1 Global M&A touches $1trn (Straits Times) The value of worldwide mergers and acquisitions announced so far this year has topped US$1 trillion, passing that level for only the third time this early in the year since records began in 1980, weekly Thomson Reuters data showed. Deal volumes started to recover earlier this year after falling back in 2013 due to a mix of economic uncertainty, regulatory interventions and shareholder activism that made executives cautious about pursuing deals.
By the end of the first quarter of this year, deal activity had risen 54 per cent on the same period last year, with deals worth a total of $710 billion announced. Bankers said confidence appeared to be returning, with some companies are becoming bolder and more aggressive.
2 How India is split over Narendra Modi (Maduker Upadhyay on BBC) India’s marathon general election appears to have split the country politically into two halves – people who support and oppose Narendra Modi, the controversial prime ministerial candidate of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. This is probably the first time that a general election in India is centred around one personality who is loved and loathed in equal measure.
Mr Modi, who has been chief minister of the western state of Gujarat since 2001, is seen as a dynamic and efficient leader who has made his state an economic powerhouse. But he is also accused of doing little to stop the 2002 religious riots when more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed – allegations he has consistently denied.
Question Mr Modi’s record as an administrator or the much vaunted Gujarat growth model which has apparently vaulted it to one of India’s most economically prosperous states and you are met with disbelief: “Don’t you know it?” his supporters ask. “Haven’t you seen it? Are you blind?” But as one travels southwards from Gujarat, the non-believers seem to gain ground.
Brand Modi, as his image managers fondly call the leader, has reached the street corners of southern states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu. But how much of this awareness will translate into votes and parliamentary seats is a key question. So when votes are counted on 16 May, they don’t rule out a hung parliament with no party or alliance getting a clear majority.
This is a prospect which will not cheer the believers, and befuddle the non-believers.
3 Pet ownership in the time of climate constraints (Erik Assadourian in The Guardian) Our pet population consumes a huge amount of resources which, in our climate constrained reality, are no longer available. With a human population of 7.2 billion and a dog and cat population now in the hundreds of millions (it’s estimated at 179m in the US alone), the Earth cannot sustain these populations – especially as a growing percentage of pets live their lives as ravenous consumers.
So fast forward to a climate disrupted future, which the new IPCC report suggests is coming faster than we thought. Where do pets fit in? When climate change disrupts grain supplies, shoots food prices through the roof and also eviscerates the global consumer economy, pets may be abandoned in droves, as families suddenly can no longer afford their upkeep. We’ve seen this happen in times of economic crises, hence the large feral dog population in Detroit today. But perhaps at that point the pet issue will solve itself – as these packs of dogs become a bridge food for the hungry unemployed masses.
Of course, far better than eating unwanted pets would be to follow Bob Barker’s long-standing advice to spay and neuter your pets so their offspring never put extra burden on the planet in the first place. Governments could facilitate this by strengthening the pet licensing system, for example, creating a very steep tax on pets (along with pet products and pet food) and tripling that tax for pets that aren’t spayed or neutered (so that only breeders would choose not to fix their pets).
As we prepare for the contracting future ahead, a low-hanging fruit is to change the culture around pet ownership. Not just by putting the above barriers in place to discourage overall ownership, but to help shift the norms around what pet ownership means.
4 Motherhood as a battle (Omaira Gill in Khaleej Times) In a feature in the UK’s Guardian last week, Ayelet Waldman, author and mother of four, said that modern society has turned motherhood into an Olympic sport. Waldman was unwittingly launched into the public eye in 2005 when an essay in which she stated she loved her husband more than her children. Death threats and calls to take her children into care followed. Her biggest critics were fellow mothers.
Parenting. When the word parent turned from a noun to a verb, it brought with it an entire new set of challenges. From my own perspective, from the moment your pregnancy becomes obvious, you become the property of all other mothers out there. Perfect strangers will think nothing of asking you about the sex of your child, how you plan on giving birth, your proposed sleeping arrangements and that ultimate can of worms, whether you will offer the baby breast or bottle. All this before the child has even made its appearance in our world.
Once the baby arrives, you immediately feel like you are on a treadmill that someone keeps setting faster and faster, raising the incline while they’re at it. They say in Africa that it takes a village to raise a child, and it’s true. The Western world has created a model of motherhood, one where we are expected to do it all alone, without complaint, and usually while working full-time, that constantly threatens to turn motherhood into a misery rather than a joy.
There is a lot wrong with the Eastern model of family life, with interfering family members, the joint family system and mothers-in-law brandishing cans of kerosene at the drop of a hat, but the one area that this model of family life excels in is raising children. When family is around to help, the new mother can at least take a break. Sleep deprivation is not a torture technique by accident. In the East, families rally around new mothers with offers to take existing children off her hands, pitch in with the housework and cook meals.
The truth is that motherhood is exceptionally hard as it is, and even more so in Western societies. We as mothers know that, and instead of supporting each other we relish the chance to find fault in each other. Whether you vaccinate or not, co-sleep or don’t, bottle or breast feed, there will always be another mother waiting in the wings to tell you that you are doing it wrong. It would be so nice if once in a while we could look over in the midst of the battle, recognise a fellow comrade in arms and say to her “You’re doing a great job”.