray that we will all wake up and participate in the healing of our precious and only earth and all her inhabitants before it is too late. We pray that the people of the world realize that we all share this beautiful, small blue planet and that what affects one, affects all us mankind. We pray that we are all less selfish and more selfless in regards to our fellow man. And we pray that regardless of your religious and personal beliefs that you will please pray for Japan in their time of need.

Pakistan Expresses “Total Solidarity and Support” to Quake, Tsunami-hit Japan

As Reported by Asian News International

Pakistan has expressed its “total solidarity and support” to the government and people of Japan in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the country on Friday.

“We are deeply shocked over the terrible news of the strong earthquake and tsunami that has hit Japan. At this time of great trial, I wish you to know that the Government and people of Pakistan stand with you and the Japanese people in total solidarity and support,” President Asif Ali Zardari said in his condolence message to Emperor Akihito of Japan.

“Our profound sympathy and condolences to all those who lost their loved ones. Pakistan stands ready to provide any assistance to help our Japanese friends overcome the effects of this enormous natural calamity,” he added.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani also expressed solidarity with the Japanese government and its people.

In a message to his Japanese counterpart Naoto Kan, Gilani said: “We stand ready to help, in any manner, to alleviate the suffering and assist our Japanese friends to overcome effects of this terrible natural calamity.”

Japan’s 8.9 Earthquake “Historic” says Geophysicist

By Caroline Kyungae Smith for The Chicago Tribune

“Japan’s earthquake will be considered a great quake,” said Dale Grant, a geophysicist with the US Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. “Japan has never seen this before.”

Any quake above an 8 in magnitude is considered a great quake, Grant said. Damage can span from hundreds to thousands of miles.

The quake was centered about 80 miles east of Japan.

A few days earlier, Japan was hit with a 7.2 earthquake that many are saying was the precursor to today’s quake, he said.

“A 7.2 quake has 80 or 90 times less energy than an 8.9 quake,” he said.

As of 3 a.m., there were at least 12 aftershocks following the earthquake, with the highest aftershocks measuring 7.1 and 6.8, Grant said.

“This is what we’d expecte from an 8.9 earthquake.”

The greater concern is the tsunami that was triggered by the quake, he said. “Tsunamis can travel up to 450 miles per hour,” he said.

“Warnings have been issued for the Hawaiian Islands,” he said. “We’ll probably see an impact.”

The biggest earthquakes in recent history occurred last year in Chile at 8.8 and in 2004 in Indonesia at 9.1, Grant said.

How to Restore the American Dream

By Fareed Zakaria for Time

The American dream for me, growing up in India in the 1970s, looked something like the opening credits of Dallas. The blockbuster TV series began with a kaleidoscope of big, brassy, sexy images — tracts of open land, shiny skyscrapers, fancy cars, cowboy businessmen and the very dreamy Victoria Principal. We watched bootlegged copies of the show, passed around on old Betamax cassettes. America (certainly the CBS soap-opera version of America) seemed dazzling and larger than life, especially set against the stagnant backdrop of India in the 1970s. Everyone I knew was fascinated by the U.S., whether they admitted it or not. Politicians who denounced the country by day would go home in the evenings and plot to send their kids to college in “the States.”

Of course, the 1970s were actually tough times in America — stagflation, malaise, the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate — but they were brutal in the rest of the world. Hyperinflation racked most third-world countries; coups and martial law were familiar occurrences, even affecting staunchly democratic India, where emergency rule was enforced from 1975 to 1977. Set against this atmosphere of despair, the U.S. looked like a shining city on a hill.

A few years later, when I got to America on a college scholarship, I realized that the real American Dream was somewhat different from Dallas. I visited college friends in their hometowns and was struck by the spacious suburban houses and the gleaming appliances — even when their parents had simple, modest jobs. The modern American Dream, for me, was this general prosperity and well-being for the average person. European civilization had produced the great cathedrals of the world. America had the two-car garage. And this middle-class contentment created a country of optimists. Compared with the fatalism and socialist lethargy that was pervasive in India those days, Americans had a sunny attitude toward life that was utterly refreshing.

But when I travel from America to India these days, as I did recently, it’s as if the world has been turned upside down. Indians are brimming with hope and faith in the future. After centuries of stagnation, their economy is on the move, fueling animal spirits and ambition. The whole country feels as if it has been unlocked. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the mood is sour. Americans are glum, dispirited and angry. The middle class, in particular, feels under assault. In a Newsweek poll in September, 63% of Americans said they did not think they would be able to maintain their current standard of living. Perhaps most troubling, Americans are strikingly fatalistic about their prospects. The can-do country is convinced that it can’t.

Americans have good reasons to worry. We have just gone through the worst recession since the Great Depression. The light at the end of the tunnel is dim at best. Sixteen months into the recovery, the unemployment rate is higher than it was in the depths of all but one of the postwar recessions. And as government spending is being pared back, the economy is showing new signs of weakness.

Some experts say that in every recession Americans get gloomy and then recover with the economy. This slump is worse than most; so is the mood. Once demand returns, they say, jobs will come back and, with them, optimism. But Americans are far more apprehensive than usual, and their worries seem to go beyond the short-term debate over stimulus vs. deficit reduction. They fear that we are in the midst of not a cyclical downturn but a structural shift, one that poses huge new challenges to the average American job, pressures the average American wage and endangers the average American Dream. The middle class, many Americans have come to believe, is being hollowed out. I think they are right.

Going Global
For a picture of the global economy, look at America’s great corporations, which are thriving. IBM, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Intel and Caterpillar are all doing well. And they share a strategy that is becoming standard for success. First, technology has produced massive efficiencies over the past decade. Jack Welch explained the process succinctly on CNBC last September. “Technology has changed the game in jobs,” he said. “We had technology bumping around for years in the ’80s and ’90s, and [we were] trying to make it work. And now it’s working … You couple the habits [of efficiency] from a deep recession [with] an exponential increase in technology, and you’re not going to see jobs for a long, long time.” Welch gave as an example a company owned by the private-equity firm with which he is affiliated. In 2007 the business had 26,000 employees and generated $12 billion in revenue. It will return to those revenue numbers by 2013 but with only 14,000 employees. “Companies have learned to do more with less,” Welch said.

Next, companies have truly gone global. The companies on the S&P 500 generate 46% of their profits outside the U.S., and for many of the biggest American names, the proportion is much higher. You might think of Coca-Cola as the quintessentially American company. In fact it is a vast global enterprise, operating in 206 countries. “We have a factory in Ramallah that employs 2,000 people. We have a factory in Afghanistan. We have factories everywhere,” explains Muhtar Kent, the CEO of Coke. Nearly 80% of Coca-Cola’s revenue comes from outside the U.S., and an even greater percentage of its employees are in foreign countries. “We are a global company that happens to be headquartered in Atlanta,” says Kent.

America’s great corporations access global markets, easy credit, new technologies and high-quality labor at a low price. Many have had to cut jobs at home, where demand is weak, and have added them in the emerging markets that are booming. They are not “outsourcing” jobs. That word makes little sense anymore. They simply invest in growth areas and cut back in places where the economy is weak. None of them will ever give up on the American market — it is too large, too profitable and too central to their businesses — but the marginal dollar is more likely to be invested abroad than in the U.S.

While businesses have a way to navigate this new world of technological change and globalization, the ordinary American worker does not. Capital and technology are mobile; labor isn’t. American workers are located in America. And this is a country with one of the highest wages in the world, because it is one of the richest countries in the world. That makes it more difficult for the American middle-class worker to benefit from technology and global growth in the same way that companies do.

At this point, economists will protest. Historically, free trade has been beneficial to rich and poor. By forcing you out of industries in which you are inefficient, trade makes you strengthen those industries in which you are world-class. That’s right in theory, and it has been right in practice. As countries have traded with one another over the past two centuries, they have prospered, and average living standards in those countries (primarily in the Western world) have soared. Those places that kept themselves protected (mostly communist and third-world nations) found that they had crappy industries, shoddy goods, massive corruption and slow growth.

And yet something feels different this time. Technology and globalization are working together at warp speed, creating a powerful new reality. Many more goods and services can now be produced anywhere on the globe. China and India have added literally hundreds of millions of new workers to the global labor pool, producing the same goods and services as Western workers at a fraction of the price. Far from being basket-case economies and banana republics, many developing economies are now stable and well managed, and companies can do business in them with ease. At some point, all these differences add up to mean that global competition is having quite a new impact on life in the U.S.

Two weeks ago, for example, I sat in a Nano, the revolutionary car being produced by Tata Motors in India. It’s a nice, comfortable midgetmobile, much like Mercedes-Benz’s Smart car, except that rather than costing $22,000, it costs about $2,400. Tata plans to bring it to the U.S. in two to three years. Properly equipped with air bags and other safety features, it will retail at $7,000. Leave aside the car itself, whose price will surely put a downward pressure on U.S. carmakers. Just think about car parts. Every part in the Nano is made to global standards but manufactured in India at about a tenth of what it would cost in America. When Ford orders its next set of car parts, will they be made in Michigan or Mumbai?

This is not a hypothetical. Steven Rattner, who helped restructure the automobile industry, tells the story of getting a new General Motors plant online in Michigan by bringing management and unions together. “The unions agreed to allow 40% of the new plant to operate at $14-an-hour wages,” he says, “which is half of GM’s normal wages. The management agreed to invest in this new plant. But here’s the problem: workers at GM’s Mexican operations make $7 an hour, and today they are as productive as American workers. And think of this: $14 an hour translates into about $35,000 a year. That’s below the median family income. The whole experience left me frightened about the fate of the American worker.”

Alan Blinder is also worried. A distinguished economist and Princeton professor, Blinder is a former vice chairman of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve. In a now famous essay in Foreign Affairs, he argues that while we recognize the pressures placed on manufacturing jobs by international competition, technology ensures that service jobs are now similarly exposed. Since the service sector is a much larger part of the economy, Blinder estimates that 28 million to 42 million jobs will be “susceptible” to being shipped offshore — jobs such as customer-service representative and stock analyst, which we tend to think of as local. Blinder understands the benefits of free trade but worries that the new wave of offshoring is so big and fast that Western societies will have difficulty adjusting. The crucial distinction for the future, he argues, might be not between highly educated and less educated workers but between those jobs that can be done abroad and those — such as nurse or pilot — that cannot.

You can divide the American workforce in many ways, but any way you slice it, you see the same trend. People who get paid a decent wage for skilled but routine work in manufacturing or services are getting squeezed by a pincer movement of technology and globalization. David Autor, an MIT economist, has done an important study on what he calls “the polarization of job opportunities” in America. Autor finds that job growth divides neatly into three categories. On one side are managerial, professional and technical occupations, held by highly educated workers who are comfortable in the global economy. Jobs have been plentiful in this segment for the past three decades. On the other end are service occupations, those that involve “helping, caring for or assisting others,” such as security guard, cook and waiter. Most of these workers have no college education and get hourly wages that are on the low end of the scale. Jobs in this segment too have been growing robustly.

In between are the skilled manual workers and those in white collar operations like sales and office management. These jobs represent the beating heart of the middle class. Those in them make a decent living, usually above the median family income ($49,777), and they mostly did fine in the two decades before 2000. But since then, employment growth has lagged the economy in general. And in the Great Recession, it has been these middle-class folks who have been hammered. Why? Autor is cautious and tentative, but it would seem that technology, followed by global competition, has played the largest role in making less valuable the routine tasks that once epitomized middle-class work.

Recapturing the Dream
So what is the solution? It’s easier to identify the wrong answer than the right one. It would be pointless and damaging to try to go down a protectionist route, though polls show a stunning drop of support for free trade, even among college-educated professionals, its usual cheerleaders. But technology is a much larger driver of the hollowing out than trade. You cannot shut down this new world. How would you stop people from sending one another e-mails, which is what a lot of offshoring comes down to these days? Nor can you help a modern economy by shielding industries from world-class competitors, which just encourages greater inefficiency. I grew up in an economy made up of those kinds of industries, all tightly protected from “foreign exploitation and domination.” It added up to stagnation and backwardness.

There are solutions, but they are hard and involve painful changes — in companies, government programs and personal lifestyles. For more than a generation, Americans have been unwilling to make these adjustments. Instead, we found an easier way to goose the economy: expand consumption. During the early 1950s, personal consumer expenditures made up 60% to 65% of the U.S.’s GDP. But starting in the early 1980s, facing slower growth, we increased our personal spending substantially, giving rise to new economic activity in the country. Consumption grew to 70% of GDP by 2001 and has stayed there ever since. Unfortunately, this rise in consumption was not triggered by a rise in income. Wages have been largely stagnant. It was facilitated, rather, by an increase in credit, so that now the average American family has no fewer than 13 credit cards. Household debt rose from $680 billion in 1974 to $14 trillion in 2008. This pattern repeated itself in government, except on a much larger scale. People everywhere — from California to New Jersey — wanted less taxes but more government. Local, state and federal governments obliged, taking on massive debts. A generation’s worth of economic growth has been generated by an unsustainable expansion of borrowing.

That is why the current economic debate between another stimulus and deficit reduction is frustrating. Right now, there is a strong case for government stimulus, since no one else is doing much spending. But then what? What happens after another year of federal spending? Consumers still might be cautious; do we really want them to spend like they did in the old days? Is the strategy simply to reinflate the housing bubble? In recent years, the left and the right in America have conspired in feeding consumption spending. The left expands government, much of which means more consumption (pensions, health care). The right focuses obsessively on tax cuts, which have a similar effect. The political system, pandering to today’s constituents, encourages both tendencies. But when will we invest for our children’s economy?

What We Need to Do Now
Ultimately American jobs are created from the bottom up by companies, not from the top down by government fiat. But there are measures we can take that will encourage the process. Here are the key ones:

Shift from consumption to investment. Fundamentally, America needs to move from consumption to investment. Everyone agrees that the best way to create good jobs in the U.S. is to create new industries and companies and to innovate within old ones. This means large investments in research, technology and development. As a society, this needs to become our strongest focus.

Despite substantial increases and important new projects under the Obama Administration, the federal government is still not spending as much on R&D as a percentage of GDP as it did in the 1950s. I would argue that it should be spending twice that level, which would be 6% of GDP. In the 1950s, the U.S. had a huge manufacturing base that could absorb millions of semiskilled workers. Today, manufacturing is a small part of the economy and faces intense global competition. The only good jobs that will stay in the U.S. are jobs related to knowledge and innovation. Additionally, in the 1950s, America was the only research lab in town, accounting for the vast majority of global scientific spending. Today, countries around the world are entering the arena. Two weeks ago, South Korea — a country of just 50 million people! — announced plans to invest $35 billion in renewable-energy projects. We should pay for this with a 5% national sales tax — call it an American innovation tax — which would be partly offset by a small reduction in income taxes. This would have the twin benefits of tamping down consumption and yielding some additional funds. All the proceeds from the tax should be focused on future generations, because we need to invest massively in growth.

The often overlooked aspect of investment is investment in people. America has been able to create the future in large measure because it has tapped into the energies and work of immigrants. It has managed to invest in human capital by taking smart, motivated people from around the globe, educating them in the planet’s best higher-education system and then unleashing them in a dynamic economy. In this crucial realm, the U.S. is now disinvesting. After training the world’s best and brightest — often at public expense — we don’t find ways to make sure they stay here by giving them a green card but rather insist that they leave and take their knowledge to another country, where they will invent, inspire, build and pay taxes. Every year, we send tens of thousands of the smartest Indians and Chinese back home, which is a great investment — in the future of those countries.

Training and education. “Most jobs that will have good prospects in the future will be complicated,” says Louis Gerstner, the former CEO of American Express and IBM. “They will involve being able to juggle data, symbols, computer programs in some way or the other, no matter what the task. To do this, workers will need to be educated and often retrained.” We need more and better education at every level, especially job retraining. So far, most retraining efforts in the U.S. have not worked very well. But they have worked in countries that have been able to retain a manufacturing base, like Germany and parts of Northern Europe. There, some of the most successful programs are apprenticeships — which cover only 0.3% of the total U.S. workforce.

There are advantages to the U.S. system. We don’t stream people too early in their lives, and we allow for more creative thinking. But the path to good jobs for the future is surely to expand apprenticeship programs substantially so industry can find the workers it needs. This would require a major initiative, a training triangle in which the government funds, the education system teaches and industry hires — though to have an effect, the program would have to be on the scale of the GI Bill.

Fiscal sanity. To pay for such initiatives, the government needs to get its house in order. The single most important aspect of this is getting health care costs under control, followed by other entitlement programs, especially pensions at the state level. Government today spends vast sums of money on current consumption — health care and pensions being a massive chunk of it — which leaves little money for anything else. We need a radical rebalancing of American government so it can free up resources to fund future growth.

Benchmark, benchmark, benchmark. There is now global competition for growth, which means the U.S. has to constantly ask itself what other countries are doing well and how it might adapt — looking, for example, at what other countries are doing with their corporate tax rates or their health care systems and asking why and where we fall short. Americans have long resisted such an approach, but if someone else is doing tax policy, tort litigation, health care or anything else better, we have to ask why.

There are things the U.S. does well. Most new jobs in America are created by start-ups and small companies, so the ease of doing business is crucial — and there’s good news there. The World Bank has a ranking of countries measured by the “ease of doing business,” and the U.S. is No. 4. That’s very good, but there’s a catch. Those rankings are divided into several categories. In most, like “starting a business,” the U.S. does well. But in one category it’s only 61st in the world, and that is “paying taxes.”

The American tax code is a monstrosity, cumbersome and inefficient. It is 16,000 pages long and riddled with exemptions and loopholes, specific favors to special interests. As such, it represents the deep, institutionalized corruption at the heart of the American political process, in which it is now considered routine to buy a member of Congress’s support for a particular, narrow provision that will be advantageous for your business.

The Work Ahead
My proposals are inherently difficult because they ask the left and right to come together, cut some spending, pare down entitlements, open up immigration for knowledge workers, rationalize the tax code — and then make large investments in education and training, research and technology, innovation and infrastructure. But the fact that it is a solution that crosses political borders should make it more palatable, not less. And time is crucial. The U.S. has considerable advantages, but every day other countries try to find ways to attract growth within their borders. People often note that America’s political system is broken. Perhaps the truth is more awkward: America needs radical change, and it has an 18th century system determined to check and balance the absolute power of a monarchy. It is designed for gridlock at a moment when quick and large-scale action is our only hope.

When I left India, the marginal tax rate was 97.5%, corporate taxation was punitive, and business was stifled or went underground. Were I to move from New York City to Mumbai today, my personal tax rate would drop, as would every other rate, from corporate to capital-gains taxes. (The long-term capital-tax rate in India is zero.) Singapore now ranks as the No. 1 country for ease of doing business, with a top tax rate of 20%. I know permanent residents working in the U.S. who are thinking of giving up their green cards to move to Singapore. To an Indian of my generation, this would have been unthinkable. The green card was a passport to the American Dream. But for young Indians, there are many new dreams out there, and new passports.

But there are reasons for optimism. The U.S. faces huge challenges, but it also has enormous advantages. “I’ve always been bullish on America,” says Coke’s Kent. “It’s the largest, richest market in the world. Look at the demographics alone. North America is the only part of the industrialized world that will be growing in people. It now has a higher birthrate than Mexico, for the first time in history.” Or listen to Alcoa’s German-born Klaus Kleinfeld, previously the head of Siemens: “I know the things that America has that are unique. The openness, the diversity, the dynamism — you don’t have it anywhere else. If you keep all these things, build on them, I still believe in the American Dream.”

The term American Dream was coined during the Great Depression. The historian James Truslow Adams published The Epic of America in 1931, in an atmosphere of even greater despair than today’s. He wanted to call his book The American Dream, but his publishers objected. No one will pay $3.50 for a book about a “dream,” they said. Still, Adams used the phrase so often that it entered the lexicon. The American Dream, he said, was of “a better, richer and happier life for all our citizens of every rank, which is the greatest contribution we have made to the thought and welfare of the world. That dream or hope has been present from the start. Ever since we became an independent nation, each generation has seen an uprising of ordinary Americans to save the American Dream from the forces which appear to be overwhelming it.”

Today, those forces really do look overwhelming. But challenges like them have been beaten back before — and can be again.

Fareed Zakaria is a journalist, author and host of his show on CNN. His special Restoring the American Dream: A Fareed Zakaria GPS Special will air on CNN at 9 p.m. E.T. and P.T. on Saturday, Oct. 30, and at 10 a.m. E.T. and P.T. on Sunday, Oct. 31.

Playboy Son of Norh Korean Leader Raps Succession Plan

By Anita Chang for The Assoicated Press

BEIJING – The casino-loving eldest son of North Korea’s Kim Jong Il — once tipped to succeed him before trying to sneak into Japan to go to Disneyland — says he opposes a hereditary transfer of power to his youngest half-brother.

It’s the first public sign of discord in the tightly choreographed succession process, though analysts said Kim Jong Nam spends so much time outside his native land that his opinion carries little weight.

The chubby 39-year-old Kim, the oldest of three brothers who were in the running to take over secretive North Korea, is the closest thing the country has to a playboy.

Unlike many of his countrymen back home who lack the resources and connections to travel overseas, Kim travels freely and spends much of his time in China or the country’s special autonomous region of Macau — the center of Asian gambling with its Las Vegas-style casinos.

He sports the family pot belly and favors newsboy caps and an unshaven face, while frequenting five-star hotels and expensive restaurants. In June, he was photographed in Macau wearing blue Ferragamo loafers.

Speaking in Korean, he told Japan’s TV Asahi, in an interview from Beijing aired late Monday and Tuesday, that he is “against third-generation succession,” but added, “I think there were internal factors. If there were internal factors, (we) should abide by them.”

“I have no regrets about it. I wasn’t interested in it and I don’t care,” Kim said, when asked whether he is OK with the succession plan.

Kim said he hopes his brother will do his best to bring abundance to the lives of North Koreans and that he stands ready to help from abroad, according to a dubbed Japanese-language version of his remarks.

Kim Jong Un, believed to be 26, appeared with his father at Pyongyang celebrations on Sunday marking the 65th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party, saluting troops marching past in a massive military parade and waving to the crowd. The appearance was less than two weeks after he was named to a top political post and promoted to four-star general.

Andrei Lankov, a Russian expert on North Korea at Seoul’s Kookmin University, said Kim Jong Nam’s remarks were “almost a challenge,” but noted he has little influence due to the considerable time he spends abroad and lacks military support.

“I don’t see them rallying to Kim Jong Nam,” he added, emphasizing that key generals who run the military far prefer Kim Jong Un, who they see as young, inexperienced and thus easy to control.

Kim Jong Il is known to have three sons — one from his second wife and two from his third. He favors his youngest, Jong Un, who looks and is said to act like his father, according to the leader’s former sushi chef. He studied at a Swiss school and learned to speak English, German and French, news reports have said.

In contrast, Kim often derided the middle son, Jong Chul, as “girlish,” the chef, who goes by the pen name Kenji Fujimoto, said in a 2003 memoir. Little is publicly known about the brother, except that he also studied in Switzerland and is a fan of U.S. professional basketball.

Jong Nam is widely believed to have fallen out of favor after embarrassing the government in 2001 by being caught trying to enter Japan on a fake passport, saying he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

Experts said Kim Jong Nam will most likely continue living abroad, with fewer reasons than ever to return to Pyongyang.

“In the future Kim Jong Nam will have little influence on the political situation in North Korea. It’s very unlikely he will go back. His force within the country is now almost nonexistent,” said Cai Jian, deputy director of the Center for Korean Studies in Shanghai’s Fudan University.

China and India: Contest of the Century

As reported by The Economist

A HUNDRED years ago it was perhaps already possible to discern the rising powers whose interaction and competition would shape the 20th century. The sun that shone on the British empire had passed midday. Vigorous new forces were flexing their muscles on the global stage, notably America, Japan and Germany. Their emergence brought undreamed-of prosperity; but also carnage on a scale hitherto unimaginable.

Now digest the main historical event of this week: China has officially become the world’s second-biggest economy, overtaking Japan. In the West this has prompted concerns about China overtaking the United States sooner than previously thought. But stand back a little farther, apply a more Asian perspective, and China’s longer-term contest is with that other recovering economic behemoth: India. These two Asian giants, which until 1800 used to make up half the world economy, are not, like Japan and Germany, mere nation states. In terms of size and population, each is a continent—and for all the glittering growth rates, a poor one.

Not destiny, but still pretty important

This is uncharted territory that should be seen in terms of decades, not years. Demography is not destiny. Nor for that matter are long-range economic forecasts from investment banks. Two decades ago Japan was seen as the main rival to America. Countries as huge and complicated as China can underachieve or collapse under their own contradictions. In the short term its other foreign relationships may matter more, even in Asia: there may, for instance, be a greater risk of conflict between rising China and an ageing but still powerful Japan. Western powers still wield considerable influence.

So caveats abound. Yet as the years roll forward, the chances are that it will increasingly come down once again to the two Asian giants facing each other over a disputed border (see article). How China and India manage their own relationship will determine whether similar mistakes to those that scarred the 20th century disfigure this one.

Neither is exactly comfortable in its skin. China’s leaders like to portray Western hype about their country’s rise as a conspiracy—a pretext either to offload expensive global burdens onto the Middle Kingdom or to encircle it. Witness America’s alliances with Japan and South Korea, its legal obligation to help Taiwan defend itself and its burgeoning friendships with China’s rivals, notably India but also now Vietnam.

This paranoia is overdone. Why shouldn’t more be asked from a place that, as well as being the world’s most-populous country, is already its biggest exporter, its biggest car market, its biggest carbon-emitter and its biggest consumer of energy (a rank China itself, typically, contests)? As for changing the balance of power, the People’s Liberation Army’s steady upgrading of its technological capacity, its building of a blue-water navy and its fast-developing skills in outer space and cyberspace do not yet threaten American supremacy, despite alarm expressed this week about the opacity of the PLA’s plans in a Pentagon report. But China’s military advances do unnerve neighbours and regional rivals. Recent weeks have seen China fall out with South Korea (as well as the West) over how to respond to the sinking in March, apparently by a North Korean torpedo, of a South Korean navy ship. And the Beijing regime has been at odds with South-East Asian countries over its greedy claim to almost all of the South China Sea.

India, too, is unnerved. Its humiliation at Chinese hands in a brief war nearly 50 years ago still rankles. A tradition of strategic mistrust of China is deeply ingrained. India sees China as working to undermine it at every level: by pre-empting it in securing supplies of the energy both must import; through manoeuvres to block a permanent seat for India on the United Nations Security Council; and, above all, through friendships with its smaller South Asian neighbours, notably Pakistan. India also notes that China, after decades of setting their border quarrels to one side in the interests of the broader relationship, has in recent years hardened its position on the disputes in Tibet and Kashmir that in 1962 led to war. This unease has pushed India strategically closer to America—most notably in a controversial deal on nuclear co-operation.

Autocrats in Beijing are contemptuous of India for its messy, indecisive democracy. But they must see it as a serious long-term rival—especially if it continues to tilt towards America. As recently as the early 1990s, India was as rich, in terms of national income per head. China then hurtled so far ahead that it seemed India could never catch up. But India’s long-term prospects now look stronger. While China is about to see its working-age population shrink (see article), India is enjoying the sort of bulge in manpower which brought sustained booms elsewhere in Asia. It is no longer inconceivable that its growth could outpace China’s for a considerable time. It has the advantage of democracy—at least as a pressure valve for discontent. And India’s army is, in numbers, second only to China’s and America’s: it has 100,000 soldiers in disputed Arunachal Pradesh (twice as many as America will soon have in Iraq). And because India does not threaten the West, it has powerful friends both on its own merits and as a counterweight to China.

A settlement in time

The prospect of renewed war between India and China is, for now, something that disturbs the sleep only of virulent nationalists in the Chinese press and retired colonels in Indian think-tanks. Optimists prefer to hail the $60 billion in trade the two are expected to do with each other this year (230 times the total in 1990). But the 20th century taught the world that blatantly foreseeable conflicts of interest can become increasingly foreseeable wars with unforeseeably dreadful consequences. Relying on prosperity and more democracy in China to sort things out thus seems unwise. Two things need to be done.

First, the slow progress towards a border settlement needs to resume. The main onus here is on China. It has the territory it really wants and has maintained its claim to Arunachal Pradesh only as a bargaining chip. It has, after all, solved intractable boundary quarrels with Russia, Mongolia, Myanmar and Vietnam. Surely it cannot be so difficult to treat with India?

That points to a second, deeper need, one that it took Europe two world wars to come close to solving: emerging Asia’s lack of serious institutions to bolster such deals. A regional forum run by the Association of South-East Asian Nations is rendered toothless by China’s aversion to multilateral diplomacy. Like any bully, it prefers to pick off its antagonists one by one. It would be better if China and India—and Japan—could start building regional forums to channel their inevitable rivalries into collaboration and healthy competition.

Globally, the rules-based system that the West set up in the second half of the 20th century brought huge benefits to emerging powers. But it reflects an out-of-date world order, not the current global balance, let alone a future one. China and India should be playing a bigger role in shaping the rules that will govern the 21st century. That requires concessions from the West. But it also requires commitment to a rules-based international order from China and India. A serious effort to solve their own disagreements is a good place to start.

The Pakistan America Peace Through Music Project

A Musical Journey to Peace, Freedom and Understanding
(A Collaboration of The Sonic Peace Makers and SHINE HUMANITY)

The following information in this article is taken from the Peace Through Music webpage on Global Giving at:  http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/peace-through-music/  

Peace Through Music (#5719)

Mention Pakistan today and what comes to the minds of most Americans is terrorism, poverty, and hopelessness. That’s all they see in the news. But Pakistan also has one of the world’s most diverse and rich cultures, equaled only by its spectacular natural beauty as home to part of Kashmir, the Khyber Pass and high mountain peaks like K2. Once upon a time in the not so distant past, Texan gun enthusiasts brought their prized antique revolvers to Peshawar’s gun smiths to make copies, actor Robert DeNiro posed for pictures with restaurant owners while vacationing in Chitral, and Mick Jagger tested his dance skills with Lahore’s most well-known Mujra dancers. And many of Pakistan’s greatest musicians and singers like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan regularly collaborated with their counterparts in Europe and America such as Peter Gabriel and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder.

Two decades ago, we failed to uphold our principles and fulfill a moral obligation to help rebuild Afghanistan and assist Pakistan with the painful aftermath of the Soviet-Afghan war, which included millions of Afghan refugees who still reside in Pakistan. In stark contrast, we helped rebuild our enemies Germany and Japan after WWII, but inexplicably abandoned our friends after the war in Afghanistan, a key factor in allowing extremists to begin their destructive swarm across Afghanistan and Pakistan’s western frontier and become a grave threat to the security and stability of the entire world. But today, while the wounds are deep and the challenges are great, the forces of light and sonic harmony are again on the ascendance. Pakistan today is home not just to 11 music video channels and has one of the most innovative and vibrant music scenes anywhere in the world. A country that has produced some of the greatest sitar and tabla players is today home of some of the finest singers, guitar shredders and drummers. Music pioneers like Junoon, the godfathers of “Sufi Rock,” are joined by Qawwali rockers like Mekaal Hasan and Aaroh, indie projects like Peshawar’s Sajid and Zeeshan, and Heavy Metal innovators like Akash and Karavan. In recent years Atif Aslam has become the most successful Pop singer in all of South Asia with a growing following world-wide.

The Pakistan America Peace Through Music Project was inspired by the work of Greg Mortenson (author of the bestseller “Three Cups of Tea” and “Stones Into Schools”) and is based, among other things, on world music pioneer Manu Dibango’s declaration that musicians are “all from the same tribe” regardless of their race, nationality or religion and John Coltrane’s belief in the power of music to spread peace and harmony. Building on the millennia-long tradition of musical and cultural exchange in Pakistan and South and Central Asia more broadly, we will bring a group of leading musicians from the U.S. to Pakistan led by guitarist/producer Lanny Cordola (House of Lords, Giuffria, The Beach Boys), drummer/producer Matt Sorum (Guns ‘n’ Roses, Velvet Revolver), singer/guitarist Todd Shea and many others for a month long musical caravan throughout the country, creating and performing with some of Pakistan’s most well known, talented and innovative artists such as Atif Aslam, Shehzad Roy, Strings, Arieb Azhar, Abda Parveen, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, Rustam Fateh Ali Khan, Beo Rana Zafar and celebrated record producer Rohail Hyatt (Vital Signs, Coke Studio). The inspiring poetry of Allama Iqbal and other revered poets will be prominently featured as an artistic and cultural base for the musical collaboration. Later on in the year, the Pakistani musicians will come to the U.S. for performances and events joined by their American comrades (including members of Guns ‘n’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc.), which will also include time for more song writing and recording. Both the Pakistani and American “legs” of the gathering will be filmed for a documentary. The music and film will then be completed and released for sale on CDs & DVDs.

Goals
The project’s goals will be to bring Americans and Pakistanis closer together by erasing misconceptions and raising awareness of the diversity and beauty of Pakistan and its people, ultimately revealing the commonalities between Pakistani/Muslim and American cultures, to show Americans the Pakistan they never see in the mainstream media and to support Pakistan’s courageous artistic community, as well as raise funds and awareness to help establish and equip music schools and fund innovative health and education projects across Pakistan and Afghanistan. Once the initial project has been released, the music will continue with a series of collaborations with musicians and artists from all over the world to bring people together and help people in need.

Help bring people from all over the world closer together through a musical journey designed to erase misconceptions and build bridges of Peace and understanding between Human Beings.
Go to http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/peace-through-music and donate to the project.

More Information About this Project
Project Needs and Beneficiaries
SHINE Humanity and The Sonic Peacemakers need your support to help raise the funding needed to produce, record, film and document musical collaborations between singers and musicians from all over the world to promote peace and support humanitarian aid projects.

Activities
Musical fusion and celebration of diverse cultures will erase misconceptions and raise funding which will lead to a lasting positive effect on vulnerable children in developing nations, and help create a better, safer world for all Humanity

Funding Information
Total Funding Received to Date: $9,620
Remaining Goal to be Funded: $490,380
Total Funding Goal: $500,000

Why this Project is Important
Potential Long Term Impact

Project Message
“Music has incredible power to inspire and energize Human Beings to bridge divides and create a better world”
– Todd Shea, Chief Operating Officer

Who is Running This Project
Contact
Todd Shea
Executive Director
8020 N. Nob Hill Road
#201
Tamarac, FL 33321
Pakistan
Email: toddshea@cdrspakistan.org

Project Sponsor
GlobalGiving
Organization
Comprehensive Disaster Response Services
Chikar Rural Health Center
Chikar, Dist. Muzaffarabad 131000
Pakistan
011-92-300-502-9705
http://www.ShineHumanity.org

Additional organizations worthy of your donations
http://www.penniesforpeace.org/
http://www.ikat.org/

Full-Body Security Scanners Scrapped at Dubai Airports, Officials Say the Device “Contradicts Islam”

By Aliyah Shahid for The NY Daily News

Forget about London and France — in Dubai, airport screeners won’t be able to see your underpants.

Dubai police said full-body security scanners will not be used at the airports because the devices do not correspond with national customs and ethics, according to local press reports on Tuesday.

The scanners “contradict Islam,” said Ahmad Mohammad Bin Thani, head of airport security. He said the idea was scrapped”out of respect for the privacy of individuals and their personal freedom.”

The scanners will be replaced with other inspection systems that protect passengers’ privacy, Thani said. He told the Gulf News that police are considering the use of face-recognition cameras.

Recently, American officials have been encouraging use of the full-body scanners.

Authorities say the scanners could have stopped a Nigerian man who planted explosives in his underwear in an attempt to bring down a plane bound for the U.S. last Christmas.

Several European countries have tested the technology, including the Netherlands, Britain and France. South Korea and Japan have begun test programs.

But the machines have remained controversial. Critics have argued the scanners violate passenger privacy by producing”naked” pictures and liken the procedure to”virtual strip searches.”

%d bloggers like this: