Thursday, July 4, 2013

Freedom of the Press - Myanmar continues to make quick reforms

Freedom of the Press - Myanmar continues to make quick reforms

Myanmar’s Union Parliament is poised to vote on at least two major press freedom bills before the end of this summer. Some components of the draft laws are welcomed, but the drafting process is raising concerns. Parliament should take the opportunity and their time review these bills, and perhaps allow reform process to slow down a bit.
The first major piece of legislation to be introduced in Parliament in the coming weeks is the Printing and Publishing Enterprise Law. Several strict rules of self-censorship still remain. The Ministry of Information (MOI) has come under internatioanl and domestic criticsm for its continued arcane policies. This original version of the bill was introduced last March. The criticism lead the MOI to revise the bill in consultation with the Myanmar Press Council, a 28-member body of journalists and 10 government-appointed representatives.
Parliament will also vote this month on a draft Public Service Media (PSM) bill. This bill would have 70 percent of PSM funding come from public funds and the remainder from commercial activities. It also calls for the creation of a 15-member administrative team appointed by the president and Parliament to oversee the transformation process.
A third bill, the Press Law Bill, which the Myanmar Press Council introduced in February to outline industry standards and safeguard journalistic freedom, still waits in the wings. While the legislation does roll back some troublesome regulations, it still bans criticism of state institutions and does not meet the highest international standards.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Best Western Hotels arrives in Yangon

Best Western International has announced plans to launch its famous hotel brand in the world's most exciting emerging market, Myanmar.
The 'World's Largest Hotel Chain' has sealed an agreement to take over the management of the Green Hill Hotel, a modern new property located in the heart of Myanmar's largest city, Yangon.
In doing so, Best Western International becomes the first US hotel company to establish a presence in Myanmar, following the exciting recent developments that have allowed the country to welcome new foreign investment.
The newly built Green Hill Hotel, which has 189 rooms will now be managed and operated by Best Western International under its midscale BEST WESTERN brand.
"Best Western International wants to form long and lasting partnerships in Myanmar; we want to be here for the long-term, to help grow the country's tourism industry. Our partnership with the Green Hill Hotel is just the start of our plans for Myanmar," said Mr. Glen de Souza, Vice President of International Operations for Asia and the Middle East.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

USA Today - IMF: World economy enters 'dangerous new phase'

WASHINGTON – The world economy has entered a "dangerous new phase," according to the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund. As a result, the international lending organization has sharply downgraded its economic outlook for the United States and Europe through the end of next year.
The IMF expects the U.S. economy to grow just 1.5 percent this year and 1.8 percent in 2012. That's down from its June forecast of 2.5 percent in 2011 and 2.7 percent next year.
To achieve even that still-low level of growth, the U.S. economy would need to expand at a much faster rate in the second half of the year than its 0.7 percent annual pace in the first six months.
Most economists expect growth of between 1.5 percent and 2 percent in the final two quarters. Though an improvement, it wouldn't be enough to lower the unemployment rate. The rate has been 9 percent or higher in all but two months since the recession officially ended more than two years ago.
"The global economy has entered a dangerous new phase," said Olivier Blanchard, the IMF's chief economist. "The recovery has weakened considerably. Strong policies are needed to improve the outlook and reduce the risks."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Jewish National Fund
The Jewish National Fund (Hebrew: קרן קימת לישראל, Keren Kayemet LeYisrael) (abbreviated as JNF, and sometimes KKL) was founded in 1901 to buy and develop land in Ottoman Palestine (later Israel) for Jewish settlement. The JNF is a quasi-governmental, non-profit organisation. [1][2] By 2007, it owned 13% of the total land in Israel.[3] Since its inception, the JNF has planted over 240 million trees in Israel. It has also built 180 dams and reservoirs, developed 250,000 acres (1,000 km2) of land and established more than 1,000 parks.[4]In 2002, the JNF was awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement and special contribution to society and the State of Israel.[5][6] The JNF was founded at the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel in 1901 with Theodor Herzl's support based on the proposal of a German Jewish mathematician, Zvi Hermann Schapira.[7] Early land purchases were completed in Judea and the Lower Galilee. In 1909, the JNF played a central role in the founding of Tel Aviv. The establishment of the “Olive Tree Fund” marked the beginning of Diaspora support of afforestation efforts. The Blue Box (known in Yiddish as a pushke) has been part of the JNF since its inception, symbolizing the partnership between Israel and the Diaspora. In the period between the two world wars, about one million of these blue and white tin collection boxes could be found in Jewish homes throughout the world.[8] From 1902 until the late 1940s, the JNF sold JNF stamps to raise money. For a brief period in May 1948, JNF stamps were used as postage stamps during the transition from Palestine to Israel.[9]

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Chronicle for Higher Education: Politics and the University: Views From the Campuses

The value of a higher degree is not what it could be since the global economic slowdown has stalled production, growth, and employment. Universities in the US however do not recognize this trend and continue to raise tuition costs at rates higher than the national inflation rate.Potential students are pondering the value and cost of a higher education degree when there is no promise it equates to better employment or employment at all. Used to be that a slow economy meant students went on to graduate school to wait out the bad economy and time their dive
into the employment search pool with a higher degree in their hands. Now it seems not only are students doubting the promises of higher education, but perhaps the future as well. Nevertheless, this time should be seen as a chance for universities to provide the leadership with the US to encourage optimism, design education and employment directives, and coordinate with industries for research and development. 
The Chronicle for Higher Education offers some more insight by experts:

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hey, Einstein... who's your congressman ?

In recent years, there has been a trend for the training of scientists to enter into public service leadership positions. Perhaps the most recent and most notable is US DOE Secretary Steven Chu. Secretary Chu is considered a Washington-outsider with an objective analytic outlook on America's energy issues. Really, you think so ? Even as a scientist, Dr. Chu had his own scientific predilections at Stanford and SLAC; why would he not have a political oppinion. So, the thinking in the science community has been to get others like Dr. Chu into public service leadership posts. Dr. Chu was appointed by the President, but it's alot harder to win an election. Another physicist, Bill Foster ( from Fermilab ) was formerly a Democratic congressman from Illinois and served one term then lost in his incumbent race to a Republican.
Some advocates for scientists in Congress say that scientists should enter the public service in order to vote on legislation and $100 million budgets that effect science and education. But transforming a professional scientist to become a professional politician would require some special training beyond advocacy. Why not just gather scientists to advocate for their causes and put their money where their mouths are and campaign for actual politicians who will be on their side. We need more scientists not scientists becoming politicians. Bigger science and smaller government would be better.
For more reading, see the NY Times:  

"My looks are not great" - Yoshihiko Noda, new PM of Japan...

“My looks are not great... If elected, I wouldn’t have a great support rate.” This was the campaign slogan of the new prime minister of Japan - Yoshihiko Noda. Certainly if this were a general election by the Japanese public, he would not be a winner. But this was a political stalemate produced by the Diet of Japan. Good luck. Noda at best will keep the peace and the pace of recovery going for at least a year. It seems like most governments around the world, the Japanese Diet is also "broken". The Japanese people are at all time high of discontent towards their legislators, but still there is not enough pressure against the representatives to do anything radical for change or growth. The governing model is broken indeed and some leadership must emerge. Perhaps it is time for a true people's party to emerge spurred by the disaster and recovery form the tsunami. This is an opportunity for the US to fully engage Japan, it best peace-loving ally in the world, to create whole new industries, cities, jobs, and innovate traditional businesses. After the tsunami, Japan does not look so great, but with support - the recovery is full speed ahead. 
Here's some expert Q&A from Prof. Michael Green at CSIS:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Burroughs Welcome Fund - supporter of the biomedical sciences

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) is a private, independent biomedical research foundation based in Research Triangle Park (RTP), North Carolina.RTP is one of the most prominent high-tech research and development centers in the United States. It was created in 1959 by state and local governments, nearby universities, and local business interests. RTP has attracted many foreign universities to also come and join the North Carolina region which has boosted the local economy.
The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is dedicated to advancing the medical sciences by supporting research and other scientific and educational activities.This sort of general vision is common among organizations promoting science and the careers of young researchers. However, more specifically BWF looks to support young investigators who are working in, or entering, fields in the biomedical sciences that are poised for significant advance but currently " undervalued and underfunded". The development of scientists early in their careers is crucial to independent and curiosity-driven discoveries.
The Burroughs Welcome Fund

NYT - "All Together Now" By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

HOLD onto your hats and your wallets. Since the end of the cold war, the global system has been held together to a large degree by four critical ruling bargains. Today all four are coming unstuck at once and will need to be rebuilt. Whether and how that rebuilding happens — beginning in the U.S. — will determine a lot about what’s in your wallet and whether your hat flies off.

Now let me say that in English: the European Union is cracking up. The Arab world is cracking up. China’s growth model is under pressure and America’s credit-driven capitalist model has suffered a warning heart attack and needs a total rethink. Recasting any one of these alone would be huge. Doing all four at once — when the world has never been more interconnected — is mind-boggling. We are again “present at the creation” — but of what?
 Let’s start with the Middle East, the world’s oil tap. Libyans just joined Tunisians, Egyptians and Yemenis in ousting their dictator, while Syrians and Iranians hope to soon follow suit. In time, virtually every Middle East autocrat will be deposed or forced to share power. The old model can’t hold. That model was based on kings and military dictators capturing the oil revenue, ensconcing themselves in power — protected by well-financed armies and security services — and buying off key segments of their populations. That lid has been blown off by an Arab youth bulge that today can see just how everyone else is living and is no longer ready to accept being behind, undereducated, unemployed, humiliated and powerless. But while this old Middle East system — based on an iron fist and a fistful of petro-dollars holding together multiethnic/multireligious societies — has broken down, it will take time for these societies to write their own social contracts for how to live together without an iron fist from above. Hope for the best, prepare for anything.