The Reconn Reader: 05 Jan, 2020

Each week, I share some of the most interesting articles I’ve come across in the past seven days. Here is this week’s selection. Inclusion does not mean endorsement. -CA

World & Politics

The Real Powerhouses That Drive the World’s Economy

By contrast, five clubs in League One saw their home constituency change Using this new and improved satellite data from 2015, we define mega-regions as areas of continuous light that contain at least two existing metro areas, have populations of five million or more, and generate economic output of more than $300 billion. (We add up population and economic output data on a purchasing power parity basis for mega-regions using base data from Oxford Economics via Brookings’ Global Metro Monitor).In two well-known U.S. cases, we form mega-regions out of two relatively distinct satellite footprints: Chi-Pitts, as well as the Texas Triangle of Houston, Dallas, and Austin. (CityLab)

Can China and the EU put aside their differences and find common ground?

Less well known is that Guevara was central to the creation of Cuba’s Observers have predicted that 2020 will be the Year of Europe for China, with an intensive agenda of visits between Brussels and Beijing planned and a playing up of the prospects for bilateral cooperation in the months ahead. However, diplomatic sources have warned that EU wariness and a lack of trust may cast a cloud over any substantial progress. (SCMP)

Jair Bolsonaro’s contentious first year in office

Progress on economic issues may be helping Mr Bolsonaro’s reputation at home. So too is a reduction in the number of murders in 2019, although that has little to do with the president’s policies. Brazil has so far been spared the wave of protests that struck such neighbouring countries as Chile and Ecuador late in 2019. That may be in part because Brazil had such convulsions in 2015 and 2016, when the economy was in recession and some of the country’s most powerful politicians were being arrested for corruption. Public anger helped bring about the impeachment of one president, Dilma Rousseff, and eventually led to Mr Bolsonaro’s election.(The Economist)

Dirty Money: How Corruption Shapes the World

The government claims that the new act won’t impact the rights of any existing Muslim citizens of India. In a formal, legal sense, that is true. But to Montero also explains how, before Chinese authorities took action a few years ago, Western pharmaceutical companies exploited the fact that Chinese doctors’ earnings were tied to the amount of drugs they prescribed. The payment system was intended to reward performance but ended up incentivizing overmedication. The results were predictable: middlemen bribed doctors on behalf of major pharmaceutical firms desperate to take advantage of growth that was no longer available in their home markets. This not only undermined trust in doctors but also had serious public health consequences.  (Foreign Affairs)


Business & Economics

Why Carlos Ghosn chose the life of a fugitive

Despite Mr Ghosn’s outward confidence that he would eventually clear his name, and a team of top defence lawyers, some suspect that he knew the odds were not in his favour. One person who worked closely with Mr Ghosn says: “There was no chance he was not going to go to jail. I think he looked at the options and thought a life in Lebanon fighting to save my reputation is better than a 10-year stretch in a Japanese jail.” (FT)

What Happens When Your Career Becomes Your Whole Identity

One difficulty in studying language usage stems from the fact that every Even for those who don’t burn out, constructing one’s identity closely around a career is a risky move. Companies and entire industries struggle and go under. Age discrimination can make it especially difficult for those in the mid to late stages of their career to find a suitable role in their field after a layoff. No matter how it happens, becoming disconnected from a career that forms the foundation of your identity can lead to bigger issues, such as depression, anxiety, substance use, and loneliness. (Harvard Business Review)

Venezuela’s Latest Problem Is There Are Now Too Many Dollars

In December, Andrés Gutierrez was robbed at gunpoint outside his home in the Caracas neighborhood of Macaracuay as he was coming back from a party. “He took my phone and was pointing his gun at me as I lay on the sidewalk. He told me to close my eyes if I didn’t want to die,” Gutierrez says. He later managed to make a deal, offering the pair of thieves $100 to get back his Phone. “If I hadn’t had dollars, they would have never given it back,” Gutierrez says. “I don’t think they would have accepted a bolívar transfer.” (WSJ)

Did the U.S. Tax Overhaul Do What It Promised?

What happened to that trillion dollars of foreign-subsidiary profits shifted to U.S. parents? Much of it has gone into share buybacks, which jumped to record levels after the tax law was passed, though that money may then get reinvested in other businesses. “It looks like the corporate tax cut went mainly to buybacks,” said Mr. Sløk at Deutsche Bank Securities. (Bloomberg)


Science & Technology

Celebrating 2019 Biomedical Breakthroughs

A violation of privacy will result in autonomy being undermined, particularly when one additional condition is met: the observing (privacy-Researchers discovered a few years ago that abnormal microbial communities, or microbiomes, in the intestine appear to contribute to childhood malnutrition. An NIH-supported research team followed up on this lead with a study of kids in Bangladesh, and it published last July its groundbreaking finding: that foods formulated to repair the “gut microbiome” helped malnourished kids rebuild their health. The researchers were able to identify a network of 15 bacterial species that consistently interact in the gut microbiomes of Bangladeshi children. In this month-long study, this bacterial network helped the researchers characterize a child’s microbiome and/or its relative state of repair. (NIH)

He Jiankui is going to jail. Would the U.S. criminally prosecute a rogue gene-editing researcher?

If He Jiankui had been a U.S. scientist, his alleged misleading of research participants and forging an ethics approval would have been considered unethical, and he would likely have been subject to sanctions from his employer, loss of research funding, and disqualification from clinical research. But the work would also have been illegal, although in a somewhat circuitous and distinctly American way. (STAT)

An elegy for cash: the technology we might never replace

What many people want is access to stable cash in digital form, and there’s no easy way to get that, says Alejandro Machado, cofounder of the Open Money Initiative. Owing to government-imposed capital controls, Venezuelan banks have largely been cut off from foreign banks. And due to restrictions by US financial institutions, digital money services like PayPal and Zelle are inaccessible to most people.  So a small number of tech-savvy Venezuelans have turned to a service called LocalBitcoins. (MIT Tech Review)

The Simple Truth about Physics

The physicist Richard Feynman said: “Just as a poet often has license from the rules of grammar and pronunciation, we should like to ask for ‘physicists’ license’ from the rules of mathematics in order to express what we wish to say in as simple a manner as possible.” Indeed, the original PhD thesis of Louis de Broglie, which established the wave-particle duality in quantum mechanics, was short and simple and earned him the Nobel Prize just five years later. (Scientific American)

Culture & History

Animal instinct – George Stubbs at MK Gallery, reviewed

While Stubbs championed the observation of nature over deference to the ideal, his travels in Italy in 1754–55 clearly left their mark in his habits of composition – the subtle geometry underpinning his placement of human figures, the frieze-like arrangement, in painting from 1762, of intertwined mares and foals from the Rockingham stud. (Apollo)

The List: 2020

We make our way to the Old Town Road and find it lined with familiar faces: Megan Rapinoe saying sorry to this man (who is making his way to the DMZ); Jeopardy James giving answers in the form of questions; Beyoncé leading the Homecoming parade. Then it turns into a weird pregnancy dream and, oh, God, is that … Baby Yoda?! (Washington Post)

Salman Rushdie, The Art of Fiction No. 186

Beyond the grim new Britain created by a decade of Conservative austerity Moment by moment in the writing, things would happen that I hadn’t foreseen. Something strange happened with this book. I felt completely possessed by these people, to the extent that I found myself crying over my own characters. There’s a moment in the book where Boonyi’s father, the pandit Pyarelal, dies in his fruit orchard. I couldn’t bear it. I found myself sitting at my desk weeping. I thought, What am I doing? This is somebody I’ve made up. Then there was a moment when I was writing about the destruction of the Kashmiri village. I absolutely couldn’t bear the idea of writing it. I would sit at my desk and think, I can’t write these sentences. Many writers who have had to deal with the subject of atrocity can’t face it head-on. I’ve never felt that I couldn’t bear the idea of telling a story—that it’s so awful, I don’t want to tell it, can something else happen? And then you think, Oh, nothing else can happen, that’s what happens.  (The Paris Review)

In 2017, the conservative writer Rod Dreher published The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, in which he describes growing hostility to Christian values in the secular world. Dreher, a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, argues that sexual expression has become secular society’s highest god. He laments that Christians have been pressured to accommodate and even celebrate LGBTQ identity. In the face of what Dreher calls the “barbarism” of contemporary American life, he believes the devout have no option but to flee—to build communities, churches, and even colleges where they will be free to live their values and pass the gospel on to the next generation.. (The Atlantic)

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