The HRC is dead, long live the HRC?

The UN has elected a brand new Human Rights Council to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission. Why was the old HRC discredited? Well, basically and officially, because several of its members were known to violate human rights and/or to protect their own interests. It is only logical. However, who will be taking a seat in the new and improved HRC? Right, some of those very same countries that were known to violate human rights: China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
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Asia beats Europe in education

From the BBC News site comes this disconcerting news:

Europe is falling behind Asia in terms of education and skills, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
It blames France and Germany which are criticised for mediocre education systems and their inherent class bias.

And further on:

“Europeans from difficult socio-economic backgrounds don’t receive the same educational opportunities as children from rich and middle-class families,” the study said.

It seems we are wasting a lot of potential here, not to mention the loss in future competitiveness and possible social unrest.

The Colour of Steel

First of all many thanks to the kind folk of Afoe offering me the possibility of expressing my views on some European reactions to the Mittal Steel bid for the European steel giant Arcelor. By now most of you must have heard about this sitation. Mittal Steel is the world’s largest steelmaker and was founded (and is still currently run) by the Indian-born steel maker Lakshmi Nivas Mittal, the third richest man in the world.
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Not Good News On European R&D

This is not very encouraging:

European spending on re-search and development is falling further behind target, widening the innovation gap between the EU and competitors such as the US and Japan, two studies show.

North American and Asian companies are outpacing European businesses in R&D investment and spending more in high-technology sectors, according to data to be released on Friday by the European Commission’s research directorate.

It is doubly not very encouraging due to a point made in a paper which Brad Setser points us to. The paper is the U.S. and Global Imbalances: Can Dark Matter Prevent a Big Bang? by Ricardo Hausmann and Fredrico Sturzenegger. Basically they argue that the net US financial position is not as dire as it seems due to the existance of ‘dark matter’ (or in more converntional terms, due to the part of the iceberg which isn’t visible and measured). US assets they argue are conventionally undervalued due to the presence of ‘hard to measure’ components. Central to their argument is this point:

We would say that EuroDisney in reality is not worth 100 million (what BEA would value it) but four times that (the capitalized value at our 5% rate of the 20 million per year that it earns). BEA is missing this and therefore grossly understates net assets. Why can EuroDisney earn such a return? Because the investment comes with a substantial amount of know-how, brand recognition, expertise, research and development and also with our good friends Mickey and Donald. This know-how is a source of dark matter. It explains why the US can earn more on its assets than it pays on its liabilities and why foreigners cannot do the same.

I would say the argument that ‘foreigners’ are unable to leverage “know-how, brand recognition, expertise, research and development” is a ridiculously simplistic one, and it almost stretches the bounds of credulity that someone might believe this, but that having been said, if here in Europe we continually fail to maintain our R&D pace it will not be such a silly argument at some stage in the foreseeable future.

More Bigtime Divergence

As people may have noted, last weekend Tobias and I were in Stockholm. One of the topics I wanted to post on but couldn’t was the latest Human Development report from the UN. There was plenty of press coverage: here, here, and here

There was even coverage in the blogs, but the tone seemed to be set by Slugger O’Toole who seemed mainly to take issue with Ireland’s rating in the HDI.

Personally I think the issues involved are much bigger than this.
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CAP Research File

In the internal political life of the EU the Common Agricultural Policy seems guaranteed to hold and maintain pride of place as the topic which produces the highest level of acrimony and vitriol per paragraph of debate space. It has also featured of late as the hotspot which lead to the summer low-point in Franco-British relations. Yet while the debate is strong on heat, it is often poor on detailed information. A report whose final draft is being made available to a wider public this week may help to do something to remedy this failing.
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What Makes China Tick?

This week seems to be China week. Everyone seems to be asking the same question: why is China so successful? ( see here and here and here.

Now maybe this is just an excuse for a bit of self-publicity, since I have just spent a day ‘sprucing-up’ the China page on my website, but lets see if I can take a shot at the question myself.
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Ever Closer Union.

Over on Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell comments on the istitutional implications of the Buttiglione affair. While we are shocked to learn that The Economist does not like the recent self-confident behavior of the European Parliament with respect to the Commission hearings, Kieran Healy – duly apologetic – makes a fair point in the comments thread – “sorry to lower the tone of the discussion, but if he doesn?t get the job he should move to the San Fernando Valley: ?Rocco Buttiglione? is a Porn-Star Name, par execellence.” The producers of “Oral Office” will probably read this with pleasure…
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Creating Europe through tourism?

One of the long-running stories in the British media over the summer has been the antics of British tourists in the Greek resort of Faliraki on the island of Rhodes. Stories of the misadventures of ‘Brits abroad’ have been a staple of the British media over the last few years, fuelled by TV programmes like the Uncovered series that’s highlighted various resorts over the year such as Ibiza and Ayia Napa, but this year there’s actually been a real story for them to focus on. First, a British tourist was killed in a bar brawl and then others were arrested for lewd conduct and indecent exposure, giving the media a chance to moralise and ‘why oh why?’ about what goes on when British youth meets the Mediterranean.

However, while the existence of resorts like Faliraki is often portrayed as a new development, it can be seen as merely the latest incarnation of the British experience of the rest of Europe as a location for escape from the realities of life at home.
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