Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Germany’s Immigrants “Learn to get along”?!

In media on February 22, 2011 at 8:26 pm


CNN’s Diana Magnay correctly highlights the problem of  alienation faced by  the “180 different nationalities who call Berlin their home”. Germany’s poorly implemented immigration policies have created a ghettoised culture in Berlin, in which non-Germans can become almost totally isolated from German society. And, yes, this is particularly relevant for Turkish immigrants; probably more a consequence of the Turkish population constituting the largest, non-German ethnic group (totalling 2.1% of the 9% of immigrants living in Germany), than of any cultural aversion to integrating into German society per se.

The charming and enthusiastic English language learners in Magnay’s report are not wholly reflective of the type of students you might expect to find in one of the “government mandated English language classes”. As every ESL teacher knows, the job seekers or Arbeitsamt courses, tend to be treated by language trainers with a combination of fear and dread – they are generally attended by large groups of lower level language learners and student motivation is pretty low. Classes are usually heavily oversubscribed and offloaded onto inexperienced teachers, and students sit in the classroom for 8hrs a day, every day. If you’re just starting out with English, that’s pretty brutal. Certainly, policies on the structure and implementation of these courses needs to be revised, otherwise Germany risks alienating people like Yookie and Tomek, the young immigrants who very much want to learn languages, and to become fully integrated into German society.


How British Fashion Grew Up

In Uncategorized on February 19, 2011 at 1:30 pm

London Fashion Week opened yesterday to Autumn/Winter shows by Paul Costelloe, Maria Grachvogel, Aminaka Wilmont, and Bora Aksu.

Vivienne Westwood’s hotly anticipated Red Label catwalk show will take place tomorrow, alongside collections by Matthew Williamson and Antonio Beradi. Westwood remains a long-standing queen of British Fashion design; an ex-punk and political activist prone to inappropriate outbursts like her infamous “who is Emma Watson?” question at the Vogue Style Awards, she is a fixture of British fashion.

The red-haired style icon symbolises a radical experimentalism which distinguishes her from the cultural conservatism embodied by other fashion designers. Her clothing suggests personal freedom, an anti-authoritarianism – albeit in a more subdued form than her earlier punk-inspired designs which incorporated tartan patterns, safety pins, and a variety of chains and bondage gear. Her Red Label Spring/Summer 2011 catwalk show was playful, wearable and feminine; fitted suits in pastel colours with bold pastel stripes, and subtle print dresses. Cheerful, chic,  clothing which is flattering and somehow quite mature.

When Fashion Grew Up…

The evolution of Vivienne Westwood’s designs reflects a movement away from teenage angst to a fairytale daydream of a better life. Perhaps this is a story a lot of us can relate to on a personal level. I can remember only too well my teenage penchant for black and royal blue kohl, and Summer dresses with army boots, a staple of my previous life as a punk. Nowadays, I’m a little less stylistically audacious in my adherence to the belief  that elegance and classic style trumps fuss and sparkle any day. Westwood, apparently, feels the same way.

After 30 years of living in a council flat in Clapham, Westwood finally moved into an 18th century Queen Ann style house, which had once been owned by the mother of Captain Cook. Her movement away from the unglamorous reality of youth to the comfort afforded by maturity, is an optimism we could all use as Britain faces the painful potential reality of a ‘double dip’ recession. In short, what Britain needs now is the fantasy of success, not the teenage angst.

Protests in Bahrain

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Friday, Feb 18

Thousands of protesters are calling for the downfall of Bahrain’s ruling monarchy, one day after a military crackdown which left at least five pro-reform protesters dead and many others seriously injured.

The reaction against King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and his inner circle reflects an important escalation of the initial political uprising – a call for the hold on top government  held by the Sunni majority to be weakened, and for claims of discrimination against the Shia majority to be tackled.

An attack on a protest camp in Manama which left five protesters dead and 230 injured, has united protesters in an atmosphere of defiance against the entire ruling system. Witnesses described the excessive force used  by police, who fired rubber pellets and rubber bullets and used tear gas against the people, many of whom were sleeping at the time. A state of emergency was imposed, with military forces and checkpoints in key areas.

“The regime has broken something inside of me … All of these people gathered today have had something broken in them,” said Ahmed Makki Abu Taki, whose 27-year-old brother Mahmoud was killed in the pre-dawn sweep through the protest camp in Pearl Square. “We used to demand for the prime minister to step down, but now our demand is for the ruling family to get out.” Guardian

“The government has shaken something inside us all and we have lost all trust in it,” Mohamed Ali, 40, a civil servant, said as he choked back tears. “Our demands were peaceful and simple at first,” he said. “We wanted the prime minister to step down. Now the demands are harsher and have reached the pinnacle of the pyramid. We want the whole government to fall.” CBS News

Human rights organisations and officials in the United Nations, United States and the United Kingdom have condemned the raid and urged for government restraint in Bahrain. In an interview with CNN on Thursday night, the Bahraini Special Envoy to the US defended the county’s actions, stating that the force used “was really proportional.”

“We had to use it, because it was necessary, and the process started to really destruct our national economy and scaring the people,” he continued.

Foreign Secretary William Hague has said there is “no evidence” of British-made weapons being used against protestors in Bahrain; however, in light of recent events, the UK Foreign Office will be reviewing its policy on arms sales to Bahrain.

Lara Logan and Assaults on Female Journalists

In media, Uncategorized on February 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm

CBS correspondent Lara Logan was released from hospital yesterday  following a “brutal” assault in Tahir Square after Hosni Mubarak’s resignation last Friday.

Logan was covering the celebrations in Egypt for a “60 Minutes” story when she and her crew were surrounded by a dangerous mob of 200 men. In the chaos, she became separated from her crew, when she was surrounded, beaten and sexually assaulted.

The attack lasted about 20 minutes, after which a group of women and up to 20 Egyptian soldiers managed to rescue her.

CBS News’s Katie Couric reports that Logan is “recovering well”, and Logan has told friends that the attack in Egypt “will not destroy her”.

One week prior to the attack, the South-African born  chief foreign affairs correspondent and her crew were detained overnight and interrogated while entering Cairo. Logan described being marched at gunpoint through the streets of Cairo back to her hotel as ” a very frightening experience and one which was repeated throughout the day”.

In a statement on Thursday night, she told Esquire magazine “We were detained by the Egyptian army. Arrested, detained and interrogated.” She described being kept in stress positions throughout the night and denied medical treatment after her and her crew were accused of being “Israeli agents.”

‘We were accused of being more than journalists, very frightening suggestions were being made. Suggestions that really could be very dangerous for us,’ she said.

Harassment of women on the streets is a major issue in Egyptian society, although measures to curb the problem are often met with resistance from officials. Suzanne Mubarak once suggested that the problem was manipulated by the media to portray Egypt in a  damming light.

Official figures of attacks on women published in The Guardian today would appear to contradict this:

A survey by the independent Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights in 2008, however, revealed that 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women had been exposed to some form of sexual harassment, including groping, verbal abuse, stalking and indecent exposure.

Comments on the Lara Logan assault have sparked controversy in the US after certain journalists attempted to downplay or make light of the incident. NYU fellow Nir Rosen posted insensitive remarks on Twitter, saying that Logan “had to outdo Anderson [Cooper]….She was probably groped like thousands of other women….It would have been funny if it happened to Anderson, too.” Rosen has since apologised and was forced to resign from his fellowship.

Right-wing blogger Debbie Schlussel has been condemned for blaming Logan for bring the attack upon herself, stating that she should have expected Muslim “animals” to treat her this way.

“How fitting that Lara Logan was ‘liberated’ by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over…the ‘liberation.’…Hope you’re enjoying the revolution, Lara! Praise Allah!” blogged Schlussel.

Schlussel’s comments have been met with a surge of protest online by those who fear the Logan assault could be twisted by the right wing into a story of Arab misogyny.

An article in the 2007 Colombia Journalism Review suggests that many female foreign correspondents do not report incidents of sexual abuse, for fear of being prevented from being given future assignments.

Heather Blake, of Reporters Without Borders, said that the incident should not be used to prevent female correspondents from going out into the field.

“Female journalists have distinct voices to male journalists and it is vital that those very different concerns and outlooks continue to be heard,” she argued. “The attack on Lara Logan highlights the fact that there needs to be gender-specific protection and training of journalists.  The Guardian

See: Walk Free! Stop Sexual Harassment in Egypt and Apology to Lara Logan

The Bad Manager: A Foolproof Guide to Failure

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2011 at 6:31 pm










Follow this two-pronged attack strategy, and you’ll be pretty much guaranteed corporate failure!

a) Display an overinflated ego

Don’t forget to tell your colleagues about your postgraduate qualification from Oxbridge, and your unlimited knowledge of the finance industry at every opportunity.  Behaving like an ego-maniac by refusing to listen to the suggestions of your staff in favour of doing things “your way”, and throwing temper tantrums over the smallest thing is also a great  strategy.

Signs of arrogance include:

  • The tendency to waste people’s time by pontificating
  • Looking for criteria other than business performance as a measuring device with peers (such as tenure, academic pedigree and prestige of career titles)
  • Habitually putting people down in order to artificially prop oneself up
  • Blatant disregard for the feelings of others, showing lack of maturity and emotional intelligence

Source: Investopedia

b) Infect your workplace with negativity

Berate your coworkers for their useless and feeble attempts at attempting to execute your orders. Answer any questions either with sharp, cynical one-liners, or by behaving in a generally hostile manner. This will make your staff reluctant to approach you in future. Take every opportunity to foment dischord in the workplace by pitting coworkers against each other, and by constantly questioning their competency.

The Bad Manager – Are you willing to turn into this?

Societal Impact on Human Behaviour

In Uncategorized on February 15, 2011 at 5:52 pm
  • We are shaped by our society – the more stratified a society, the fewer reciprocal peers we have, leading to a world with less altruism
  • We have an infinite capacity for variety, we choose how to educate our children, how to exercise our consumer power etc.
  • Our society is predicated by profiteering from other people’s problems.
  • In modern society we are encouraged to believe that people are competitive by nature, individualistic and selfish. In actual fact, this is not the case. We have a basic human need for companionship and trust, if those needs are met we can become compassionate people.
  • Human needs lead to a certain set of traits if they are met and a certain set of traits if they are not met.
  • The human brain demands positive forms of stimulus, and needs to be protected from negative forms of stimulus.

Early Childhood Development

Research has shown that the development of a child’s future behaviour is heavily influenced by the psychological and emotional state of the mother during pregnancy. Expectant mothers who are  victims of domestic abuse, or who experience anxiety during pregnancy, produce elevated levels of the stress hormone, cortosil. The impact of a high cortosil level on the feotus can be manifested by the child in later life, for example through a predisposition to addiction.

Is the foundation of our society going against the core elements needed to create and maintain our social wellbeing?

Planned Obsolescence deliberately recognises that the longer any good is in operation, the worse it is for sustaining cyclical consumption, hence the market system itself. In other words, product sustainability is actually inverse to economic growth, and hence there is direct, reinforced incentive to make sure lifespans are short on any given good produced.

Japan’s Child Abuse Problem

In Uncategorized on February 15, 2011 at 10:44 am

“This girl is part of an expolding population in Japan: victims of child abuse”

The international image of Japan has traditionally been of a country which is kind to its children, but in the last decade reported cases of child abuse have quadrupled and protective orphanges are filled to capacity.

Several reasons for this alarming situation have been suggested. In the year 2000 a government mandated law on child abuse was put into effect, meaning that cases could now be reported more accurately. This caused reports of childhood neglect cases to skyrocket. Other potential causal factors are more concerning – reflecting culturally entrenched problems like Japan’s  two-decade long economic stagnation, rising divorce rates coupled with a lack of support for single mothers, the dearth of foster homes,  and a cultural aversion to adoption and fostering.

One way to combat the growing child abuse problem is through eductaion, states child advocate Yuki Okada.

“It’s going to get worse unless the public understands the pattern of child abuse, and deals with abuse openly.”

Learning to Love The Big Society…

In media on February 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm

David’s Cameron’s ‘big society’ plan should be making the British public go weak at the knees. The Prime Minister’s “mission” to encourage civic engagement through schemes for social improvement – empowering local communities, forging collaborative ventures, and insisting that power in public services be decentralised-  seems sound enough in theory.  However, his agenda has been much maligned by both the right and the left. Why are we so opposed to the “Big Society”?

The fact is, Cameron’s pet project is just too vague for many people to allow for the possibility of any substantive changes arising from his plan to fix our “broken society”.  The government’s budget cuts have already forced tough decisions on local authorities who are having to cut back on funding to charities, and the potential closure of dozens of local libraries across London, in areas such as Brent, Lambeth and Ealing are a casualty of said cuts. Is it any wonder we’re sceptical of such Big Ideas? The creation of the Big Society bank sounds great, but again it will cost.

If we’re cynical, it’s not because we don’t like the potential of “social recovery as well as an economic recovery” which Cameron’s “absolute passion” promises. It’s maybe more because we’re the wife of a philandering husband who brings us flowers and chocolates on Valentine’s, and promises year after year “never again, baby”. So, we take him back because it’s Valentine’s Day in the hope that this year he will behave differently, and keep his promise.

Generation Y: Are YOU part of the problem?

In media, stuff on February 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm

This morning I received a link on Facebook to a video from my cousin. He appended a tagline to this which innocently enquired “Are you part of the problem, or the solution?”. Ordinarily, I tend to avoid guilt-inducing documentaries about saving the planet, which tend to have a thinly disguised anti-corporate, anti-government, anti-Capitalist agenda. I’ve been to University, bought copies of the Socialist Worker from the ageing vendor picketing outside, attended meetings on Marxist-feminism, and ultimately concluded this isn’t the solution. At least, this isn’t the solution for me.

I have spent too long trying to fight for my survival, just to stay afloat and make enough money to make ends meet, to waste my time and pay undue attention to a bunch of overpriviledged, private school educated Graphic Design students pontificate on  9/11 conspiracy theories, or the ills of modern society.

But, today was a special day. This was a day in which I woke up feeling a little less cynicism, and a little more hope. An attitude which may have as much to do with a recent change in my personal circumstances as it does with current political events (my boyfriends’s new job moving us from a dire state of packet noodle malnourishment and avoiding the landlord, to that of gorging on Waitrose oysters and Beaujolais, and planning a holiday in Madeira – Happy Valentine’s Day indeed!).

The fact is, I always knew what I wanted; a big family; a nice house, preferably in South Kensington or surrounding area; a husband, who respects and loves me; job satisfaction; a high salary; above all, I always hungered after money and power. So, watching the documentary I suddenly felt a pang of guilt. I’m guilty of succumbing to that terrible addiction the majority of 21st century Westerners so often fall prey to: wanting more. I began to panic, attempting to rationalise my thoughts – surely, this is an adaptive trait? A drive to succeed, a burning ambition to work harder, do better, make more money, and to get better qualified,  gives me energy. It prevents me from looking around me in desperation at the tragic state of modern society, and from falling into a pit of despair at the realisation of my own shortcomings and failures. This is what gets me up in the morning. Why feel guilty about it?

Eating a packet of Oreos while reading an article on CNN Money about Conan O’Brien, I started to wonder why Gen-Xers such as Conan, or Jon Stewart or Obama – all men in their late 40s, have the ability to inspire and motivate Gen-Yers, such as myself.  Yesterday, I came across a blog by an MBA student which discussed leadership theories that match different generational categories to different personality types. For example, the Golden Generation of pre WW2 would tend to show a obedience to authority, in contrast to the Baby Boomers of the Vietnam era who consequently display a dislike and mistrust towards authority. While I find these categories could be a little reductive, and question the utility and validity of applying them to generations wholesale (it seems like a nice little project for a bored University Sociology professor, and if executed poorly could be considered just one step up from making astrological predictions based on  peoples sun signs), I do have to admit that some of the qualities outlined for the Gen-Yers are applicable to me.  I am indeed a globally selfish person – when I consider volunteering I think about whether having experience at the RSC would look better on my CV than Theatre Peckham, even if they do desperately need the extra help. Call me a bad person if you want, but it just seems like smart business to me.

I’m afraid I can’t concur with the opinion that Gen-Xers are a bunch or disaffected and angry 40 somethings. After all, people’s attitudes reflect not only their social environment, but also their own age and the depth of their own personal experience. I hope that by the time I reach my mid-40s I’m not paralysed by disappointment in my government, or jaded and embittered by lost youth, lost love, missed chances, and that I have the strength and power to fight for what I believe in and to encourage others to do the same. While the world is filled with inspirational figures like Obama, Assange, Jon Stewart, and yes,Conan O’Brien, who challenge peoples perceptions and encourage young people to question paralysing and stultifying systems of power, I will embrace Generation X. These are the spokesmen who inspire me to believe that I can be a part of building a better future for the next generation, and that working to revolutionise systems of power is not merely the purview of the naive, or the rich, or the young. This is really happening now. Through unity and power people have the power to shape their own destiny, and the destiny of our world. And that’s real change, no matter how old the messenger is.

A Millionaire’s Mindset in 5 Easy Steps

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2011 at 12:46 pm

You might think that the people who make it to the top of the food chain are silver spoon, trust-fund babies with Ivy League educations. You might think that their expensive suits, cars, and houses set them apart from you in a nepotistic elite class from which you are doomed to be excluded because of your education, lack of connections or background. You would be wrong.

There are too many rags to riches tales of self-made men  to chalk their success entirely down to luck . Think about high-school or college drop-outs like Steve Jobs, David Geffen and Ralph Lauren, welfare mothers like J.K. Rowling, or people who grew up in low-income families or on housing projects like Jay-Z . Certain factors aside from their ridiculously high bank balances and stock portfolios are common to all of these people, qualities which were developed as a consequence of and a reaction to their environment.

1) Creativity

Have mentors who can help you get where you want to be, but be an independent thinker. Know where you want to be, set clear targets and find creative solutions to problems which will set you apart from the rest. Above all, it’s essential to have the courage to follow your convictions – if you believe in yourself, others will follow suit!


A little arrogance can get you a long way. Self-belief is a great thing, don’t submit to delusions of grandeur,  but at the same time always be aware of the importance of marketing and salesmanship. If you project an unshakeable confidence and an aura of competence, people will have faith in your abilities and you’ll be 100 per cent more likely to get what you want.

3) Make your own luck

Norma Jean knew how to network and so can you. Social networking is an incredibly powerful weapon in the right hands, so keep that LinkedIn profile up to date! It’s useful to research places to be seen in the city, then go and hang out. Talk to people who are successful in your field, LISTEN and LEARN from people who have achieved like old bosses, business contacts etc. Even if you don’t perceive how making a new contact in an unrealted field could be immediately relevant to you, remember that people talk and it’s a surprisingly small world.


Be persistent! Never give up on your dreams and seek to use the obstacles you are faced with to your advantage. Work around problems and adapt your gameplan accordingly. Many people take the easy route when life doesn’t go according to plan. Retain the hunger, energy and drive and be prepared to fight for it as there are millions of other fish out there who would have you as krill to their baleen.

5) Passion

Enjoy what you’re doing, cherish every success and don’t lose sight of your original target. If you are happy with your life you are already on a fast-track to  success, monetary or otherwise.

Billionaire investing guru Warren Buffett says “Money is a by-product of something I like to do very much.” Enjoying your work allows you to have the discipline to work hard at it every day. People who interact with money for a living, bankers for example, often love creating new deals and persuading others to complete a transaction. But finding your dream job may take time. The average millionaire doesn’t find it until age 45, and tends to be 54 (on average) before becoming a millionaire. Kimbro found that millionaires tried an average of 17 ventures before they were successful. So, if you want to be rich, stop doing things you don’t enjoy and do what you love. If you don’t know what you love, try a few things and keep trying until you hit on the right thing. (Find out how Warren Buffett’s passion for investing led him to a billion-dollar fortune in Warren Buffett: The Road To Riches

Above extract from Investopedia

Three years ago, I would never have believed the success that could result from a change of mindset. When I started to think in a more positive way changes began to occur which are taking my life in an exciting and profitable new direction.  People responded to my optimism and confidence, and my success and achievements have grown exponentially as a result. That’s why I wanted to share this with you- just a few small changes to the way you think and act can revolutionise your life.