Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 17-23 April

Priya’s Freedom to Give Back, by Peter Georgescu in the Huffington Post

“I recently met a remarkable young woman, the child of immigrants from southern India, who has yet to enter graduate school but has already completed fundamental research on the nature of artificial intelligence. Her name is Pratyusha “Priya” Kalluri, and she’s from America’s heartland, Madison, Wisconsin—though when I spoke with her she was in Spain doing computer research at the Complutense University of Madrid. In the fall, she’ll be entering the graduate program at Stanford University. Her family’s emphasis on education motivated Pratyusha to pursue an undergraduate degree at MIT. In an early project, she built systems to reveal the goings-on inside the human body: at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, she developed an algorithm to identify the gene pathway changes that underlie breast cancer. In this work, she took the approach of many AI researchers—examining how to apply computer intelligence to existing practical endeavors, opening up new vistas into the human body. She created data mining software able to analyze large datasets about many patients in order to enable scientists to spot the key genetic changes that signal the onset of an aggressive cancer.”

Vreau să vedeți România de mâine: 25 la sută dintre copii „abandonează” azi școala! Și nu, nu o fac de capul lor…, by Mirela Oprea in Republica.ro

“În nordul ţării un copil vrea să meargă la şcoală. A vrut el, a vrut mama lui şi a vrut pentru el şi o doamnă asistent social. O doamnă care nu numai că vrea să îşi facă meseria, dar şi ştie cum să o facă, mergând pe teren, acolo unde sunt oamenii cei mai nevoiaşi dintre noi. Cei care nu au o casă aşa cum înţelegem noi cuvântul „casă”, adică acea alcătuire de materiale de construcţii care ne dă dreptul la arondarea pe o stradă, un număr (de bloc, apartamente etc.) şi apoi o adresă de domiciliu înscrisă în actul de identitate. Acolo unde merge doamna asistent social să-şi facă meseria, oamenii trăiesc pe groapa de gunoi a oraşului, din gunoaiele acestuia, dar nu din pricina asta ca nişte gunoaie. Materialele de construcţii pe care ei le-au folosit pentru alcătuirea a ceea ce ei numesc „case” (cartoane, plastic etc.), nu le dă dreptul la arondarea pe o stradă, la un număr şi apoi la o adresă de domiciliu înscrisă în actul de identitate. În afară de asta, ei sunt oameni ca noi, care îşi doresc ce e mai bine pentru copiii lor. S-au bucurat foarte tare când doamna asistent social a organizat o grădiniţă de vară pentru copiii din comunitatea lor nedomiciliată. Dar apoi mamele acestor copii, când a venit toamna, nu au îndrăznit să spere că ar putea să înscrie copiii la şcoală. Au mai încercat şi alte mame înaintea lor şi nu au reuşit.”

The Future of the MBA, in 3 Questions, by Claire Preisser on the Aspen Institute’s blog

“Given my job title, you would expect me to clear my calendar, put all devices on airplane mode, and dive into Duff McDonald’s “The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, The Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite.” My work at the Aspen Institute seeks to change how business is taught, so to unleash a new generation of managers who can better align business decisions with the long-term health of society. And McDonald’s book is, by all accounts, a well-researched and provocative expose of Harvard Business School (HBS), arguably the most influential institution in the world we try to influence. But I have a premonition that I won’t get too far in the McDonald’s 578 pages. It isn’t that McDonald’s treatise is all wrong. We concur fully on fundamentals: first, management education matters. Around the world, business is increasingly the degree-of-choice for our best and brightest, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Management educators are the under-appreciated “gatekeepers” in our free-market system—teaching the next generation of business leaders, consulting to the globe’s largest firms, and creating the new knowledge and theories that shape our firms, economies and very societies.”

For the First Time, UNESCO’s Peace Prize Goes to a Mayor, by Feargus O’Sullivan in CityLab

“You probably haven’t heard of the winner of this year’s UNESCO Peace Prize. In the past, the award, officially called the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Prize, has been granted to internationally renowned figures including Nelson Mandela, Yasser Arafat, and Shimon Peres. This year, for the first time ever, the award goes to a mayor: 56-year-old Giusi Nicolini, mayor of a small Italian island that’s home to about 6,000 people. The island in question is Lampedusa, a small islet roughly equidistant from Southern Sicily, Malta and Tunisia. In recent years, it’s found itself at the heart of Europe’s refugee crisis. As mayor, Nicolini has stood out from her colleagues by campaigning to ensure that the island deals as efficiently and humanely as possible with the migrants and refugees fleeing war-torn Middle Eastern countries by sea. In campaigning across Europe to ensure better funding and faster visa processing for refugees and migrants, Nicolini has made Lampedusa a rare (though controversial) bright spot on a continent where hostility to even desperate migrants, partly manufactured by the media, has grown. The crisis Nicolini and her fellow islanders face is not a small one.”

These apps let your neighbours share your car, basement, tools, skills and meals, by Burhan Wazir on the World Economic Forum’s Agenda Blog

“Amsterdam has created dozens of new digital platforms encouraging citizens to participate in the sharing economy. An app called ParkFlyRent leases out cars parked by holidaymakers at Schiphol airport. Instead of the cars sitting idle for weeks, they are rented out and a portion of the income is handed to the owners. An app called Djeepo finds private storage spaces (basements, attic and spare rooms) for those needing extra room for their belongings. Konnektid allows users to share skills like guitar playing or foreign languages. We Helpen gives details of voluntary work available in the city’s neighbourhoods. An app called Camptoo allows people to rent privately owned motorhomes, which are usually only used 4-5 times a year. Abel connects drivers with passengers who are going in the same direction. ‘We wanted to truly make living in the city a shared experience,’ explained Harmen van Sprang, one of the organisers of Amsterdam’s sharing economy initiative. ‘We want people to feel like they have a connection not just with the city, but to each other as well.’ The apps lift citizens into the sharing economy and remind them that sustainability is an in-built motive.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 10-16 April

Why it’s so hard to recognize the geniuses around you, by Anne Quito in Quartz

“Individuals canonized as “genius” are often thought of as supernaturally gifted, as if touched by the divine. But the religious root of the 14th century Latin word actually means “a guiding spirit,” present for all humans. And by forgetting its original meaning and looking only for people who are born with a quasi-mystical quality, we risk becoming blind to budding geniuses all around us. True genius results from a rebellious attitude against compartmentalized thinking; it can also appear as a fleeting moment of insight, not necessarily a permanent condition of greatness. These ecumenical definitions are highlighted in two new biographies of the ultimate Renaissance avatar for genius, Leonardo da Vinci, a multi-tasking, ambidextrous polymath who bridged art and engineering. In the forthcoming book, Leonardo da Vinci (Simon & Schuster), Walter Isaacson describes genius as a trait that can be cultivated. As president of the Aspen Institute, Isaacson has regular dalliances with dazzling minds and he boils down genius to one trait: creativity.”

Book Pins Corporate Greed on a Lust Bred at Harvard, by Andrew Ross Sorkin in the New York Times

“If you were to look for one ingredient that binds together the nation’s chief executives, top managers and boards of directors, you’d find a remarkably consistent commonality, now and in generations past: A disproportionate number of them are graduates of Harvard Business School. An M.B.A. from H.B.S., as those in the know refer to it, has long been the ultimate Good Housekeeping stamp of approval on any résumé. Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook — and the list goes on and on. The number of Fortune 500 chief executives who earned their business degrees at Harvard is three times the total from the next most popular business school, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. It is hard to overstate the school’s influence on corporate America. That’s why a new, exhaustive history of the school is causing a stir before it is even out. The book, “The Golden Passport,” by the veteran business journalist Duff McDonald, is a richly reported indictment of the school as a leading reason that corporate America is disdained by much of the country.”

Why I am hopeful for the Roma cause, by Violeta Naydenova in E!Sharp

“There seems to be no hope for European Roma. Despite millions spent on integration and inclusion policies by the European Union and individual countries, they remain the poorest and most marginalized population on the continent. According to a report of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency, 80 percent of the EU’s six million Roma are at risk of poverty; in Spain, 98 percent of Roma fall below the national poverty threshold, and in Greece, 42 percent of young Roma have not completed any formal schooling. The disheartening statistics go on and on, but, as shocking as they might be, they reveal nothing we did not know: the situation of Romani citizens is bleak and not improving. Some populists and right-wing politicians will use the new report as an opportunity to once again hold the Roma, known pejoratively as “gypsies”, responsible for their own ostracism, presenting their situation as a lack of willingness to integrate. That’s a convenient argument for the majority, which then feels morally legitimized to do only the bare minimum for its fellow Roma citizens.”

Media aritmetică, by Adrian Gheorghe in Viața Medicală

“Cunoașteți un medic bun? Dar un spital bun sau o farmacie bună? Și eu. Toți cunoaștem. De la oricare colț de județ și până la ditamai centrul universitar, se vor găsi informații mai mult sau mai puțin reale, care să îi separe pe cei „buni” de „ceilalți”. Anecdotic și extrem, a găsi ori a nimeri unul „bun” poate face diferența dintre viață și moarte, dintre a rămâne cu pensa cusută în măruntaie și a pleca acasă bine mersi. În realitate, nu se știe sigur cât de buni sunt cei „buni”, deoarece monitorizarea și evaluarea actului medical sunt fierte mocnit la stadiul de deziderat. Toți și toate ajung să fie atinși de subiectivism, diferențiați doar de șansa de a intra în gura potrivită la momentul potrivit. Căutarea obsesivă a celui „bun” ca reflex preemptiv la consecințele potențial tragice ale expunerii la opusul său e o tragedie de sistem, dar e doar un simptom. Boala lungă a serviciilor publice autohtone este că promovează excepționalismul ca măsură a performanței. În educație, se numără întâi olimpicii internaționali și elevii ajunși cu bursă la universități prestigioase. Realitatea din spatele lor, precum bacalaureatul, e subiect de film. În sănătate, se numără întâi RMN-urile și roboții din sălile de operație. Realitatea din spatele lor este, de asemenea, subiect de film.”

Is This New Material a Game Changer for Thermoelectricity?, by Kristen A. Schmitt in the Smithsonian Magazine

“You hike to an elusive camping spot, pack filled with enough gear to keep you content for a three-day retreat away from chaotic city living. But when you’re ready to leave, you realize not only has your cell phone died, its battery spent after searching for a signal the entire time you’ve been roughing it, but you can’t quite remember where you hiked in, which means that the GPS on your phone is your lifeline back to reality. Fortunately, because of a new material built into your cooking pot, all you need to do is turn the pot on, heat up the water inside and plug your phone into the port connected to it. In only a few hours, your phone will be charged and you can make it safely back to your truck parked at the trailhead. Researchers at the University of Utah recently discovered that the non-toxic material composed of three chemical elements—calcium, cobalt and terbium—generates thermoelectric energy from waste heat. By sandwiching the Ca3Co4Og between a layer that is hot, such as a cooking pot, and a layer that is cold, like the food or water within the pot, the charge from the hot end moves through the cold end, producing an electrical voltage. The energy is generated through a thermoelectric process using temperature differences.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 3-9 April

Employee Burnout Is a Problem with the Company, Not the Person, by Eric Garton in Harvard Business Review

“Employee burnout is a common phenomenon, but it is one that companies tend to treat as a talent management or personal issue rather than a broader organizational challenge. That’s a mistake. The psychological and physical problems of burned-out employees, which cost an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending in the U.S., are just the most obvious impacts. The true cost to business can be far greater, thanks to low productivity across organizations, high turnover, and the loss of the most capable talent. Executives need to own up to their role in creating the workplace stress that leads to burnout—heavy workloads, job insecurity, and frustrating work routines that include too many meetings and far too little time for creative work. Once executives confront the problem at an organizational level, they can use organizational measures to address it. In our book Time, Talent and Energy, we note that when employees aren’t as productive as they could be, it’s usually the organization, not its employees, that is to blame. The same is true for employee burnout.”

Cât de mult se taxează industria energetică? Buget sau investiții, by Constantin Rudniţchi, RFI Romania

“Mai devreme sau mai târziu, România va trebui să ia o decizie cu privire la modificarea redevențelor în sectorul petrolier și de gaze naturale. Cei care pledează pentru creșterea redevențelor din motive legate de suplimentarea veniturilor bugetare sau pur și simplu, pentru a „pedepsi” companiile din domeniu, ar trebui să ia în calcul nevoia de investiții în domeniul petrolier și al gazelor naturale. Iar în industria energetică există necesități importante de investiții. Iată doar câteva argumente. În România, există 400 de câmpuri petroliere și 13.000 de sonde active, dar are una din cele mai mici rate de producție pe sondă. De aceea, identificarea de noi resurse energetice necesită foraje la mari adâncimi care presupun investiții. La fel, România are în față un proiect extrem de important, exploatarea gazelor din Marea Neagră, un proiect care presupune investiții masive. Așadar, impozitarea sectorului energetic trebuie să țină seama de ambele talere ale balanței: nevoia de bani a bugetului și nevoia de investiții.”

A graduate of the British spy agency’s startup incubator is using fake news to fight hackers, by Joon Ian Wong in Quartz

“A startup that has just graduated from the accelerator run with the help of GCHQ, the British government’s intelligence agency, wants to lure hackers into computer networks using a form of fake news, while secretly observing them to gather intelligence. The company, Countercraft, sells a tool that generates a series of cues to bait hackers into thinking they are penetrating a system. In fact, the attackers are revealing their attack methods in an isolated part of a system where they can do no harm. Countercraft’s approach is called a “deception technology.” It’s a tactic that’s gaining ground among big companies that are the target of cyberattacks. “This ‘deception environment’ allows us to learn from the adversary and treat them as a resource, so we can discover the tools they are using,” says Countercraft co-founder Dan Brett. “Are they low-grade nation-state actors? Script kiddies? Hacktivists?” The research firm Gartner has estimated that 10% of companies will use deception tools and techniques by 2018.”

Cum luptă pădurarii 2.0 cu defrișările ilegale. „Cu patru sau cinci drone, amplasate undeva în centrul țării, poți să scanezi toate pădurile din România o dată la patru zile”, by Raluca Ion in Republica.ro

“În viitor, o mostră luată din trunchiul unui copac ar putea arăta dacă acesta a fost sau nu tăiat ilegal. Fiecare arbore are o amprentă genetică unică, iar o analiză ADN ar putea să le ofere autorităților, companiilor din industria lemnului și activiștilor pentru protecția mediului date despre locul exact în care a fost tăiat un anumit copac. Departamentul de Stat al SUA, Agenția Americană pentru Dezvoltare Internațională, Serviciul Forestier al Statelor Unite, universități, ONG-uri și companii care se ocupă de genetică din toată lumea lucrează în acest moment la perfecționarea procedurii care ar putea pune o frână unei industrii ilegale de proporții enorme. Din pădurile lumii, de la cele din bazinul amazonian până la cele din munții Carpați, sunt tăiați, într-un singur an, copaci în valoare de până la 152 de miliarde de dolari, potrivit datelor INTERPOL. Sunt arbori puternici care au crescut și s-au luptat cu vitregiile naturii vreme de zeci și sute de ani ca să țină aerul și pământul lumii în echilibru. După dispariția lor, nicio altă tulpină firavă plantată în loc nu va avea puterea de a păstra sănătatea mediului. Cel puțin nu mulți ani de acum încolo.”

The new travel boom: why your next holiday won’t be where you expect, by Tiffany Misrahi on the World Economic Forum’s Agenda Blog

“Today, the number of people on the move is unprecedented, with international tourist arrivals increasing from just 25 million in the 1950s to 1.2 billion in 2016. Historically, travel was a luxury, but thanks to lower barriers to travel and falling costs, it is now within the reach of millions. These factors, combined with the growth of disposable income, the rise of the middle class in many emerging markets, and changing attitudes towards travel, have enabled the industry to flourish. The global middle class is forecast to grow by a further 3 billion people between 2011 and 2031, the majority of whom will come from emerging markets, with China and India leading the way. While travel is already booming in China, it is estimated that only 4% of Chinese nationals have passports. Similar trends are apparent in other emerging markets. What is clear is that these new travellers, like millennials and baby boomers before them, are looking for experiences.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 27 March – 2 April

În căutarea politicianului de mâine, by Ana Maria Luca in DoR

“Pentru schimbarea clasei politice într-una competentă e nevoie de societatea civilă, de toate partidele politice şi de instrumente de dialog care să structureze un proces de reformă credibilă şi pe termen lung, explică directorul executiv al Institutului Aspen România, Andrei Ţărnea. Institutul, o filială a organizaţiei non-profit înfiinţată în SUA în 1949, are ca scop promovarea unui dialog informat şi critic pe diverse teme de interes pentru societatea românească şi cultivă implicarea socială a liderilor din mai multe domenii. Aspen România, condus de fostul ministru de externe şi fost preşedinte al PSD Mircea Geoană, la fel ca multe organizaţii neguvernamentale şi chiar companii private, încearcă să suplinească ceea ce sistemul educaţional românesc nu oferă. După 10 ani de activitate, Ţărnea spune că Young Leaders Program, programul de un an destinat tinerilor lideri din mediul de stat, privat şi din societatea civilă, rămâne cel care a adus cele mai mari succese.”

Sărăcia energetică și consumatorul energetic. Cât de departe suntem de Europa?, by Corina Murafa & Anca Sinea & George Jiglău & Gabriel Bădescu, Centrul pentru Studiul Democrației

“În prezent, în România, principala metodă de măsurare, dar și de rezolvare a sărăciei energetice se raportează exclusiv la veniturile gospodăriilor și se traduc în practică prin acordarea ajutoarelor de încălzire de către stat (și a tarifelor sociale direct de către furnizori, în cazul energiei electrice). Totuși, analiza noastră evidențiază probleme de eficiență în modul în care sunt acordate aceste ajutoare și dacă ele ajung la toate acele gospodării care se află într-adevăr în sărăcie energetică. Aplicarea indicatorilor alternativi care iau în calcul și ponderea cheltuielilor cu energie, recomandați de literatură și utilizați în alte state, identifică diferențe semnificative și accentuează concluzia că ajutoarele de încălzire nu acoperă o mare parte a gospodăriilor sărace energetic. La aceste probleme se adaugă dificultăți legate de acces fizic la resurse, de regimul de proprietate al locuințelor, de cuantificarea veniturilor în natură care pot duce la neacordarea ajutoarelor sau de comunicare între autorități, furnizori și clienți în special în zonele mai sărace.”

CeRe şi ţi se va da, by Vintilă Mihăilescu in Dilema veche

“CeRe este exact ceea ce spune: Centru de Resurse pentru Participarea Publică. Nu vorbește neapărat de „societate civilă“ și nici de responsabilitate socială a corporațiilor (CSR), ci pur și simplu despre participare publică la binele public. Participarea oricui și cu orice mijloace legitime disponibile. Gala anuală, care face publice cele mai reușite proiecte dintre sutele depuse, a devenit și ea, tot mai mult, o „resursă“. O sursă de recunoaștere, desigur – și nu este lipsit de importanță să vezi că îți este recunoscută public o luptă pe care credeai că o duci, cu disperare, de unul singur sau doar în mici grupuri; de asemenea, o sursă de informare: sutele de participanți și apoi, prin media, mulți alți români din toată țara află ce fac compatrioți de-ai lor; dar mai ales o „resursă de încredere“, căci ne arată tuturor că se poate reacționa cu succes la abuzuri sau neglijențe de un soi sau altul, că, dacă te încăpățînezi să ceri și știi cum să o faci (în cele din urmă), ți se va da dreptate. E foarte important de știut acest lucru – iar după fiecare gală se nasc noi „cereri“.”

Meet the Social Entrepreneurs of the year 2017, by Hilde Schwab on the World Economic Forum’s Agenda Blog

“I am thrilled to announce the Schwab Foundation’s 2017 Social Entrepreneur of the Year Awardees. Social entrepreneurs are people who harness the power of market forces and business principles to solve social problems, from poor health-care to unemployment. However, while creating markets for the underserved has made great strides, the fact remains that governments continue to be the primary provider of social services to the poor. Many of our 2017 awardees partner with governments in a variety of roles: as service providers, demonstrating how programs can be delivered differently; as technical assistance providers, giving public employees new skills, technology, and processes; and even as advocates, helping to craft new laws or policies that have a direct impact on people’s lives. The winners below will join the world’s largest network of mature social enterprises affiliated with The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, the sister organization of the World Economic Forum.”

Negotiating Brexit. The Prospect of a UK-Turkey Partnership, by Sinan Ülgen, The Center on the United States and Europe (CUSE) at Brookings

“British and Turkish policy makers thus face a very similar conundrum. They both need to reconstruct a relationship with Europe under the newly changed assumptions about their future status. The U.K. is on its way to becoming an EU non-member, while Turkey realizes that it may never get to be an EU member. They are therefore starting their political journey from different angles but may well end up at a very similar vantage point. It follows from this premise that there will be some common challenges facing the two capitals as they strive to negotiate a new framework that would underpin their relations with the European Union. This report will focus on two such areas: trade policy and security policy. The aim will be to explore whether a more collusive Turkey-U.K. relationship can assist the two governments in improving their negotiating position. This does not necessarily mean that the U.K. and Turkey should jointly negotiate with Brussels; yet, it does mean that establishing regular bilateral consultations between Ankara and London in advance of and possibly in parallel to their several rounds of negotiations with the EU may be of mutual benefit.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 20-26 March

Mariana Gheorghe: “Protecţionismul este o aventură imposibilă în această piaţă globală”, by Lidia Moise in Revista 22

Cred că este bine să fim parte din decizia europeană. Suntem o ţară importantă în Europa, chiar dacă nu întotdeauna economic am trăit la nivelul potenţialului nostru, dar cred că aceste discuţii care există acum despre Europa cu mai multe viteze ar beneficia de implicarea noastră în acest dialog. Cred că trebuie să amânăm decizia de a deveni ţară membră a zonei euro, pentru că trebuie să înţelegem mai întâi ce înseamnă clubul euro, care sunt regulile lui, care sunt cerinţele lui şi dacă noi suntem în stare să fim parte din acest club. (…) Am auzit la Londra de foarte multe nemulţumiri faţă de birocraţia din Bruxelles. Cred că Brexit-ul arată că dorinţa de a fi împreună este necesară pentru succesul unui astfel de club al europenilor, dar nu este suficientă. Clubul trebuie să fie performant, să alinieze interesele tuturora. Cred că fenomenul Brexit e ca un duş rece care ne aduce aminte că trebuie să facem lucrurile mult mai substanţial, mai aproape faţă de cetăţeni, trebuie să ne ascultăm mai mult unii pe alţii – este o chemare la înţelepciune, la raţiune. Nu trebuie să uităm însă că această Uniune reprezintă interesele şi aşteptările masei de votanţi şi alegători din întreaga Europă.”

A Turkish Thorn in the EU’s Side, by Javier Solana in Project Syndicate

“While the European Union tries to weather a nationalist storm that threatens its core institutions, some of its most important strategic allies have injected more uncertainty into the current political climate. A clear example is Turkey, which has been a NATO member state since 1952, and an official candidate to join the EU since 1999. On paper, Turkey looks like an ideal country to serve as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. But it has now taken an alarming turn away from Europe, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan even accusing the German and Dutch governments of acting like Nazis. Since withstanding an attempted coup last July, Erdoğan has taken advantage of a national state of emergency to go on the offensive and shore up his power. A surge in popularity has buttressed his new strategy of governing by decree. So far, more than 100,000 civil servants have been fired or suspended, and many of Erdoğan’s political rivals have been jailed. Numerous civil-society organizations and news outlets have been shut down, and Turkey now holds the dubious honor of having a record-breaking number of journalists behind bars.”

Bulgaria heads to the polls – and the tide may be turning against Boyko Borisov, by Dimitar Bechev on LSE’s blog

“Going to the polls is turning out to be something of a national pastime in Bulgaria. Starting May 2013, citizens have cast their vote five times in general, European, local and presidential elections as well as in two referendums. On 26 March, they will be heading to the ballot boxes once more – to make their choice for a new parliament. This will be the third early election in this short span, after the ones in May 2013 and October 2014. It may not be the last. At a certain level, the frequent polls may suggest democratic habits are alive and kicking in Bulgaria. After all, the forthcoming vote was triggered by the outcome of the presidential elections in November. Having lost the race against the main opposition candidate, ex-airforce chief Rumen Radev, the centre-right government headed by Boyko Borisov made good on its promise to tender its resignation. Some may even remember how Borisov stepped down in March 2013 after several weeks of street protests, cutting short the life of his previous cabinet. In both cases, the former bodyguard, whose steady rise to the top was one of the main storylines of Bulgarian politics in the 2000s, paid tribute to the popular will.”

La Baia Mare, un asistent social i-a dus pe toți copiii de la groapa de gunoi la școală și la grădiniță, în ciuda împotrivirii autorităților care nu-i doreau alături de copiii „normali”, by Mirela Oprea in Republica.ro

“Azi e ziua asistenţilor sociali şi de ziua lor îmi vin în minte câteva cifre. Din datele Colegiului asistenţilor sociali, rezultă că în România sunt aproximativ 35.000 de absolvenţi de asistenţă socială. Dintre aceştia mulţi au plecat în străinătate, unde profesează în condiţii net superioare şi pentru salarii de cel puţin zece ori mai mari decât în România, unde mulţi asistenţi sociali câştigă în zona a 800 de lei, în condiţiile unei meserii care, dacă e făcută aşa cum trebuie, poate să fie extrem de utilă social, dar şi extrem de stresantă. Mulţi dintre cei care nu au plecat au ales să profeseze în alte domenii, pentru că meseria lor, deşi nobilă, e foarte grea şi prea puţin plătită. Astfel, din 35.000 de absolvenţi, doar 7000 profesează, ceea ce înseamnă că sistemul funcţionează cu doar 35% din specialiştii necesari, restul de personal încadrat pe posturi de asistenţi sociali fiind la bază orice altceva, mai puţin asistenţi sociali: horticultori, bibliotecari, ingineri sau chiar… nimic (studii medii). Lipsiţi de studii de specialitate, aceştia fac ce pot, în limita bunului simţ şi a inteligenţei emoţionale şi sociale cu care e dotat individul mediu în societatea noastră. Uneori asta poate salva vieţi, alteori e mult prea puţin.”

Români care produc schimbare | Interviu cu Oana Preda, directoare CeRe, by Laura Ștefănuț, Digi 24

“Dincolo de momentele de fervoare civică, cum sunt protestele, există cetățeni care se ambiționează să determine autoritățile să își facă treaba. “O doamnă dintr-un cartier mărginaș al Ploieștiului, doamna Zamfirescu, a reușit să își mobilizeze vecinii și să convingă primăria să asfalteze una din străzile din cartierul respectiv. A pornit de la o singură persoană care nu era în niciun fel asociată, nu era membru într-o organizație non-guvernamentală, nu are nici măcar cont de Facebook — și atunci a mers din ușă în ușă la vecinii ei, a vorbit cu ei”, povestește Oana Preda, de la Centrul de Resurse pentru Participare Publică (CeRe). În ultimul deceniu, CeRe asistă cetățeni care se împotrivesc abuzurilor, corupției sau incompetenței autorităților. (…) Foarte multă vreme spațiul public a înseamnat ceva foarte abstract, era al tuturor și de fapt al nimănui. Acum asistăm la o apropiere din ce în ce mai mare (din fericire) a oamenilor față de spațiul public. Au început să îl revendice. Dintre grupurile cu care noi lucrăm, foarte multe au cauze, își propun lucruri legate de spațiul public, fie că vorbim de reamenajarea unui parc sau de redarea unei clădiri abandonate comunității, sau de parcare, trotuare. Oamenii se uită din ce în ce mai atent la spațiul public.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 13-19 March

Merkel Puts Europe First, by Ashish Kumar Sen in New Atlanticist

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces a tough re-election battle in September and a meeting with US President Donald J. Trump is perhaps not the best way for her to burnish her credentials with the German electorate. The fact that she is making the trip across the Atlantic is an indicator of her determination to shore up the US-German and US-European relationships that have been buffeted by often controversial rhetoric from Trump. “If she were looking at this from a purely electoral calculation, she may not have even done this visit because no one in Germany wants to see her necessarily being close to President Trump,” said Fran Burwell, a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council. Making the point that the visit is more about the US-German and the US-European relationships, she added: “She is coming not only as the chancellor of Germany, but as the leader of Europe.” Trump and Merkel got off to a rocky start in their relationship with the former accusing the chancellor of “ruining Germany” with her open-door policy for migrants fleeing war zones in the Middle East, and the latter criticizing Trump’s “America first” policy and his decision to order a temporary ban on immigrants from seven—subsequently six—Muslim-majority countries, as well as all refugees.”

The Dutch Buck the Populist Trend, by Judy Dempsey, Carnegie Europe

“After a campaign so often shamefully marked by anti-Islam, anti-Turkey, and anti-immigration rhetoric, the Dutch voted on March 15 to reelect Prime Minister Mark Rutte in an election result that has consequences for the rest of the EU. Rutte’s center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), which, according to preliminary results, won 33 of the 150 parliamentary seats, looks set to form a coalition with other pro-EU parties. Together, they managed to see off the anti-immigration Party for Freedom (PVV) led by Geert Wilders. The PVV gained votes but not enough to make the impact Wilders had hoped for. There was undisguised relief at the result, particularly from neighboring Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, tweeted: “The Netherlands, oh the Netherlands you are a champion! . . . Congratulations on this great result!” Over recent days, Altmaier, who speaks Dutch, had commented on the importance of the Dutch election. Berlin had no illusions about the consequences of the poll. Had the Netherlands swung decisively behind Wilders, it would have given a huge boost to other populist parties across Europe, particularly in France, which holds the first round of its presidential election in April.”

Proiectele finale ale străzii după protestele faţă de guvern: „România 2017+“ şi „Rezist 2.0“. Cum îşi propun iniţiatorii să le transpună în realitate, by Remus Florescu in Adevărul

“„Proclamaţia România 2017+” şi apelul „Rezist 2.0” sunt documentele coerente care au apărut în agenda publică după circa două luni de proteste în stradă. Primul, care are la bază Proclamaţia de la Timişoara, are un ton militant, mai radical, şi vrea o oarecare răsturnare a sistemului, în timp ce al doilea document este mai pragmantic şi pune accent pe reformarea pe termen lung a sistemului. Două documente scrise, asumate şi coerente privind solicitările străzii au apărut la circa două luni de la debutul protestelor. Dacă în primele zile, principalele probleme ridicate de „stradă” se referau la Ordonanţa 13, treptat manifestanţii au cerut un nou proiect de ţară. Pe de o parte vorbim despre „Proclamaţia România 2017+” o listă cu 8 solicitări publicată pe 9 februarie şi asumată de grupurile „Corupţia ucide”, „Timişoara Civică” şi „Umbrela Anticorupţie Cluj”. Pe de altă parte vorbim despre apelul „Rezist2.0”, publicat în urmă cu circa o săptămână, care reuneşte o serie de propuneri pentru o guvernare mai bună, care au la bază răspunsurile a 5.400 de membri ai comunităţii „de-clic”, o platformă de petiţii, apeluri la acţiune şi activism online.”

6 years of hell. Syria’s ruinous civil war is 6 years old and no closer to an end, by Tim Hume in VICE News

“Six years into the Syrian civil war, and the country’s future remains far from certain. But the facts are clear: The brutal, generation-defining conflict has left hundreds of thousands dead, traumatized millions of children, set new standards of barbarism, and produced global knock-on effects that continue to reverberate far beyond the battlefield. Against all odds, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains in power, and, thanks to the backing of Russia and Iran, he now has the upper hand on the rebels militarily — an outcome once unthinkable. But Assad controls only a fraction of the deeply fractured country’s territory, including Syria’s five major cities; rival armed groups ­— ISIS, multiple terror groups, nationalists, Kurds — hold their own fiefdoms in much of the rural areas. And the situation is only made more complicated by the increasing foreign military presence on Syrian soil, which includes the U.S., Russia, and Turkey. Though Russia- and Turkey-backed negotiations to broker a peace deal between the regime and opposition groups presses on, few analysts see any positives on the horizon.”

From Trash To Treads: Turning Tomato Peels and Eggshells Into Tires, by Randy Rieland in the Smithsonian Magazine

“Back when she lived in California, Katrina Cornish found herself wondering about those open trucks she saw carrying big loads of ripe tomatoes. Why, she thought, weren’t the tomatoes on the bottom crushed into big red puddles. The reason, she would later learn, is that the tomatoes were bred to have tough skins that allowed them to withstand all that weight from above. That bit of knowledge would come to serve Cornish well after she moved to Ohio State University, where she is a biomaterials researcher. Recently, she and her research team discovered that not only those tough tomato peels, but also crushed eggshells, can be effective replacements for the petroleum-based filler used in car tires. “What you want in a filler is something really tough and strong,” she says. “That was why we looked at the tomato peels. The filler of choice in tires and other rubber products has long been something called carbon black, a powdery carbon product that comprises 30 percent of most tires. In fact, it’s the reason many rubber products are black. Carbon black helps makes the rubber in tires more durable.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 6-12 March

Evadarea din periferie, by Andrei Ţărnea in DoR

“Deşi tentaţia naţionalismului a bântuit politica românească, mulţi ani Bucureştiul a evitat căderea în discursul nativist şi eurosceptic devenit dominant în Europa Centrală. 2017 a început cu cele mai mari proteste pe care le-am văzut de decenii. O iniţiativă guvernamentală de modificare a legislaţiei de drept penal a fost percepută ca un atac la eforturile de combatere a corupţiei. Sute de mii de oameni au ieşit în stradă chiar şi în comunităţi mai mici. În capitale din toată lumea, diaspora a organizat proteste. Presa internaţională nu a acordat poate niciodată după 1989 atâta atenţie unui fenomen social şi politic românesc. Pe fondul unui sentiment de slăbiciune civică generalizată şi a unui asalt conservator resimţit în tot occidentul, ieşirea în stradă a românilor a fost percepută ca o rezistenţă simbolică la populismul corupt şi manipulator. Ideea unei societăţi civic vie şi capabilă să protesteze eficient e câştigătoare. Admiraţiei pentru rezistenţă i se adaugă cea pentru creativitate. Proteste similare au apărut în capitale occidentale, dar şi în Europa Centrală; se vorbeşte de o inspiraţie civică românească.”

Investing in Workforce Program Innovation, by Ranita Jain, Amanda Newman & Marcela Montes on the Aspen Institute’s blog

“In local labor markets across the country, workforce organizations are striving to help unemployed and under-employed individuals prepare for, connect to, and advance in employment. To support this work, the Capital One Foundation established its Human Capital Innovation Fund (HCIF), which between 2012 and 2016 invested in building the capacity of five workforce organizations to pursue new strategies. These organizations are DC Central Kitchen in Washington, DC, the Greater New Orleans Foundation in New Orleans, LA, and Brooklyn Workforce Innovations, The Door, and JobsFirstNYC in New York, NY. In this report, Investing in Workforce Program Innovation: A Formative Evaluation of Five Workforce Organizations’ Experiences during the Human Capital Innovation Fund Initiative, we describe the five organizations’ experiences planning, implementing, and adapting new strategies. Investing in Workforce Program Innovation offers insights into the complex work of developing and maintaining relationships that cross institutions.”

5 strategies for finding – and keeping – female talent, by Sharmila Karve and Bob Moritz on the World Economic Forum’s Agenda Blog

“Today is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the many social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. But how do we keep the momentum going beyond today, and bring about real change in the way women work, are hired and progress in their careers? A new report explores just that question. Winning the Fight for Talent examines gender-inclusive recruitment around the world. From rapid technological advances to demographic shifts, megatrends around the world are driving a greater urgency into reassessing existing recruitment practices. Organizations need to be more innovative, they need to be stronger magnets for the right leaders, and they need to build brands and cultures that are inclusive and engage with consumers and stakeholders. With so many demands on performance, the key to success is embedded in talent – and when you aren’t considering half the population, you are missing an immense pool of creative minds. This is the reason why 78% of large organizations are actively searching for more women, especially in senior roles.”

Mai mult decât protocoale, by Adrian Gheorghe in Viața medicală

“Din cei peste 380 de milioane de bolnavi de diabet la nivel global estimați de Federația internațională de diabet (IDF) în 2013, peste trei sferturi se află în țări în curs de dezvoltare. Chiar și când vorbim de Africa de Sud sau China, unde reformele sistemelor de sănătate și cercetarea acestor reforme atrag investiții considerabile pe termen lung, dezechilibrele socioeconomice în rândul populației sunt suficient de acute încât cei mai mulți pacienți se găsesc în păturile cele mai sărace. Nu există context mai dificil decât sărăcia pentru o boală tăcută precum diabetul. Mai mult, nu există context mai dificil decât sărăcia pentru o complicație tăcută a unei boli tăcute, precum neuropatia diabetică pentru diabet. Traseul clinic al unui pacient sărac dintr-o țară săracă diferă substanțial și decisiv de cel al unui pacient ideal („de manual”). Practicăm medicina într-o țară în care pacienții diabetici au glucometre, mai exact propriile glucometre. Prin comparație, întrebarea care se pune în locuri mai puțin fericite este: cum arată managementul diabetului și al complicațiilor asociate în locuri unde nu toate unitățile sanitare au glucometre?”

North Korea: the classical test for US Presidents, by Marta Dassù in Aspenia online

“We shall have to wait and see how far China goes as it grapples with very strong uncertainty in its ties with Washington. There is an obvious risk of commercial tension, and for a country in the grip of an economic slowdown that risk is certainly no minor consideration. Trump’s repeal of the TPP may well have been a gift to China, but the US nationalism scenario represents a net loss for an equally nationalistic China that depends so heavily on exports. In addition to which, we have the United States’ determination to contain Beijing’s military aspirations in the South China Sea, including through the partial rearmament of its Asian allies, with Abe’s Japan heading the list. In the old strategic triangle comprising the United States, Russia, and China, Beijing is beginning to feel that it is the side of the triangle coming under the greatest pressure right now, while Russia is tending to benefit from the situation. And in the background, there are fresh concerns regarding nuclear proliferation in East Asia, a phenomenon that the way the North Korean issue is handled can either aggravate or assuage. Putting it in a nutshell, the “huge problem” of North Korea is more interesting for what it can tell us about geopolitical balances in the Pacific at the start of the Trump era than as a problem per se.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 27 February – 5 March

Motivating People Starts with Having the Right Attitude, by Monique Valcour in Harvard Business Review

“Most leaders know what strong motivation looks like. When I ask leadership development clients to describe the type of motivation they’d like to see in their teams, they mention qualities such as persistence, being a self-starter, having a sense of accountability for and commitment to achieving results, and being willing to go the extra mile on projects or to help other team members. But many leaders have little idea of how to boost or sustain that level of motivation. Many leaders don’t understand that they are an integral part of the motivational ecosystem in their companies. The motivational qualities listed above appear most frequently when employees feel valued, trusted, challenged, and supported in their work — all things that leaders can influence. For better or worse, leaders’ attitudes and behaviors have a huge effect on employees’ drive and capacity to perform. One problem that gets in the way is a mechanistic, instrumental view of the human beings who sit at our companies’ desks. Seeing compensation as the primary or only tool we can use to motivate high performance is like trying to build a house with only a hammer.”

The EU’s Loss of Direction, by Judy Dempsey, Carnegie Europe

“No matter what Jean-Claude Juncker says or does these days, he will be blamed and he will blame others. The president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive, has in recent months repeatedly criticized the way in which Brussels has become a convenient punching bag for national governments. He has often decried the way national leaders reach agreements at summits in Brussels only to return to their home countries to denounce interference by bureaucrats in the EU’s capital. It is as if national leaders would rather close their eyes to the need for more Europe, despite crises that include eurozone debt, the influx of refugees, terrorism, and the immense fallout from Britain’s June 2016 vote to leave the EU—capped by the November 2016 election of U.S. President Donald Trump. Against such an inauspicious background, on March 1 Juncker published his White Paper on the Future of Europe. Subtitled “Reflections and scenarios for the EU27 by 2025,” referring to the 27 member states that will remain after Brexit, the paper lists a catalogue of deep, structural problems plaguing the bloc.”

Cum răspunde propunerea de lege a prevenției la așteptările mediului de afaceri?, by Dan Bădin in Profit.ro

“Emiterea unei legi a prevenției ar însemna un pas important în reașezarea relației dintre mediul de afaceri și autoritățile fiscale, punând un accent mai mare pe principiul îndrumării. Totodată, dă speranța că, după această primă propunere care se referă mai mult la nereguli minore, vor fi abordate și probleme mai complexe apărute din interacțiunea între companii și autoritățile fiscale, cum ar fi spețele neclare apărute la controalele fiscale, față de care inspectorii evită să își asume o opinie sau interpretează în favoarea statului, lăsând contribuabilii să recurgă la contestații sau acțiuni în instanță pentru a clarifica situația. Proiectul este benefic și e conform cu așteptările mediului de business care duc spre echilibrarea, tot prin schimbări legislative, a raportului dintre rolul de îndrumare și cel de penalizare. S-a tot discutat în spațiul public că legea fiscală are destule ambiguități și nu acoperă – nici nu ar avea cum, de altfel, – toate spețele întâlnite în practică.”

How some advertisers are secretly working to make us less prejudiced, by Lisa Sherman on the World Economic Forum’s Agenda Blog

“Advertising, at its heart, is about motivating people to make a snap judgement. We give you 15 seconds of an image and we want that image to so move you, to so implore you, to so motivate you – that you fall in love with a brand, that you take action, that you do something anew. It may seem puzzling, then, to hang our hats on advertising as a means to eradicate snap judgements and to confront bias. And yet, it’s one of the most powerful tools we have. Skilled advertisers have the ability to make or break stereotypes, and the communications industry can have a huge impact on how audiences view those around them. It’s why we at the Ad Council partnered with a coalition of major global brands and individual non-profits to create the Love Has No Labels campaign, an initiative that uses advertising and communication to strip away implicit bias. So, as we mark International Zero Discrimination Day, let’s take a closer look at how advertising can help to dismantle prejudice.”

Your plastic bottle of water could soon be made from wood, by Akshat Rathi in Quartz

“The source of most plastic is fossil fuels, a limited and non-renewable resource. Plastic persists in the environment for hundreds of years, causing harm to animals. Transporting bottled water creates a lot of unnecessary carbon dioxide into the air. And, anyway, the cost of bottled water can be as much as 2,000 times tap water. Even so, bottled water consumption is going up. Insofar as it means people are drinking fewer sweet fizzy drinks, that is good for public health. But it also means that bottled water is here to stay, and so is its environmental impact.The good news is that manufacturers of bottled drinks are realizing that they can’t keep consuming fossil fuels at the same rate. Over the last few years, companies including Pepsi and Coca-Cola have been sourcing some of the raw materials for their plastic bottles from plant sources. Now, in an industry move that could accelerate this transition, Danone and Nestlé Waters, two of the world’s biggest bottled-water manufacturers, including brands such as Evian and Perrier, have created an alliance called NaturALL to make plastic bottles from 100% sustainable sources. The alliance is working with a California-based startup, Origin Materials, that has the technology to use wood or wood-based products, among other materials.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 20-26 February

Finding Inspiration in the Fight for Social Justice, by Whitney Parnell, The Aspen Institute

“Facilitating skills-based volunteerism through service fellowships can enhance leadership skills of promising young professionals while filling a need for nonprofits unable to hire more staff to meet their objectives. SNS gives back in three ways — local nonprofits get more capacity and help in addressing serious issues, that millennial drive to make a difference is harnessed in a way that develops workers as socially conscious future leaders, and companies that participate are able to see benefits in their employees and communities. It was a bold new concept at the time, but challenging to get off the ground despite its potential. The Aspen Institute took quite a chance on us by offering SNS a spot in their inaugural Urban Innovation Accelerator, and agreeing to “incubate” our fledgling organization.”

INTERVIU: Ministrul Comunicaţiilor, Augustin Jianu, nu vrea ca ANAF să ceară date “în masă, despre oricine, oricum”, by Dinu Boboc, News.ro

“Ministrul Comunicaţiilor, Augustin Jianu, a fost interesat, în cadrul protocolului semnat între Agenţia Naţională de Administrare Fiscală (ANAF) şi Institutul Naţional de Cercetare – Dezvoltare în Informatică (ICI) din Bucureşti, legat de furnizarea datelor de identificare ale deţinătorilor domeniilor cu extensia .ro, ca Fiscul să nu ceară date în masă, despre oricine şi oricum, ci doar pentru cazuri punctuale. Într-un interviu acordat News.ro, Jianu a făcut precizări legate de acest protocol, de costurile platformelor eAcademie şi eRomânia şi a vorbit despre motivele pentru care a făcut noile numiri la Telekom România şi la ICI. Fostul director al Centrului Naţional de Răspuns la Incidente de Securitate Cibernetică (CERT-RO) a vorbit despre continuarea proiectului GovITHub, stadiul în care se află noul SEAP, capitalizarea Poştei Române şi motivul pentru care legea securităţii cibernetice nu mai este o prioritate.”

Unde este performanța?, by Adrian Gheorghe in Viața medicală

“Se dă fraza: „În absența unei politici și a unui sistem național de asigurare și îmbunătățire a calității, nu există date de performanță clinică ce să permită corelarea utilizării serviciilor de sănătate cu rezultate care reflectă contribuția acestora la starea de sănătate”. Afirmația nu este extrasă dintr-un raport obscur, ci din Strategia națională de sănătate 2014–2020, capitolul 3.2 – performanța sistemului de servicii de sănătate. Nu este nici măcar scoasă din context: ea încheie introducerea subsecțiunii 3.3.2 – eficiență și sustenabilitate financiară, care continuă cu discuții privind sectorul spitalicesc și medicina primară. Așadar, numita frază nu poate fi scoasă din context nici măcar cu exces de zel, deoarece ea sintetizează contextul însuși. Presupunând, cu indulgență, că nu s-au schimbat foarte multe de la momentul elaborării și adoptării strategiei, fraza cu pricina este o descriere asumată a realității pe care o ocupăm.”

Cum stă Europa în echilibru. Și care sunt dezechilibrele, by Constantin Rudniţchi, RFI România

“Semestrul european, un document redactat de Comisia Europeană, a fost publicat ieri. Trebuie spus de la început că acest tip de raport a fost introdus după apariția crizei economice și are rolul de a analiza economiile europene și de a trage eventual un semnal de alarmă, atunci când este cazul, asupra evoluției unor state membre. Raportul pleacă de la constatarea că Uniunea Europeană își bazează creșterea economică pe consum. Creșterea consumului a beneficiat de îmbunătățirea pieței muncii și a ratei inflației. Din aceste puncte de vedere, România este în notă europeană. Estimările sunt de creștere moderată și în anii 2017 și 2018, la nivelul Uniunii Europene fiind în medie de 1,8%. Baza creșterii este ameliorarea în continuare a pieței muncii, peste care se suprapune nivelul scăzut al costurilor de împrumut, dar și schimbările așteptate pe piețele economiei globale.”

Crowded race to win EU medicines agency, by Aleksandra Eriksson in EUobserver

“The London-based European Medicine Agency (EMA) will need a new home after Brexit, and almost a dozen European cities are already vying over the regulatory gem. Today, almost all new or innovative medicines are submitted to EMA for assessment, which evaluates whether they are safe to put on the EU market. The agency comes with almost 900 expert workers, paid for by the EU; comprehensive research networks; and a €300 million a year budget. Acting as a host for EMA is a boon for a country’s life science sector, but also benefits the hospitality sector: some 400 people fly in to the agency each day. Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Dublin, Lisbon, Milan and Stockholm have already declared willing to be the next host of the EMA, but more candidates are mulling their bids. Sources say that at least 20 member states are considering throwing their hat into the ring. As much things related to Brexit, the race will be uncharted waters.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 13-19 February

The European Unraveling?, by Ana Palacio in Project Syndicate

“In all that it does, from this moment on, the EU must affirm and advance the values – openness, human rights, knowledge, and the rule of law – that have enabled Europe to recover, grow, and thrive for more than seven decades. French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent call for a “clear, common commitment” to the EU is a good start. But such calls must now be backed by action. That may be difficult for the next nine months, as the Netherlands, France, and Germany hold national elections. It will be even more difficult if an extremist candidate in one or more of these countries achieves a surprise victory. But if Europe’s political center holds, as expected, the EU will be in a strong position to confront increasingly hostile external forces and move forward with purpose.”

NATO’s Red Herring, by Judy Dempsey in Carnegie Europe

“In Washington and at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, the view is that alliance members spend far too little on defense. Despite repeated cajoling from U.S. defense secretaries—and now from U.S. President Donald Trump—for European allies to spend more, many European finance ministers are opposed to opening their purses to their defense counterparts. Only a handful of NATO allies—Britain, Estonia, Greece, Poland, and the United States—spend 2 percent or more of their GDP on defense. And that’s out of an alliance of 28 members. No doubt there’ll be more cajoling at the annual Munich Security Conference when scores of leaders and hundreds of diplomats along with defense and security officials gather in the Bavarian capital on February 17.”

Journalism Fights for Survival in the Post-Truth Era, by Jason Tanz in Wired

“The news media is in trouble. The advertising-driven business model is on the brink of collapse. Trust in the press is at an all-time low. And now those two long-brewing concerns have been joined by an even larger existential crisis. In a post-fact era of fake news and filter bubbles, in which audiences cherry-pick the information and sources that match their own biases and dismiss the rest, the news media seems to have lost its power to shape public opinion. It’s worth remembering, though, that as recently as 30 years ago, people worried that the press had entirely too much power.”

In Disaster Recovery, Social Networks Matter More Than Bottled Water and Batteries, by Daniel P. Aldrich in CityLab

“Standard advice about preparing for disasters focuses on building shelters and stockpiling things like food, water, and batteries. But resilience—the ability to recover from shocks, including natural disasters—comes from our connections to others, and not from physical infrastructure or disaster kits. Almost six years ago, Japan faced a paralyzing triple disaster: a massive earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns that forced 470,000 people to evacuate from more than 80 towns, villages, and cities. My colleagues and I investigated how communities in the hardest-hit areas reacted to these shocks, and found that social networks—the horizontal and vertical ties that connect us to others—are our most important defense against disasters.”

Soon, you will never lose your boarding pass because it will be your face, by Leslie Josephs in Quartz

“Airports around the world are rolling out facial-recognition technology in an attempt to improve security and reduce the painful boarding process. Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport is testing facial recognition technology made by Portuguese firm Vision-Box, Bloomberg reported this week. Wait times to enter the country jumped in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice, as security officials were required to conduct deeper security checks on arriving passengers. Japan last year said it was planning to use similar technology. KLM is conducting a three-month trial of facial-scanning technology at the Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.”