Ours to Master

Our challenge is to see in technology both today’s instruments of employer control and the preconditions for a post-scarcity society.

By Peter Frase, Jacobin, March, 2015

Is Google making us stupid? Is Facebook making us lonely? Are robots going to steal our jobs? These, it seems, are the anxieties that afflict many today.

Capitalism is defined by the drive to maximize profits, and one of the surest paths to that goal has always been reducing the cost of wage labor. Hence, the constant push to increase productivity through new production techniques, automation, and now computerization and robotization.
Read more...

First Expert Meeting on the Implementation of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022)

UNESCO, Paris, France, March 24-25, 2015

The Action Plan for the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures was adopted by UNESCO's Executive Board in April 2014 and approved by the UN General Assembly in December 2014. Its implementation will be the focus of an Expert meeting at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 24 and 25 March 2015.

Being the lead agency of the United Nations system for the Decade, UNESCO is called upon to mobilize different actors to set the basis for promoting mutual understanding conducive to the harmonious coexistence between peoples and countries.

This expert meeting takes on a special meaning today, with international news crystallizing a significant rise of intolerance and extremism, based on tensions and challenges of the management of cultural diversity and intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
Read more...

Thomas Piketty on the Euro Zone: ‘We Have Created a Monster’

An Interview with Thomas Piketty taken by Julia Amalia Heyer and Christoph Pauly, Spiegel, March 10, 2015

SPIEGEL: You publicly rejoiced over Alexis Tsipras' election victory in Greece. What do you think the chances are that the European Union and Athens will agree on a path to resolve the crisis?

Piketty: The way Europe behaved in the crisis was nothing short of disastrous. Five years ago, the United States and Europe had approximately the same unemployment rate and level of public debt. But now, five years later, it's a different story: Unemployment has exploded here in Europe, while it has declined in the United States. Our economic output remains below the 2007 level. It has declined by up to 10 percent in Spain and Italy, and by 25 percent in Greece.

SPIEGEL: The new leftist government in Athens hasn't exactly gotten off to an impressive start. Do you seriously believe that Prime Minister Tsipras can revive the Greek economy?

Piketty: Greece alone won't be able to do anything. It has to come from France, Germany and Brussels. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) already admitted three years ago thatthe austerity policies had been taken too far. The fact that the affected countries were forced to reduce their deficit in much too short a time had a terrible impact on growth. We Europeans, poorly organized as we are, have used our impenetrable political instruments to turn the financial crisis, which began in the United States, into a debt crisis. This has tragically turned into a crisis of confidence across Europe.
Read more...

Escaping Economic Orthodoxy in Latin America: “I Think on the Whole the Departure has been a Success.”

An interview with Ha-Joon Chang, a co-author of the “22 Ideas to Fix the World”, on the region’s alternatives to the Washington Consensus, NACLA, March 4, 2015

In the 80s and 90s, all the Latin American countries followed the Washington Consensus policy and throughout those decades Latin America hardly grew at all—despite all the promises that if you follow these policies you’ll grow fast and foreigners will invest.
Read more...

Venezuela - a Threat?

By Chandra Muzaffar, March 14, 2015

The most absurd political pronouncement of 2015 was made on March 9.

The US President issued an Executive Order that declared “a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela …” A White House spokesman explained that Venezuela was a threat because of “Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption…” He further asserted that these officials will not be welcome in the US, “and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of US financial systems.” Seven individuals have been targeted by the White House. There have been other sanctions against Venezuelan officials and citizens in the past.

So far the US has not provided any tangible evidence of how Venezuelan officials have violated human rights or indulged in public corruption. Its reckless allegations have been effectively refuted by the Caracas government. Even leaders from other Latin American countries have condemned the statements emanating from Washington DC.
Read more...

Publicly Funded Inequality

By Kemal Derviş, a co-author of the “22 Ideas to Fix the World”, Brookings, March 9, 2015

One of the factors driving the massive rise in global inequality and the concentration of wealth at the very top of the income distribution is the interplay between innovation and global markets. In the hands of a capable entrepreneur, a technological breakthrough can be worth billions of dollars, owing to regulatory protections and the winner-take-all nature of global markets. What is often overlooked, however, is the role that public money plays in creating this modern concentration of private wealth.
Read more...

Musical Olympus Festival back on the Stage of Carnegie Hall

On 22 April 2015, the annual concert and presentation of the Musical Olympus Festival will take place at Carnegie Hall.

Nine years in a row young talented musicians, participants of the Musical Olympus Festival in Saint-Petersburg (Russia) and winners of prestigious international competitions, perform on this legendary stage.

The concert will feature Ao Li, bass-baritone form China; Vasilisa Berzhanskaya, Russian soprano; Nikki Chooi, violinist from Canada and Kian Soltani, Austrian cellist of Persian origin.

Read more...