Tag Archives: Al Jazeera English

Coming Soon to a Television Near You: TRT World ‘Launching Imminently’! #softpower

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Hello, Goodbye: Portugal Becomes a Country of Emigration Once More!

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Dressing to Impress: The Changing Sartorial Language of Entrepreneurship

In an increasingly postmodern world, many previously immutable concepts are now being contested and transformed. One of the most interesting such revisions in the domain of business is the sartorial language of entrepreneurship. For much of the industrial capitalist era, the clothing sported by iconic businesspersons – nearly all men – has been exceptionally conservative; the more expensive the suit and the tighter the tie, the better. The assumption was that in order to ‘do business’, a person had to ‘look the part’: if all the world was a stage, then it made sense to dress in accordance with the audience’s expectations.

Yet these assumptions have changed radically over the past few decades, and – after a bit of contemplation – Mediolana’s Creative Director & CSO posits that there are solid reasons behind this:

1. Innovation. It is widely acknowledged that Silicon Valley in California is one of the world’s premier clusters of innovation. A key reason behind this is the visual diversity of the economic hub’s apparel. With a relative absence of uniformed regimentation, creative professionals are that much more liberated to deconstruct the box: by being physically free to dress how they want (and customise their physical environment more broadly), a degree of mental freedom ensues.

2. Reverse Psychology. The suit and tie are not necessarily dead – but they are much more powerful if used selectively. Former AIG doyen and present African land magnate Phil Heilberg is a case in point. The Al Jazeera English documentary Our Man in Sudan sees Heilberg angling for a land lease deal in newly-independent (and insanely mineral-rich) South Sudan. Business neophytes may have been surprised to see an former Wall Street icon prospecting around Juba in little more than some shorts and a baseball cap, only donning a suit and tie when meeting no one other than the president of the republic. But by suiting up discerningly, Heilberg very cleverly confirms his own überstatus.

3. Globalisation. This phenomenon has forced the world to recognise that things are done differently in different places. Russian oligarchs – Roman Abramovich and Suleyman Kerimov, take a bow – regularly appear in public sporting a few days’ facial hair, and this is by no means an aberration in the context of their entire business careers. Somehow, this does not stop them owning large chunks of the Earth’s productive wealth.

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The Arab Spring: A Walk in the Park (All Things Considered)?

As the 2011-2012 Syrian Uprising begins to get into full swing, we at Mediolana were perusing Al Jazeera English’s excellent Syria Live Blog earlier today to try and get handle of the latest developments on the streets of Damascus and Aleppo when something stopped our scrolling in its tracks: the grim news that the government of neighbouring Iraq has ‘urged all Iraqis living in Syria to escape being wounded or killed‘.

On one level, this may represent something of a nadir for the entire Arab Spring process: a minority which is significantly constituted of the human fallout from Operation Iraqi Freedom being advised to hot foot it back to their violence-defined homeland; amongst other things, it implies that the state of affairs in Syria is truly dire. But it also set us thinking: while the present wave of change in the Middle East and North Africa has claimed far too many victims – a sobering c.50,000 souls are estimated to have perished across the region since the beginning of the tumult – is this really surprising given the context of the transformation?

1. High Stakes. The immense efforts being invested by both the status quo and the various oppositional forces give a clue as to what is at stake: the destiny of arguably the most strategically significant region in the world. To take Syria as an example, for both world and regional powers alike there are huge real and symbolic consequences concomitant with the fate of the troubled al-Assad regime. There is more than a hint of self-reflection in the desire of Russia, China and Iran for maximal stability in Syria, while Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s wish to effect change also correlates with the variegated goals of these increasingly ambitious states.

2. Selective Memory. Eastern Europe’s democratisation process of the late 1980s and 1990s – a trajectory taken for granted today – was not without its bloodier moments. The wars in the former Yugoslavia – a one-party socialist state which has been supplanted by no less than seven much smaller republics – claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, with Bosnia and Herzegovina being scarred by concentration camps, mass rape and virulent ethnic cleansing from which that country has still not recovered. The Arab Spring begins to look benign by comparison.

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Trouble in the ‘Hood: Has Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party Already Peaked?

Long before the phrase ‘Arab Spring’ had been coined, one of the principal justifications given in some Western countries for supporting the often violently authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa (‘MENA’) region during the post-1945 period was the purported danger of Islamic fundamentalist (or, in more recent times, Islamist) rule. Now-deposed presidents such as Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali were said to be bulwarks against a ‘Green Peril’ of radicalised zealots that would sweep all before it en route to transforming the Greater Middle East into a cauldron of ideological extremism.

The movement that cropped up time and again in this analysis was the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt (‘the MB’, ‘the Brotherhood’), a rather opaque organisation that was at once an integral part of the dictatorial system – particularly under Hosni Mubarak – and regularly terrorised by it. A 1928 establishment, the Brotherhood – with its considerable network of businesses, significant membership from the professional classes and organisational capacity built up over decades of operation – was, in the absence of a stern dictator such as Mubarak, destined to rule Egypt apparently ad infinitum, transforming it (one presumes) into some kind of emirate in the process.

Yet within eighteen months of Mubarak’s ousting, this narrative already seems to be highly questionable:

1. An Underwhelming Start. The first clear signs that the conventional wisdom might not be so wise occurred in the Q4 2011/Q1 2012 elections to the People’s Assembly of Egypt and the Shura or Consultation Council, the respective lower and upper houses of Egypt’s bicameral parliament: the MB’s newly-founded political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (‘the FJP’), polled 37.5% in the People’s Assembly ballot and 45.0% in the Consultation Council counterpart – good figures, but hardly the stuff of full-spectrum domination. These numbers begin to look slightly disappointing when one bears in mind that many other entities that are sure to be powerful electoral forces in the future had not yet coalesced into anything like coherent platforms; in other words, in this sense the Brotherhood may already have peaked.

2. Electoral Slide. This impression of the Muslim Brotherhood’s distinct fallibility only grew with the recent first round of the 2012 presidential contest (23rd-24th May 2012). The MB’s eventual candidate – the bespectacled engineer Mohamed Morsi, put forward following the banning from running of furniture salesman Khairat El-Shater by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – is estimated to have only just crept over the 25% mark, with none of the four candidates positioned closely behind Morsi in the polls holding political positions analogous to the Brotherhood.

3. Parliamentary Performance. An excellent recent report by Al Jazeera English icon Sherine Tadros illustrated why the Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral performance has slid so dramatically in a matter of a few months: even to their natural sympathisers, their performance in parliament has been anything but inspiring; they are acknowledged as ‘good people’, but not necessarily the solution to coax Egypt out of its economic malaise. And herein lies the crux of the matter: no party in Egypt – whether it be Islamist, liberal, liberal Islamist, socialist or radical – is likely to enjoy much support for long if it does not implement solid policies to remedy the country’s chronic youth unemployment, acute security deficit and hopelessly inadequate public services.

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Mediolana: Featured on MaxKeiser.com!

The Internet is positively pulsating with the news that mediolana.wordpress.com has been featured on none other than MaxKeiser.com, one of the most popular websites on the entire Internet with a global Alexa ranking of 25,587 (16,756 in the United States) as at 3rd April 2012.

Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert – two of the most renowned financial and political analysts anywhere in the world today – are obviously finding something of interest here. Do you need any more reason to hit the subscribe button?

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BBC Three’s Most Annoying People: Miscasting Alessio Rastani, Again

From time to time within a given milieu, one person or phenomenon has the ability to show up a culture for its vacuity, mendacity and poverty, and it would harder at this moment in time to find anyone who fits that description – at least within the United Kingdom – than Alessio Rastani. Since being justly catapulted to stardom as a result of his now world-famous 26th September 2011 interview on the BBC News Channel, Rastani’s analysis on what is transforming from a global financial crisis to a global financial meltdown has been sought by – amongst others – CNN, RTÉ and Al Jazeera English. However, the reception given to him in the UK media has been generally hostile, with ITV in particular guilty of an asinine attempted character assassination when a little rational analysis was called for.

Yet even the mindless abuse heaped upon Rastani on ITV1’s Adrian Chiles-hosted That Sunday Night Show is not, it seems, enough: presumably as part of its ‘seasonal’ programming, BBC Three is featuring the Italo-Iranian as part of a 90 minute tabloid-style special ominously entitled Most Annoying People, which purports to list the 50 people who have ‘vexed’ the Great British Public during this Year of Our Lord 2011. Even as an exercise in cheap, filler television it is a waste of space – the total capitulation to some of the baser manifestations of celebrity is manifested here on a scale that might even make some of the smaller digital channels dotting the UK’s broadcasting landscape retch – but the inclusion of Rastani as the forty-fifth most annoying person of 2011 is tasteless, and worrying, in the extreme.

In the programme, the director of Santoro Projects Limited is painted – not again! – as an ‘”evil” “banker”‘ who (we are never told how) is somehow worthy of pointing a finger at simply because he told presenter Martine Croxall that the eurozone crisis was something to which there may be no conventional solution, and that the New York-based investment bank Goldman Sachs enjoys vastly disproportionate influence. Yet the parade of nonentities lined up to poke fun at Rastani could come up with nothing more substantive than a comment on the coral pink tie that the person who is now surely the planet’s most famous independent trader was sporting that morning.

All too predictably, Rastani’s most salient point – that the general public should get prepared, and protect whatever assets they have from an impending financial tsunami – was not even noted. And so viewers in the UK – in between cheerfully scuffling over designer handbags and booking next summer’s holidays – are liberated to get annoyed at one of the select few commentators who has repeatedly warned them that their economy is on the precipice; those that actually engendered this crisis, of course, are spared our disapproval.

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