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1 It’s corporates that rule us now (George Monbiot in The Guardian) It’s the reason for the collapse of democratic choice. It’s the source of our growing disillusionment with politics. It’s the great unmentionable. Corporate power. The media will scarcely whisper its name. It is howlingly absent from parliamentary debates. Until we name it and confront it, politics is a waste of time.
The political role of business corporations is generally interpreted as that of lobbyists, seeking to influence government policy. In reality they belong on the inside. They are part of the nexus of power that creates policy. They face no significant resistance, from either government or opposition, as their interests have now been woven into the fabric of all three main political parties in Britain. Every week we learn that systemic failures on the part of government contractors are no barrier to obtaining further work, that the promise of efficiency, improvements and value for money delivered by outsourcing and privatisation have failed to materialise.
So I don’t blame people for giving up on politics. I haven’t given up yet, but I find it ever harder to explain why. When a state-corporate nexus of power has bypassed democracy and made a mockery of the voting process, when an unreformed political funding system ensures that parties can be bought and sold, when politicians of the three main parties stand and watch as public services are divvied up by a grubby cabal of privateers, what is left of this system that inspires us to participate?
2 China’s new party (Khaleej Times) The disgraced Chinese politician, Bo Xilai who was sentenced to life last month on charges of corruption and abuse of power, is now chairman of a new political party. His supporters say they have formed the Zhi Xian Party (Supremacy of the constitution) to act as a pressure valve within the system and help fight for the rights of citizens. Wang Zheng, a university professor who founded the party, is treading a cautious path, saying it is not meant to undermine the authority of the one-party system in the country, but to act as an interest group for upholding the constitution.
The doctrine and intentions of the new-founded group, nonetheless, are debatable. Despite Wang’s claim that the new organization is meant to defend the constitution, it could be an oblique retaliatory tactic to caution the Communist Party of China against penalising Bo further. The new party could be a gentle reminder that the skeletons in Bo’s cupboard could start rattling if he is leant on too heavily. It is not unlikely that at some point the new party will question the modus operandi of the government, which is already facing allegations of corruption, nepotism and malfunctioning.
On the other hand, the powers that be in Beijing are likely to come down hard on Bo’s fledgling party if it shows signs of seriously challenging the CPC, just as they did in 1998, when Qin Yongmin, a human rights activist with a better non-political image than Bo, was jailed for 12 years for trying to register the China Democracy Party. While the two sides play their little game, the Zhi Xian Party has made its point. Bo may be down but is still not out of the ring. The stab at introducing political pluralism in one-party China, be it for whatever reasons, will have caught the eye of the world and Bo has secured for himself a platform from where he can voice his thoughts.
3 India economic data disappoints (Anant Vijay Kala in The Wall Street Journal) India has reported data that deepened concerns about its economy, as industrial production expanded at a tepid pace and a pickup in consumer inflation limited room for growth boosters. Government data showed the index of industrial production in September rose 2.0% from a year earlier. That fell way short of market expectations for a 3.6% increase.
Meanwhile, consumer inflation returned to the double-digit rate after seven months in October, accelerating at 10.09% compared with 9.84% a month earlier, because of pressure from high food prices. Analysts were looking for signs of an economic pickup in the industrial-production data, especially after the government earlier said infrastructure output, which accounts for nearly 40% of India’s index of industrial production, rose at a healthy 8% in the past month. Also, September comes at the beginning of India’s high-spending festival season.
“We don’t see any decisive turnaround in India’s growth story,” D.K. Joshi, chief economist at rating firm Crisil, said responding to the data. And, even as growth continues to languish, “inflation appears to be a bigger bugbear,” raising the possibility of yet another rate increase by the central bank next month, Mr. Joshi said.
Over the past year, authorities have tried to revive investments by easing foreign-investment restrictions and resolving bureaucratic hurdles holding up industrial and infrastructure projects. But economists say these will take time to show results and investments may not pick up until after next year’s general election when investors will have more clarity on the policies of the government over the next five years.
4 One World Trade Center is tallest US skyscraper (David B Caruso in San Francisco Chronicle) An international architectural panel has said it would recognize One World Trade Center as the tallest skyscraper in the US. The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, considered a world authority on supersized skyscrapers, announced its decision at simultaneous news conferences in New York and Chicago, home to the 1,451-foot Willis Tower, which is being dethroned as the nation’s tallest building.
Measuring the height of a building would seem to be a simple thing, but in the case of the new World Trade Center tower it is complicated by the 408-foot-tall needle atop the skyscraper’s roof. The council’s verdict rested on a conclusion that the needle should be counted as part of the building’s total height. Without it, the tower would be just 1,368 feet tall, the same height as the original World Trade Center. That would make it smaller than not only the Willis, but also a 1,397-foot apartment building being built a short subway ride away near Central Park.
Speaking at his office in New York, council chairman Timothy Johnson, an architect at the global design firm NBBJ, said the decision by the 25-member height committee had more “tense moments” than usual, given the skyscraper’s importance as a patriotic symbol. “I was here on 9/11. I saw the buildings come down,” he said.