Monday, 23 June 2008

Who Will Soon Go Hungry? Reasons for the food shortage in the world.

Increasing food prices have recently been blamed on food shortages though there are no major crop failures, famines, pestilence or other tangible epidemic involving large areas in the world today, where food production drops drastically. 
Is this food crisis going to affect the rich nations or will it drive the starving poor into even more abject despair?

There are winners and losers in this crisis. The Farm Belt has become one of the most prosperous regions of the United States due to skyrocketing food prices, while many regions in the world have slid from poverty into hunger. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization, a branch of the United Nations, has identified 36 "crisis" countries, 21 of which are in Africa. 

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Paul Krugman in his article gives four main reasons for the present food crisis:

  1. The explosive growth of high-calorie food habits in emerging economies like China. 700 calories of animal feed is needed to produce a 100-calorie chunk of beef.
  2. Rise in oil prices. Modern food production is highly energy intensive, so high fuel costs drive food prices up. The invasion of Iraq, rather than lower oil prices, raised them.
  3. Climate change resulting in drought and crop decreases in key wheat growing areas like Australia.
  4. Complacence in the food market: precautionary inventories have shrunk on the belief that more can always be imported.

Most of the Starving People Live in Developing Countries

An estimated 820 million of the 850 million people in the world today suffering from hunger, live in developing countries. 

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These are the countries most affected by climate change. Food prices have risen 83% in the last three years, according to the World Bank, pushing 100 million more people into hunger.

Have governments and international organisations taken the spectre of doom seriously? The UN summit on global food crisis called by secretary general Ban Ki Moon declared that world food production must rise by 50% by 2030, trade barriers should be lowered and export bans removed to stop the spread of hunger.
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Rich countries spend billions of dollars on farm subsidies and wasteful food consumption. 

"The excess consumption by the world's obese costs $20bn annually, to which must be added indirect costs of $100bn resulting from premature death and related diseases," 
according to the director-general of the UN's Food And Agriculture Organisation, Jacques Diouf. He adds that the unprecedented hike in food prices, which rose 52 percent between 2007 and 2008 led to explosion of agricultural imports in the last 30 years. 

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Africa has become a net importer of agricultural commodities.
  • 87 percent of which were food products in 2005. 
  • Only 14 percent of Africa’s 184 million hectares of arable land is under cultivation and most of the rest in a state of accelerated degradation.
Many food-exporting countries, from Ukraine to Argentina, have tried limiting exports in an attempt to protect domestic consumers. Not only has this led to angry protests from farmers because of losses in income, but it has also made things even worse in countries that need to import food. 

Different Approaches to Food Shortage Problems

There are other voices totally disagreeing with these approaches. Gonzalo Oviedo, the senior advisor on social policy at the International Union for Conservation of Nature blames human neglect of nature. The modern business-dominated agricultural industry, he argues, promotes the degradation of nature leading to less and worse food. 

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The existing food production systems, which is based on high inputs like fertilisers and is only accessible through market mechanisms, should be changed to systems based on locally available and more environmentally friendly inputs reducing high payouts to middlemen and big agribusinesses.

Further, according to Gonzalo Oviedo, the main culprit is the prevailing model of concentration of land in small groups of big landowners who are dropping food production for local markets and moving to big industrial production of commodities that produce no local benefits and deprive small farmers and landless peasants of access to productive assets like land, water sources and fisheries.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Japan Recognises AINUs – First Colonizers of America

Mainstream cultures assimilate minorities. It’s a bit like big fish eating small ones. 

History is full of countless examples. Some of these happen right before our eyes. Tibet has received much attention recently but very few people know about the AINU of Japan.

Are Ainus the First Americans?
Ainus - The first Americans? 

The theory that the Ainus were the first to settle North America is based largely on skeletal and cultural evidence among tribes living in the western part of North America and certain parts of Latin America. 

The controversial conclusions of Anthropologist Joseph Powell of the University of New Mexico after examining the 9300 year-old remains of Kennewick Man also support this. More about Ainus being the first Americans here.
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Who are the AINU People of Japan?
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Who really are the AINU? Only about 15 people today speak native Ainu, a language not related to any other. The 150 000 AINU still alive can be found in Hokkaido island of Japan, the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin belonging to Russia now. Many of them may not even know that they are Ainus, as parents and grandparents had to become Japanese and hid their origins to protect children from racial discrimination. 

Many Ainus dislike the term Ainu because of a common derogatory pronunciation of the word in Japanese (A! Inu!, which means "Ah! A dog!" in Japanese) and prefer to identify themselves as Utari (comrade in the Ainu language).

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Origin of the Ainu People of Japan
"The Ainu lived in this place a hundred thousand years before the Children of the Sun came" 
is told in one of the Ainu legends (Yukar Upopo). In the Jōmon period (14 000 BC – 400 BC) the Japanese people came probably from Korea and drove the native Ainus to the northern periphery islands of Japan. The word ainu means human as opposed to kamuy, a spirit.

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One Ainu myth says that the Ainu, who have a great deal of body hair, are descended from a bear god. A bear sacrifice ritual is still practised by the Ainu in which the sacrificed bear is sent “home” to the ancestors. The bear is probably the oldest form of deity known to primitive man in the northern regions and common in Britain, Celtic Gaul, and North America. 

The Greek goddess Artemis transforms Callisto, one of her maidens who has angered her, into a bear and assigns her to the heavens as the constellation Ursa Major or Great Bear to watch over humans rom the sky.

The Beliefs of the Ainu People of Japan

The Ainu believe that everything in nature has a kamuy (spirit or god) inside. Most important is grandmother earth (represented by fire), then comes the kamuy of the mountain (animals), then kamuy of the sea followed by kamuy of everything else. 

The Ainu have no priests but give thanks to the gods before eating and pray to the deity of fire when they are in trouble. Believing their spirits to be immortal, the Ainu hope to ascend to kamuy mosir (the Land of the Gods). Curiously the Ainu also have a deluge myth in which a very few people escape to a mountaintop.
Kutune Shirka, is the great epic of the Ainu people. It is a 10 000 word long first person narrative that ends abruptly. Yukar is the collection of Ainu native songs.

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Close Genetic Relatives of the Ainu People
Genetic testing of the Ainu people has shown them to be close to the people of Tibet and the Andaman Islands. The Yamato Japanese and the Ainu probably had contacts from earlier than 2000 years ago. Around 700 AD, the Japanese began “subduing” the Ainu and were somewhat unsuccessful for a long time. 

We can also think that this warfare between the two groups created the foundation of the Samurai class in Japan. 

  • The Ainu lost wars with the Japanese in 1457, 1669, and 1789. 
  • The language was outlawed
  • Ainus became labourers in the Japanese fishing industry. 
  • In the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the Ainu received the status of "former aboriginals", which meant that they could only exist as Japanese.
Shigeru Kayano (1926-2006) was the first Ainu politician to sit in the Kokkai or Japanese Diet (parliament) and one of the last speakers of Ainu language. He also wrote 100 books about Ainu culture.

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Japan Recognizes Ainus as Indigenous People
On 6th June 2008 the Japanese Diet or parliament adopted a non-binding resolution calling the Japanese government to recognize the Ainu as indigenous to Japan and end all discrimination. Things are changing for the Utari.

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Thursday, 12 June 2008

What Does It Take to Become a Billionaire?

How can I become a billionaire? This question is on many people's minds as they enviously gape at the riches of the famous billionaires. Is one always born a billionaire, or is it the place you are born in or is it the astrological sign that makes a billionaire? If luck and timing are the decisive factors, then they cannot be replicated. What if there are skills to becoming a billionaire?

Is there a detectable pattern in how people become billionaires, which can be learnt and replicated by others? 

  • Does investigating the lives of the richest billionaires give clues to their success?
  • Do billionaires have special skills or characteristics, which others lack?
Is attending Ivy League universities like Harvard or Yale the secret or has being school dropouts taught them better?

The top 3 in the Forbes list of billionaires, Warren Buffet, Carlos Sim Helú and Bill Gates got much boost from wealthy parents and attended Ivy League universities, though Gates dropped out. No.7 on the list Ingvar Kamprad started by peddling matches on a bicycle. 

As we go down the elite list, there are:
  • sons of cabdrivers
  • one who could only afford a dress made of potato sacks
  • an orphan with a whisky bottle a day habit
  • many school dropouts and 
  • someone even having lived on welfare.

Qualities Needed to Become a Billionaire

Billionaires almost always have a burning drive to become rich, acquire more and more. Some do get a headstart by inheriting tens or even hundreds of millions but without a desire to accumulate more, they couldn't stay millionaires. 

Two skills are vital if one is to succeed in becoming a billionaire:
  1. Never be afraid of failure: Almost all the billionaires have experienced failed ventures. But contrary to many others, they learn their lessons and move on to fresh starts to apply the lessons learnt.
  2. New way of looking at things: Billionaires have succeeded because they have looked at things in new ways, seen hidden opportunities and capitalised on them.

The drive to become successful must be very strong. It is not always true that all billionaires are greedy as one article even suggests that you need to have bottomless greed if you need to become a billionaire. If you want to conduct detailed research on the world's billionaires, your best starting point is the Forbes billionaire main site.

Common traits noticeable among billionaire life stories:
  1. Self-management is the most difficult part of management skills needed to become a billionaire.
  2. Billionaires have all had a burning desire to be successful. 
  3. They saw themselves as successful in their mind's eye and did not give up in spite of all difficulties. In fact, this ability to first visualize success and maintain this vision seems to be a key component for success in all fields. 

  4. All took major risks in thinking out of the box and acting consistently. 

  5. Billionaires understood early on the value of networking and engaging other gifted people. 

Common Traits Among American Billionaires

In addition to these, there are some common things about billionaires, especially American billionaires.
  • Men - a significant number of them are men. Very few are women.
  • College drop-out - According to a Forbes study 14% of the entrepreneur billionaires like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Larry Ellison and Mark Zuckerberg either never started or never completed college education.
  • Make their wealth in finance - This contravenes the earlier trait, a majority of billionaires in finance got their MBAs from Ivy League universities like Harvard, Columbia or Wharton School of Business.
  • Born in autumn.
  • Had major failures early in their careers, bounced back to success.
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If you want to learn what it takes to become a billionaire like those in the Forbes list, read more in this article.

Historical Billionaires

Some of the richest billionaires historically inherited their wealth. Some lost their wealth dramatically, while others even managed to grow them.

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The Russian Czar, Nicolai II inherited his wealth, valued at around US US$881 million or US$290 billion in today's money lost everything including his and his family's life in the Russian revolution in 1918.

Jacob Fugger (1459-1525), the German Banker, became the chief financier of the emperor Charles V after acquiring the monopoly in the silk and copper trade in Europe. His wealth passed onto the wealthy and influential Fugger family.

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Heshen (1746-1799) a fabulously wealthy person in the Qing dynasty in China. As a favourite of the Qianlong emperor, his wealth was equal to the imperial revenue of the entire Qing government for 15 years. He was forced to hang himself from a silk rope.

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Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII or the Nizam of Hyderabad was on the Time magazine cover on February 22, 1937 as the wealthiest man on earth. His wealth at US$33 billion in today's money was 2% of the US economy then with a daily revenue of US$1 billion. He died in 1967, still the richest man in south Asia.

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Sunday, 8 June 2008

Hands-on Method for Understanding Humans by Psychologists!

How do psychologists help people with mental problems like phobias, neuroses, anxieties?

Psychologists have a treasure chest of techniques like Individual and group counseling, Biofeedback, Visual imaging or Conditioning techniques.

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Mind is a Manifestation of the Brain

The most fundamental paradigm in modern Western psychology is the assumption that the mind is a manifestation of the human brain. In contrast, most of humanity’s religious and spiritual traditions believe in the existence of Die Seele or the soul. 

As neither the mind nor the soul can be seen, touched, smelt or located, the only approach is through the senses of the body. Thus, even despite the centrality of sex for Freud debate, the human body is vital for psychology.

Studying the Word 'Hand' in many Languages Reveals Hidden Connections Between Cultures

One famous Finnish psychologist, Juhani Heiska, from Savonlinna, Finland, who has helped thousands of people with their mental issues during 30 years of dedicated practice, has developed an extraordinary hobby about the human body. 

An author of many articles and books on pre-emptive and preventive mental health work and a frequent lecturer, he has collected the words used to refer to ‘hand’ in almost all known languages. 
  • He observes how the Osidongo people in Angola, Africa use the word Keso for hand, while the Finns use Käsi
  • The Tibetans used the word Manu, which is similar to the Latin Manus
Now, it would be rather hasty to suggest that ancient Tibetans and Romans came from same origins or that the Osidongans and the Finns just changed skin colour over the centuries. Heiska has noticed that the root words in every language could be grouped into as many groups as the language has letters. 

Is it a mere accident that different languages have similarities or do they reveal more about human proto-culture?

  • Hand in modern English probably comes from (Old English hond, from Proto Germanic. Khanduz. Hand is a widespread Germanic word (similar in German, Dutch and Swedish). The likeliest origin is that it is related to Gothic frahinthan 'seize', 'pursue', Swedish hinna 'reach' and English hunt.

Genetic Evidence to Track How Humans Evolved

Genetic Archeology has started using DNA very recently in the Great DNA hunt to plot ancient human migrations and how civilizations developed. The Genographic Project is a five-year project started in 2005 to collect DNA samples from over 100,000 people worldwide to understand how the Earth was colonised by humans. 

DNA studies suggest that all humans today descend from a group of African ancestors who—about 60,000 years ago—began a remarkable journey. 

One surprising finding is that human populations were quite small prior to the Late Stone Age, perhaps numbering fewer than 2,000 around 70,000 years ago.

Scientists also use other approaches for mapping out ancient human migrations. Scientists like Professor Alan Cooper of Australia's University of Adelaide  try to understand ancient human migrations by studying pig remains.

In Heiska’s family, they have a history of longevity. His mother lived happily until 102. So he has lots of time for continuing his hands-on research.

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Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Cross-cultural management and Diversity in Team Sports

If all the players in a team do not speak the same language - can they play together?

Do players in a team need to have a common language and culture? Is it enough to just learn the vocabulary of the game or does one need to have a deeper knowledge of the culture where one lives? 

Only six of the forty member 2008 squad of UK's top tier Chelsea Football Club (owned by a Russian) are ethnic English. This situation is nowadays commonplace in the national teams of many countries in different sports.

How Does Communication Affect Sports Performance in Multicultural Teams

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Does diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds affect sports performance in multicultural teams? 

Some basic requirements for communication success in diverse teams seem to be:
  • Everyone understands verbal communications, especially those of the coach
  • All players have a clear picture of their own role and how it fits with the big picture
  • Players and coach have a common language
  • Cultural 'mindsets' and mentalities do not conflict too much with the above
How does communication and language issues affect sports performance in the multicultural Trentino Volley team with six Italians and six non-Italians? 

Cross-Cultural blogger Elizabeth Abbott talks about this issue in her blog 

cross-cultural moments: East meets West

Non-Verbal Communication in Multicultural Sports Teams

Words and how we say them are vital, so is non-verbal communication. However, words once said can be added to, qualified or explained. But they can never be retracted. How others get the message is not often easy to predict.

In conveying our messages, one thing which is often overlooked is: 
  • the norms people are used to when decoding the non-verbal cues in their own culture.
Some forms of non-verbal communications are called kinesics and they could be grouped as
  • body language
  • gestures
  • eye-contact - length and manner of eye-contact
Proxemics is the other type of non-verbal communication and it deals with how cultures view personal space and the relationship of people as regards to space.

There are also other areas such as inflection, intonation, how one raises one's voice in what situation and what it means etc.

National Stereotypes in Team Communication

People usually (rather often than not) use national or cultural stereotypes about other cultures. Germans are like this or the Italians behave like this, the Japanese don't do this, and so on. 

Though they may, at surface level seem to give a good working tool, they can be very misleading. If you start using the three tips about the English way of communicating you got from a consultant with experience from the banking industry in London and start applying it to everyone from the UK, you are surely in for trouble. 

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So, avoid national stereotypes!

The best advice is: 

  1. Discuss the ways of communicating used regularly and how it is working
  2. How each member understands the communication
  3. Expects to be understood and 
  4. Is used to communicating and interpreting

Maximum Number of Foreign Players in a Team

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Is there a limit to the number of foreign players in a sports team that will not prevent a team from performing successfully and actually be an advantage?

Quite often we see national teams with hardly any indigenous player. This is very common in high profile sports such as the soccer team of USA with all foreign born players. 

15% of NBA (National Basketball Association, USA) players are of foreign origin. They are from Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Lithuania, Serbia, Spain, Turkey. The NBA sees the situation as an opportunity for reverse marketing and spreading its influence in those countries. 

So, the answer is, it depends.

Here's an interesting article on diversity in a sports team.