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Charitable superpowers get it wrong

first_imgJeffery Sachs, who spoke at the  Oxford Union on Sunday, is the intellectual guru of the ‘Drop the Debt’ campaign and the world’s most famous development economist. He began his career as a hard-line free marketeer. As an advisor to Boris Yeltsin’s government in the early nineties he was responsible for the introduction of the disastrous “shock-therapy” of instant deregulation and privatisation which sent the Russian economy into freefall. A market Bolshevik no longer, Sachs has since turned his attention to Africa and the elimination of global extreme poverty within twenty years through a combination of debt relief, increased aid, and trade reform. For Sachs, democracy is not a part of this equation. He states bluntly in his new book, The End of Poverty, that “the links from democracy to economic performance are relatively weak” and that “the charge of authoritarian rule as a basic obstacle to good governance in Africa is pass”. Sachs’ fondness for railing against the neo-liberal “Washington Consensus” and the Bush administration might thus be explained by an enthusiasm for an earlier Republican ideologue, Henry Kissinger. Kissinger, who would be brought to the Hague on charges of war crimes if the US ever signed up to the International Criminal Court, did not care about democracy either. For Kissinger, monstrous dictators like Pinochet, Mobutu, Amin, and Papa Doc Duvalier may have been “bastards” but it didn’t matter because they were “our bastards”. Sachs, and his bleeding heart fellow travellers Blair, Bono and Bob Geldof, have their own set of “bastards”: rulers like Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Paul Kagame of Rwanda. None of these have been fairly elected and all are pumped full of praise and aid by Britain and the US. Until recently, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda would have been on this list. His attempts to rid Uganda of condoms no doubt still ingratiate him with the Americans. But now that he has decided to turn twenty years of dictatorial rule into a life presidency, he has been mildly rebuked. At the launch of the Commission for Africa report in Addis Ababa in March, Geldof declared, “Get a grip Museveni – your time is up, go away”. He has since apologised. Sitting alongside Geldof was fellow Commission member, Zenawi, who was returned to office in May courtesy of a rigged election. His security forces mowed down dozens who had the temerity to protest. These men are just the West’s presentable allies. In blatant contradiction with its avowed wish to see democracy flourish the world over, Washington embraces the vile dictator, Obiang Mbasago, of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. Jacques Chirac, who wants to slap a fiver on every plane ticket to fund poverty reduction, described the brutal Gnassingbe Eyadema, deceased President of Togo, as a “personal friend” when he died in February after 38 years in charge. This may have been related to Eyadema’s generous funding of French political parties and the benevolence shown to individual French politicians who happened to be passing through his palace. Eyadema could afford this because he had amassed a fortune believed to be in the region of $3 billion; that is thrice Togo’s annual GNP.The example illustrates why Sachs’ view that dictatorship is no bar to economic development is false. The reason Africa is so poor is that kleptocratic dictators and elites, often with Western connivance, have looted their own countries. They are also inclined to be incompetent. The simple virtue of democracy is that it allows people to get rid of bad governments peacefully. The number of functioning democracies in Africa can be counted on two hands. Among them are Africa’s most prosperous and stable states: South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Senegal, Ghana, Benin and the Cape Verde islands. Sachs regards China as an example of how a ruthless dictatorship can prosper. However, he admits in The End of Poverty that poverty has increased in rural areas there because of the abandonment of the public health system. A democratic government would never have been able to disregard public welfare so heartlessly.        The triumvirate of Sachs, Bono, and Geldof is immensely powerful. Able to influence both governments and public opinion, they are right to attempt to combine high-level lobbying with mass politics. It is thus dismaying that such potential for real change has been squandered on fringe issues in the war on poverty. The only reason debt is a problem is that the money was stolen and dissipated. The torrent of criticism directed against them for endorsing the status quo of Western power is similarly misguided. It is the very Western status quo of democracy and human rights which is lacking in Africa. More than any amount of charity, this is how to make poverty history. ARCHIVE: 1st week MT 2005last_img read more

Boston Ballet dances the night away

first_img With twisting and floating movements, Harvard Gaga dance course teaches students and community members to listen to their bodies Related When night falls on Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum the landscape is transformed — towering trees assume ominous forms, leaves rustle, bushes stir. It is the perfect setting, the Boston Ballet decided, to shoot a promotional spot for its season opener, a ghost-filled, romantic ballet set in medieval Germany.“When we were brainstorming ideas for our fall ballet, ‘Giselle,’ we knew our key scene was going to be the forest,” said Kristin Carr, the company’s director of creative services. “The main character, Giselle, dies of heartbreak and is buried deep in a forest haunted by Wilis — ghostly apparitions of folklore, girls who have died betrayed by their faithless lovers on the eve of their weddings.”The company was drawn to the Arboretum’s Tilia collection, a grove of sweet-scented lindens planted at the turn of the 19th century, but the space was attractive for other reasons, too. Carr said the dance company looks for opportunities to take the ballet out of the studio, creating engaging content by making use of Greater Boston’s landmarks.Ballet Master Larissa Ponomarenko, who is staging the show, said that all of the action happens outdoors, and the Arboretum’s “ponds and grand old trees” made a fitting backdrop for a work that is at times romantic and other times dramatic. “We are thankful for the opportunity and the welcoming gesture of Arboretum team for letting our creative process merge so closely with natural environment of the park,” she said.On the day of the filming the Boston Ballet production company — including artistic directors, film crew, costume and wardrobe personnel, and hair and makeup artists — arrived in the afternoon with principal dancers Viktorina Kapitonova and Patrick Yocum for a daylight shoot near Dawson Pond. Dancers performed the famous “he loves me, he loves me not” scene there before moving into the North Woods.Yocum, a principal dancer with the Boston Ballet since 2009, said performing at the Arboretum was like nothing he has done before, as outside shows are typically done on a special stage with a sprung floor.,“This is an incredible experience. It was so easy over by the pond. Everything is so curated and cut so cleanly,” he said. “It’s the most beautiful spot in Boston.”Arboretum Director William “Ned” Friedman agreed. “As the Arnold Arboretum continues to engage with other important cultural institutions in Boston, this opportunity to welcome the Boston Ballet seemed perfect.”As the sun went down, a humming generator powered studio lights and a fog machine, creating a magical ambiance. A quiet rumble echoed through the woods and ethereal dancers entered the living set before a small audience of crew, chipmunks, squirrels, and a few passersby.In this part of the Arboretum, the Tilias stand up to 130 feet high with trunks exceeding 100 inches around. The leaves resemble lopsided hearts, and according to folklore symbolize love, healing, and good luck.“Gisele” premiered in Paris in 1841 and is considered one of the greatest romantic ballets of all times. The Arboretum was founded in 1872, and the Moltka linden tree, planted in 1902, served as the point at which dancers became dreamlike figures in the fog.“The ghostly women are part of the forest and are integral to the story. You couldn’t have a better location that will capture that,” Yocum said. “To do this at night out in the woods on location is amazing.” Flowing togethercenter_img Misty Copeland, offstage American Ballet Theatre’s first black principal dancer shares her life story with studentslast_img read more

Tradewinds 2012 to Focus on Caribbean Security

first_img During a press conference held at the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) headquarters in Bridgetown on April 5, Lieutenant Colonel Ricardo Vickers, co-director of Tradewinds 2012 exercise announced that the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)-sponsored event will focus on developing participants’ capacity to conduct maritime interdiction and counter transnational organized crime. Barbados is hosting the 2012 edition of the annual exercise –to be held from June 15-24, for the third time (1992, 2003)–, and expects to include participants from Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Colombia, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. By Dialogo April 18, 2012 At the close of Tradewinds 2011, Major General John M. Croley, commander, Marine Forces South, said, “Over 27 years of Tradewinds, we really like the progress we’ve made to an interagency, joint and combined type training venue providing law enforcement, maritime and ground training.” Tradewinds is one of SOUTHCOM’s multinational joint combined interagency exercises focused on strengthening regional partnerships and collective capabilities that are integral to the security and stability of the Western Hemisphere and to U.S. national security. Recent exercises have been designed to train Caribbean nations for the security requirements needed for major events, according to SOUTHCOM information. center_img “At the end of Exercise Tradewinds 2012, the over 300 military and law enforcement officers from throughout the region who are to participate in the training initiative will be better trained in several areas, including combating transnational organized crime,” said Lt. Col Vickers of the BDF. The exercise falls under SOUTHCOM’s umbrella of security, illegal migration and illicit trafficking exercises designed to improve cooperation, interoperability and operational responses between participating nations to common threats against national, regional and hemispheric security. This year’s participants at the event, “Exercise Tradewinds 2012: Enhancing Regional and Hemispheric Security and Stability” can also expect to learn about conducting security operations from other agencies and external militaries, including the FBI, the U.S. Naval Investigative Service and the Canadian Army Land Force, as both will take part in the Ground Force Tactical Training/Law Enforcement part of the program, reported local Caribbean news portal last_img read more