New Tibetian Prime Minister to Assume Dalai Lama’s Political Duties

Lobsang Sangay , a Harvard University academic, has been elected prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile andwill take on the political role previously played by the Dalai Lama. Lobsang Sangay won 55% of the votes cast by Tibetans around the world. He defeated two candidates for the role, Tenzin Tethong and Tashi Wangdi.

Mr Sangay must now assume the political functions of the Dalai Lama, who said in March he wanted to devolve this responsibility to an elected official. The Dalai Lama will retain his role as Tibetan spiritual leader.

‘Middle way’

The elections were held in March and the result announced on Wednesday in Dharamsala, India, where the Tibetan government-in-exile is based. “The Election Commission of the Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has declared Dr Lobsang Sangay as the third kalon tripa,” Election Commissioner Jampal Thosang announced, using the Tibetan term for prime minister.

Almost 83,400 Tibetan exiles were eligible to vote and more than 49,000 ballots were cast, he said. Tenzin Tethong, a former representative of the Dalai Lama in the US, got 37.4% of the vote and Tashi Wangdi, a government-in-exile bureaucrat, received 6.4%.

The 42-year-old winner is an Indian-born legal expert who has never lived in Tibet. His father fled Tibet in 1959, the same year as the Dalai Lama. He says he will move to Dharamsala to serve as prime minister and that he supports the Dalai Lama’s stance on ties with China. “What His Holiness stands for is the ‘Middle Way’, which is genuine autonomy within China or within the framework of the Chinese constitution,” he told the BBC earlier this month.

“If Tibetans are granted genuine autonomy then his Holiness the Dalai Lama said he is willing to accept Tibet as part of China.”  In a victory statement on Wednesday, he said he took comfort in the fact that the handover was taking place while the Dalai Lama “is healthy and available to watch over us”. “I urge every Tibetan and friend of Tibet to join me in our common cause to alleviate the suffering of Tibetans in occupied Tibet and to return His Holiness to his rightful place,” he said.

Daunting task

An official told Reuters news agency that the Dalai Lama was “very happy” that people had taken “a very active part in the election process”.  The 76-year-old monk announced in March that he wanted an elected official to assume some of his responsibilities, saying that such a move was in the best interests of the Tibetan people.

Analysts say he aims to ensure that even if China’s government tries to select the next Dalai Lama, the Tibetans will have an elected leader they can look to who is outside China and beyond the Communist Party’s control.  The BBC’s Mark Dummett says Lobsang Sangay has the daunting task of trying to keep the issue of Tibet alive while the man who embodies the struggle for Tibetan rights gradually steps back from the limelight. He has been elected head of a government which no country recognises and will face in China an opponent which has shown no sign of wanting to compromise, our correspondent adds.

Charles Kenny- Dont Mess With Taxes

Published in Foreign Policy

Every spring, the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based advocacy group, announces Tax Freedom Day: the date by which the average employed American will have earned enough income to pay off his or her taxes for the year. This year, that day will be April 12. The Adam Smith Institute, a London-based, free-market think tank that makes a similar calculation for Britain, suggests that British taxpayers will have to work until around May 30 to pay off their own dues.

Tax Freedom Day is a clever-enough gimmick if your aim is to stir up ire over the government stealing income that rightfully belongs to the good people who have earned it through the toil of their labors. In an environment where Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher is considered an expert on fiscal policy, it might even work. But it is worth remembering that, from a global perspective, how much we earn is actually 95 percent luck and maybe 5 percent toil. And it isn’t heavy-taxing big government that affects your income — it’s bad government.

The idea that anyone who works hard enough can become rich is a powerful one; for Americans, it’s not just appealing but central to national identity. The problem is that this vision of social mobility doesn’t hold true within the United States — and on a global scale, it’s just plain silly. The reason you earned as much as you did last year has far less to do with how hard you worked than with where and to whom you were born. In the United States, of those children born to parents in the bottom 10 percent of incomes, around one-third remain at the bottom as adults, and over half remain in the bottom 20 percent. Only one out of 77 children born into the bottom 10 percent of incomes reaches the top 10 percent as an adult, according to Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis writing in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

But the advantages of being born rich rather than poor in America — large though they are — pale in comparison with the advantages of being born in a wealthy country rather than a developing one. The average rural Zambian will enjoy a lifetime income of about $10,000, compared with a lifetime income of around $4.5 million for the average resident of New York City. That’s not because Zambians are all soulless and corrupt. It’s because a Zambian with the same skills, intelligence, and drive earns a lot less in Zambia than she would in the United States — as is made abundantly clear every time a Zambian moves to the United States and starts earning a lot. The same people doing exactly the same job earn much, much more if they move from a poor to a rich country to do that job. In 1995, a construction carpenter’s wage in India was $42 a month. In Mexico, it was $125 a month. A South Korean carpenter, by contrast, made almost 10 times what his Mexican counterpart did; an American one made almost 20 times more.

For those of us lucky enough to be living in a rich country, are taxes really holding us back from a life of ease? In a word, no. Over the (not very) long term, it isn’t tax rates that decide how much money you take home — it is rates of economic growth. If a British person in 1984 paid no taxes at all, receiving as manna from heaven infrastructure, health care, education, policing, pensions, welfare benefits, and all the other services that the state provides, his or her take-home income (adjusted for inflation) would still be below that of post-tax Britons today. The same would be true of an American in 1988. People in the West are lucky enough to have been born in — or nearly as lucky to have moved to — countries that have seen a lot of economic growth over the past two centuries. That’s the reason they’re rich.

 Of course, an anti-tax advocate would respond that low taxes and a correspondingly small government are the secret to a country’s riches — an idea that is appealing, widespread, and very wrong. The last 100 years or so have seen the fastest rates of global economic growth in history; they’ve also seen the biggest governments of all time. From William Easterly and Sergio Rebelo writing for the National Bureau of Economic Research to Ross Levine and David Renelt in the American Economic Review (as well as numerous other analyses), economists have consistently failed to find robust cross-country evidence that a government’s size — measured by tax take or spending as a percentage of GDP — has any bearing, positive or negative, on its economic growth. Want further proof? Many developing countries see personal income tax receipts that would make a Tea Partier tip his tri-cornered hat in admiration, amounting to less than 2 percent of GDP. If a small income tax burden really was the determining factor in driving growth, those countries would all be richer than Luxembourg.

But while there isn’t a proven link between government size and economic growth, there is an important relationship between the quality of government and growth. If a government can’t ensure a basic level of security, stability, fair dealing, and public goods like infrastructure and education, whether it’s large or small is irrelevant — that country will be poor. If the government is providing those basic requirements, it doesn’t matter if it’s also blowing 10 percent of its GDP on bridges to nowhere, high-tech bombers for the last war, or corporate subsidies for ethanol production — that country will be rich. Better government equals richer people — it is as simple as that.

So why do rich people think it is all about effort rather than the luck of the draw? For one thing, there’s the oft-repeated finding from social psychology that people blame their own failures on circumstances beyond their control (“I was fired because the boss never liked me”) and the failures of others on personal flaws (“He was fired because he never did any work”). The reverse also holds: People take far more credit than they should for successful performance as part of a group, particularly if they do not know other group members personally. All of us — not only the rich — are just incredibly narcissistic by nature.

The second factor is that when we make comparisons it is usually to our peers, not the world as a whole. And our peers tend to have gone to the same type of school, work in the same field, and live in the same part of the world. Within these narrow groups, income differences — however small on a national or global scale — are more likely to be about ability and hard work. The fact that you earn more than your colleague who joined the firm at the same time as you did probably does have something to do with your different personal characteristics. The fact that you earn more than a peasant farmer in Lesotho doesn’t. At the same time, you rarely stop to care about how much a peasant farmer in Lesotho earns — despite the fact that the income gap between you and the farmer is many multiples larger than the gap between you and your colleague. However powerful our psychological foibles and narrow frames of reference may be, though, they are beside the point when it comes to public policy.

There are lots of reasons to hate current tax codes — not least because they are ridiculously complex and stuffed with loopholes for groups that can afford the best lobbyists. And governments the world over remain wasteful and spendthrift — including America’s, of course. Especially in poor countries, people ought to be focused on making government more efficient, equitable, and transparent — an effort that will entail lower government revenues in some cases and less government regulation in lots of cases. But the focus should be on better government, not smaller government. And the idea that taxation takes money that is rightfully ours alone, or that if only we managed to reduce the tax burden by a few percentage points we’d all be rich, is laughable. If you are in a wealthy country and it is tax time, be thankful you live somewhere where government works — and pay up.

Al Jazeera English- Concern Mounts for Detained Chinese Artist/ Dissident Ai Weiwei

 
The wife of a missing Chinese artist says Chinese police are questioning Ai Weiwei’s friends and collaborators amid international concern over his apparent detention by authorities. Ai, an outspoken government critic, has not been seen since apparently being taken into custody after he was barred from boarding a Hong Kong-bound flight at a Beijing airport on Sunday morning.

His disappearance comes as Chinese security services carry out a massive crackdown on lawyers, writers and activists following online calls for protests in China similar to those in the Middle East and North Africa.  Dozens have recently been taken into custody with little word from authorities about where they are being held, who is holding them or the crimes that they are suspected of having committed.

Police searched Ai’s home and studio shortly after his detention and removed computers and other items.  Ai’s wife, Lu Qing, said friends and family were asking police for information about his whereabouts and that of an assistant, Wen Tao, who was detained along with him. So far, they had learned nothing, Lu said.  “I am very worried,” Lu told The Associated Press news agency by telephone. “I felt something terrible was going to happen when they came to search the house and took away all those things.”

Lu said that friends of Ai and people who have collaborated with him, are being contacted for questioning. Police appear to be working their way down a detailed list of both Chinese citizens and foreigners associated with Ai, said Alison Klayman, an American filmmaker who has been working on a documentary about the artist.  A Beijing police spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he had no information on Ai’s case.

Ai is the son of one of China’s most famous modern poets, and that stature, led many to believe he was protected from serious attack or formal arrest. Among China’s best-known artists internationally, Ai recently exhibited at the Tate Modern gallery in London.
His career spans protests for artistic freedom in 1979, provocative works in the 1990s, and a hand in designing the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

He was stopped from boarding a flight to Seoul in December, shortly after being invited to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway, honoring Liu Xiaobo, jailed Chinese dissident.  Liu is serving an 11-year sentence for subversion.  Ai said at the time that police blocked him at the boarding gate and showed him a handwritten note that said he could cause damage to national security by leaving.

International condemnation

On Monday, Mark Toner, US State Department spokesman, called for Ai’s immediate release.  He said that Washington was “deeply concerned by the trend of forced disappearances, extralegal detentions, arrests and convictions of human rights activists for exercising their internationally recognised human right for freedom of expression.”

And William Hague, British foreign secretary, also expressed concern and said London was committed to engaging China on human rights issues. On Tuesday, the European Union delegation in Beijing called on Chinese authorities “to refrain from using arbitrary detention under any circumstances”.

Chinese activists are also increasingly alarmed about Ai’s extended detention, and supporters in China and abroad launched their own online drive urging authorities to free him. The online petition to “free Ai Weiwei” was launched on Twitition, a Twitter microblog site, which China’s wall of Internet censorship stops most Chinese from seeing. Enquiries about Ai on China’s most popular homegrown microblogging site, Sina.com’s “Weibo,” have also been blocked.

Some of Mr. Weiwei’s peices


Pictures from the Devestation from Japan’s SuperFlood

An 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck off the east coast of Japan on March 11 — one of the largest recorded in the last 100 years. The earthquake triggered a tsunami that swept across parts of northern Japan and caused waves to hit shores as far away as Oregon. About 200 to 300 bodies were found in Sendai, the closest city to the epicenter of the quake — though Japanese officals expect the death toll to rise. Here, people in Tokyo watch the smoke rising from a fire caused by the earthquake.

This aerial shot shows houses engulfed in flames after being hit by a tsunami at Natori city in Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan.

Wreckage in a supermarket in Yabuki, in southern Fukushima Prefecture after the earthquake.

An aerial shot shows vehicles, previously lined up and ready to be shipped, now piled on top of one another after being carried by a tsunami tidal wave at Hitachinaka city in Ibaraki prefecture.

Residents cautiously investigate the damage done on a road split and raised alongside a house in Sukagawa city, Fukushima prefecture, in northern Japan

The Atlantic- Rise of the New Global Elite

F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he declared the rich different from you and me. But today’s super-rich are also different from yesterday’s: more hardworking and meritocratic, but less connected to the nations that granted them opportunity—and the countrymen they are leaving ever further behind.

If you happened to be watching NBC on the first Sunday morning in August last summer, you would have seen something curious. There, on the set of Meet the Press, the host, David Gregory, was interviewing a guest who made a forceful case that the U.S. economy had become “very distorted.” 

In the wake of the recession, this guest explained, high-income individuals, large banks, and major corporations had experienced a “significant recovery”; the rest of the economy, by contrast—including small businesses and “a very significant amount of the labor force”—was stuck and still struggling. What we were seeing, he argued, was not a single economy at all, but rather “fundamentally two separate types of economy,” increasingly distinct and divergent.

This diagnosis, though alarming, was hardly unique: drawing attention to the divide between the wealthy and everyone else has long been standard fare on the left. (The idea of “two Americas” was a central theme of John Edwards’s 2004 and 2008 presidential runs.) What made the argument striking in this instance was that it was being offered by none other than the former five-term Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan: iconic libertarian, preeminent defender of the free market, and (at least until recently) the nation’s foremost devotee of Ayn Rand. When the high priest of capitalism himself is declaring the growth in economic inequality a national crisis, something has gone very, very wrong.

This widening gap between the rich and non-rich has been evident for years. In a 2005 report to investors, for instance, three analysts at Citigroup advised that “the World is dividing into two blocs—the Plutonomy and the rest”:

In a plutonomy there is no such animal as “the U.S. consumer” or “the UK consumer”, or indeed the “Russian consumer”. There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the “non-rich”, the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.

Before the recession, it was relatively easy to ignore this concentration of wealth among an elite few. The wondrous inventions of the modern economy—Google, Amazon, the iPhone—broadly improved the lives of middle-class consumers, even as they made a tiny subset of entrepreneurs hugely wealthy. And the less-wondrous inventions—particularly the explosion of subprime credit—helped mask the rise of income inequality for many of those whose earnings were stagnant.

But the financial crisis and its long, dismal aftermath have changed all that. A multibillion-dollar bailout and Wall Street’s swift, subsequent reinstatement of gargantuan bonuses have inspired a narrative of parasitic bankers and other elites rigging the game for their own benefit. And this, in turn, has led to wider—and not unreasonable—fears that we are living in not merely a plutonomy, but a plutocracy, in which the rich display outsize political influence, narrowly self-interested motives, and a casual indifference to anyone outside their own rarefied economic bubble.

Through my work as a business journalist, I’ve spent the better part of the past decade shadowing the new super-rich: attending the same exclusive conferences in Europe; conducting interviews over cappuccinos on Martha’s Vineyard or in Silicon Valley meeting rooms; observing high-powered dinner parties in Manhattan. Some of what I’ve learned is entirely predictable: the rich are, as F. Scott Fitzgerald famously noted, different from you and me.

What is more relevant to our times, though, is that the rich of today are also different from the rich of yesterday. Our light-speed, globally connected economy has led to the rise of a new super-elite that consists, to a notable degree, of first- and second-generation wealth. Its members are hardworking, highly educated, jet-setting meritocrats who feel they are the deserving winners of a tough, worldwide economic competition—and many of them, as a result, have an ambivalent attitude toward those of us who didn’t succeed so spectacularly. Perhaps most noteworthy, they are becoming a transglobal community of peers who have more in common with one another than with their countrymen back home. Whether they maintain primary residences in New York or Hong Kong, Moscow or Mumbai, today’s super-rich are increasingly a nation unto themselves.

Read on at: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/01/the-rise-of-the-new-global-elite/8343/1/

BBC: Ancient Humans Interbred with Us

Scientists say an entirely separate type of human identified from bones in Siberia co-existed and interbred with our own species. The ancient humans have been dubbed Denisovans after the caves in Siberia where their remains were found. There is also evidence that this group was widespread in Eurasia.

A study in Nature journal shows that Denisovans co-existed with Neanderthals and interbred with our species – perhaps around 50,000 years ago. An international group of researchers sequenced a complete genome from one of the ancient hominins (human-like creatures), based on nuclear DNA extracted from a finger bone.

Sensational’ find

According to the researchers, this provides confirmation there were at least four distinct types of human in existence when anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) first left their African homeland.  Along with modern humans, scientists knew about the Neanderthals and a dwarf human species found on the Indonesian island of Flores nicknamed The Hobbit. To this list, experts must now add the Denisovans.

The implications of the finding have been described by Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London as “nothing short of sensational”. Scientists were able to analyse DNA from a tooth and from a finger bone excavated in the Denisova cave in southern Siberia. The individuals belonged to a genetically distinct group of humans that were distantly related to Neanderthals but even more distantly related to us.

The finding adds weight to the theory that a different kind of human could have existed in Eurasia at the same time as our species.

Researchers have had enigmatic fossil evidence to support this view but now they have some firm evidence from the genetic study carried out by Professor Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany. “A species of early human living in Europe evolved,” according to Professor Paabo. “There was a western form that was the Neanderthal and an eastern form, the Denisovans.”

The study shows that Denisovans interbred with the ancestors of the present day people of the Melanesian region north and north-east of Australia. Melanesian DNA comprises between 4% and 6% Denisovan DNA. David Reich from the Harvard Medical School, who worked with Svante Paabo on the study, says that the fact that Denisovan genes ended up so far south suggests they were widespread across Eurasia: “These populations must have been spread across thousands and thousands of miles,” he told BBC News.

Professor Stringer believes it is because there may have been only a fleeting encounter as modern humans migrated through South-East Asia and then on to Melanesia. The remains were excavated at a cave site in southern Siberia.  “It could be just 50 Denisovans interbreeding with a thousand modern humans. That would be enough to produce this 5% of those archaic genes being transferred,” he said. “So the impact is there but the number of interbreeding events might have been quite small and quite rare.”

No one knows when or how these humans disappeared but, according to Professor Paabo, it is very likely something to do with modern people because all the “archaic” humans, like Denisovans and Neanderthals disappeared sometime after Homo sapiens sapiens appeared on the scene. “It is fascinating to see direct evidence that these archaic species did exist (alongside us) and it’s only for the last few tens of thousands of years that is unique in our history that we are alone on this planet and we have no close relatives with us anymore,” he said.

The study follows a paper published earlier this year by Professor Paabo and colleagues that showed there was interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals as they emerged from Africa 60,000 years ago.

BBC: New Zealand Releases UFO Government Files

Computer illustration of flying saucers

New Zealand’s military has released hundreds of documents detailing claims of sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs). The files, dating from 1954 to 2009, include drawings of flying saucers and alleged samples of alien writing.

The files include details of New Zealand’s most famous UFO sighting when strange lights were filmed off the South Island town of Kaikoura in 1978. An official report from the time said natural phenomenon could explain it. Although the incident made international headlines at the time, the military report suggested it could be lights from boats reflected in clouds or an unusual view of the planet Venus.

Following the release of the files, New Zealand Air Force spokesman Kavae Tamariki said the military did not have the resources to investigate UFO sightings and would not be commenting on the documents’ contents. “We have just been a collection point for the information. We don’t investigate or make reports, we haven’t substantiated anything in them,” he told the Dominion Post newspaper.

The reports have been released under freedom of information laws after officials removed names and other identifying material. The files – which run to about 2,000 pages – include accounts by members of the public, military personnel and commercial airline pilots describing close encounters, mostly involving moving lights in the sky.

All the original documents on which the reports were based are to remain sealed in the national archive.