Find out what it's like to run for President . . . of the Czech Republic!

Jan SvejnarJan Svejnar

We nearly had yet another president in our midst right here in Ann Arbor. Unlike Michigan native son Gerald Ford, however, Jan Svejnar was running for president of the Czech Republic. Svejnar is an economist and professor at UM's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. He was narrowly defeated in his bid for the Czech presidency. Svejnar will be chatting about his experiences in an upcoming event at the Ford School.

Running for the Czech Presidency
March 12, 2008, 5-6p
Betty Ford Classroom, 1110 Weill Hall
735 South State Street, Ann Arbor

P.S. Weill Hall is the shiny new building on the southwest corner of UM's central campus.

Meet Mat in Malaysia, in Lat's Graphic Novel, Kampung Boy

Kampung Boy by one of the most beloved cartoonists of Southeast Asia, Lat tell the story of Mat, a Muslim boy growing up on a rubber plantation in rural 1950s Malaysia. The sequel, Town Boy follows Mat as he attends boarding school, moves to the city and experiences budding romance and a growing passion for art. Recently available in the US Lat's autobiographical stories will take you to a time and a place that barely exists in Malaysia anymore. The warm and expressive pen-and-ink drawings will draw you into Mat's world.

Bear River Writers Respond to War

Here’s a new book with roots in northern Michigan: Bear River Writers Respond to War, edited by Chris Lord, with pieces by Thomas Lynch, Keith Taylor, Elizabeth Kostova, Richard Tillinghast and others. As Taylor writes in the introduction, “Since it is clear to us that writers are involved in the swirl of their moment in history, that we are all citizens of some part of the world, and that much of the discussion recently has been about the war in Iraq, it seemed only right to put together this special issue of work done and discussed at the Bear River Writers’ Conference in 2006.” The book is being sold as a fundraiser for the conference.

On frankenfoods and international trade

The European Union's in trouble! And with the World Trade Organization, no less. A deadline is looming for the EU to lift its ban on genetically modified foods (GMOs), affectionately called "frankenfoods." The EU says that the foods are dangerous. The United States, among others, thinks that the ban is just convenient way to protect EU farmers from competition. Thus, as any good American would do, the US government sued, via the WTO.

Europeans are deeply skeptical of GMOs, claiming that there are adverse health effects and the risk of contaminating other crops. Many people beg to differ, claiming that there is no evidence that GMOs are unhealthy. Ultimately, then, the debate boils down to whether, in a world where free trade among countries is the norm, an individual country has the right to block genetically modified foods from their markets.

Of course, there are plenty of other ways of dealing with GMOs than outright bans. Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, for instance, thinks producers should say whether a food GMO ingredients. But the question is, what do you think? Should the EU be able to ban genetically-modified foods? Should the US do the same? Should we label foods, as Kucinich suggests? Other thoughts?

Come to Think of It: Notes on the Turn of the Millennium

Come to think of it : notes on the end of the millenniumCome to think of it : notes on the end of the millennium

Daniel Schorr, an institution at CBS for decades and a twenty-year mainstay of NPR joined Diane Rehm 12-13-07 on her radio show to talk about his life in journalism and the state of politics in America today and his recently released book "Come to Think of It: Notes on the Turn of the Millennium"

So much for cheap oil

Those of us hoping for lower gas prices (read: pretty much everybody) had our hopes dashed this week as oil hit $90/barrel. And alas, with oil prices also come the gasoline prices.

So does there appear to be any relief in sight? Well, unfortunately oil has an, shall we say, unpredictable economic history. There is much talk about just how random these fluctuations are, though, and more specifically, just how much influence the petroleum industry has over them. OPEC often finds itself chief whipping boy when oil prices are on the rise.

On the up side, the seemingly inexorable rise in prices has created a perfect storm, causing many to call for laying off the black gold. Some consider our reliance on those shady folks in OPEC a huge national security issue. Environmentalists, like award winner extraordinaire Al Gore, increasingly push for reducing our demand for oil, too. And perhaps, just perhaps, as prices continue skyrocketing, more will join those diverse voices calling for change.

The Big Mac, a (nearly) perfect form of global currency

EconomistEconomist

Have you ever exchanged your dollars for a different currency? I don't know about you, but I'm always confused as to how much I'm actually getting. If I can trade one dollar for 0.75 euros, can I still get as much stuff as I would with a dollar (which, admittedly, is not that much)?

For over 20 years, The Economist has been giving a clever answer to this complex question: Big Macs. The Economist's Big Mac Index compares the prices of that beloved artery-clogger around the globe, and in the process helps show just how much you can get for your dollar. Or franc. Or rouble. In their latest index, you can get a burger in the U.S. for about $3.41. But in China, it will only cost you $1.45. If you're traveling to Norway, though, it will cost you a whopping (pun intended) $6.88!

The Big Mac isn't a perfect way to measure exchange rates and purchasing power. After all, you can't trade them across international borders (eww!). But they have the advantage of being made the same way no matter where you go, an elusive quality in international markets.

Want to find out more about the Big Mac index, or any number of other current events or international trade topics? As an AADL cardholder, you can actually access The Economist in its full-text glory in General OneFile, one of our great research databases. You will need to login to your aadl.org account to follow the database link.

A bittersweet goodbye for Mr. Blair

Tomorrow, an event will occur that hasn't happened in fourteen years: the United Kindgdom will have a new Prime Minister. Tony Blair will relinquish his post to Chancellor Gordon Brown.

As noted in NPR's Morning Edition, Blair's ascension was greeted with the hope of a new era for Britain. But despite his accomplishments, Blair's legacy may be forever marked by his decision to join President Bush in waging the Iraq War.

For a rundown of Blair's premiership, check out the BBC's ongoing coverage of Blair's time in office and Gordon Brown's succession.
Tony BlairTony Blair

African Lit 101

Interested in African literature (that is, novels by people from Africa about people in Africa)? The following should get you started:

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Nigeria)
Xala by Ousmane Sembène (Senegal)
A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong'o (Kenya)
The House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera (Zimbabwe/Rhodesia)
Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera (Zimbabwe)
A Sleepwalking Land by Mia Couto (Mozambique)
The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah (Ghana)
The Famished Road by Ben Okri (Nigeria)

Climate Change Report

worldworld

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a summary of the Climate Change 2007 report. The report details how climate change will affect every region of the earth. The full 1,572-page report will be available on the IPCC web site.

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