Economics Society Technology

The Reconn Reader: 30 Nov, 2018

Each week, I share some of the most interesting articles from the past seven days. Here is this week’s selection. -CA


World & Politics

A Billionaire Backer and the Murky Finances of the AfD

The AfD, Weidel insisted, had “not tried to cover anything up,” adding that careful records had been kept about all AfD bank accounts. “No suitcases full of money were carried back and forth about whose whereabouts nobody can, or wants to, remember,” she said, a reference to the party donation scandal that shook the CDU at the end of Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s tenure and about which he remained silent until the end of his life. At the conclusion of her speech, Weidel said: “We don’t need any moral expostulations from you!” (Der Spiegel)

How U.S. and Chinese firms are outmaneuvering Trump in trade war

“I think we could get to the middle of 2020 and have 25 percent across the board U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods,” said Derek Scissors, a resident scholar and China expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank in Washington. “If your supply chain runs through China, you have to at least consider the possibility of diversification.” (Politico)

G-20 leaders descend on Buenos Aires as host Argentina battles worst economic crisis in a decade

Unsurprisingly, all of this made the country more vulnerable to a crisis, which began in May when a particularly bad drought – the most expensive in Argentina’s history – dried up important export crops, such as soybeans and corn. Argentina is the world’s third-largest exporter of both. Foreign investors, concerned about the government’s ability to meet its obligations, began dumping short-term central bank debt. Meanwhile Argentines, acutely aware of any whiff of economic trouble, began to get rid of their pesos too. (The Conversation)


Business & Economics

The tale of two Davids (Cameron and Beckham) and our social mobility problem

Britain desperately needs a new model of social mobility that develops all talents, not just academic, but vocational and creative – and creates opportunities across the whole country, not just in London. Employers need to treat employees as a long-term investment, and offer training and skill development that can raise productivity. Britain’s booming gig economy has created an employment underclass lacking security, training, progression or rights, stuck on short-term and temporary contracts (or ‘gigs’).


If that seems counterintuitive, consider two advertisements for Dove soap separated by about 50 years. In a 1957 television spot, the camera’s near-fetishistic attention on the look and feel of the newly-introduced Dove bar is supplemented by a breakdown of its chemical composition (“¼ cleansing creme!”) and a pseudo-scientific demonstration of its effectiveness. Compare that to Dove’s 2006 Super Bowl XL commercial, part of the company’s famous (but well-critiqued) “Campaign for Real Beauty.” Over the ad’s 45 second-long ode to women’s insecurity, Dove products appear exactly zero times. What matters is no longer Dove soap’s cleansing creme or demonstrable superiority to water, but how the brand associates itself, and those who use it, with a message of social empowerment that reaches well beyond the bathroom. (The Outline)

So who actually owns your Bitcoin?

The issue has arisen before a court in Florida. The estate of the deceased Dave Kleiman is suing Craig Wright, who allegedly seized up to 1 million Bitcoin, worth billions of dollars. The estate is suing for the return of the tokens under what is known as the tort of conversion, which in England and Wales applies only to things in possession. Some commentators have questioned whether Wright – a colorful character who once claimed to have invented Bitcoin – ever had the tokens to begin with. But the case shows how the outcome of disputes can depend on the property status of digital tokens. Similar issues could arise in cases of theft, bankruptcy and divorce. (Asia Times)


Science & Technology

The art of Emerging Infectious Diseasesand other medical journals

In the 1970s, cover selection fell to longtime JAMA editor Therese Southgate, whose masterstroke was to include an eloquent, page-long essay in each issue, giving some art history along with her own feelings about the work she had chosen. Southgate’s essays were an unlikely hit, appealing to physicians and lay readers alike, and they’re now collected in three separate volumes, published between 1996 and 2011, called The Art of JAMA. (Columbia Journalism Review)


“Today’s babies, by adulthood, will live on a planet without an Arctic. Prevalence of heatstroke and extreme weather will have redefined global labour and production beyond recognition,” as an editorial accompanying the report puts it. “Multiple cities will be uninhabitable and migration patterns will be far beyond those levels already creating pressure worldwide.” Cats and dogs living together; mass hysteria. Your planet’s on fire, kids. (WIRED)

Solving the Riddle of Metallica

Young men can process pain in heavy and mysterious ways. Metallica hired Newsted, and then erased his contributions out of resentment at what they had so recently lost. It was a perfect expression of self-sabotage and misdirected guilt. “I think he was such a fan, and we hated that,” Hetfield recently told David Fricke. “We wanted to ‘unfan’ him and [have him] become as hard as we were. So [we were] trying to beat the fan out of him.” Why indulge love? (New Yorker)

How Women Manage the Gendered Norms of Leadership

We wanted to know how successful women do it, day-to-day. So we conducted extensive interviews with 64 senior women leaders (all at the VP level or higher) from 51 different organizations in the United States: CEOs, general managers, and executives across functions, working in various industries. We found that there are four paradoxes, all stemming from the need to be both tough and nice, that these women confront. We also identified five strategies they use to manage them. (Harvard Business Review)

Obituary: Raed Fares was shot dead on November 23rd

Under Bashar’s despotism his house had been raided by security men. He’d had enough. So after the Free Syrian Army, in 2012, took the town, he set up in a small concrete office his grandly named Union of Revolutionary Bureaus (urb). From there he organised demonstrations, campaigned for clean water, ran a health centre with a mobile clinic (he had started to study medicine at university, but became an estate agent to support his parents), set up a fund to assist survivors and helped women and children get education. He built a mini civil society, the only way out of war. (The Economist)

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