Paul Collier: Post-conflict recovery

Paul Collier, former director of the World Bank’s Development Research Group and current director of the the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford, gave a TED presentation at the State Department on rebuilding broken nations. He says when long conflict has wrecked a country, peacekeeping is needed to build security ad hoc, followed by focussing on three immediate areas to develop over the long term: Jobs (especially construction) to rebuild the skillset; health and basic social services co-branded by the government and NGOs; and clean government, meaning that a lot of technical assistance will need to follow any money given, ie “Accountants without Borders”.

Question: Which thinker taught you to think?

Out on the streets of Tehran the opposition is protesting, disputing the June 12 election. The brutality being used against them by the riot police is just horrible. I’ve read that this election and the US election of 2000 are both being discussed as “stolen elections” and being compared, as if they were shades of the same kind of thing. Now, that’s very misguided. Come on. If Americans had taken to the streets in 2000, they would not have been shot down. The stolen US election of 2000 was very, very unfortunate! But the stolen Iranian election of 2009 is a crime against civil society. It’s a real pity when people start comparing apples and oranges.

I don’t pretend to be a great thinker. Going to college didn’t go to my head, but the experience did teach me to use it. So I’d like to ask you: Which thinker taught you to think? For me, one of the most important thinkers was Jürgen Habermas, who turned 80 last Thursday. His belief in our communicative competence and his theory of communicative reason influenced the way I think and live. Let me tell you about him in this week’s podcast.

I’d love to read what you have to say about a person who taught you how to think, and why that person is important to you.

Think! Use your head!
If something goes to your head (in den Kopf steigen) you become arrogant.
A heady experience is one that leaves you excited and high (berauschend). College was a heady experience for me.

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The stolen election

Persepolis” cartoonist and filmmaker Marjane Satrapi says Iranians were robbed of their votes. Along with renowned filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Satrapi asked the European Union not recognize President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election. Satrapi read from a paper allegedly from the Interior Ministry in Iran that stated opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi had received 19,075,723 votes compared with 5,698,000 votes for Ahmadinejad.


Pictures on Boston Globe’s Big Picture. Videos on SasanShah1‘s channel. 60 minutes Twitter downtime, a news break feared by activists, has already been postponed by a day… It’s down now.


Obama said it’s the risktakers, the doers, the makers of things that are responsible for our current prosperity (and we are still the most prosperous society). He said “we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start rebuilding America.” He talked about government programs needing to be analysed for whether they work. And he said the markets may be unmatched for generating wealth, but
“this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper along when it favors only the prosperous.” And he used terms like “humility and restraint.”
Oh dear: At lunch Kennedy, who looked very ill just after the inauguration, went into convulsions and was taken to the hospital.
The parade has been delayed. I used to love that parade! The last one I went to, though, was very frustrating: I saw the Ronald Reagan mega-celebration.

(Multimedia/with text at Washington Post)

The Eagle Nebula

Today is the big day. To celebrate a president we can be proud of and who allows us to dream of a more humane world, have a look at the beautiful Eagle Nebula, described as follows:

From afar, the whole thing looks like an Eagle. A closer look at the Eagle Nebula, however, shows the bright region is actually a window into the center of a larger dark shell of dust. Through this window, a brightly-lit workshop appears where a whole open cluster of stars is being formed. In this cavity tall pillars and round globules of dark dust and cold molecular gas remain where stars are still forming. Already visible are several young bright blue stars whose light and winds are burning away and pushing back the remaining filaments and walls of gas and dust. The Eagle emission nebula, tagged M16, lies about 6500 light years away, spans about 20 light-years, and is visible with binoculars toward the constellation of Serpens. (Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)

Bright blue stars, do your work! (Image: NASA)