The Philippines’ Fickle Fortunes

Listopad 28th, 2014

The Philippines are perhaps not known globally as the most vibrant economy, but over the last several years it’s complete economic turnaround has sent shockwaves throughout Asia. Its current president, Benigno Aquino, has assumed office in 2010 and in mere four years has managed to lift the country from its status as a developing country to one that aspires to join the ranks of the Asian Tiger club. During his presidency (which ends in 2016), rampant corruption has been almost eradicated, government spending increased by a large amount and a sturdy, cash-rich middle class emerged. But is all as rosy as it sounds in this ASEAN country?

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…And the Rich Get Richer!

Listopad 4th, 2014

The crisis is over and global economy is no longer in such dire straits it used to be mere five years ago. But there’s some nagging voices here and there that the emperor’s new clothes are, in fact, made of nothing but air. The newest report released by Oxfam, an international charity organization devoted to ending global poverty, proves that not everything is right with global economy. In fact, while it may appear to be fine, it’s likely poised for an even larger catastrophe in the future, unless we do something about the growing wealth inequality

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Obituary: Benjamin Bradlee

Październik 23rd, 2014

Called one of the last remaining newspapermen, Ben Bradlee, former editor of the Washington Post, has passed away age 93.

Over the course of his career, he helped uncover some of the most famous stories in US political history, brought down a president and helped build a newspaper into a national institution.

Born in Boston in 1921 into a wealthy family, and a direct descendant of royalty and papacy, you could say he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. The stock market crash of 1929 left the family almost penniless, however. Ben attended Harvard and shortly joined the army. He fought in the Pacific theatre in WWII.

Following the war, he held a number of jobs in Europe and the US, before being appointed the Washington Post‚s managing editor in 1965. He was a close personal friend of John Fitzgerald Kennedy whom he had befriended in the 1950s while JFK was still a senator living in Bradlee’s Washington neighbourhood.

While at the helm of the Washington Post, or “the Post” as it was affectionately known, he had ambitions of growing the paper to encompass a national base. “The Post was still looking for a seat at the big table. We weren’t at the big table yet. And we very much wanted to go there,”Bradlee told CNN years later.

His first big break came in 1971 when the Washington Post won a Supreme Court ruling allowing it to publish the notorious Pentagon Papers – leaked documents detailing the failure of the Vietnam war. The Court’s decision was a breakthrough for Bradlee, who always had his readers and his country at heart. “We are free to publish what we were always going to publish – which was material which in our mind the public had a right to know, and which did no damage to the United States,” he told a news conference in 1971.

The coup de grâce against the administration of then-president Richard Nixon came a year later when Bradlee encouraged two young reporters to follow up on a reported break-in at the Democratic National Committee within the Watergate complex. The scandal which ensued brought about Nixon’s stepping down in 1974 – the only resignation in US presidential history to date. IN effect the Watergate Scandal shaped contemporary US history.

Bradlee and his two reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were tipped off by anonymous sources to uncover an extensive network of lies, encompassing not only the White House, but also the FBI and CIA. Bradlee was always suspicious of political lies within Washington power circles. “I just do not believe the first version of events in this city, I just do not believe it.”

The editor’s skills lay in allowing the young reporters to keep on covering the story, rather than delegating it to more experienced journalists. “He had the touch. He had the ability to encourage, stimulate people but not run over them,” Woodward would recall decades after the fact.

As the story unfolded, a lot of negative attention was directed towards the newsroom, especially from some of the country’s most powerful people who had a lot to lose, recalls Bernstein. “The stakes were enormous. Every day, the White House, the leader of the free world, spokesman would get up and attack the Washington Post, attack Ben Bradlee by name, Woodward and myself, and he backed us up,” the journalist told CNN.

Journalism inspired by Benjamin Bradlee went on to win a total of 19 Pulitzer prizes. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. “Since joining the Washington Post more than 65 years ago, he transformed that newspaper into one of the finest in the world,”US President Barack Obama said at the awarding ceremony.

Russian Import Ban: Good for Russian Businesses?

Październik 17th, 2014

The Ukrainian crisis has had major repercussions all over the globe, including western sanctions aimed at Russia that were devised as a means to stop Putin from supporting the pro-Russia rebels in the Eastern Ukraine. These sanctions were met with Putin’s swift counter-action: a massive ban on various fresh foods imports from the Western Europe and the US into Russia. At a glance, however, it seems that even despite Putin’s self-imposed food sanctions, Russians still love their president. More than that, they feel that the government-imposed restrictions on imports from the West will be a blessing for their ailing economy in the long run.

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In Depth Book: Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull

Październik 6th, 2014

One of the most significant animation companies in recent years is definitely Pixar. Everyone can recognise its iconic logo of a desk lamp – called Luxo Jr. after an early short film.

Now the company’s CEO, Ed Catmull has written a book not only about how the company came about, but also how Pixar manages to keep above the competition. It turns out that Pixar has honed a way of getting everyone in the company motivated and involved in the projects.

In the book, Catmull goes in great depth about a concept called Braintrust, which essentially is a grouping of talented people who can have a candid conversation around a table about projects in production. In the words of Catmull:

Put smart, passionate people in a room together, charge them with identifying and solving problems, and encourage them to be candid. The Braintrust is not foolproof, but when we get it right, the results are phenomenal.

The results of these meetings are, in Catmull’s words, often eye-opening insights into how well a story is progressing. There is no pressure for the director to follow any of the advice, but many usually do, because they realise that the feedback was constructive.

As in any other business, Pixar has had to deal with failure. Although thirteen consecutive films have gone on to become international blockbusters, the company’s beginning was hard, especially at the time when Pixar was sold to Steve Jobs. Catmull, who headed the company from the very start, says that mistakes can make a company strong, if approached in a correct way:

I’m not the first to say that failure, when approached properly, can be an opportunity for growth. But the way most people interpret this assertion is that mistakes are a necessary evil. Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil. They aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new (and, as such, should be seen as valuable; without them, we’d have no originality). And yet, even as I say that embracing failure is an important part of learning, I also acknowledge that acknowledging this truth is not enough. That’s because failure is painful, and our feelings about this pain tend to screw up our understanding of its worth. To disentangle the good and the bad parts of failure, we have to recognize both the reality of the pain and the benefit of the resulting growth.

A lot has already been written about the book, and is a must-read for those interested in modern ways of doing business. Forbes magazine has written that Creativity Inc. “just might be the best business book ever written.”

by Roberto Galea