transcription des enregistrements Ecricom 2012
The New York Times, July 24th 2011
American technology companies are eager to do business in China, sometimes too eager.
Cisco Systems and others are working on a government project in the city of Chongqing, for example, that
includes creating the biggest police surveillance system in the world. A year and a half after Google pulled its
search engine out of China to avoid censorship, Microsoft’s Bing still censors searches in China. Earlier this
month, it agreed to provide search results in English for Baidu, China’s leading - and heavily censored -
The United States needs enforceable standards of ethical behavior when American companies work with
In May, Chinese practitioners of Falun Gong sued Cisco, accusing it of helping the Chinese government
design and maintain the so-called Golden Shield system used to track and target dissidents online, including
Falun Gong followers who were apprehended and tortured.
Cisco denies the accusation. It says it does not customize equipment to help any government censor content,
intercept communications or track users. It says it only sells the Chinese government standard-issue
equipment and that it is not selling cameras or image-management software in Chongqing, only general
Nevertheless, Cisco’s experience confirms that we need uniform principles to guide corporate behavior.
After Yahoo handed over data five years ago about a Chinese journalist who was condemned to 10 years in
jail, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google joined in the Global Network Initiative to set principles that include
protecting “the freedom of expression rights of their users when confronted with government demands, laws
and regulations to suppress freedom of expression.” Voluntary guidelines are insufficient. Just as the Foreign
Corrupt Practices Act establishes that companies cannot bribe foreign officials, legislation is needed in this
Internet companies should not keep user data inside countries where courts convict people for what they
write, speak or think. They should warn users about their risks, and they should never censor content.
American firms were barred from selling crime-control products to China after the Tiananmen Square
massacre of 1989. The list must be broadened and kept up to date. Firms could be barred from selling
technology to eavesdrop on VoIP communications or powerful antispam systems that could be used to target
political speech. Technology companies should be barred from tailoring goods to a repressive end.
An article this month about the Chongqing project in The Wall Street Journal quoted an executive at Hewlett-
Packard, which is planning to bid on the project. “It’s not my job to really understand what they’re going to
use it for,” he said. That’s not nearly good enough.
Beyond green: a net-zero college community
The New York Times, October 21st 2011
Designing buildings that leave a lighter imprint on the environment has become the de facto standard these
days. The target for many is zero net energy use, meaning that a building makes as much energy as it uses
over the course of a year.
Noteworthy net-zero-energy homes, commercial buildings and government structures are regularly built. But
none have matched the scale of West Village, a net-zero community at the University of California, Davis,
that its developers describe as the largest project of its kind in the country.
Stretching over 130 acres on the campus, which is just west of Sacramento, the initial phase of this $280
million project officially opened last weekend with the completion of 315 apartments, 42,500 square feet of
commercial space and a recreation center. Once it is completed in 2013, the development will be home to
about 3,000 students, faculty and staff in apartments and single-family houses.
The university collaborated on the project with the private developers Carmel Partners and Urban Villages,
real estate development firms that specialize in sustainable design.
Reaching net zero energy for such a varied collection of residential and commercial spaces combines two
approaches, according to Nolan Zail, project manager for Carmel Partners.
“First you have to find ways to reduce energy consumption for the development and then meet that
consumption by generating energy on-site from renewable sources,” he said.
Using techniques like solar reflective roofing and extra insulation will reduce the heating and cooling
demands of the buildings. Designs that make the most of natural light so that overhead lights can stay turned
off will reduce electricity costs. Aside from those passive energy-saving methods, residents can manage their
energy use by turning off lamps and plugged-in electronics remotely through a smartphone app.
All these techniques should result in energy consumption that is about 50 percent lower than that of other
projects built to meet the current building codes, according to Mr. Zail.
A four-megawatt photovoltaic solar power system provides power for the community. And for future energy
needs, a biodigester is being considered that uses technology developed at the university. A biodigester
produces biogas from animal and plant waste that is used to generate electricity and heat.
The innovations are notable considering the constraints imposed on the project, said Sid England, the
university’s assistant vice chancellor for sustainability. “Working with a private developer, the project must
provide a return for its investors,” he said. “At the same time, we had to build high-quality affordable
housing for students and staff while still accomplishing the goal of zero net energy.”
“We’ve proven it can work on a very large scale within those constraints,” said Mr. England. “We want this
to be replicable, so others can see what we’ve done and know they can do it too.”
Half of all student internships still unpaid
The Guardian, September 5th 2011
Nearly half of all internships undertaken by university students are unpaid, according to latest figures.
A survey by university careers agency Graduate Prospects asked 22,000 UK graduates between 2006 and
2010 if they did any work experience while studying for their degree. More than 70% reported they had
secured some form of experience, often by taking on casual paid work. Others did unpaid voluntary work or
secured an internship. Of the internships undertaken 43% were not paid.
Chief executive of Graduate Prospects Mike Hill said: “Despite the hype around unpaid work experience
placements over the last few years, we can see from this study that a huge proportion of interns still have to
work for free.”
Earlier this year the TUC, backed by the government and several major employers’ institutes, published the
first code of best practice for high-quality internships. It states that companies offering a placement of six
weeks or more should pay the national minimum wage (NMW) - currently £5.93 for those aged 21 and over
and £4.92 for 18-20s - to an intern if they are contributing to a company, have a list of duties and are working
set hours. However, NMW legislation does not cover internships undertaken by those in full-time education,
offering a convenient legal loophole for employers seeking to take advantage of unpaid student labour.
Even so, Becky Heath, chief executive of interns’ rights organisation Internocracy, claimed the report showed
how “the erosive culture of unpaid internships is affecting students as well as those who have graduated and
are looking for work”. She added: “Although many employers are very conscientious about taking on young
people, in many instances students are required to get work experience and this is exploited by unscrupulous
employers. It’s a trend which will only continue to grow as support for young people is stripped away. With
the scrapping of the future jobs fund, many students and graduates are forced to do placement after
placement of unpaid work, all for the hope of a decent job.”
The Prospects survey also showed that nearly a third of students found their internships through family or
friend networks - almost as many as those who secured placements through their university careers services.
The issue divided prime minister David Cameron and his coalition deputy Nick Clegg earlier this year, with
the Lib Dem leader arguing that the practice of giving work experience to personal acquaintances is a bar to
Separate figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed that 28% of graduates who left
university in 2007 were still not in full-time work three-and-a-half years later.
The quarterlife crisis
The Guardian, May 5th 2011
It is supposed to be the time of opportunity and adventure, before mortgages and marriage have taken their
toll. But struggling to cope with anxieties about jobs, unemployment, debt and relationships, many young
adults are experiencing a “quarterlife crisis”, according to new research by British psychologists.
Bearing all the hallmarks of the midlife crisis, this phenomenon - characterised by insecurities,
disappointments, loneliness and depression - is hitting twenty- and thirtysomethings shortly after they enter
the “real world”, with educated professionals most likely to suffer.
“Quarterlife crises don’t happen literally a quarter of the way through your life,” said lead researcher Dr
Oliver Robinson, from the University of Greenwich in London. “They occur a quarter of your way through
adulthood, in the period between 25 and 35, although they cluster around 30.”
Robinson, who presented his findings at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Glasgow,
worked with researchers from Birkbeck College on what he says is the first research to look at the quarterlife
crisis from a “solid, empirical angle based on data rather than speculation.”
The research is backed by a survey undertaken by Gumtree.com which found 86% of the 1,100 young people
questioned admitted feeling under pressure to succeed in their relationships, finances and jobs before hitting
Two in five were worried about money, saying they did not earn enough, and 32% felt under pressure to
marry and have children by the age of 30. Six percent were planning to emigrate, while 21% wanted a
complete career change.
But Robinson also found that the quarterlife crisis - which lasts on average for two years - can be a positive
experience. Such early-life crises have four phases, he said, moving from feelings of being trapped to a
catalyst for change then, eventually, the building and cementing of a new life.
“The results will help reassure those who are experiencing this transition that it is a commonly experienced
part of early adult life, and that a proven pattern of positive change results from it,” said Robinson.
Damian Barr, author of the book Get it Together: A Guide to Surviving Your Quarterlife Crisis, said growing
numbers of 25-year-olds are experiencing pressures previously felt by those in their mid-forties.
“Plenty of people are going to say the quarterlife crisis doesn’t exist,” he said. “The truth is that our 20s are
not, as they were for our parents, 10 years of tie-dye fun and quality ‘me’ time. Being twentysomething now
is scary - fighting millions of other graduates for your first job, struggling to raise a mortgage deposit and
finding time to juggle all your relationships.
“We have the misfortune to be catapulted into a perilous property market. We’re earning more but spending
more than ever. We’re getting into debt to finance our degrees, careers and accommodation. If, as we’re
constantly told, the world is our oyster, it’s definitely a dodgy one.”
UK children stuck in ‘materialistic trap’
The Guardian, September 14th 2011
British children are caught in a “materialistic trap” in which they are unable to spend enough time with their
families and instead are bought off with “branded goods” by their parents, the United Nation’s children’s
agency Unicef warns.
Three years ago, Unicef ranked the UK at the bottom of a league table for child well-being across 21
industrialised countries, by looking at poverty, family relationships, and health. It attempted to discover why
children fared better in nations that were both more equal to the UK - Sweden - and more unequal, such as
The results were startling. Children in all three countries told researchers that their happiness is dependent on
having time with family and friends and having “plenty to do outdoors”. Despite that, parents in the UK,
especially those in low-income families, said they felt “tremendous pressure from society to buy material
goods for their children”.
To help alleviate such pressures, Unicef calls for a series of measures. It says the government should follow
the example of Sweden by banning television advertising aimed at children younger than 12.
The UN also calls for government to pay all employees and subcontracted workers the living wage, the
minimum pay rate required for a worker to provide their family with the essentials of life, which in London
is £8.30 per hour.
Anita Tiessen, deputy director of Unicef UK, said that much of the problem was the “long working hours of
British families. Parents have a much greater pressure in fulfilling the commitment to their children. They try
to make up for this by buying their children branded clothes, trainers, technology.”
By comparison, this “consumer culture” does not exist in Sweden or Spain. In Scandinavia, child care duties
are more equally shared and family time is prioritised. In Spain, where women tend to stay at home there is a
great reliance on the extended family with grandparents and uncles and aunts helping out with children.
The children’s agency also says that, in an age of austerity and in the aftermath of the riots, local authorities
need to be honest about the impact of spending cuts on children - so that “funding is protected for play
facilities and free leisure activities for children”.
Kate Mulley, head of policy development and research at the charity Action for Children, said that the report
showed “some families are facing growing pressures that undermine family life. These are the families we
need to focus on to help them overcome multiple and complex problems.”
She said that “substantial cuts are reducing activities and support available for children, young people and
families who are often already at breaking point. These services are critical in developing the social and
emotional skills needed to maximise children and young people’s potential. The government needs to stop
just hearing young people and actually listen to them.”
Is there any hope for Britain’s jobless youth?
Time Magazine, October 28th 2011
In the summer of 2011, the world saw two very different sides of Britain: the fairy-tale romance of a royal
wedding, and the uncorked rage of rioters setting London ablaze. And while the traditional, picture-perfect
image of Britain continues to draw the international spotlight, the situation far from the charmed circle is
only getting worse. Almost 1 million (1 in 5) of 18- to 24-year-olds are out of work, and many of them have
been for a long time.
Countries across Europe are suffering similarly devastating levels of youth unemployment, but in Britain, the
issue has particular urgency. Studies show that no European country’s young people are as prone to drink,
drugs and crime as Britain’s, and no country has experienced the same violent rioting that swept England.
Government figures show that those who took part in the riots were poorer, younger and less educated than
average. Some 90% were male; half were under age 20. With firms closing down around them, what does the
future hold for Britain’s alienated youth?
Gary Kelling, 21, lives in a social housing block north of London, just outside Tottenham, the epicenter of
the August riots. He spends much of his time with his friends engaging in the urban acrobatics of parkour, or
free running. Kelling survives by “signing on” - collecting $86 from the government each week. He says he
wants to “earn a lot of money” but predicts that in a year’s time, he’ll still be hanging around Block 55.
Kelling, like many other NEETs (not in education, employment or training), isn’t even looking for work. For
him, signing on is a way of life. Paul Brown of the British youth charity Prince’s Trust says Kelling’s story is
a common one: “We make contact literally every day with young people who think they’ll never work.”
For now, Kelling and his friends still have one foot in boyhood. They’re not in gangs. But they’re vulnerable,
and being jobless doesn’t help. Unemployment robs individuals of “a status in modern societies,” says
Brendan Burchell, a lecturer in sociology at the University of Cambridge. A recent UNICEF study found that
in the U.K. “status brands tended to be more important to children from less affluent backgrounds,
presumably as a means of masking financial and social insecurities and bolstering self-esteem.” This may
explain why young rioters left a trail of empty Nike shoeboxes and designer-clothes hangers in their wake.
Britain’s coalition government has recently announced a new Work Programme that will offer training as
well as eight-week internships to unemployed 18- to 21-year-olds. Yet Prime Minister David Cameron has
also come under fire for sweeping cuts that have forced the closures of charities and youth centers in
Britain’s most vulnerable areas.
While some traced the riots to local shutdowns, ultimately it may be the cuts’ effect on the wider economy
that has the greatest impact on Britain’s unemployed youth. Without a turnaround in the economy, it’s hard to
envision a path out of unemployment for the young men living in Block 55.
Carbon emissions show biggest jump ever recorded
The New York Times, December 4th 2011
Global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning jumped by the largest amount on record last
year, upending the notion that the brief decline during the recession might persist through the recovery.
Emissions rose 5.9 percent in 2010, according to an analysis released Sunday by the Global Carbon Project,
an international collaboration of scientists tracking the numbers. Scientists with the group said the increase
was almost certainly the largest absolute jump in any year since the Industrial Revolution.
The researchers said the high growth rate reflected a bounce-back from the 1.4 percent drop in emissions in
2009, the year the recession had its biggest impact.
In the United States, emissions dropped by a remarkable 7 percent in the recession year of 2009, but rose by
just over 4 percent last year, the new analysis shows. This country is the world’s second-largest emitter of
greenhouse gases, pumping 1.5 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere last year. The United States was
surpassed several years ago by China, where emissions grew 10.4 percent in 2010.
The figures come as delegates from 191 countries meet in Durban, South Africa, for yet another negotiating
session . “Each year that emissions go up, there’s another year of negotiations, another year of indecision,”
said Glen P. Peters, a researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo
and a leader of the group that produced the new analysis. “There’s no evidence that this trajectory we’ve
been following the last 10 years is going to change.”
Scientists say the rapid growth of emissions is warming the Earth, threatening the ecology and putting human
welfare at long-term risk. But their increasingly urgent pleas that society find a way to limit emissions have
met sharp political resistance in many countries, including the United States, because doing so would entail
higher energy costs.
The new figures show a continuation of a trend in which developing countries, including China (2.2 billion
tons of carbon in 2010), have surpassed the wealthy countries in their overall greenhouse emissions.
Emissions per person, though, are still sharply higher in the wealthy countries, and those countries have been
emitting greenhouse gases far longer. The level of carbon dioxide has increased 40 percent since the
On the surface, the figures of recent years suggest that wealthy countries have made headway in stabilizing
their emissions. But Dr. Peters pointed out that in a sense, the rich countries have simply exported some of
them. The fast rise in developing countries has been caused to a large extent by the growth of energy-
intensive manufacturing industries that make goods that rich countries import. “All that has changed is the
location in which the emissions are being produced,” Dr. Peters said.
Could Silicon Valley rethink philanthropy?
The New York Times, December 18th 2011
Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen - the daughter of a Silicon Valley real estate tycoon and the wife of Marc
Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape - thinks tech titans should be more philanthropic. And she is
encouraging the youngest billionaires to give away their money now.
But her mission extends beyond the tech world. She wants to expand the definition of the philanthropist to
include people who give time or expertise, not just money. She also argues that philanthropy should be more
professional, by borrowing strategies like research and evaluation from Silicon Valley’s profit-making
businesses. These strategies include using technology to make things more efficient, inventing new ways to
do business and financing nimble startups.
Although her ideas are not really new, said Michael O’Neill, a professor of nonprofit management at the
University of San Francisco, her efforts could be influential if they inspired donors to do more research, and
more thoughtful giving.
“The ideal thing, as she argues, is that donors would be thoughtful and investigative, but all the data I’ve
seen is that no more than 15 percent of donors actually do that,” Mr. O’Neill said. Instead of researching
grants, he said, people impulsively give to causes like their alma mater or a family member’s disease.
The concept of venture philanthropy, coined by John D. Rockefeller III in 1969, was popularized in a 1997
Harvard Business Review article, “Virtuous Capital: What Foundations Can Learn From Venture Capital.”
And giving while living and with a great deal of thought and research was Andrew Carnegie’s message in
“The Gospel of Wealth,” published in 1889, Mr. O’Neill said.
The tech super-rich have been giving their money away for a while. Early tech entrepreneurs, like Bill
Hewlett and David Packard of Hewlett-Packard and Gordon Moore of Intel, started big and influential
foundations, but the tech boom of the late 1990s spawned new types of giving, like commercial philanthropic
investing, practiced by the Skoll Foundation and the Omidyar Network, both started with eBay money. The
eBay Foundation was formed with pre-initial public offering stock, a groundbreaking idea at the time.
The newest generation of entrepreneurs is more philanthropic while they are young, thanks largely to Ms.
Arrillaga-Andreessen’s work, said Jeff Skoll, eBay’s first president and the founder of the Skoll Foundation.
And today’s tech entrepreneurs are looking at other new ways of giving, including by marrying their
professional and philanthropic activity in a way that previous generations did not, said Ms. Arrillaga-
Andreessen, who teaches philanthropy at Stanford. Zynga, for example, has given $10 million to nonprofit
groups from the sale of virtual goods in its games.
Steve Jobs told students: ‘Stay hungry. Stay foolish.’
The Washington Post, September 5th 2011
Steve Jobs, the late Apple co-founder revealed in a commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005
why he dropped out of college - and why he thought it was one of the best things he ever did. Yet he had
other advice for the students.
Jobs started that speech by talking about being adopted as a baby, and why, 17 years later, he attended Reed
College in Oregon for only six months before dropping out. He said: “My biological mother was a young,
unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I
should be adopted by college graduates but later found out that my mother had never graduated from college
and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She
only relented when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.”
“And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as
Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six
months, I couldn’t see the value in it. So I decided to drop out and the minute I dropped out I could stop
taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.
Let me give you one example.
“Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Because I had
dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to
do this. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it
“None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were
designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac.”
At the end of the speech, his advice to the students went like this:
“And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what
you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
“When I was young, there was an amazing publication called ‘The Whole Earth Catalog’, which was one of
the bibles of my generation. This was in the late 1960’s so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and
Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was
idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions. On the back cover of their final issue was a
photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so
adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they
signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate
to begin anew, I wish that for you. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”
Company ban on email gives employees a break
The Washington Post, December 9th 2011
In case you were too busy catching up on email last week and missed the media interest in the news, the
French company Atos will, over the next 18 months, ban internal email, as it phases out the tool for its
employees. The company’s CEO, Thierry Breton, said that because only about 10 percent of the messages
his employees receive is worth their time, and because too many of his people spend hours every night
sifting through the internal e-mail they get every day, he’s getting rid of the stuff. Completely.
And this is not a small company where everyone is seated in offices down the hall from each other. Atos has
more than 70,000 employees based in 42 countries and is Europe’s largest IT services company. Still, that’s
not stopping Breton from instead pushing phone calls, face-to-face interactions, text and instant messages,
and wiki-like software tools for employees in lieu of email. Email, says Breton, is a “pollutant” and “an
instrument to shirk responsibility.” He hasn’t sent a work email in three years.
He’s right, in some regard. We’ve all felt the perverse sense of accomplishment that comes from sending an
email to someone with an introduction, a list of questions or a request for help. We feel like we’ve gotten
something accomplished. We can move onto other things, even if nothing has actually gotten “done.”
That’s only one of email’s many problems, of course. People inadvertently send the wrong signals in emails
all the time, conveying one tone when they mean another. They write missives, copying in everyone on the
planet so there’s no way to be accused of not getting the word out on time. They hit the dreaded “reply all”
when they shouldn’t. And they clog up inboxes with messages that say nothing more than “Ok” or “Got it.”
Email is also incredibly distracting. Studies have shown that every time you’re alerted to a new email, it can
take 64 seconds to get your head back on track with what you were doing. If the average person gets close to
100 emails a day, that’s an hour and a half of the day wasted on refocusing on work.
But should leaders ban it outright? I don’t think so. It does have a time and place, even if it’s overused. When
a complex set of instructions needs to be conveyed in quick fashion, few things work better. When
someone’s sending you a request for information you know will need to be reviewed by other people or read
again at a later time, there are few things that can be more easily shared or readily referenced. Sure, wiki
software can do these things, but for many employees, e-mail is simpler.
I applaud Breton for trying to do something that streamlines his employee’s workloads. For most
professionals working in today’s knowledge economy, information overload has replaced safety concerns as
the No. 1 issue that affects their working conditions. And yet, it gets woefully little attention. Most leaders
just pile on more ways to add to the information deluge, issuing Blackberries and laptops so that their people
can be always on, all the time.
Companies target children’s tablet aptitude
The Financial Times, October 14th 2011
Ask any parent who has recently bought an iPad and one of the first things they will tell you is how much
their children love playing with the device. An international study this year suggested that while only 9 per
cent of pre-school children can tie their shoelaces, about 20 per cent can play an app on a smartphone.
“Hand-eye co-ordination allows a child to use a tablet from around nine months onward,” says Gary Pope,
co-founder of Kids Industries, the children’s research consultancy. “There is clearly a huge emerging market
It is little surprise, therefore, that publishers and media companies are increasingly looking at producing
content for tablets and phones that is aimed specifically at children.
HarperCollins says it will have about 25 to 30 apps available for children by the end of the year, while
Penguin recently announced plans for a number of new interactive children’s books for the iPad, including an
app based on the Tale of Peter Rabbit. The company has an in-house app development team. Bayard Presse,
the French magazine group, recently launched an iPad-based version of its magazine, StoryBox, for children
as young as three. Disney has launched a series of toys called App Mates, which interact with the touch
screen of the iPad. The first set features the vehicles from the Cars animated films, which children can race
across scenes on the iPad screen.
The children’s app market is so new that there are few estimates of its size. A study of 2,200 iPad-owning
parents in the US and the UK, carried out by Kids Industries, found that parents downloaded an average of
27.2 apps for their children each year, spending about $100 in total.
Given that Gartner, the technology research group, expects some 63.6m tablet devices to be sold this year,
there is clearly a very big opportunity emerging. “We saw this as a fantastic opportunity and started thinking
about how to use the features of the touch screen to tell stories differently,” said Kate Wilson, founder of
Nosy Crow, a children’s publisher that has been one of the pioneers in children’s apps. “Children are using
these devices and as publishers we have a duty to take those reading experiences to where the children are,”
she said. “It is important we do this, otherwise someone else will. This is not to say that the bedtime story
won’t still be best delivered in a calm, quiet, paper-based way. But if children are spending time on these
devices they need to have reading experiences that are as exciting as playing games,” she added.
One of the alluring things about the children’s market is that the prices can be a lot higher than for standard
apps. Nosy Crow’s highly-acclaimed Cinderella app, for example, sells for £5.49, compared with prices of
about 59p for many apps on the iTunes store. Kids Industries found that UK parents were willing to pay up
to $4.22 for a high-quality app. “Especially if something is seen as educational, you can charge a lot more for
it,” Mr Pope said. “For the younger end of the market education is a primary decision-making driver.”
Olympic Britain v royal Britain. The risks and rewards of hosting the 2012 Olympics and a
royal jubilee in austerity Britain
The Economist, December 31st 2011
British voters are braced for a horrible 2012: the country nearly tops international rankings for economic
pessimism. Though David Cameron’s coalition government also expects a tough year, ministers hope that the
public mood will be lifted by the Diamond Jubilee marking Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne and,
a few weeks later, by the London Olympics. Together, these events should dominate the summer.
The festivities should serve a dual purpose, the prime minister said. They must celebrate what is “already
great” about Britain, and show a watching world that the country is open, strong, confident and “moving
forward to a better future.”
Amid grumbling from Londoners about the cost and inconvenience of hosting the Olympics, the capital’s
mayor, Boris Johnson, has urged people to enjoy a “summer like no other”.
Yet politicians are being glib if they present the 2012 London Olympics and Diamond Jubilee as almost a
single event, offering a summer of cheer to hard-pressed voters at home as well as a chance to show off to
the world, putting the great back into Great Britain. The country is in an odd mood. There is no national
consensus about what Britishness means. And the summer’s two set-piece events will present quite different
accounts of the nation.
The Diamond Jubilee, an historical rarity last seen in 1897, unfashionably celebrates a hereditary elite. Yet,
oddly, it is so far proving less contentious than the Olympics, a popular festival of global sport and celebrity.
Start with the question of Britishness and presenting Britain to the world. To borrow Mr Cameron’s
formulation, the jubilee will be about celebrating what many Britons feel is “already great” about their
country, from its history to its democratic stability, the second world war (in which the queen served) and its
flair for ceremony. It will be Britain’s event, to which others will be invited.
The Olympics will show the country in a different light. The games will be the world’s event, at which the
British will dream of coming fourth in the medal tables.
Perhaps the greatest irony is that the royal jubilee may have a better chance of navigating the British public’s
deep rage at high-level extravagance and abuses of power. The monarchy is hardly an egalitarian’s dream.
But it can draw on centuries of historical and material capital to put on a decent show with little fresh outlay.
The Olympic movement, a juggernaut controlled by an unaccountable sporting elite, is less flexible. The
danger signs are in place, with newspapers reporting on the five-star hotel rooms reserved for foreign
Olympic bigwigs and the miles of special traffic lanes that will be reserved for Olympic VIPs. Perhaps
sporting success will neutralise public resentment, and the country will feel only pride at hosting a splendid
games, fuelling new confidence in Britain’s future. But, for now, the Olympic debate revolves around
material costs and benefits rather than glory. If you want certain cheer, bet on a celebration of Britain’s past.
Business schools send rejections to unlikely group: alumni
The Wall Street Journal, January 5th 2012
This admissions season, business school alumni are the ones facing rejection. Graduate schools including
University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School are bypassing alumni in admissions interviews to meet directly
with M.B.A. candidates in person or via Skype videoconferencing, despite the potential higher costs, in an
attempt to ensure interviews are being conducted in a uniform manner - and in English.
For years, many graduate schools relied on their vast alumni networks to screen M.B.A. candidates. Now,
some schools want tighter control over interviews to better judge whether an applicant who looks great on
paper really stacks up in person. They’re also hoping that a smaller set of interviewers will allow for more
consistent comparison among candidates.
Most school officials say the shift isn’t a matter of trust. But they do express concern over whether a foreign
alum and candidate will conduct an interview in English. “If you get two French people in a room and ask
them to speak English together, it’s just not going to happen,” says Graham Richmond, CEO of admissions
consulting firm Clear Admit LLC.
Language is of particular concern in Asia, where Mr. Richmond says there have been incidents of applicants
hiring proxies to take entrance exams or write essays. Even an interview by telephone isn’t enough to deter
The Anderson School of Management, at the University of California, Los Angeles, is betting that
videoconferencing may be a solution. That school’s admissions team has started to interview more overseas
M.B.A. candidates by Skype in part to ensure that potential students are fluent in English.
Meanwhile, Wharton says it is making the change because its new “behavioral” interview questions,
introduced during the 2010-2011 admissions cycle, require more consistent delivery.
The new interview style asks applicants about their experiences - applicants say questions include ‘Tell me
about a time you participated in a negotiation,’ or ‘Tell me about a time you managed someone who was
senior to you’ - rather than an overview of their resumes.
Wharton’s move comes a year after a training video, which instructed alumni interviewers how to evaluate
responses to the new behavioral questions, was leaked to some admissions-consulting firms and applicants.
(The video was apparently available on a nonpassword-protected website.)
While applicants frequently trade notes on interview questions, some in the admissions industry say the
video leak was a serious blunder because it exposed details about the answers Wharton wanted to hear - not
to mention what it said about the school’s faith in its alumni.
Not all schools have taken the plunge. “Either you trust your alumni or you don’t,” says Derrick Bolton,
director of M.B.A. admissions at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He says alumni are particularly
helpful with judging international candidates in M.B.A interviews because they are familiar with applicants’
cultural or religious context.
Why ignorance is democracy’s bliss - Scientists find a possible key to consensus in the
behavior of fish
The Wall Street Journal, January 7th 2012
The Iowa caucuses marked the official beginning of the presidential election cycle. For the next 10 months or
so, the American public will endure polls, pundits, canned speeches and negative ads - the media circus that
passes for 21st-century democracy.
Despite this flood of coverage, one troubling feature of our elections will go largely unmentioned: The
typical American voter is uninformed about political basics. Consider these facts: The vast majority of voters
can’t name their congressman or a single congressional candidate, and 40% of Americans can’t name the vice
This isn’t a recent phenomenon. In 1964, at the height of the Cold War, only 38% of Americans knew that the
Soviet Union wasn’t part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. As Winston Churchill once said, “The
best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
Yet despite this, voting remains the best way to elect leaders and democracies are vibrant even when
composed of uninformed citizens.
According to a new study led by the ecologist Iain Couzin at Princeton, collective ignorance is an essential
feature of democratic governments. His research suggests that voters with weak political preferences help to
prevent clusters of extremists from dominating the political process. Their apathy keeps us safe.
To show this, Dr. Couzin experimented on a rather unlikely set of subjects: fish. Many different species, such
as schooling fish and flocking birds, survive by forming a consensus, making collective decisions without
splintering apart. To do so, these creatures are constantly forced to conduct their own improvised elections.
The scientists trained a large group of golden shiners, a small freshwater fish used as bait, to associate the
arrival of food with a blue target. They then trained a smaller group to associate food with a yellow target, a
color naturally preferred by the fish. Not surprisingly, when all the trained golden shiners were put in one
aquarium, most of them swam towards the yellow dot; the stronger desires of the minority, fueled by the
shiners’ natural preferences, persuaded the majority to follow along.
But when scientists introduced a group of fish without any color training, yellow suddenly lost its appeal. All
of a sudden, the fish began following the preferences of the majority, swimming toward the blue target. “A
strongly opinionated minority can dictate group choice,” the scientists concluded. “But the presence of
uninformed individuals spontaneously inhibits this process, returning control to the numerical majority.”
Of course, many political scientists have criticized this extrapolation. Nevertheless, this research helps to
explain the importance of indifference in a partisan age. If every voter was well-informed and highly
opinionated, then the most passionate minority would dominate decision-making. There would be no
democratic consensus. So the next time a poll reveals the ignorance of the voting public, remember those
Universities must help to develop the work ethic
The Times, December 16th 2011
British universities are, quite rightly, under pressure to prove their worth. Higher tuition fees are coming in
next year, increasing competition from institutions abroad seeking to poach the best students or, indeed, set
up campuses in the UK.
In this context, much has been made of the employability rate of graduates, an indicator commonly viewed
as the best measure of a given degree’s worth.
Employability is critical, but I firmly believe students - and their parents - need something more in the way
of key information by which to judge the success of a degree than simply the percentage of its graduates in
Students are savvy. When considering which course to apply for, they want to see how it can help them
acquire key skills and knowledge for work. They must be able to track this throughout their time at
university, identifying where there are gaps in their knowledge and skills, and getting help in addressing
them along the way.
Such an approach mirrors best practice in the workplaces that students aim to enter on graduation and is
wholly compatible with lifelong learning. It is a vital mindset for all successful professionals, one that
reinforces the idea of education as an ongoing, two-way experience between learner and teacher, student and
institution. Merely looking at a percentage rate runs the risk of making everyone - universities and students -
complacent, viewing employability as more about the prestige of the institution’s name on the certificate than
the content (or relevance) of the course.
We have embedded an employability index in the curriculum of our degree courses. This means all course
modules include information on how the content and learning contribute to key skills such as problem-
solving, planning, analysis, adaptability and so forth. Through an online self-evaluation tool, students
assemble a personal profile over their years at university that shows how job-ready they are at any stage,
where there are gaps and, therefore, what needs addressing to give them a distinctive advantage over others.
The index instils in students - before they begin their careers - that most powerful of aids to employability:
continuing professional development. It serves as a benchmark for students, and for us, to track where they
are in terms of being job ready and how the university should adjust its teaching to help students to fill the
All universities have a responsibility to demonstrate the worth of their programmes. We must demonstrate
that what we teach and offer makes a real contribution to developing employable citizens who can work in
all industries. Careers-related activities must have genuine bite and take place throughout all the years of a
degree, not just when graduation is nigh.
Professor Zahir Irani is head of Brunel Business School, Brunel University
Selling Britain overseas
The Times, December 14th 2011
Whether it is mothers in Manchester smearing Marmite on their toast, whisky lovers in Jaipur sipping
Johnnie Walker or Belgian women bearing Burberry, British brands seem to be omnipresent. Yet this may
well be false vanity.
British names fail to feature very prominently in either Interbrand’s Best Global Brands or Brand Finance’s
Most Valuable Brands, both of which are dominated by American names such as Coca-Cola, Apple, Google
and McDonald’s. The highest-ranking British brand is Vodafone, one of the world’s largest telecoms
companies, ranked sixth by Brand Finance.
Yet according to John Noble, director of the British Brands Group, we shouldn’t be downcast. “Johnnie
Walker is an iconic whisky on the Indian sub-continent, AG Barr’s Irn-Bru is popular in Russia and
Fisherman’s Friends are extremely popular somewhere like South Korea. This isn’t about British expats, it is
about British brands being as relevant abroad as they are here,” he says.
Britain has much to be proud of. We have a lot of great brands that are doing very well both here and abroad,
despite the global economic slowdown. Take Tesco, for example, which has two thirds of its floorspace
overseas. It recently reported like-for-like growth of almost 12 per cent at its American Fresh & Easy stores.
And while Marks & Spencer was busy opening its store on the Champs Elysées, Alliance Boots, Asos and
Unilever were reporting sharp increases in revenue driven by overseas demand.
It is not only household names that are flying the flag. British exports rose to a record high of £26.5 billion in
October. One export area in which we are particularly strong is the motor industry: think Bentley, McLaren,
Aston Martin, Jaguar Land Rover and Mini. But here is one of the conundrums: so desirable are many
British marques that they have been snapped up by foreign buyers - Land Rover is owned by India’s Tata
Motors and Mini by BMW. Yet they still trade on their Britishness. There are some things that, no matter
who owns them, will remain quintessentially British - Marmite, Lea & Perrins, Hovis, Mr Kipling, Bisto,
Cadbury and Colmans to name but a few.
British can mean traditional - Fortnum & Mason, Aga and Rolls-Royce - but it can also mean modern -
Virgin, Hotel Chocolat or Moonpig. British entrepreneurs are renowned for challenging the status quo,
whether it is Dyson’s fusion of design and engineering or Branson’s exploits in outer space.
It is not just Britain’s brands that are flourishing. Westminster Business School has calculated that about one
million people in Britain are employed in the creation and management of brands. About £32.55 billion is
invested by companies annually in brands and branding represents an investment in the British economy of
Not bad when you consider that no one can agree on a definition of what exactly constitutes a brand, as
opposed to a product.
Graduates look beyond London to break through with the Big Four
The Times, January 3rd 2012
Aspiring beancounters are turning away from London for their first jobs as applications for graduate
positions at Britain’s leading accountancy firms soar to record levels.
The so-called Big Four - seen by university-leavers as among the most stable recruiters in the financial and
professional services sectors - have been swamped by applications for next year’s graduate intake.
PwC, the biggest of the four firms, said that it had received more than 20,000 applications for its 1,200
graduate posts since opening its latest recruiting round in September - up 45 per cent on the same period last
year. Its rivals Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG have also been inundated.
Unlike previous years, however, the accountants have reported a sharp rise in the number of potential recruits
who want to work in offices outside London, such as Birmingham, Nottingham and Reading. Applications to
PwC’s regional offices are up by 60 per cent on last year, the firm told The Times. The rise has been
especially pronounced in the North and West of the country, while applications in London are up by only 29
per cent in comparison. KPMG said that there had been a 40 per cent jump in applications for its graduate
jobs in the regions, compared with last year.
The Big Four have always found their regional offices harder to staff than their flagship offices in London, as
there has been a perception among those leaving university that they need to be in the City to advance their
But Sara Reading, KPMG’s head of graduate recruitment, said that the firm was trying to convince potential
recruits that this was not true. “We really do try to explain that your career progression, your opportunities,
are exactly the same as in London,” Ms Reading said. With fierce competition for places in London, many
students appeared to have decided that they would have more chance of getting a job by applying to a
regional office. The gloomy economy was also having an impact, with many university-leavers deciding that
relocating to London would be too expensive, she said.
The Big Four are among the biggest graduate recruiters in the private sector, taking on between 850 and
1,200 students every year. Many see them as a good route to careers in business as they provide experience
in financial matters, professional qualifications and exposure to blue-chip clients. Their popularity has
increased since the credit crunch because, unlike many companies in the City, they have not cut back
significantly on hiring.
As a result, graduates have been applying earlier. PwC said that almost half the positions allocated to this
year’s graduate intake - due to start in September - were filled by Christmas.
Salaries at the Big Four firms vary by location, with graduates starting on £20,000 to £30,000 a year in the
regions. In London, they can earn up to £37,000 in their first year, depending on which part of the business
they work in and, in 2011, £1.3bn was paid to UK accountants in bonuses.
Worried parents point students towards degree that enriches more than the mind
The Times, December 29th 2011
Parents worried about high university fees are overseeing their children’s degree choices to help them to
avoid becoming unemployed graduates with crippling debt.
Many universities will charge students £9,000 a year from next autumn - a threefold increase on the present
tuition fees. Figures released last month showed that degree applications from British candidates for next
year had fallen by 15 per cent.
However, with the deadline two weeks away, some universities are experiencing a surge of last-minute,
carefully honed applications from cautious sixth-formers who have taken time to consider their options. Last
year candidates adopted more of a scatter-gun tactic, with many desperate to get on to any course before the
Parents concerned about the higher costs appear to be hovering over their children at each stage of the
application process, and steering them towards career-orientated degrees such as accountancy and law.
Paul Layzell, principal of Royal Holloway, part of the University of London, said: “We’re recognising that
parents have a very strong vested interest. They’re wanting to make sure their children are getting value for
money and making the right choices, and will have some sense that there’s life after a degree. I think there’s
been a lot more shopping around. Record numbers attended our open days this year.”
Professor Layzell said that parents were particularly anxious about nonvocational courses. “It’s about who is
doing the teaching, what are they taught, those are the discussions we’re having. None of them is saying,
‘Why are you charging £9,000 rather than £8,500?’” Ian Blenkharn, head of admissions at Exeter, said:
“Students are becoming more particular. Whereas in previous years they made sure they applied to a range of
universities, now they’re focusing their ambitions. They are more concerned about getting value for money.”
More parents have been joining sixth formers at open days, wary of student debt and keen to ensure that their
children end up with something to sell in the job market.
Ucas, which handles applications, will release its latest figures next week. Some 158,387 applications had
been received by November 21, which is 23,427 or 12.9 per cent fewer than the same point a year ago.
British candidates made up 133,357 of these applications, down 15.1 per cent on last year.
Women’s rise to the top has stalled, warns boss of Hewlett-Packard
The Times, December 27th 2011
The progress of women in business has ground to a halt in the past decade in stark contrast to other
professions, according to one of the most prominent female corporate leaders.
Meg Whitman, chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, the world’s largest technology company by revenue, said
that while women have made advances in areas such as academia and medicine, the scarcity of women in the
boardrooms of top businesses shows that their progress in the corporate world had “flatlined”.
“Women made tremendous gains in the 70s, 80s and 90s,” said Ms Whitman. “But the last decade has not
been great. We are now almost at critical mass at the business schools and law schools. So what is driving
Ms Whitman’s concerns highlight statistics that show the lack of diversity at leading businesses. A study
conducted for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills this year showed that 12.5 per cent of
members of the boardrooms of FTSE 100 companies were women. The study said: “At the current rate of
change it will take over 70 years to achieve gender-balanced boardrooms in the UK.”
The British figures are broadly in line with those of American businesses. In October, the not-for-profit
group Catalyst that focuses on women in the workplace, found that women held just 14 per cent of senior
executive positions at Fortune 500 companies. The number has barely increased since 2005.
Ms Whitman said that although individual examples in the technology sector showed encouraging signs, she
was at a loss to explain the wider trends.
“It’s exciting to have Gini Romety (the new chief executive of IBM), me, and Ursula Burns (chief executive
of Xerox) at these companies,” said Ms Whitman. “But why we have flatlined on gains, I don’t know. It’s not
happening in medicine by the way. It’s not happening in other fields.”
Susan Vinnicombe, director of the International Centre for Women Leaders at Cranfield University, said Ms
Whitman was correct in her concerns. “Across the developed world, around 60 per cent of all the graduates
are women. So it’s not for a lack of human capital,” she said.
Ms Vinnicombe said that the central problem was that businesses were “organisations designed by men, for
men” and that talented female executives were overlooked for the mentoring that their male counterparts
often receive. “These companies do not know how to retain and develop women,” she said.
Ms Whitman’s comments come after the most powerful investor in Britain’s stock market said this month that
it would vote company bosses out of office if they failed to recruit more women directors to their
boardrooms. Sacha Sadan, director of corporate governance at Legal & General Investment Management, the
£347 billion fund manager, said the group was willing to veto chairmen and executives who failed to make
changes to the top of their companies to ensure they were diverse.
A Change of Climate
The Times, December 12th 2011
The weary delegates may still be too tired to begin the battle for ratification, but after 14 days of protracted
wrangling, including more than 50 hours of nonstop negotiation beyond the deadline, the climate conference
in Durban has achieved more than anyone initially expected. The unwieldy conference of 194 delegates has,
for the first time, committed all the main producers of greenhouse gases to reducing carbon emissions and to
a roadmap for a future accord. It has bound all nations in a single legal framework. And it has risen above
national interests to show a heartening global commitment to fighting global warming.
After the fiasco of the Copenhagen summit in 2009 there were scant hopes for this follow-up conference to
the Kyoto Protocol, which expires next year. Each of the three big polluters, China, America and India, was
still reluctant to accept any limits on its emissions without a commitment from the other two.
After hard-won compromises, the Durban Platform now includes China, the world’s biggest emitter, and
India, both of whom refused to sign Kyoto, and America, which signed but did not then ratify the protocol.
This is a substantial achievement. It is all the more surprising, given the political climate. China’s relations
with America and the West have frayed as Beijing promotes its global interests and ambitions. India has
become increasingly prickly and erratic as its weak government hankers for the world stage without being
able to muster the necessary political focus. And as America enters the election cycle, the Obama
Administration might have been tempted to sidestep a commitment that is a red rag to Republican
campaigners. Even Europe, struggling with its economic travails, has started to lose interest in, and zeal for,
costly carbon reduction commitments.
Scientists and activists will complain that Durban’s only commitment is to more talks and that any agreement
will not become operational until 2020. Many will attack the Durban deal for its ambiguities and the
vagueness of the legal framework. What they should instead be celebrating is the survival, even in these
straitened times, of the Copenhagen proposal for a “Green Climate Fund”. This will help to channel up to
$100 billion a year to poor, vulnerable countries by 2020. They should be relieved that the European Union,
for all the flaws of Kyoto, has rededicated itself to 20 per cent reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions by
2020 over 1990 levels.
The importance of Durban lies in setting international targets. These do two things: they motivate and
reinforce national policy. And they give confidence to countries and investors that policy will last. This latter
point matters especially. For it is the incentives to industry, the technological challenge and the need to
develop non-polluting sources of energy that will, in the end, decide whether survival in a warming world is
possible. These depend on human ingenuity, on scientific innovation and on commercial application.
Europe’s fragile unity
The Washington Post, January 8th 2012
Just a few years ago, a spate of books trumpeted the ascendancy of a uniting Europe as the new global
superpower that would run the 21st century. Europe’s mastery of soft power seemed destined to eclipse
military might in the post-Cold War age. The building of a continent ‘whole and free’ following the collapse
of the Soviet empire would finally put an end to ethnic and nationalist conflicts. And the historic creation of
the euro foreshadowed the demise of the dollar’s supremacy.
These days, the European dream seems to be turning into a nightmare. The prospect of the euro’s collapse -
caused by a sovereign debt crisis among its southern-tier or ‘Club Med’ members - threatens to unravel the
elaborate construction of a peaceful, prosperous and united Europe that stands as one of the West’s greatest
achievements in the wake of the devastation of World War II. The failure of the European project would not
only cause catastrophic problems for the global economy, it would also imperil the foreign and security
interests of the United States.
How did it happen? How could Europe’s enviable progress toward building a zone of perpetual peace and
prosperity suddenly detour toward the brink of disaster? In a new book, the distinguished historian Walter
Laqueur explains how Europe’s success in constructing a harmonious community of states actually masked
serious vulnerabilities in social, economic and political institutions that proved too fragile to bear the impact
of the world’s most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Laqueur describes in detail the demographic crisis that lies at the root of many of Europe’s troubles. Decades
of low birth rates have resulted in aging populations that have placed a huge strain on pensions and health
care largely covered by Europe’s generous social welfare systems. These problems are now affecting many
key policies. Indeed, in the current euro crisis, German officials say their reluctance to bail out Greece,
Spain, Italy and Portugal is driven largely by fears among their own taxpayers that the bill will become so
onerous as to jeopardize their retirement.
The flip side of Europe’s population problem is its growing difficulty in integrating large immigrant
communities, left in a cultural no-man’s land outside mainstream society, which in turn has fueled a
Yet demography and immigration represent only part of Europe’s pathology. The continent at large has failed
to respond effectively to the competition posed by cheap-labor nations such as China and India. Except in a
few isolated industries such as machine tools and luxury automobiles, Europe has lacked the entrepreneurial
spirit to find ways to stay ahead of the rest of the world.
Can Europe manage to rejuvenate itself and become once again a powerful and influential force in world
affairs? Laqueur sounds doubtful. He suggests, rather, that Europe’s fate may be to become a cultural theme
park, “a kind of sophisticated Disneyland for well-to-do visitors from China and India.”
Students GIVE through tutoring
The Washington Post, January 5th 2012
By giving up a few hours of freedom each weekend, high school students are hoping to make a big difference
in the academic achievement of many elementary school children in Fairfax County.
A group of public high school students has created a free mentoring and tutoring program as a way to help
children from low-income families with schoolwork. The program hosts multiple two-hour study sessions on
Saturdays and Sundays and is geared primarily to students in elementary school, with a few seventh- and
eighth-graders also attending.
“We don’t only tutor. We are also inspiring them as leaders to give back to their communities,” said Abrar
Omeish, 16, a junior at Robinson Secondary School. She is co-founder of Growth and Inspiration through
Volunteering and Education (GIVE), the student group leading the tutoring efforts.
During tutoring sessions, when students take a snack break provided by GIVE volunteers, tutors talk to the
elementary students as a group about issues in their community such as environmental conservation and
ways they can help or give back at their own schools. Since its founding last year, GIVE has drawn volunteer
tutors from as many as 10 of the school system’s 25 regular high schools.
The program began as a collaboration of two individual free tutoring programs started by Omeish and co-
founder Kevin Cao, 16, a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
Beginning in October, GIVE expanded its efforts from hosting tutoring sessions only at the Mason District
Governmental Center in Annandale to a countywide program. As a result, GIVE members said they are
seeing more students donating time to help more of their younger peers.
Each tutoring session draws about 30 to 35 elementary school students. The goal is to pair them one-on-one
with high school tutors. During any given weekend, GIVE’s 90 to 100 tutors help about 150 kids with
homework, Cao said. “I was inspired to found GIVE after I volunteered at Belvedere Elementary School.”
Although GIVE primarily tutors students from low-income homes, student volunteers said the demographics
and ages of students are diverse. “A lot of the parents maybe don’t speak English and don’t understand the
curriculum material,” Cao said.
To help match the supply of tutors with the demand from elementary school students, GIVE members have
reached out to schools through existing organizations such as high schools’ National Honor Societies.
W.T. Woodson High School’s National Honor Society picks a service project to support each year, said senior
David Tannenbaum, 18, who is president of the society. “It’s really awesome. I’ve noticed, beyond the
teaching of regular schoolwork, the kids tell me about their school day,” he said.
Woodson senior Mariela Mannion, 18, who is vice president of the National Honor Society, also volunteers
on weekends. GIVE is a quick and fun way for seniors to complete service hour requirements to graduate,
usually about 10 to 15 hours, she said. “It really teaches me patience.”
UK to reveal bosses’ pay
The Sunday Times, January 8th 2012
The UK business secretary Vince Cable is finalising a sweeping reform of fat-cat pay that will force Britain’s
bosses to disclose more than ever before about their pay packages.
Chief executives will, for the first time, have to make public a single figure for their pay including salary,
long-term share plans, retirement schemes and perks. He is also expected to demand: Publication of the
difference between chief executive pay and that of an average worker - a move that will cause particular
embarrassment for big retailers and manufacturers; disclosure of the proportion of company profits paid to
directors; and simplification of the schemes used to link pay to company performance.
However, Cable is expected to ditch a plan to give worker representatives a say in setting pay. David
Cameron, the British prime minister who is today predicted to repeat his determination to crack down on
excessive pay, is understood not to support the measure. Cable published a consultation paper on pay reform
last year. He will give top City institutions a preview of his plans on Monday week, and announce them at
the end of the month.
Cameron has pledged to clamp down on “out of whack” pay in Britain’s boardrooms. “People aren’t satisfied.
I’m not satisfied,” he said last week. “We’ve seen a level of reward at the top that has just not been
commensurate with success.”
Tom Gosling, a pay expert at Price Waterhouse Coopers, said: “We expect everything that has been discussed
on the issues of pay disclosure to come into force, in some form or other.”
FTSE 100 chairmen have privately told The Sunday Times that worker representatives would be enough to
push their companies out of Britain. Six chairmen of multinationals, speaking on condition of anonymity,
said that while they supported greater disclosure, they would not brook external appointments to
remuneration committees. “With 50% tax it’s hard enough to employ and retain the top people and this would
be a step too far. It’s not a threat, it’s just the reality. There are many companies in the FTSE 100 that don’t
have operations in Britain, and don’t have to be here.”
The CBI is also understood to have rejected worker representation in its submission on the reforms.
One compromise being discussed is forcing remuneration committees to have face-to-face meetings with
representatives to explain the reasons for a chief executive’s pay. It is hoped this could temper the worst
One longer-term scheme being discussed among City institutions is for chief executives to take more of their
pay in shares - and be barred from selling them for three to four years after leaving. This is intended to cut
the risk of chief executives acting to boost share price over the short term at the expense of long-term
See the world - or watch it sail past
The Sunday Times, November 27th 2011
British graduates need to develop a global mindset or risk being left behind by their more mobile peers in
emerging economies, such as India and China, according to a new report, Global Graduates into Global
Britain’s universities educate ever more students from abroad, but our own are much less likely to study
overseas. China, India and South Korea lead the way on mobility - some 15% of Chinese students go to a
foreign university. Britain is well behind its European neighbours, too. In the 2009-10 academic year, Spain,
France and Germany each sent more than twice as many students on exchanges through the Erasmus
scholarship scheme as Britain.
The implications of this are stark because employers are increasingly seeking graduates with “global
competencies”, said Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, which helped
produce the report. “The world is changing. More and more employers have global graduate programmes.”
In the report, employers rate an ability to work with people from a range of backgrounds and companies as
the characteristic they most value in employees. Perhaps surprisingly, language skills aren’t seen as
important, though that may be because English is increasingly seen as the language of international business,
Gilleard suggested: “The key word, though, is mindset. Employers are excited by people with the right
mindset, which is about confidence, motivation and desire to succeed. The right mindset means seeing
yourself as part of the global context.”
This can be as simple as understanding that working with clients or colleagues in other time zones may mean
answering calls or emails outside office hours. “Then there is taking into account that people from different
cultures work differently.”
So the apparent unwillingness of British students to study abroad could be to their disadvantage. “They are at
risk of being left behind,” said Gilleard. “They need to get the message that they will be working and living
in a global marketplace. There is a lot they can do to become more culturally agile while at university, from
studying overseas to taking a job placement abroad or doing a gap year.”
Graduates, too, need to be more willing to consider opportunities that take them out of their geographic
comfort zone, said Gilleard. Employers complain that they are not always prepared to move overseas. But if
they change their outlook, the report says, British graduates could have the world at their feet. James Fok
studied in London before joining Price Waterhouse Coopers in 2007 and training as a chartered accountant
specialising in tax. After completing his professional exams last year, he was offered a chance to work in
Bahrain for three years. “It could not have been better,” said Fok, now a senior associate. “The opportunity to
get a whole new experience overseas was great. Now, having been out there, I have a network of contacts all
over the Middle East and I have useful experience that I still use now. The best attitude when these
opportunities come up is: why not?”
No such thing as bad publicity
The Independent, December 27th 2011
“Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it,” muses the cartoonist and author Hugh MacLeod, in
his book on keys to creativity.
This month, in a move that put MacLeod’s words into action, the poets Alice Oswald and John Kinsella
withdrew from the shortlist for the TS Eliot poetry award, because the £15,000 prize is sponsored by an
investment management company. Oswald said: “Aurum has an office in Bermuda, which happens to be a
tax haven,” adding, “it doesn’t, according to its website, have an ethical policy.”
Sam Chase, of campaign group Art Not Oil, offers an insight into concerns that sponsors have become too
hands-on. “People argue that patronage of the arts has always existed, but the Sistine chapel doesn’t have a
Vatican logo. The gap between what they are doing and what they want us to think about them is widening.”
Mark Kramer, a senior fellow at the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy
School of Government explains, “There’s pressure for artists to agree to funding wherever they can get it.
The more restricted government funding is, the more influence the organisations have.”
Kramer says there are two reasons why “perceived altruism” is an advantage for large corporations. “Firstly,
the reputation of being a good corporate citizen, secondly, people ascribe the quality of one organisation to
the other.” The firms hope that some of the coolness will rub off on them.
In June of this year, climate-change activists protested against the BP portrait award and an 8,000-signature
petition was sent to the Tate’s director asking for it to refuse financial support from Big Oil. BP has also
caused uproar by becoming “sustainability partner” to the 2012 Olympics and it slaps its logo prominently
on the related publicity.
“It’s not pure altruism,” says David Nicholas, a media director at BP. “Sponsorship can bring benefits to our
reputation.” Even the negative publicity doesn’t seem to bother him. “Everyone has a right to protest - at least
it gets people talking about BP!”
Marco Compagnoni, a senior partner at a major City law firm, says objecting to big business sponsorship is
“absolutely bonkers”. “It’s not done for the perks, but for marketing and keeping close to clients to help our
business. It’s not to be nice.”
But if they continue to keep branding and influence as one aspect of their sponsorship, the companies could
tip the balance and actually harm their own brand. “The arts organisation will lose the respect of the public
and do damage to their reputation,” explains Kramer. “The sponsoring companies will in turn lose the benefit
of the prestige. It impacts on both parties.” The result is that it won’t benefit the sponsor any longer.
I didn’t get where I am today by being nice…
The Independent, December 5th 2011
It is a phrase that millions of good-natured people around the world will consider so obvious that it hardly
deserves to be questioned. Nonetheless, a team of business experts claims to have proved the pessimistic
notion that “nice guys finish last” - at least where money is concerned.
A study has found that a person’s “agreeableness” has a negative effect on their earnings. “Niceness”,
according to the research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, does not appear to
“This issue isn’t really about whether people are nasty or nice,” said Richard Newton, business author and
consultant. “A better way of putting it might be a willingness to fight your corner.”
While agreeable traits such as compliance, modesty and altruism may seem conducive to a good working
atmosphere, the study found that managers are more likely to fast-track for promotion and pay rises
“disagreeable” people - those more likely to “aggressively advocate for their position”.
The study, by Beth Livingston of Cornell University, Timothy Judge of the University of Notre Dame and
Charlice Hurst of the University of Western Ontario, interviewed 9,000 people who entered the labour force
in the past decade about their career, and gave personality tests which were then measured against income
The findings are bad news for nice guys, but worse still for women of all temperaments. They show that,
regardless of their levels of agreeableness, women earned nearly 14 per cent less than men. Agreeable men
earned an average of $7,000 (£4,490) less than their disagreeable peers.
“Nice guys do not necessarily finish last, but they do finish a distant second in terms of earnings,” the study
noted. “Our research provides strong evidence that men earn a substantial premium for being disagreeable
while the same behaviour has little effect on women’s income.” Reasons offered for the difference include a
better success rate for disagreeable types when negotiating pay rises, suggesting stubbornness is a key for
Examples of bosses with bite include Steve Jobs and Sir Fred Goodwin.
To the world he was a visionary, but Steve Jobs was renowned in Silicon Valley for his disagreeable nature.
In 1981, Mactonish project founder Jef Raskin once complained to Apple president Mike Scott about Jobs’
behaviour. When Jobs discovered the complaint, he fired Raskin. There are also several accounts of Jobs
firing employees on the spot for trivial reasons.
Sir Fred Goodwin or ‘Fred the Shred’ earned his soubriquet for his treatment of staff at the Royal Bank of
Scotland. In an incident revealed in a book written about the financial crisis, he reportedly threatened staff
with disciplinary action after someone placed the wrong type of biscuit in the boardroom.
We’re throwing out less food - but still too much
The Independent, November 16th 2011
British households are throwing away a lot less food than they were four years ago - but they’re still wasting
millions of tonnes of it every year, new figures reveal.
The amount of household food waste has dropped by 13 per cent, or 1.1 million tonnes, since 2006-07, when
the first major survey was done, according to the Government’s Waste & Resources Action Programme
(Wrap). The waste saved would be more than enough to fill Wembley Stadium.
Wrap’s figures, based on data from 90 local authorities and released at the organisation’s annual conference
yesterday, indicate that the recession and falling incomes may have played a part in the food-waste reduction.
Much of the fall appears to have come from households not buying as much food as they were three or four
years ago. “Our research has shown that increased food prices and difficult economic conditions have almost
certainly contributed,” Wrap said.
Retail commentators said that customers spending less and planning their shopping more carefully is likely
to have contributed to the fall, as well as supermarkets providing more information and offering a wider
range of portions, such as half-loaves of bread.
The drop (measured in 2010) is from 8.3 million to 7.2 million tonnes and what remains is 19 per cent of the
38 million tonnes of food and drink brought into UK homes. This is worth £12bn, or £680 per year for the
average family with children. That would still be enough to fill Wembley nine times.
About 60 per cent of what is still being thrown out is made up of waste that could be avoided. Wrap
estimates that people could avoid throwing away up to 5.8 million tonnes of the food waste.
Had the reduction in food and drink waste not occurred, consumers would have been spending at least
£2.5bn a year more. Wrap’s chief executive, Dr Liz Goodwin, said the lower amount of food being thrown
away was “very welcome”, but more still had to be done.
“Despite the reduction, the food we waste in homes, which accounts for about half the UK’s food waste, is
still worth £12bn a year as a result of food-price inflation and the food that is being wasted throughout the
supply chain is significant, at a time when food security is a major global issue,” she said. Wrap said the
reduction had saved councils £80m a year - by sending less food to the tip they incur lower landfill charges.
The greenhouse gas emissions associated with the manufacture, distribution, storage, use and disposal of
wasted food was 17 million tonnes, down from 20 million three years earlier.
Families feel the pressure as the slump takes its toll
The Independent on Sunday, October 9th 2011
A culture of “downsizing”, where long working hours and job insecurity have become the norm, is leading to
a “vicious cycle” of stress and people losing out on family life. These are the preliminary findings of a
government-funded report into work and relationships in Britain, by the Working Families and One Plus One
One in four workers “constantly” does more than their contracted hours, with a further one in five doing so
“frequently”. Just 7 per cent have the luxury of never doing so. And a third of employees suffer from anxiety
or panic attacks due to work stress, while more than half admit to being exhausted and irritable at home.
Nearly a third of those surveyed blamed relentless pressure of work for drinking or smoking too much.
Family life is suffering, too: one in three workers said they do not get to eat with their families more than
twice a week. And 86 per cent of working parents claim to have lost out on time with their children, with
almost a third “frequently” or “constantly” sacrificing family time. Unsurprisingly, 27 per cent of employees
feel less productive and 33 per cent are less engaged at work.
The findings are from a survey of more than 200 people this summer - part of a two-year Happy Homes,
Productive Workplaces project that began in May this year.
Although recent years have seen a number of advances in flexible working, the dire economic climate is
exacerbating existing pressures at home and work, with rises in the cost of living and the threat of
redundancy. “The interaction between family relationships and work can be a vicious cycle, with stress from
each crossing over and damaging the other,” states the report. Its findings are “very concerning” according to
Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families.
This comes as it emerged last week that stress has become the top cause of long-term sickness absence for
the first time across British industry, according to a survey of almost 600 organisations across the UK which
employ nearly two million workers. Nearly four in 10 employers reported an increase in stress-related
absence during the past year, and employers planning redundancies are “significantly” more likely to cite
such problems among their staff, according to a poll by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and
Development. Work-related stress costs the UK some £4bn a year, according to the Health and Safety
There has been a “cultural shift” towards more flexible working by employers in recent years, according to
Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary. But he warned: “Attitudes vary between workplaces and sectors,
and flexible working is still frowned upon by many employers. Worse still, the recession has put a further
strain on people’s working conditions. Increased job insecurity has made people more wary of asking to shift
and reduce their hours, while unpaid overtime is rising again after years of decline. Staff now give away
around £29bn a year in unpaid hours at work,” he said.
Children outdo adults in digital savvy
The Times of India, February 2nd 2012
It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that even Hollywood relationships last longer than the average
smartphone battery. However, what Saillesh Jeswani did not know was that there were ways to prolong it,
other than keeping all phone conversations under 15 seconds. It was only recently when his 13-year-old son
Aditya downloaded the app called Juice Defender on his Android phone that “both of us realized such
features existed,” says Jeswani’s wife, Anjali. However, like many parents of the young, restless and tech-
savvy ‘Generation Y’, Jeswani finds such moments both flattering and scary.
Hetal Shah learnt how to Facebook from her 13-year-old son Rajiv. “Besides the basics, he also taught me
about privacy settings and gave me tips on etiquette,” says the homemaker who is now active in the
networking world. But that’s not all Rajiv taught his mom. “He showed me how to download a YouTube
video too,” she adds. And like Jeswani and Shah, a whole generation of parents is learning important tech
how-tos from their perpetually wired children.
“I would need an instruction manual to learn all the things the iPad can do, but my son just used it a couple
of times and knows it inside out,” says Elsie Gabriel, mother of nine-year-old Ridge Ferns. When they were
vacationing in Sri Lanka last year, he used GPS on his iPad to locate every new place he visited. “I would
then Google the name of the place and read up about its history and other attractions in the area,” he says. “I
love downloading apps and using them to do nifty things like calculate the time it would take to reach a new
According to antivirus company AVG, the average 11-year-old child has “adult skills when it comes to
technology”. As per a 2011 study titled ‘Digital Diaries’ by the firm, younger children are more likely to
navigate with a mouse, play a computer game and operate a smartphone than swim, tie their shoelaces or
make their own breakfast. The survey that interviewed 2,200 online mothers of children between two and
five years old in countries including the US, Canada, UK, France and Italy found that 58% of children aged
two to five know how to play a ‘basic computer game’, compared with 52% who know how to ride a bike.
While 63% could turn a computer on and off only 11 percent could tie their shoelaces without help.
“After a point, technology becomes a part of the children’s DNA. The device or the software becomes a way
of life,” says Rohit Tikmany, director, Universal Education Group whose schools use iPads and Macbooks
for teaching. “In schools, teachers want kids to write good-ol’ essays, say, about Mahatma Gandhi, while kids
want to create a presentation about him using images, a piece from his Wikipedia page and a YouTube
video,” he says pointing out that it is because “today’s kids have never seen a world without Facebook, 24x7
TV, SMS, hypertext and MP3 music. Their teachers and parents on the other hand, grew up when direct face-
to-face social interaction was the norm.”
World lacks enough food, fuel as population soars: UN
The Times of India, January 30th 2012
The world is running out of time to make sure there is enough food, water and energy to meet the needs of a
rapidly growing population and to avoid sending up to 3 billion people into poverty, a UN report warned on
As the world’s population looks set to grow to nearly 9 billion by 2040 from 7 billion now, and the number of
middle-class consumers increases by 3 billion over the next 20 years, the demand for resources will rise
exponentially. Even by 2030, the world will need at least 50 percent more food, 45 percent more energy and
30 percent more water, according to UN estimates, at a time when a changing environment is creating new
limits to supply. And if the world fails to tackle these problems, it risks condemning up to 3 billion people
into poverty, the report said.
Efforts towards sustainable development are neither fast enough nor deep enough, as well as suffering from a
lack of political will, the United Nations’ high-level panel on global sustainability said. “The current global
development model is unsustainable. To achieve sustainability, a transformation of the global economy is
required,” the report said. “Tinkering on the margins will not do the job. The current global economic crisis
… offers an opportunity for significant reforms.”
Although the number of people living in absolute poverty has been reduced to 27 percent of world
population from 46 percent in 1990 and the global economy has grown 75 percent since 1992, improved
lifestyles and changing consumer habits have put natural resources under increasing strain.
There are 20 million more undernourished people now than in 2000; 5.2 million hectares of forest are lost
per year - an area the size of Costa Rica; 85 percent of all fish stocks are over-exploited or depleted; and
carbon dioxide emissions have risen 38 percent between 1990 and 2009, which heightens the risk of sea level
rise and more extreme weather.
The panel, which made 56 recommendations for sustainable development to be included in economic policy
as quickly as possible, said a “new political economy” was needed.
“Let’s use the upcoming Rio+20 summit to kick off this global transition towards a sustainable growth model
for the 21st century that the world so badly needs,” EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in
response to the report, referring to a UN sustainable development summit this June in Brazil.
Among the panel’s recommendations, it urged governments to agree on a set of sustainable development
goals which would complement the eight Millennium Development Goals to 2015 and create a framework
for action after 2015.
They should work with international organizations to create an “evergreen revolution,” which would at least
double productivity while reducing resource use and avoiding further biodiversity losses, the report said.