Wednesday Night #1781

Written by  //  April 20, 2016  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Peter Berezin is with us and there is lots to discuss. At the beginning of the month, his team issued the Global Investment Strategy Outlook — Ten Predictions For The Rest Of The Year which was followed by The Reflation Trade Is Not Over, But It Is Getting Long In The Tooth and most recently, Escape From The Land Of The Rising Yen. Also since Peter was last with us, we received the Special Report: Baby You Can’t Drive My Car written by his colleague Brian Piccioni. As you may have guessed it’s about the self-driving car, or Autonomous Vehicle (AV), and its profound impact on a variety of industries ranging from insurance to logistics.

Should we exhaust those topics, there is always the disintegration of Brazil. Poor Brazil, once the darling of the BRICS fanciers. And poor Dilma, the vote to impeach her was a disgraceful show led by a gang of thugs including one far-right deputy, who dedicated his yes vote to Carlos Brilhante Ustra, the colonel who headed the Doi-Codi torture unit during the dictatorship era. Rousseff, a former guerrilla, was among those tortured. As The Guardian pointed out, the vast majority of the more than 150 deputies are implicated in crimes but protected by their status as parliamentarians   Dilma Rousseff: Brazilian congress votes to impeach president

Food security
China has made a bid for Australia’s biggest farm. A company controlled by the Shanghai Pengxin Group is set to acquire 80% of Australia’s S. Kidman & Co. in a deal worth $289 million. If it wins regulatory approval, the deal would transfer ownership of land equal to 1% of all of Australia, an area larger than Ireland.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia‘s Almarai Co. is buying up land in the drought-stricken American Southwest to grow alfalfaPretty much everything the Saudis do these days is subject to severe scrutiny thanks to their unremitting export – and financing – of  Wahhabism in its nastiest forms, but the farmland acquisitions are cause for some alarm because of water rights issues that tend to favor farmers. Although some say that Almarai is well run and practices conservation, there is still concern over the “patchwork of laws and court rulings in the West.”

Saudi Arabia is much in the news. Not only is the Trudeau government under some fire (Justin Trudeau’s Saudi sellout) for the decision to go through with the sale of the armoured vehicles, but also because President Obama is headed to Riyadh on Wednesday at a time of considerable internal turmoil and fraught relations with the U.S. As the Christian Science Monitor points out in Mr. Obama’s foreign policy conundrum, President Obama wants allies to take more responsibility for their own defense. But what if the US doesn’t like their decisions?
Adding to the Saudi problems is the failure of OPEC to agree on a production freeze (Fumbled talks reveal much about OPEC, oil market).

In the wake of Donald Trump‘s New York primary victory, food for thought as prospects of a contested Republican Convention dim.
How Facebook Could Tilt the 2016 Election – It would only take one little button.
“If Facebook’s effects on voter turnout are as large as this research suggests, then Facebook could easily skew the 2016 election. By selectively presenting the “I Voted!” button to some voters, for instance, it could juice turnout among reliably Democratic demographics without increasing it among their Republican counterparts. As my colleague Derek Thompson has detailed, “the single best predictor of Trump support in the GOP primary is the absence of a college degree.” Facebook knows many of our educational histories all too well. By only encouraging educated users to head to the polls—or by only inspiring urban voters in some states—it could change the contest.”

In case you were not paying attention, Manitoba had an election on Tuesday and Brian Pallister’s PCs won with the largest majority in Manitoba’s history, ending almost 17 years of NDP government.

Did you know that there is a think tank that thinks about think tanks? The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program is based at the University of Pennsylvania  and issues the Global Go To Think Tank Index designed to identify and recognize centers of excellence in all the major areas of public policy research and in every region of the world. We confess we have not read its analysis of the 6,000+ think tanks around the world, but we have discovered a new (to us) entry, the  bespoke (that’s NYT-speak)  Berggruen Institute— founded by the somewhat eccentric Nicolas Berggruen, of whom we had also never heard. See The Billionaire Who’s Building a Davos of His Own

The New York Times  addresses a problem [Recruiting Students Overseas to Fill Seats, Not to Meet Standards] that, insofar as we are aware, does not occur here: some American colleges look at foreign students, who pay full tuition, as their financial salvation. And although federal law prohibits them from using recruiters in the United States who are paid based on the number of students they enroll, the law does not ban the use of such recruiters abroad. Although in theory the addition of international students to the  institutions which are not exactly international academic super stars is highly desirable, as colleges increasingly rely on the international recruiters, educators worry that students may be victimized by high-pressure sales tactics, and that universities are trading away academic standards by recruiting less qualified students who pay higher tuition. And a number of the students have  proven to be less than qualified, adding extra costs of remedial classes. Sounds like a program that needs a bit of work.

Céline Cooper takes on the issue of ‘safe spaces’ and places for vigorous debate and concludes “The fundamental role of a university in today’s changing world is to make us think. The reality is that safe spaces and free speech are not diametrically opposed ideas. Maybe we should be asking why we think they are.”

As many of you know, we have been enthusiastic supporters of Teach For Canada since it was a gleam in Sauvé Scholar Kyle Hill‘s eye. It is up and running and My experience as a Teach For Canada mentor by Matthew Perlanski attests to its success.

Lighter moments
‘White Savior Barbie’ Hilariously Parodies Volunteer Selfies In Africa
Barbie Savior pokes fun at people who suffer from the “White Savior Complex.” If you’re unfamiliar, the term is used to describe the white Westerners who travel to third world countries and make the entire affair an exercise in self-congratulatory #sacrifice. More than a little social commentary. We suspect that not everyone will be amused.

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