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Dubai: Welcome to the Magic Kingdom

Postulation over Dubai’s debt dynamics has rattled markets, perhaps unnecessarily.

An investor’s biggest fear is always that something not previously considered is known to the competition and behind a major price move; As big waves of capital fled Dubai’s markets, the story of Dubai seeking a debt holiday sure felt like that. The announcement has certainly raised the Emirate’s profile in a new and distinctive way;  exposed with the alleged impecuniosity is the opaque nature of Dubai’s sovereign accounting. The policy of restricting the public’s access to information will now result in a higher cost of borrowing. This announcement plugged into the community’s base fears about the Emirate. The exaggerated reaction to the announcement tells us that the market didn’t really know what would happen next. That will have to change for Dubai to lower its cost of debt in future.

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Dubai: Monarchy, Masses and the Metro

The success of Dubai’s Metro should surprise nobody.

In the middle of last year’s crises, the chat in the Emirate’s watering holes was that that the Government would economize by canceling or delaying every project in the area except the Metro. Now we get news that a few months after completion, the Metro is a roaring success; almost 3 million people used the train in its first two months of operation, while the Transit authority has leased out nearly all the commercial space in the 10 open stations. The 37 other incomplete stations are nearly fully booked also. The government will of course trumpet the wild success that this positive contribution makes to the municipality. They will cite the volume of traffic as an example that the Emirate is recovering from the recent downturn. And why not?

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Afghanistan: Is it time to go?

The rising cost of British military commitment in Afghanistan is moving up the national agenda. Leaving without victory will only postpone a greater human cost.

Wootton Basset is a small town in the west of England, a few hours drive from London down the country’s best road (the M4). The town was previously unremarkable, save for a military commitment; it is now the closest to the front line that most Brits can get to the war in Afghanistan. It is here where British casualties return; the town has thus become a focal point for bereaved families. As bereavement increases in frequency, more and more people are questioning the price. This is a fair question to ask.

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Somerton: The Whiff of Change

Local politics in the UK are stifling, often deliberately so. An episode in Somerset reveals that the locals are not political vegetables, which warms the heart.

Somerton is a small town in the West of England; adjectives use to describe it mark the place as being ordinary to the point of boring. Somerton has a rather nice antique building called a ‘Butter Cross’,  a little history  (including an bomb hit by the Luftwaffe on the local dairy), and a pub called the Half Moon. In this regard, Somerton is Anytown, UK – a place where the local kids see the town’s fields as walls, while City Boys plan to escape to it. Only recently, the town has been abnormal, in that it has hosted a pitched battle between politician and plebiscite which has just ended badly for the politician. This sort of thing is unusual in the leafy world of English local councils. Read more…

Vote Alex!

Allston/Brighton has an outstanding candidate for city council in Alex Selvig. You should vote for him.

On November 3rd, Bostonians can go to the polls and cast a vote on the city’s status quo. The single overriding issue in this election is this: do you, the voter, believe that the city can be better? If you think it can’t, you should turn out for the incumbent, since this candidate will always represent continuity. If you think things need to improve, or even just change, then you should reject the incumbent for the alternative. Voting is not time consuming; it is instead the easiest way to improve and contribute to your community. Harry thinks you should make your voice heard by signaling that you think District 9 needs a new direction by voting for Alex Selvig.

Here’s why:

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Undiminished: A case for value in education

A legal challenge to the educational establishment is not misplaced, nor is a debate about the value of tuition.

Harry notes the news that a jobless graduate has filed a lawsuit against her alma mater, Monroe College, seeking a tuition refund following an unsuccessful campaign for employment. Yahoo! reports that the plaintiff has been unable to find work since graduation with her IT qualification.

The Associated Press coverage of the story – such as it is – can be found in many places; here is as good as any:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090803/ap_on_fe_st/us_odd_jobless_grad_sues

The Associated Press’ coverage can barely conceal their view that this story is a case of ‘local muppet sues school for being unemployable’ which is a perfect August filler story. Harry thinks the subject has merit. Schools rip students off all the time; the current difficult job market doesn’t excuse the graduate’s complaint without closer examination. This case raises questions about the utility of higher education, as much as it begs a question about the required rate of return on the investment in that utility. Doubtless, the school will fall back on the standard academic defense: pointing to the success of other students to effectively place blame on the complaining student, while the student, in turn, will argue that they completed the course yet got nothing for their investment. Read more…

Save WBCN!

A Boston institution should be sold, not closed.

The decision to ‘reformat’ WBCN is a threat to Boston’s cultural depth and quality. What is at risk here is more than just a Boston radio station with heritage, but instead an integral piece of Boston’s culture. We are not part of ‘MetroNorth’; we are not a northern suburb of Manhattan. We have our own music scene; and while it is smaller, it is no less good. As a community, we are as distinct from New York as San Francisco is from LA. Removing our local institutions weakens our city. Closing WBCN silences a station which has consistently won its best ratings by focusing on what its audience wants: finding new, high quality music. People listened to WBCN because it played a mix of things that you knew and liked and new stuff that you might also like – but the diversity of content might include a local band, or something else you’d never heard before. This is music radio for smart people.  Listening to WBCN is enriching in a way that Mix98 can never be; where BCN has, in the past, strayed from the commercially successful path is when its programmers and directors have tried to make the station deliberately mainstream. They miss the point: Bostonians are smart, tastes change, and people want to grow intellectually and culturally.

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