True Romance: China Eclipses United States in Ultimate #Hyperpower Index! #ValentinesDay

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Filed under Culture, Economic Development, Economics

This Could Be Rotterdam, Or Anywhere: Why Brexit is Meaningless

The period since the 23rd June 2016 referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union has been marked by both intense introspection and speculation about the future, but the recent news that Eurostar is to launch direct high-speed rail services between London and Holland – the first train to Amsterdam will depart St Pancras on 4th April 2018 – provides us with the starkest evidence yet that Brexit is a legal construct – not an economic reality.

This is not to deny the likely and profound economic consequences that may stem from the UK’s eventual departure from the EU. These are already all too real, even at a stage when such an event remains, as yet, hypothetical.

However, the new Eurostar routes concretely illustrate a point that both sides of the Brexit debate have pretty much completely missed: namely, that nation states are not now the key organising principle of much contemporary economic activity. As the ‘Tokyo prophet’ and McKinsey doyen Kenichi Ohmae noted is his 1995 classic The End of the Nation State: The Rise of Regional Economies, the nation state unit is in many contexts of little analytical usefulness. Abstract concepts such as ‘the Italian economy’ or ‘the Russian economy’ can serve to obfuscate the fact that Milan and Moscow have far more in common with Munich (and each other) than they do with Messina and Mikhaylovka respectively.

Instead, it makes much more sense to talk of region states, which is precisely the reality that the new links between the United Kingdom’s cosmopolitan capital city and its nearest Dutch counterparts reflects. The Eurostar-connected metropolises of London, Paris and Brussels are already to some degree a shared economic space, and Amsterdam – whose air travel market to and from London is presently at the 1994 level of that between London and Paris – will doubtless soon join this zone.

Moreover, the rise of the region state is not primarily policy-driven. Instead, it is essentially a function of technology and economic opportunity; ceteris paribus, there are brighter prospects in an urban area of millions of consumers and access to world markets than in a provincial town, or even a string of provincial towns.

Naturally, the nation state still has a vital role to play in providing goods and services – particularly public ones – that region states which increasingly fund these same nation states do not yet have the administrative capacity to supply. Indeed, the pressing need for basic economic equity has not gone away, and should be seriously and comprehensively addressed.

But Brexit or no Brexit, the processes of economic globalisation are here to stay, and will in fact only intensify. Attempts to stifle these trends by bureaucratic asphyxiation are beyond misguided – they are ultimately futile.

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Filed under Economics, Political Science, Economic Development, Technology

Food Fight: Obese Oil Kingdoms ‘Stretching the Limits of Credibility’!

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Filed under Political Science, Urban Life, Media

Carrot Versus Stick Latest: Stick ‘Winning Hands Down’! #HumanRights #RuleOfLaw

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The Shade of Her Parasol: Does Formula One’s Grid Girl Ban Risk Neo-Misogyny?

Regular readers of this blog will have long been aware that we at Mediolana are not an easily shocked bunch, but the news that Formula One (‘Formula 1’, ‘F1’) has abruptly terminated the presence of grid girls – promotional models who perform various logistical tasks, such as helping spectators with directions and holding umbrellas above stationary cars pre-race in the event of rain – at their events sent us into deep contemplation.

The grid girls ban –which comes into force with the start of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship on 25th March – comes hot on the heels of the Professional Darts Corporation’s abrogation of their utilisation of walk-on girls. But despite some apparent similarities, the two cases could scarcely be more different.

Not only are grid girls an F1 tradition which spans many decades – in contrast to their purported counterparts in darts, which are a recent innovation – but their aesthetic is a world away from the gaudy, tabloidesque presentation inflicted on females working in some other sports. Promotional models who work in Formula One convey a completely different brand proposition in which elegance and sophistication are richly in evidence. And while grid girl uniforms can vary somewhat in terms of quality, the general standard is very high indeed; some grand prix, notably those in Azerbaijan and China, have made wonderful use of local traditional fashion motifs to produce strikingly beautiful and iconic official clothing.

Moreover – and this is where it begins to get perplexing – in the context of the recent wave of sexual abuse scandals, the grid girl ban seems weirdly illogical. Most if not all promotional work undertaken by models on Formula One duty is in full public view, and nearly all said work is conducted in groups. Models who have worked in this sector aver that grid girl work is the one of the best gigs going: from the inside, there does not seem to be even a hint of complaint, let alone anything more sinister going on.

So why has this swift and unilateral commercial edict come to pass? Formula One itself claims that is has to do with ‘brand values’ and that the practice of grid girls ‘is at odds with [contemporary] societal norms’. On the latter point in particular they may be correct, and we respect the organisation’s reasoning. But the question must be asked: whose norms? Certainly not those of motor racing fans: a 12/2017 Internet poll conducted by BBC Sport found that 60% of F1 followers agreed that ‘grid girls should be part of Formula One’. And not those of the models involved, either; they are understandably furious that one of the most glamorous, interesting and lucrative professional opportunities in the field has been annulled, seemingly without so much as their being consulted.

Let us be clear: the norms which are being perpetuated by Formula One’s decision are those of the people cheering this move. These entities may be well-intentioned, but they are nevertheless spreading a perverse and soulless doctrine which results in the following:

  1. The deliberate erasure of beautiful women from public life;
  2. The de facto criminalisation of beautiful women; and
  3. The undermining of women’s rights through moral vacuity.

This last point is incredibly damaging. The ‘societal norms’ cited by Formula One are the same values which target utterly trivial matters with relentless crusades while letting gross and unforgivable abuses of women’s fundamental human rights – such as the right the life – go unchallenged indefinitely. ‘Societal norms’ which celebrate the absence of grid girls at, for example, the Mexican Grand Prix – and which are silent on the matter of narcocorridos which glorify the gruesome murder of women in that same country – are, to our mind at least, self-incriminating. They risk constituting nothing less than a form of neo-misogyny in which all women – and therefore society – are regarded as mere collateral damage.

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Filed under Psychology, Marketing

Increasing the Feel-Good Factor: Why Cities Worldwide Need to Map Aura

Regular readers of this blog will now doubtless be aware of this company’s view that the domain of video games is criminally under-utilised – not just for what it offers more generally to our shared broader culture, but in terms of the many brilliant ideas generated within the gaming framework which have clear potential for non-virtual adoption. And it is the Maxis classic Sim City 3000 (‘SC 3000’) – a title that continues to inspire devotion long after its original 1998 iteration – that we wish to presently draw your attention to.

Sim City 3000 is a remarkable piece of software for many reasons, but its Health, Education and Aura (‘HEA’) department – headed up by the inimitable Randall Shoop – is arguably the most brilliant innovation in the entire game; the key lies in the last letter of that acronym. As well as city data maps containing information on everything from schooling provision to traffic density, SC 3000 also has a chart detailing the presence (or otherwise) of ‘aura’, which is defined by the corresponding Electronic Arts game manual as ‘good feelings for the city [as a whole]’: areas of high aura are denoted by (deep) shades of blue, while low-aura neighbourhoods are coloured red; the angrier the shade, the uglier the vibe.

Focusing on something as seemingly touchy-feely and subjective in an era of big data may seem anachronistic. But as any urban dweller knows, different parts of the same city can vary enormously in how they make people feel; these reactions can be predicted with such consistency that they are more or less reflected in concrete indicators such as property prices.

Moreover, it is – at least in large part – no real secret what makes for high-aura areas: beautiful buildings, plentiful green space and easy access to cultural and recreational amenities will all go a long way towards giving residents, workers and tourists alike not just an added spring in their step, but an attachment to a location which goes beyond the merely functional. It would therefore be possible to build up a pretty accurate picture of existing zones of aural import, and then set about exporting replicable elements to the bywords for urban blight.

Municipal authorities around the world should be under no illusions: cities which prioritise the spread of good vibes are not indulging in a trendy fad; they are making their assets more internationally competitive and ensuring that the people who inhabit their urban areas actually want to stay there. Whether directly or indirectly, the time for the aura map to migrate from digital fiction to policy reality has come.

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Filed under Urban Life, Technology

Every Face You Make: World’s Most Populous Nation ‘Creates Ultimate Police State’!

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