International Relations News: 

  • January 21, 2013 2:35 PM | Anonymous
    Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall. The alliteration of that litany made it seem obvious and inevitable, a bit of poetry just there for the taking. Just waiting to happen.

    But it has waited a long time. And President Obama’s use of it in his speech on Monday undefined his grouping of those three places and moments in one grand and musical sentence undefined was bold and beautiful and something to hear. It spoke volumes about the progress that gay Americans have made over the four years between his first inauguration and this one, his second. It also spoke volumes about the progress that continues to elude us.

    “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths undefined that all of us are created equal undefined is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall,” the president said, taking a rapt country on a riveting trip to key theaters in the struggle for liberty and justice for all.

    Seneca Falls is a New York town where, in 1848, the women’s suffrage movement gathered momentum. Selma is an Alabama city where, in 1965, marchers amassed, blood was shed and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood his ground against the unconscionable oppression of black Americans.

    And Stonewall? This was the surprise inclusion, separating Obama’s oratory and presidency from his predecessors’ diction and deeds. It alludes to a gay bar in Manhattan that, in 1969, was raided by police, who subjected patrons to a bullying they knew too well. After the raid came riots, and after the riots came a more determined quest by L.G.B.T. Americans for the dignity they had long been denied.

    The causes of gay Americans and black Americans haven’t always existed in perfect harmony, and that context is critical for appreciating Obama’s reference to Stonewall alongside Selma. Blacks have sometimes questioned gays’ use of “civil rights” to describe their own movement, and have noted that the historical experiences of the two groups aren’t at all identical. Obama moved beyond that, focusing on the shared aspirations of all minorities. It was a big-hearted, deliberate, compelling decision.

    He went on, seconds later, to explicitly mention “gay” Americans, saying a word never before uttered in inaugural remarks. What shocked me most about that was how un-shocking it was.

    Four years ago we lived in a country in which citizens of various states had consistently voted against the legalization of same-sex marriage.

    But on Nov. 6, the citizens of all three states that had the opportunity to legalize gay marriage at the ballot box did so, with clear majorities in Maryland, Maine and Washington endorsing it.

    Four years ago the inaugural invocation was given by a pastor with a record of antigay positions and remarks. This year, a similar assignment was withdrawn from a pastor with a comparable record, once it came to light. What’s more, an openly gay man was chosen to be the inaugural poet, and in news coverage of his biography, his parents’ exile from Cuba drew more attention than his sexual orientation. That’s how far we’ve come.

    And the distance traveled impresses me more than the distance left. I want to be clear on that. I’m proud of our country and president, despite their shortcomings on this front and others. It takes time for minds to open fully and laws to follow suit, and the making of change, in contrast to the making of statements, depends on patience as well as passion.

    But the “gay” passage of Obama’s speech underscored the lingering gap between the American ideal and the American reality. “Our journey is not complete,” he said, “until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law undefined for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

    He means the right to marry. As long as we gay and lesbian Americans don’t have that, we’re being told that our relationships aren’t as honorable as those of straight couples. And if that’s the case, then we’re not as honorable, either. Is there really any other reading of the situation?

    Despite our strides, gay and lesbian couples even now can marry only in nine states and the District of Columbia. The federal government doesn’t recognize those weddings, meaning that in terms of taxes, military benefits and matters of immigration, it treats gays and lesbians differently than it treats other Americans. It relegates us to an inferior class.

    The Supreme Court could soon change, or validate, that. There are relevant cases before it. For his part Obama could show less deference to states’ rights, be more insistent about what’s just and necessary coast-to-coast, and push for federal protections against employment discrimination when it comes to L.G.B.T. Americans. His actions over the next four years could fall wholly in line with Monday’s trailblazing words. My hope is real, and grateful, and patient.

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    Reprinted from The New York Times, January 21, 2013. To view article, go tohttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/22/opinion/bruni-a-map-of-human-dignity.html?_r=0 
     
  • January 04, 2013 2:34 PM | Anonymous
    The nation’s much-vaunted youthful demographic dividend will be worthless unless it changes the way it treats women workers

    Forecasters, when they speak of India’s future, cite its demographic dividend undefined its youthful population. The country today has 230 million adolescents about to begin their most economically productive years, and there are hundreds of millions more already producing goods and services. HSBC, which sponsors this site, has noted that India’s GDP growth in coming years will be 2.5% higher than Japan’s thanks to its youthful population. It has predicted that India will become the world’s third-largest economy by 2050.

    But what will India’s performance be if half the population is held back?

    The World Economic Forum on India’s panel, called Closing South Asia’s Gender Gap, looked at the economic impact of the plight of Indian women. They still do not participate in the economy beyond low-value agricultural work. At present, women hold only 3% of senior positions in business, and official surveys don’t even account for women in the rest of the workforce. The immediate outlook is not good, but there are signs of change, including one company that is making big strides in using the overlooked 50% of India’s demographic dividend.

    The current state of women in India is depressing by North American standards. Kiran Bedi, founder and secretary-general of the India Vision Foundation, told the World Economic Forum that India has a huge labor surplus so there is no compulsion for women to work. She said that at the lowest economic level, which accounts for 70% of all Indian womenundefinedthere is no access to healthcare, education or paying work. “You can do without them,” she said ironically, characterizing traditional rural society’s reasoning: “ ‘The girl can’t go to school, she has to draw water.’ You can find this attitude just 40 minutes’ drive from Gurgaon,” she added, referring to the ultra-modern suburban city where the forum was held.

    The discrimination and deprivation are unsettling: 47% of Indian adolescent girls are under-nourished; 44.5% of them are married before age 18. Violence against girls and women is still endemic. More than half of adolescent Indian boys, a 2012 UNICEF study found, believe it is acceptable for a husband to beat his wife. The study found that the same percentage of adolescent girls agreed. Bride burning is still rife in India. And while many experts are unsure of the extent of the problem, activists charge that sex-based feticide is a major problem, even in affluent areas of Delhi, and that it is skewing the ratio of females to males nationally.

    There are lesser abuses, though no less humiliating or detrimental to economic progress. In The Hindu newspaper, writer Bindu Shajan Perappadan recently penned a series of stories about being harassesed while trying to commute. And harassment in the form of crude whispers and groping on the Delhi Metro’s trains forced management to create a women-only car at the front of each train. Even then, men brazenly invaded the cars to intimidate women. Indifferent Indian authorities describe such daily abuse with the belittlingly quaint nickname “Eve teasing.”

    The World Economic Forum heard that Indian sons still “emotionally inherit” parents’ property and daughters are either explicitly excluded or they self-exclude on the basis of social expectations of what “good girls” do. This is practiced even among the affluent, who still believe that a woman’s place is at home as caregiver. Another limiting attitude is the lack of reproductive rights. At the bottom of Indian society women are still considered property and even their doctorsundefineddescribed as the “Gods of Wombs” undefined have greater influence over a woman than she does over herself.

    Keshav Murugesh is Group CEO for WNS (Holdings) India, a business process outsourcing company headquartered in Mumbai. His firm has gone out of its way to recruit women and make the workplace safe for them. He advised companies not to wait for the government to creative initiatives on gender inclusiveness. In the Indian IT industries, up to 40% of its employees are female and in management the proportion is slightly higher. He said it will continue to be difficult to get women into the workplace so long as there continues to be a surplus of labor.

    To employ women, he said, requires adopting best practices at the very top of the company, getting the buy-in and then implementing. Murugesh says that his company picks up female employees at home and drops them off at the end of the work day. He said companies must consciously focus on recruiting women at school campuses, by paying leadership rewards, having safe-workplace policies and training programs on how women can deal with doubts or objections from their traditionally minded husbands or in-laws.

    While Murugesh’s firm opened its doors to female employees with policies endorsed at the top, other speakers at the World Economic Forum predicted that the Indian elites would probably change the slowest. Said one speaker: “It’s the bottom and the middle of society that changes first.”

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    Reprinted from January 4, 2013 issue of Business without Borders, a publication of HSBC aggregating content from partners The Wall Street Journal, Economist Intelligence Unit, and video content from Bloomberg Master Class. To view article, go to http://www.businesswithoutborders.com/industries/retail/undeclared-dividend-women-in-india
  • February 20, 2012 2:33 PM | Anonymous
    EARLY this morningundefinedfor viewers in Chinaundefinedthe New York Knicks of the new Taiwanese-American hero Jeremy Lin played against the Dallas Mavericks and with them China’s current standard-bearer in the NBA: the 7-foot-tall Yi Jianlian, a high draft pick who has proven a disappointment in America. Mr Yi's Mavericks lost the game, 104-97, but the bigger loser was Chinese soft power.

    Mr Lin has quickly amassed a huge following among Chinese basketball fans (and this country does love basketball). This poses a bit of a conundrum for Chinese authorities for a number of reasons. The most obvious is that Mr Lin is an American who is proudly of Taiwanese descent, which would seem to complicate China’s efforts to claim him (and oh how they have tried alreadyundefinedon which, more below).

    But there are three other reasons Mr Lin’s stardom could fluster the authorities. First, he is very openly Christian, and the Communist Party is deeply wary of the deeply religious (notably on those within its own ranks). Second, he is not a big centre or forward, the varietals which are the chief mainland Chinese export to the NBA, including the Mavericks’ Mr Yi; and of course he came out of nowhere to become a star, having been educated at the most prestigious university in America, Harvard.

    Mr Lin is, put plainly, precisely everything that China’s state sport system cannot possibly produce. If Mr Lin were to have been born and raised in China, his height alone might have denied him entry into China’s sport machine, as Time’s Hannah Beech points out: “Firstly, at a mere 6’3”undefinedrelatively short by basketball standardsundefinedLin might not have registered with Chinese basketball scouts, who in their quest for suitable kids to funnel into the state sport system are obsessed with height over any individual passion for hoops.” Even when Mr Lin was still a young boy, one look at his parents, each of unremarkable stature, would have made evaluators sceptical. Ms Beech’s other half happens to be Brook Larmer, the author of the fascinating book “Operation Yao Ming”, which details how Chinese authorities contrived to create China’s most successful basketball star, Mr Yao, the product of tall parents who were themselves Chinese national basketball team players. The machine excels at identifying, processing and churning out physical specimensundefinedand it does so exceedingly well for individual sports, as it will again prove in London this year. But it happens to lack the nuance and creativity necessary for team sport.

    What of Mr Lin’s faith? If by chance Mr Lin were to have gained entry into the sport system, he would not have emerged a Christian, at least not openly so. China has tens of millions of Christians, and officially tolerates Christianity; but the Communist Party bars religion from its membership and institutions, and religion has no place in its sport model. One does not see Chinese athletes thanking God for their gifts; their coach and Communist Party leaders, yes, but Jesus Christ the Saviour? No.

    Then there is the fact that Mr Lin’s parents probably never would have allowed him anywhere near the Chinese sport system in the first place. This is because to put one’s child (and in China, usually an only child at that) in the sport system is to surrender that child’s upbringing and education to a bureaucracy that cares for little but whether he or she will win medals someday. If Mr Lin were ultimately to be injured or wash out as an athlete, he would have given up his only chance at an elite education, and been separated from his parents for lengthy stretches, for nothing. (One must add to this the problem of endemic corruption in Chinese sport that also scares away parentsundefinedChinese football referee Lu Jun, once heralded as the “golden whistle” for his probity, was sentenced to jail last week as part of a massive match-fixing scandal). Most Chinese parents, understandably, prefer to see their children focus on schooling and exams. 

    In America, meanwhile, athletic excellence actually can open doors to an elite education, through scholarships and recruitment. Harvard does not provide athletic scholarships, but it does recruit players who also happen to be academic stars. There is no real equivalent in China.

    So China almost certainly has its own potential Jeremy Lin out there, but there is no path for him to follow. This also helps explain, as we have noted, why China fails at another sport it loves, football. Granted, Mr Lin’s own path to stardom is in itself unprecedented, but in America, the unprecedented is possible. Chinese basketball fans have taken note of this. Mr Lin’s story may be a great and inspiring proof of athleticism to the Chinese people, but it is also unavoidably a story of American soft power.

    Some authorities in China have responded, as might be expected, by trying to appropriate Mr Lin. The Chinese city of Pinghu, in coastal Zhejiang Province, sent a missive to its recently remembered former resident, Mr Lin’s grandmother on his mother’s side; officials crowed that she was pleased by the attention her hometown is paying to her grandson’s success. Xinhua, China’s official news service, published a fanciful article urging Mr Lin to take Chinese citizenship and join the national team of the People’s Republic.

    Mr Lin’s Taiwanese family background seems to pose a special problem. China Central Television (CCTV), the national monopoly that broadcasts NBA games, has not joined in Linsanity. A game featuring Mr Lin a week ago, against the Minnesota Timberwolves, was broadcast on Beijing TV’s sport channel, but the broadcast included the forbidden image of the Taiwanese national flag, held proudly by fans in the stands. (The flag is typically blurred in China if it must appear in news footage). Chinese netizens noticed, and wondered if that would bring a punishment, or a tape delay. CCTV, for its part, told Netease, a Chinese internet portal, that most Knicks games couldn’t be shown due to the “time difference”, “but if time allows, games of the Knicks will definitely be broadcasted preferentially.”

    That remains to be seen. Fortunately for Chinese sport fans, the internet provides a ready-made alternative to the state television system. Most of Mr Lin’s games are being made available by live stream on the portal Sina.com. This morning’s game against Mr Yi’s Mavericks was a rather interesting exception, a mysterious little black hole on Sina.com’s NBA schedule. Frustrated Chinese fans had to go looking for dodgier streams elsewhere online. What they found was a closely fought game between the two teams, with Mr Lin again starring and leading the Knicks to victory. More poignantly, they found their countryman, Mr Yi, remain on the bench for the entire game, reduced to the role of spectator. It was a glimpse of the Chinese sport system versus American soft power. Perhaps it was not fit for viewing.

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    Reprinted from The Economist, February 20, 2012. To view, go tohttp://www.economist.com/blogs/analects/2012/02/chinas-new-sports-problem 
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