Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 19-25 June

Macron Shapes Old and New Europe, by Judy Dempsey, Carnegie Europe

“After a marathon of elections, Emmanuel Macron is now set to put his country on a new course. In the June 18 second round of France’s parliamentary election, the French president won an absolute majority of seats in the National Assembly. The Socialist Party was decimated, and the far-right National Front was already losing energy after its leader, Marine Le Pen, failed to form a strong opposition in the first round of the election on June 11. And even though the voter turnout was at a record low of 42 percent, Macron has a mandate to reset France’s economic and political compass. Ever since Macron was catapulted into the Élysée Palace on May 7, the focus, beside his reforms, has been on the revival of the Franco-German relationship. This, argue analysts, will be the axis that will give Europe the push it needs for further integration. But something else is happening beyond these two countries. The highly controversial austerity programs that Germany insisted the heavily indebted eurozone countries implement in return for financial assistance are bearing fruit. Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and even Greece are recording growth—albeit at an immense cost to public-sector employees, pensioners, and youth employment figures. And with economic growth comes political confidence.”

In the AI Age, “Being Smart” Will Mean Something Completely Different, by Ed Hess in Harvard Business Review

“Andrew Ng has likened artificial intelligence (AI) to electricity in that it will be as transformative for us as electricity was for our ancestors. I can only guess that electricity was mystifying, scary, and even shocking to them — just as AI will be to many of us. Credible scientists and research firms have predicted that the likely automation of service sectors and professional jobs in the United States will be more than 10 times as large as the number of manufacturing jobs automated to date. That possibility is mind-boggling. So, what can we do to prepare for the new world of work? Because AI will be a far more formidable competitor than any human, we will be in a frantic race to stay relevant. That will require us to take our cognitive and emotional skills to a much higher level. Many experts believe that human beings will still be needed to do the jobs that require higher-order critical, creative, and innovative thinking and the jobs that require high emotional engagement to meet the needs of other human beings. The challenge for many of us is that we do not excel at those skills because of our natural cognitive and emotional proclivities: We are confirmation-seeking thinkers and ego-affirmation-seeking defensive reasoners.”

Helmut Kohl: A great and flawed statesman, by Constanze Stelzenmüller in The Washington Post

“Helmut Kohl, Germany’s chancellor from 1982 to 1998, will be doubly remembered by history as one of its greatest leaders and also one of its most flawed. For a generation of Germans, his towering and darkly ponderous frame seemed to literally embody his center-right Christian Democratic party (CDU) and later the country itself — in both the best and the worst ways. His era ended long before his passing on Friday at the age of 87. Yet the news is a reminder of how far we Germans have come in the past two decades; without him, none of it would have been possible. In some ways, the “Chancellor of Unification,” as he is often reverently called, was simply a remarkably lucky man. Ronald Reagan’s determination to reverse the post-war division of Europe, the sclerosis and corruption of the Eastern Bloc, Solidarnosc in Poland and the Velvet Revolution in Prague, the sheer bloody-minded courage of East Germans marching every Monday night with candles in their hands despite armed police massed in the side streets and the Soviet Union’s leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s insight that it was time to fold: All these events came together miraculously in 1989 to achieve what had seemed impossible, even unthinkable for 40 years — the opening of the Berlin Wall.”

The End of Diesel, by Nicholas Clairmont in CityLab

“Once upon a time, diesel fuel was going to be the future. It was seen as more efficient, on a mileage-per-gallon basis, than other fossil fuels, and for that reason was also thought to be less polluting. About two decades ago, acting on those beliefs, policy makers in Europe—where high energy prices already made mileage a more-pressing issue than in the U.S.—made a number of rules that incentivized the growth of diesel over gasoline for use in passenger cars, moving past its traditional role in trucking and construction. These policies were remarkably successful at meeting their goals, and diesel-powered cars soon accounted for half of the cars sold on the continent. Car companies poured resources into developing diesel-related technology. But the result of this success has been not greener, friendlier, cheaper motoring, but the creation of toxic clouds over major European cities. At the end of 2016, Paris was choked by its worst episode of smog in more than a decade, lasting longer than two weeks, according to the city’s pollution-watching agency Airparif, and prompting the city to enact emergency measures that included restricting car use. It was not the first time. During a March 2015 pollution event, Paris was briefly the most polluted city in the world, surpassing famously smoggy Beijing.”

Netflix is trying to make TV a more active experience—starting with kids shows, by Ashley Rodriguez in Quartz

“Watching TV used to be a passive experience. We’d turn on the set, flip through channels for something to watch, then sit back and consume whatever was offered up by the networks. Video-on-demand, and then subscription-video-on-demand services like Netflix, changed that by letting audiences pick what and when they wanted to watch. Now, Netflix is handing audiences the reins to its stories. The web-video giant is rolling out choose-your-own-adventure-style programming that allows viewers to dictate the action that unfolds onscreen, it announced in a blog post today. “We think a lot about what can we do that others can’t do,” Carla Fisher, Netflix director of product innovation, told Quartz. “It’s innovating on storytelling…And it’s another way for us to put control into the members’ hands.” Don’t expect all of your favorite Netflix shows like The Crown and Orange Is the New Black to suddenly start asking you what you want to happen next. Netflix is beginning with kids programming.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 12-18 June

Mariana Gheorghe, CEO al OMV Petrom: Asistăm deja la cea de-a patra revoluţie industrială. Vom vedea din ce în ce mai multe schimbări pe care noile tehnologii le vor aduce atât la nivelul societăţii, cât şi în mediul de business, in Ziarul Financiar

“Întrebarea mea pentru un viitor mai bun este ce facem pentru a ne asigura că resursele umane vor fi în continuare un factor de competitivitate pentru România şi cum abordăm provocările din sistemul de educaţie? Ca CEO, pentru mine, capitalul uman este unul dintre cele mai importante active. Este valabil atât la nivel micro, al companiilor, cât şi la nivel macro, pentru o naţiune.  Istoric vorbind, România a avut avantajul unei baze foarte bune de ingineri, de oameni tehnici şi, mai recent, de IT-işti. Pe piaţa forţei de muncă asistăm la o serie de evoluţii îngrijorătoare: mulţi tineri superdotaţi care părăsesc ţara; deteriorarea învăţământului tehnic şi profesional şi numeroase tentative de reformare a învăţământului, precum şi lipsa de corelare între cerere şi ofertă pe piaţa forţei de muncă. Însă, pe de altă parte, statisticile arată o rată ridicată a şomajului în rândul tinerilor – de peste 20%, faţă de o rată medie de  5,6% la nivel naţional. Această lipsa a corelării între cererea şi oferta de muncă nu este o problemă doar la nivelul OMV Petrom, este o problemă la nivelul întregii economii. Cred că succesul pentru viitor poate veni doar dacă mediul de afaceri, instituţiile educaţionale şi cei care definesc politicile din educaţie acţionează împreună, cu mintea deschisă.”

We’re Struggling — Count On It, by Peter Georgescu in Forbes

“If you aren’t counting it, don’t count on it to improve. That’s a fundamental truism for anyone doing business. It’s more than a truism; it’s an invariable axiom. You won’t get results if you don’t keep score. The problem is, if you’re tracking the wrong things — or the right things in the wrong way — you might believe things are improving, but you will be dangerously mistaken. This was brought home to me recently when I was invited to meet an Ivy League university’s leading lights in the economics and political science department. I was disheartened to hear them dismiss my fears about our economy. I laid out statistics about our growing income gap, household debt levels, chronic and structural wage stagnation and lackluster job growth. But their attitude toward the perils that lurk in all of these measures — if you drill down into them deeply enough — was a universal shrug. What did they say? “We will muddle through.” I came away feeling a bit like the guy in a loincloth crying in the wilderness, tolerated at best, mostly ignored. And it wouldn’t have bothered me if being in denial this way weren’t so pervasive. Since then, I’ve come to think that their reaction — and a similar reaction I’ve gotten from so many in the insulated, protected spaces of our society (academia, Wall Street, corporate board rooms, venture capital organizations, Silicon Valley) — stems from the way we’re failing to measure the economic reality of what’s happening now.”

The Global Age of Complexity, by Andrew Sheng in Project Syndicate

“Every century, it seems, has its “age.” The Renaissance, from a philosophical perspective, has been called the Age of Adventure. The seventeenth-century Age of Reason was followed by the Age of Enlightenment. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries were ages of ideology and analysis, respectively. As for the twenty-first century, I would argue that it is the Age of Complexity. On the one hand, science and technology have progressed to the point that humans can create life and, through ultra-advanced genome-editing technologies, even engineer new species. Futurologist Yuval Noah Harari anticipates the imminent rise of Homo deus: a species of humanity that can “play god” by manipulating nature in myriad ways, including delaying and ultimately even conquering death. Most of the technological trends identified by the US Department of Defense as crucial in the coming years were unheard of just 30 years ago. On the other hand, much of humanity is besieged by feelings of helplessness and frustration, owing to the challenges we seem unable to resolve, from pollution and climate change to unrelenting radicalism and terrorism. Economic inequality – reinforced by job losses from automation, deeply entrenched social orders, and damaging political power dynamics – has contributed substantially to this sense of powerlessness.”

France’s Rise and Britain’s Demise, by Judy Dempsey, Carnegie Europe

“The contrast could not have been starker. After the first round of the parliamentary election in France on June 11, President Emmanuel Macron’s novice Republic on the Move party and its ally, the Democratic Movement, were set to win a landslide victory in the 577-seat National Assembly. After all the ballots had been counted, the two parties together had won 32.3 percent of the votes and about 445 seats. It was an astonishing victory for Macron, who only a year ago had no party and no political profile. But he was catapulted into power on a promise to introduce long-overdue reforms, pull Europe away from Euroskeptics and populists, and move the EU forward. He now has a clear mandate to do all three. Across in London, British Prime Minister Theresa May was holed up in Number 10 Downing Street, her official residence. After her Conservative Party failed to win an outright majority in the UK general election on June 8, May was struggling to form a new government with the ultraconservative Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland. In addition, May retained most members of the cabinet and even brought back in Michael Gove, an archrival and outspoken anti-European. With talks due to begin on June 19 between London and Brussels over the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU, May enters these unprecedented discussions seriously weakened. Indeed, it is not even certain that she is strong enough inside her party to remain prime minister.”

Pride can be a vice or a virtue, but it all depends on your personality, by Neil Mclatchie in Quartz

“The Greek philosopher Aristotle described pride as the “crown of the virtues”. It’s after all an emotion we experience when we’ve achieved something great, or when someone close to us has. It usually has a recognizable physical expression—a slight smile, the head tilted back, the chest expanded, with arms raised or akimbo. Think Superman after he’s defeated a villain. Yet pride often gets a bad rep. While it can help us feel dignified and aware of our self-worth—ensuring that others do not walk all over us—it can seemingly interfere with empathy and make us come across as arrogant and egocentric. Pride comes before a fall, goes the saying. It is also one of the seven deadly sins, sitting alongside terrible traits such as envy, greed and arrogance. So would it be better if we didn’t feel pride at all? Let’s take a look at what modern psychologists think. Much of the research in this area has focused on determining whether pride is good or bad for us. A solution has been to split it into two emotions: hubristic pride and authentic pride. Some researchers argue that hubristic pride is what leads to states of arrogance and smugness, while authentic pride is what promotes confidence and fulfilment.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 5-11 June

Cajoling Europe Into Cooperating on Defense, by Tomáš Valášek in Judy Dempsey’s Strategic Europe

“On June 7, the European Commission proposed two initiatives to nudge EU member states toward more defense cooperation and thus reduce waste in defense research and procurement in Europe. That is a laudable aim, but for it to be effective, European governments must respond by committing significantly more to defense collaboration. As things stand, most EU countries buy most weapons from national suppliers. They also tend to spend the vast majority of their research money within national borders. This is a good way to shield indigenous industry from competition but a wasteful way to build armed forces. With few economies of scale, European countries, which collectively spend about half of what the United States does on defense, can deploy only about 3 percent of their armed forces in battle at any time. The problem was recognized long ago, and in 2011, EU countries vowed to “pool and share” military purchases to increase efficiencies, to little avail. Faced with the choice of awarding part or all of a defense contract to a foreign bidder or favoring domestic industry, EU governments invariably chose to protect jobs at home. The European Commission is now offering them two kinds of financial incentives to reconsider.”

Why Schengen deserves to be saved, by Nicolas Tenzer in EUobserver

“Just one week after Emmanuel Macron’s landslide election victory offered a ringing endorsement of the European project in France, the prime minister of Denmark made it clear that the debate over Europe’s open borders is far from over. The European Commission announced last month (2 May) that Denmark would need to lift border controls come November, in compliance with the Schengen agreement. On 16 May, Danish prime minister Lars Rasmussen issued his defiant response: “We will continue border controls unless the EU miraculously finds ways to regain control of its outer frontiers and Italy curbs the flow of refugees … into Europe.” This harsh tone needs to be taken in the context of Denmark’s delicate politics. Rasmussen’s minority government relies on parliamentary support from the far-right Danish People’s Party, which shares a strategy with Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen in using the 26-country passport-free Schengen area as a convenient target for anti-EU platforms. After all, Schengen is one of the key pillars of the European project and its dismantlement would herald the end of one of the most successful and visible achievements of the EU.”

Can Cities Actually Meet the Paris Commitments on Their Own?, by Laura Bliss in CityLab

“Think of the Paris climate accord as a delicate scale. Every nation works to meet carefully co-determined carbon cuts, holding one another accountable towards the utterly un-simple goal of limiting catastrophic global warming. By withdrawing the U.S., President Trump has lifted a critical weight from one end of this scale. How and whether it can right itself is an open question. That is why now some 246 American mayors, under the mantle of the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda (or “U.S. Climate Mayors”), have formally pledged to “adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement.” Initially a collective of several dozen progressive, big-city mayors who’ve already taken publicly defiant stances against the Trump administration—among them, L.A.’s Eric Garcetti, New York City’s Bill de Blasio, and Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel—the consortium has now swollen to include plenty of names outside the usual suspects. “We cannot protect America’s interests without a seat at the table, so San Diego will continue to lead on environmental protection,” San Diego’s Republican Mayor, Kevin Faulconer, stated last week. Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York and climate envoy to the UN, is reportedly working on a plan wherein these cities, alongside three state governors, dozens of universities, and more than 100 corporations, can meet the United States’ formal greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets under the Paris climate accord, to be counted alongside other nations’ contributions.”

13 of the biggest product flops featured in Sweden’s new ‘Museum of Failure’, by Chris Weller in Business Insider

“Don’t let the name fool you — Samuel West’s “Museum of Failure” is an act of celebration. On June 7, West, a collector and self-described innovation researcher, will debut 51 failed products in a museum exhibition in the Swedish city of Helsingborg, all in the name of honoring the creative process. Visitors will get reacquainted with familiar names like Betamax and Blockbuster, and perhaps meet lesser-known flops — Twitter Peek, anyone? — all of which West has been collecting for the past year. “Even the biggest baddest most competent companies fail,” West tells Business Insider. “The trick is to create an organizational culture that accepts failure so that you can fail small … rather than failing big.” Here’s just a taste of the products that are getting a second life on display.”

This Biofabric From MIT Uses Bacteria to Automatically Ventilate Workout Clothes, by Nathan Hurst in the Smithsonian magazine

“Most of the things we encounter in daily life are extremely static, or at least unresponsive, compared to the way living things work. That’s true for clothes: You put them on, they stay on, and if you want them to change you unzip zippers or undo buttons. But a new class of workout clothing leverages living bacteria, which expand when exposed to moisture and contract when dehydrated. Developed by a multidisciplinary team at MIT in collaboration with athletic-wear company New Balance, the clothes have vents that open automatically as the wearer starts to sweat. The clothes, and the technology used to produce them, are described in a paper published in Science Advances, which also discusses several other new techniques that could expand potential uses for the technology, by introducing new microbes or genetically altering them. Wen Wang, an MIT bioengineer, headed up the biotechnology and materials science for the study. (Other collaborators included designers and architects, engineers, and industry experts from New Balance.) Wang and her team explored a number of different applications before focusing on clothing.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 22-28 May

The Iranian Opportunity, by Javier Solana in Project Syndicate

“Last week, the people of Iran decided to continue along the path toward openness. Fifty-seven percent of voters chose to elect the reformist President Hassan Rouhani to a second term. The rest of the world should welcome Rouhani’s victory as an opportunity further to improve relations with a country that is central to progress toward a more peaceful Middle East. By winning more than 50% of the vote, Rouhani avoided a second round of voting, just as he did four years ago when he claimed the presidency for the first time. But, unlike in 2013, when his overwhelming victory was a major surprise, most observers considered Rouhani the clear favorite this time around. After all, every Iranian president since 1981 has served two terms in office. Rouhani’s triumph was likely, but the vote was no mere formality. His main opponent, the hardline conservative Hojatoleslam Ebrahim Raisi, campaigned hard – and had Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, implicitly in his corner. Rouhani’s victory has proven once again that the candidate closest to the supreme leader is not guaranteed victory. The stakes of this election were particularly high. Iran is at a pivotal moment in its history – and, as the long lines of citizens eager to cast their votes clearly showed, Iranians know it.”

The US in the Mideast: balance of power and domestic forces, by Roberto Menotti in Aspenia online

“The core message sent by President Donald Trump during his visit to Saudi Arabia is that the US intends to consolidate security ties with traditional allies in the region (including Israel). This message is an explicit corrective to various trends that had emerged in the Barack Obama years, and starts from a divergent analysis of the forces on the ground and US interests. The main premise seems to be that Obama’s attempt to integrate Iran (at least under certain conditions) in a deeply unstable and shifting regional landscape was simply an aberration, but also that the Arab revolts of 2011 (with their uneven repercussions) were freak one-off episodes, thus essentially irrelevant to the future. However, we all remember that those social and political events, sweeping the region from Tunisia to Egypt, from Libya to Syria, were followed by a torrent of analyses and commentaries explaining (ex post) how the socio-economic outlook of a dozen countries in the region made the political order obviously unsustainable. The same structural conditions are present today, and yet most critics of the emerging Trump approach are focusing only on the potential risks of an excessive focus on Iran.”

What Do Trends Reveal about the Future of the EU?, by Doru Frantescu at the European Business Summit

“After Brexit, the balance of strength among the remaining countries will obviously change and, when assessing the impact, we have to look at the policy agendas of various governments. We have to start from acknowledging the fact that the British Government and the British Members of the European Parliament have traditionally been the most supportive of free market, of deregulation policies. Without the British advocacy, the balance of power will become more favorable to those who want a more interventionist economic system, one in which the state intervenes more in order to regulate the business environment. By doing so, the entire continental political spectrum will move towards the left, at least on the short run, and we can expect more protectionist and social policies to be pushed through the EU institutions, as the opposition to such measures will become much weaker. From this point of view, countries who are, on average, more supportive of a freer market, such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Romania will lose an important ally after the British leave and will have to readjust their strategies. Countries like France, Belgium and the Southern Europeans, who, on average, promote more interventionist policies, will be reinforced.”

A 3D printed, carbon fiber rocket flew for the first time in New Zealand, by Tim Fernholz in Quartz

“One of the world’s most promising new rocket companies successfully launched its first rocket to space from New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula on May 25. Though the 17-meter-tall rocket and its test payload didn’t make it to orbit, its flight to space represents an important milestone. “We had a great first stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation,” Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said after the flight. “We didn’t quite reach orbit, and we’ll be investigating why. However, reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our program.” Rocket Lab, a company recently valued at $1 billion by private investors, has been waiting since May 22 to test its first product, a rocket called Electron designed to launch small satellites into orbit. Its outer shell is made almost entirely of carbon fiber, and it boasts an electric turbopump and a 3-D printed engine. A successful launch will provide key data to refine the rocket’s construction, and validate the hopes of both the company’s backers and a slew of other small satellite firms desperate to see their own technology put into space. A new generation of rocket companies, led by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, have made cheaper access to space a reality. In response, numerous companies have come up with new satellite business plans, creating a glut of demand for rocket launches.”

Can Human Mortality Really Be Hacked?, by Elmo Keep in the Smithsonian Magazine

“Even if today’s life-extension researchers made meaningful breakthroughs, the therapies wouldn’t be available for many years to come. That means we’re about to face a lot of death, says Rachel Maguire, a research director focusing on health care at the Institute for the Future, in Palo Alto. “By 2025 or 2030, there will be more of a culture of dying and lots of different ways of experiencing it. There are early signs of new types of funerals and spiritual formations around this.” Maguire foresees new end-of-life plans, including assisted dying. When it comes to aging, she points out that biological research is only one piece of a puzzle that must also include economics, politics and cultural change. “I don’t think we have answers yet for how we’d do the other pieces. And the financial piece alone is huge.” There’s already a huge disparity between the life spans of rich and poor Americans, and critics of the new longevity research worry the gap may only grow wider. A 2016 report from the Brookings Institution found that, for men born in 1920, there was a six-year difference in life expectancy between men at the top 10 percent and bottom 10 percent of the earnings ladder. For men born in 1950, the difference was 14 years. For women, the gap grew from 4.7 to 13 years. In other words, advances in medicine haven’t helped low-income Americans nearly as much as their wealthier counterparts.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 15-21 May

Judy Asks: Can Europe Deal With Cyberattacks?, by Judy Dempsey in Carnegie Europe

“Sorin Ducaru, Assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges at NATO: Europe has no choice but to rise to the challenge of dealing with a fast-evolving cyberthreat landscape. NATO has seen an increase in frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks in the last year. And the alliance is stepping up its game on cyberdefense. Over 200 experts help protect NATO’s networks around the clock. NATO Cyber Rapid Reaction Teams are on standby to counter attacks against NATO networks, or to assist allies, on request. The organization has enhanced information sharing, including with partners such as the EU and through a malware information sharing platform. Recognizing that resilient national cyberdefenses are key to collective defense, NATO allies adopted a cyberdefense pledge at their 2016 summit in Warsaw to prioritize investment in strengthening national cyberdefenses. This is consistent with the fundamental responsibility of allies to defend their networks; NATO supports them through the sharing of information, analysis, intelligence, and technical expertise and by promoting benchmark requirements for national capability development and relevant skills.”

Why the G7 can really matter, by Marta Dassù in Aspenia Online

“A lot of people fear that the Italian G7 presidency – or rather its climax, the leaders’ summit in Taormina a couple of weeks from now – will end up being little more than a photo opportunity. I beg to differ. The G7 makes sense precisely at times like this, at times when the United States and Europe hold considerably distant positions on such crucial issues as trade and the environment. The G7 was marked for years by a kind bureaucratic liturgy, with the sherpas (the heads of state and government leaders’ representatives) thrashing out a long and boring final communique in advance containing a few important things (for example new pledges on food security) but also full of perfectly useless inanities, and this was then endorsed by the “leaders.” To be brutally honest, the protest demos at the summit were starting to become almost more important than the summit itself. In the years of the financial crisis, the G7 was de facto dethroned by the G20 as the forum for debating major economic issues.  In view of the comparative weight that China and India had achieved in the meantime, it was a widely held opinion that a forum restricted to the industrially advanced countries of the last century made little sense, especially in the wake of a crisis triggered precisely by the money markets in the West.”

Slow Down: The Wisdom In Seeing The Economical Forest For The Trees, by Peter Georgescu in Forbes

“Ostensibly, the American economy is moving forward ever so tentatively. The usual indicators of economic health are, for the most part, improving. We’re seeing some job growth from month to month, higher levels of productivity, and a long-term bull market. Yet I find none of these numbers convincing. The unemployment figures mask the large number of structurally unemployed — those who have given up looking for work and thus aren’t included in the ranks of the unemployed. Productivity is mostly a measure of how much we can cut costs — eliminating muscle and marrow, in order to boost profits at the expense of a company’s long-term future. And Wall Street’s historic highs have been justifying this complacency, but this boom market rewards investors, in the short term, at the expense of the middle class. If you step back and look at this country since the late 1970s, you know that wages have been virtually stagnant, in comparison with rising innovations, productivity — and rising profits — over those decades. Corporate profit margins are at an all-time high, even though the economy has almost stalled, both here and around the world while wages have barely kept up with inflation.”

The Dispensability of Allies, by George Friedman in Geopolitical Futures

“U.S. President Donald Trump hosted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House on Tuesday. Later this month, Trump will travel to Israel and Saudi Arabia, along with Belgium, Italy and the Vatican. With all respect, Belgium, Italy and the Vatican don’t present the same degree of strategic challenges to the United States that three Middle Eastern countries do, so we should focus on the Middle East. Normally, summit meetings accomplish little. The important discussions are held at a lower level before the meetings, and the summit primarily blesses what has been agreed to before anyone got on the plane. A communique of warm commitment to work together is released, and then the folks at the lower level get together to repair any misunderstandings that the national leaders might have stirred up. Trump may change the rules of this well-worn game. Participants in high-level summits tend to work hard to hide substantial issues, which interferes with serious discussions. Trump seems inclined to confront important issues head on and even unexpectedly.”

Built-Out Barcelona Makes Space for an Urban Forest, by Feargus O’Sullivan in CityLab

“When a city needs green space, but it’s all out of room, what can it do? It’s an issue that many older, denser cities are facing as they try to make themselves more amenable to their citizens and the environment. For Barcelona, this challenge requires especial ingenuity. Take a walk around what is one of Europe’s most densely populated city cores and you’d be forgiven for pronouncing the place full. With an intense knot of historic masonry at its heart, Spain’s second city doesn’t display the most obvious potential as a future green paradise. But it badly needs new green spaces to battle its heat island effect, manage air and noise pollution, and generally improve citizens’ quality of life. That’s why, on Monday, the city nonetheless rolled out a paradigm-shifting re-greening program, one that will double the number of trees in the city, increase park space by two thirds, and give each citizen an extra square meter of green areas. The urban plan, which will deliver 108 acres of new green space by 2019 and over 400 acres by 2030 is a model of ingenuity that could serve as a model for other cities.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 8-14 May

From Trump to Brexit: Bipolar Nature of Modern Politics, by Mircea Geoana in the Globalist

“The U.S. elections and the Brexit campaign are not a divorce from democracy as many fear. Rather, they were the expression of the very bipolar nature of modern politics, reflecting the turbulent changes in our societies. In America, in Britain, in France or in Romania for that matter, the public is deeply divided along the fundamental fault line of modern societies. There is a deep fracture between the conservative and the liberal view of the world. Between the winners and losers of modern capitalism and globalization. Between the tribal nature of social media and the antiquated role of mainstream media. Between the huge differences in the level of education of our public and the level of cultural and professional readiness necessary to face the unstoppable, turbocharged nature of the fourth industrial revolution. These dislocations in democratic societies have found the traditional standard bearers lacking.”

Information Warfare Versus Soft Power, by Joseph S. Nye in Project Syndicate

“What is soft power? Some think it means any action other than military force, but this is wrong. Soft power is the ability to get what you want through attraction and persuasion rather than threats of coercion or offers of payment. Soft power is not good or bad in itself. Value judgments depend on the ends, means, and consequences of an action. It is not necessarily better to twist minds than to twist arms (though the subject usually has more autonomy in mental rather than physical processes). Osama bin Laden neither threatened nor paid the men who flew aircraft into the World Trade Center in September 2001: he attracted them by his ideas to do evil. The soft power of attraction can be used for offensive purposes. Countries have long spent billions on public diplomacy and broadcasting in a game of competitive attractiveness – the “battle for hearts and minds.” Soft-power instruments like the Marshall Plan and the Voice of America helped to determine the outcome of the Cold War.”

The comeback of Angela Merkel, by Constanze Stelzenmüller in the Washington Post

“Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the French presidential elections and a conservative upset win in a bellwether German regional election, both on Sunday, have produced an unexpected third winner: Angela Merkel. Germany’s chancellor, who is aiming for a fourth term in the Sept. 24 elections, has had a hard three years. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, its support of violent separatism in Ukraine and its constant probing of European vulnerabilities sapped a lot of Berlin’s energies. Then there was the arrival of nearly a million refugees, many of whom were from Syria, in 2015, which fueled public anxiety and an upstart right-wing party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD). The Brexit referendum in June 2016 robbed Merkel of an important ally in the European Union. Last November, the United States elected a president who takes a much dimmer view of Europe and Germany than his predecessor. The rise of the anti-E.U., anti-euro, and anti-immigrant National Front in France and its candidate Marine Le Pen seemed to challenge the European project itself.”

Turkey’s role in Syria raises serious questions about Nato’s future, by Christina Lin in Asia Times

“At the upcoming May 16-17 meeting between US President Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his Turkish counterpart, and the May 25 Nato summit, serious issues relating to the status of Nato will need to be addressed — namely defense expenditures reform, clarification of the alliance’s approach to new security threats, and the status of Turkey’s membership. While Nato’s original purpose was to provide a shield for postwar Europe to recover and not fall prey to an expanding Soviet empire, over the past decades, the organization seems to have lost its way. As a legacy Cold War institution, Nato retains a built-in bias against Russia and is focused on conventional warfare. However, in an era in which the mission defines the coalition and not the other way around, Nato’s coalition of collective security against a conventional threat is ill-equipped to address new security challenges such as terrorism, refugee crises, and conflict prevention and resolution.”

The smart home might finally get some brains, by Dave Gershgorn in Quartz

“Alex Teichman thinks your smart home isn’t actually smart—it’s just remote controlled. “It’s great that you can turn down the heat when you’re away at work,” he says. “But all the intelligence is coming from you. It’s not actually smart yet.” Teichman is CEO of Lighthouse, a startup out of Android cofounder Andy Rubin’s Playground incubator. The company has redesigned the home-security camera to include similar 3D-sensing technology as self-driving cars, coupling that with artificial intelligence to make sense of what’s happening. The chosen tech isn’t random—Teichman got his PhD working at famed Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun’s self-driving car lab, and his cofounder Hendrik Dahlkamp was the first Google X engineer and a DARPA Grand Challenge winner. The company’s first product, called the Lighthouse interactive assistant, can not only detect who’s at home but also what they’re doing—running, walking, opening a door, or waving to the camera. Users can also give out complex commands, like “Let me know if the kids don’t get home between 3pm and 5pm,” and Lighthouse will understand and act accordingly.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 1-7 May

Tranziţia a mers cel mai prost în România: PIB-ul în euro a crescut între 1989 şi 2016 de patru ori, în Cehia de şase ori, iar în Polonia de şapte ori, by Sorin Pâslaru in Ziarul Financiar

“În condiţiile în care Occidentul se îndepărtează în termeni de PIB per capita, sunt căutaţi alţi indicatori pentru a arăta că totuşi evoluăm. România a avut cea mai redusă creştere a PIB-ului exprimat în miliarde de euro dintre ţările din Europa Centrală şi de Est, între 1989 şi 2016, de patru ori, în condiţiile în care în Bulgaria PIB-ul a crescut de 4,1 ori, iar în Ungaria, Republica Cehă şi Polonia de 5-7 ori, se arată într-un raport al Institutului de Cercetare a Calităţii Vieţii, dat ieri publicităţii în cadrul conferinţei „Dincolo de PIB: dezvoltare umană şi bunăstare“, organizat de Institutul Aspen România la  Palatul Parlamentului. „Trebuie să acceptăm că faza de tranziţie s-a terminat, iar ceea ce am obţinut este cea mai polarizată economie şi societate din Europa, cu un grad ridicat de dezagregare. România este complet deze­chilibrată, după ce în toată această perioadă s-a dus o politică a veniturilor mici, despre care s-a spus că este necesară. Astăzi, doar 59% dintre români spun că sunt satisfăcuţi de viaţa lor, faţă de 83% din cele 15 ţări cele mai dezvoltate din UE“, a spus Cătălin Zamfir, academician, profesor de sociologie.”

Impactul „Fake News” asupra burselor de valori, by Vasile Iuga in Ora Nouă

“Termeni precum „Fake News”, „Post Truth” sau „Alternative Facts” domină de câteva luni bune fluxurile de știri, părând a fi concepte recente, apărute în spaţiul politic în contextul alegerilor prezidențiale din SUA. În fond, însă, nu este vorba despre nimic nou, cu excepţia denumirii. Manipularea, minciuna, escrocheria sunt practicate de multă vreme atât în politică, cât şi în afaceri, nuanţele recente provenind de la comunicarea globală şi instantanee, mai ales prin intermediul reţelelor de socializare. În lumea afacerilor, mai ales a burselor de valori, s-a încercat de-a lungul timpului acreditarea ideii pieţelor eficiente, raţionale, logice şi transparente, a absenţei emoţiei, şi deci a manipulării în decizie. De aproximativ 100 de ani, a început să se admită gradual faptul că psihologia, şi deci manipularea, au un rol important în deciziile investitorilor şi ale profesioniştilor din domeniul financiar. A apărut şi s-a dezvoltat o disciplină nouă, „Behavioral Finance”, care încearcă să explice cum şi de ce sunt ineficiente pieţele şi care este rolul psihologiei în deciziile de investiţii.”

„Nu-mi fac griji de deficit, e destul de mare încât să-și poarte singur de grijă”, by Dan Bădin in Cursdeguvernare.ro

“Agenda publică este dominată în ultima vreme de discuțiile despre impozite, salarii și buget. Relaxarea fiscală, urmată de o majorare substanțială a cheltuielilor, a generat o preocupare firească pentru sănătatea financiară a statului, discuțiile ajungând de cele mai multe ori la același punct nodal: deficitul bugetar. Este bine să avem deficit bugetar? Dacă da, în ce limite? Și ce poate guvernul să facă pentru a-l ține sub control? La aceste intrebări voi încerca să dau scurte răspunsuri ce vor reprezenta, sper, un sumar util. La ce folosește deficitul bugetar? Deficitul bugetar reprezintă diferența cu rezultat negativ dintre veniturile si cheltuielile statului, un rezultat pozitiv fiind excedent bugetar. Similar, ca pentru orice familie sau companie, dacă nu reușești să îți acoperi cheltuielile din veniturile proprii, trebuie să te împrumuți pentru a acoperi diferența. Problema este că împrumuturile generează dobânzi (cheltuieli suplimentare) care trebuie rambursate mai târziu de noi sau de copiii nostri, unii nenăscuți încă.”

It only takes a few countries to kickstart a decarbonisation revolution, by Markus Hagemann and Andrzej Ancygier in The Conversation

“In 2016, more renewable energy was added to the global grid than ever before, and at a lower cost. A global energy revolution is clearly underway. What catalysed this transformation? In our latest study, Faster and Cleaner 2: Kick-Starting Decarbonization, we looked at the trends driving decarbonisation in three key sectors of the global energy system – power, transportation and buildings. By following the emission commitments and actions of countries, we examined what forces can drive rapid transition through our Climate Action Tracker analysis. It turns out that, in these fields, it has taken only a few players to set in motion the kind of transformations that will be necessary to meet the Paris Agreement’s target of keeping the global temperature increase to well below 2˚C, ideally to 1.5˚C, over its pre-industrial level. The most progressive field in the power sector is renewable energy. Here, just three countries – Denmark, Germany and Spain – were able to show the way and start an international shift.”

Virtual-reality worlds filled with penguins and otters are a promising alternative to painkillers, by Jo Marchant in Quartz

“One of the most successful products to come out of the lab was SnowWorld, developed by cognitive psychologist Hunter Hoffman to ease the pain of patients with severe burns. Burns patients have to undergo regular wound-care sessions so painful that they can be excruciating even with high doses of painkillers. SnowWorld was designed as a kind of souped-up distraction method for use during these sessions, to divert patients’ attention away from their pain. Adapted from flight simulation software, it creates the experience of flying through a virtual ice canyon while exchanging snowballs with penguins and snowmen. Over the past ten years or so Hoffman and his colleagues have shown in several trials, including on army veterans burned by explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan, that this works. Playing SnowWorld during wound-care sessions eases patients’ reported pain up to 50% in addition to the pain relief they get from drugs – significantly better than other forms of distraction, such as music or video games. Studies also show that SnowWorld reduces activity in areas of the brain associated with pain perception. The researchers believe that the sense of immersion created by VR – feeling physically present in the virtual location – is crucial.”

Aspen 5 Ideas. Week 24-30 April

Pope Francis Urges TED Audience to Nurture Ties With Others, by Russell Goldman in the New York Times

“Pope Francis urged an audience of technophiles and entrepreneurs on Tuesday to use their powers of curiosity and inquiry to explore and nurture the relationships that bond human beings to one another. “How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion,” Francis said in a recorded video talk that was shown at the TED conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. “How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us.” Francis has had a complicated relationship with technology. He has embraced social media much more than his predecessors, but he also warned in a 2016 encyclical that the omnipresence of digital communications “can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously.” The pope urged wealthy and powerful people to show solidarity with the poor and powerless, particularly migrants.”

Fenomenul angajaților care „își dau demisia” fără să plece din firmă. Cum pot deveni oamenii mai implicați, îndeplinindu-și în același timp visele, by Mirela Oprea in Republica.ro

“La fel ca multe alte lucruri bune din viaţa mea, şi acesta a început cu o carte. ‘The Dream Manager’ a lui Matthew Kelly este despre o companie fictiv-reală. În sensul că firma descrisă în carte nu există ca atare cu nume şi prenume, dar situaţiile cu care ea se confruntă şi soluţiile pe care le descoperă există în realitate şi sunt inspirate din experienţa Jancoa Janitorial Services şi a altor companii. La fel ca şi Jancoa din viaţa reală, Admiral Services din cartea lui Kelly, este în criză datorită unui fenomen care e tot mai întâlnit şi la noi: fluctuaţia mare de personal şi lipsa de motivaţie a angajaţilor. Un articol al Ziarului Financiar arată că înlocuirea unui angajat care pleacă are un cost uriaş: 12-18 salarii ale respectivului angajat, indiferent dacă este vorba de CEO sau de femeia de serviciu. Căutând informaţii despre costul motivaţiei scăzute a angajaţilor, am fost dezamăgită să găsesc doar informaţii despre activităţi de team-building şi sfaturi generale.  Nu ştim cât ne costă lipsa de motivaţie şi poate nici nu ne gândim la ea ca la un cost. Există o avalanşă de statistici şi lamentaţii cu privire la pierderile suferite de economia noastră datorită plecării în străinatate a concetăţenilor noştri, dar paradoxal nu ştim cât ne costă cei care nu pleacă fizic, dar pleacă motivaţional.”

Russia Opens the Door to Cryptocurrencies, by Antonia Colibasanu in Geopolitical Futures

“Russia has announced that it will legalize the use of cryptocurrencies. Official reports from the State Duma and the Finance and Economic Development ministries confirmed last week that a bill is being drafted to create the legal framework for trading in bitcoin, dash, ether and other digital currencies. This comes just a year after the same Russian institutions said that people trading in these currencies could be jailed. This raises two important questions: Why has the government made this U-turn, and what opportunities does it now see in this technology? The answers lie in Russia’s need to address serious problems in the banking sector and their impact on the economy. The Russian economy has been under severe strain since 2014, when oil prices dropped and the United States and European Union imposed sanctions that have dried up foreign investment. As the costs of accessing money increased, the banking sector was also affected by the downturn. Against this backdrop, the Russian Central Bank has intensified its anti-corruption campaign meant to address dodgy, inefficient banks, some of which use money-laundering schemes to remove capital from the country. About 100 banks have closed in the last three years.”

A Better Way from ‘R’ to ‘D’, by Edward Jung in Project Syndicate

“When business leaders get together to talk about innovating their industries, they typically focus on initiatives like improving government funding for basic research, or building technology hubs and incubators. But a crucial element of “innovation” is often absent from these discussions: the final products. That’s no oversight. On the contrary, the lack of product-focused discussion is symptomatic of a far more serious problem facing businesses of all sizes in nearly every industry. Simply put, product development takes a back seat in innovation strategy because the financial link between ideation and commercialization is broken. For economies to prosper, good ideas need a nudge getting to market. Innovative products are, after all, what makes life healthier, more efficient, and more fun. But there’s ample evidence to suggest that development – the “D” in R&D – has not kept pace with the blistering speed of “R” – modern-day research. Even the most robust economies have a surplus of ideas that never reach consumers. In the US, for example, just 5% of all active patents are ever licensed or commercialized. Most companies use less than a quarter of the inventions they own.”

France Against Itself, by Tim Judah in the New York Review of Books

“In the second round Le Pen will run against Emmanuel Macron, the thirty-nine-year-old former economics minister and founder of a party barely a year old, En Marche!, which took 23.9 percent on Sunday. In the face of a far-right finalist, almost the entire French establishment has gotten behind Macron and his centrist movement, and the polls have suggested that Macron could win by as much as 62 percent to 38 percent for Le Pen. But the establishment itself is much out of favor, and however he tries to distance himself from it, Macron is very much its creature. Wide though the gap may be today, abstentionism, another major terrorist attack, or something else as yet unforeseen could swing the vote. A visit to the Côte d’Azur gives some sense of how this situation came about. First was the abysmal performance of the current administration. By last year Hollande’s ratings had dropped so low that he decided not to run for a second term. His promises of reform and economic rejuvenation were largely unfulfilled. France has first-rate infrastructure and heath care, but taxes are high. The country’s growth has been lingering in the doldrums since the financial crash of 2008.”

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.”