BrightWorld

Dreams, Optimism, Wisdom

OBAMA IS AMERICA’S MAN OF THE HOUR October 26, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good morning from Manila!

The candidacy of Barak Obama had generated a lot of surprises and raised hopes about reversing the trends of economic decay and neo-conservative (fascist) aggression by the USA, henceforth catapulting the USA back to its role as a world leader and friend of the world’s nations. Not only in the USA but also overseas, did Obama capture wide audiences and sympathies, and his image is still moving up the ladder of meteoric ascent as of the moment.

Indubitably, the standard banner candidate of the Democrat Party for the 2008 Presidential Election, Barak Obama, is the Man of the Hour. Intelligent, charismatic, competent, and young, he exudes the aura of a Man of Destiny, and is the man to watch across the globe this decade till next.

Already, a personality cult has been spontaneously rising and interwoven with his personal character, all over the world. Putting this cult aside, I am declaring my sympathy for this candidate, and honestly say that he is an ally to many causes that I advocate. To repeat: Obama is an ally, and a leading ally, not an object of my cult worship. Let those superstitious cult worshippers hold Obama in the highest esteem as their messiah, I have no qualms about their superstition provided that they do not hurt other people whose reverence for Obama isn’t identical to theirs’.

I shall no more dwell on the means for catapulting him to meteoric ascent, as this is better done in some mass communications and political science classes or opinion pages. I would prefer to dwell on Obama’s savvy for public policy, he being a legislator for some considerable numbers of terms now. This to me is the most important feature of his competencies, as public policy will be the cutting edge of his presidency if ever. That includes both domestic policies (economics, welfare & social sectors, growth for the states) and foreign policy.

To sum up my preliminary observations about the man, Obama has what it takes to re-chart the USA towards a new life, as far as public policy is concerned. He knows what policies destroyed America’s economic base, what policy architectures and politico-military actions destroyed America overseas, and he knows what policy options to install in order to reverse the trends. And he has the constituencies to embark on bold policy initiatives, rest assured, even if those policies are unpopular to the elites of his country.

Based on his grasp of public policy, Obama can in fact boldly undertake a revolution in America and across the globe. Obamanomics can be crafted to replace the Reaganomics of the last quarter of a century that resulted to catastrophes in both the USA and across the continents. The thematic directions could very well integrate the state interventionist frames crafted by George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Friedrich von List, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, all aimed at promoting the general welfare, effecting prosperity and equity, and galvanizing national unity under the aegis of the US Constitution.  

‘Obama Doctrine’ can be introduced in foreign policy, that can reverse the equally catastrophic neo-conservative (fascistic) unilateralism, global police aggressor deodorant, and anti-terror campaigns that destroyed nations and yet paradoxically led to the broadening and strengthening of terrorist forces worldwide. ‘Obama Doctrine’ may need to recast both the (a) Wilsonian civil rights advocacy and (b) Roosevelt’s New Deal advocacy of engaging America in the development of backward nations, (c) integrate both doctrines, and then use the new doctrine to foster lasting peace, international cooperation and prosperity in the entire planet.

The man has the sophistication to craft the core principles and concepts of his Revolution, I have no doubt about this. No matter how brilliant his core staff may be, he’s got the competence that enables him to exercise ‘relative autonomy’ from his technical team who can, in the end, add the flesh and tissues into the Obama core concepts. At the same time, Obama has the savvy to listen to his brilliant team people and the mass leaders that supported his candidacy, as listening is among his strengths that must have been tempered by his youth upbringing and grassroots work early in his life.

The last ingredient to his success, which should never be underestimated, is his coffers tactics. His candidacy having been funded largely by people’s donations rather than the elite’s purses, Obama is enabled to exercise a ‘relative autonomy’ from the patrimonial interests of America. This fact allows for a ‘14th Brumaire’ of American leadership, a direly needed element to strengthen the institution of both the presidency and the US Constitution. The ‘relative autonomy’, reinforced by a massive constituency, enables the presidency to use sticks against erring elites and emancipate state institutions from the enslaving claws of the Military Industrial Elites.  

Obama brings hope not only to his fellow Americans but also to peoples across the globe who are so sick and tired of imperialistic wars, deaths, and the catastrophic effects of Reaganomics liberalization-privatization-deregulation oligarchic policies. Being an Asian observer, I’d urge my fellow Asians to give the trust to this great leader in the making, give him at least four (4) years to exhibit his performance level, and pray that peace and prosperity can be had globally under Obama’s reign over his federation.

Let’s give peace and prosperity a chance, and here is a man who can demonstrate that building our cherished dreams of peace and end to poverty are viable ones.

[Writ 22 October 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

 

ADDRESSING TEHCNO-INNOVATIONS – BUSINESS GAP IN CHINA October 18, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Gracious day to everyone!

From China comes a news item highlighting the gap between technology innovations and the business community. The observation is that the gap is a yawning one. This gap has been observed among other Asians that proceeded with the industrialization development track couples of decades back.

The new is contained below.

[Writ 07 October 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

Chinese innovation ‘too isolated’

Jia Hepeng

23 September 2008 | EN | 中文

Flickr/Pere Tubert Juhe

[ZHENGZHOU AND BEIJING] For China to become a world leader in innovation, it should address regional differences and promote corporate input, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The report, released this month (11 September), acknowledges that with spending on research and development (R&D) matching that of Germany, China is already a global player in science and technology.

But the country lags in innovation capability and performance compared to OECD countries with a similar level of R&D investment, although China ranked second in global publications levels in 2006.

According to the report, China’s innovation system is not fully developed and inadequately integrated. It describes the system as an “archipelago”, a large number of “innovative islands” with insufficient links between them.

Current regional patterns of R&D and innovation create too great a physical separation between knowledge producers and potential users, the authors say.

In addition, although foreign investment in China has increasingly contributed to innovation, the domestic business sector has been slow to make productive use of accumulated R&D investment, human resources for science and technology, and related infrastructure, the report indicates.

The Chinese government is looking to address this. For example, a recent study found that of 22 Chinese biotechnology firms investigated, all had received government funding (see Regulations ‘hinder’ China biotech investment).

But besides funding companies directly, “it is important for China to improve the framework conditions for innovation, which will contribute to building an innovation culture and provide the conditions and incentives for firms to shift their attention to innovation,” Gang Zhang of the OECD Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry and one of the report’s authors, told SciDev.Net.

And Feng Jun, president of Beijing Huaqi Information Digital Technology, a leading Chinese technology company, says the government has distributed its funding too evenly among companies, instead of focusing on a few to gain key breakthroughs.

Link to the executive summary of OECD report 

 

S & T POLICY AND INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT: IRAQ UPDATE October 12, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Good morning from Manila!

It seems the excitement in Iraq’s S&T is moving to higher pitches, despite the noise and flames of the ensuing war there. The policy environment is getting to be more definitive, and a new state institution is being installed to address S&T research and development needs of the country.

See the exciting news below.

[Writ 06 October 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

 

New authority and law to push Iraqi research

Wagdy Sawahel

26 September 2008 | EN | 中文

Flickr/rxwarren

Iraq is to establish a scientific research authority (SRA) to promote science and technology research and improve science policy, and will consider a new law offering scientists significant financial benefits.

The SRA was announced by Abd Dhiab al-Ajili, the Iraqi minister for higher education and scientific research last week (15 September).

It will function independently from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MHESR) and have a separate, as yet undisclosed, budget. Its exact start date has yet to be decided.

The authority will oversee all of the science and technology centres associated with universities and have the capacity to fund research directly. It will also prepare science policy reports reviewing subjects including best practice for funding research, measuring the quality of scientific research, and methods for knowledge dissemination.

The SRA will suggest educational programmes and provide analysis for the MHESR on Iraq’s needs to build its scientific and technological capacity. It will also provide advice to the MHESR and university science centres on topics such as ethics, socioeconomic impact, health and environmental concerns and intellectual property rights.

The Iraqi government is also set to consider a new law aiming to persuade scientists, innovators and engineers abroad to return to the country.

Samir Ibrahim Abbas, deputy director-general at the Iraq Ministry of Science and Technology and a member of the ministerial committee preparing the law, says a draft will be ready within six weeks and submitted to the government.

The proposed law also offers incentives to top scientists and innovators working in Iraq.

These include increased salaries — currently on average less than US$1,000 a month — of 300–350 per cent making it equivalent to the Iraqi deputy ministerial salary level. Other benefits include exemption from the mandatory retirement age of 63 years and preferential treatment and reduced prices when buying land for housing.

Abbas says the law will reward different levels of scientists and innovators depending on their scientific achievements.

Scientists would be expected to apply for the benefits, overseen by a central body comprising representatives from scientific committees in different scientific and technological fields who would be responsible for the evaluation and assessment of candidates. 

 

DONORS TO AFRICAN AGRI RESEARCH COME ON FIRE October 5, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

Magandang umaga! Good morning from Manila!

Africa seems to be the favorite destination today for aid funds from everywhere, most specially from European countries. We wonder whether this is Europe’s way of expiating its guilt over the European powers’ enslavement, plunder and colonization of Africa.

A recent issue concerning aid funds dovetails on agricultural research. While there are clear positive benefits to donated funds, there are gaps that must be addressed. This identification of a new problem is already a brightening news for the continent, as the problem can be addressed more squarely.

The news is contained below.

[Writ 05 October 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.]

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African agricultural research ‘neglected ‘ by donor policies

Christina Scott

24 September 2008 | EN

Flickr/MikeBlyth

[CAPE TOWN] A lack of emphasis on agricultural research in development policy over the last quarter of a century is one of the main reasons for the deterioration of African farming, according to a UN report released this month (15 September).

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report on Africa’s economic development also cites the small size of each country’s research stations, isolated researchers and high staff turnover as other factors that helped “prevent the attainment of a critical mass of scientific and technical staff”.

“In Sub-Saharan Africa there are problems with agricultural research, which determines the rate of technological change,” Sam Gayi, lead researcher of the report told SciDev.Net.

As a result, except for maize and more recently cassava, “most of Sub-Saharan Africa has no immediately applicable crop technology that might, with adequate price incentives, substantially increase the profitability of investments in agriculture,” the report concludes.

“Only a quarter of the total crop area of Sub-Saharan Africa is planted with modern crop varieties,” says Gayi.

Credit provision for farmers, as well as investment in infrastructure and research, were abandoned by donor-dictated development policies in many parts of Africa, with long-lasting detrimental effects, the report says.

The authors also criticise many state agricultural budgets for being skewed towards administrative costs rather than research.

They say gaps in communicating research and policy developments, combined with shortages of credit — particularly the dissolution of marketing boards that often gave cash advances to small-scale farmers — have made it more difficult for improved government policies to be translated into improved yields in the fields.

The report singles out Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and South Africa as countries that have managed to improve their agricultural exports. Côte d’Ivoire continues to benefit from “huge investments”, including government funds for research, made in the 1960s in a diverse range of crops.

The authors also say that restrictive standards on exports are placing a burden on African nations, who struggle to meet them.

“Several African countries do not have the technical capacity or resources to comply with the required standards,” says Hezron Nyangito, former director of the Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) and newly-appointed deputy governor of the Central Bank of Kenya.

KIPPRA research suggests that Kenyan farmers would have to increase agricultural spending tenfold and Uganda would need to spend about US$300 million to upgrade its honey-processing plants to comply with European Union standards.

 

SCREENING CROPS FOR CLIMATE TRAITS October 3, 2008

Erle Frayne Argonza

 

Good morning!

 

Adapting food to climate change has been among the raging challenges of the times. This challenge is now being met head on by screening some specific crops for that purpose.

 

See the good news below.

 

[Writ 03 October 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to SciDev database news.

 

 

 

World’s crops to be screened for climate traits

Katherine Nightingale

22 September 2008 | EN | 中文

A taro plantation. Crops will be screened for adaptable traits to climate change.

Flickr\Richard sihamau

An international foundation is funding a drive to screen thousands of crops for traits that will be useful in adapting food production to climate change.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust is providing around US$300,000 of funding this year for researchers in 21 agricultural institutions in 15 countries across the developing world. Around US$200,000 will be spent next year with a continued commitment in the long term.

Crops from banana to sweet potato will be screened to identify material that plant breeders can use to produce varieties adapted to conditions associated with climate change.

Crop diversity is the biological foundation of agriculture, says Cary Fowler, executive director of the trust.

“Without it agriculture cannot adapt to anything: pests, disease, climate change, drought, energy constraints … nothing. With crop diversity we can have an agricultural system that — if we’re smart — is sustainable and productive, can feed people and fuel development.”

Researchers will screen the crops by growing them in different stress conditions — such as high salinity or high temperature — and assessing how well they grow.

Varieties with positive traits will be put into an open access database, says Fowler.

Some will also be entered into a ‘pre-breeding’ programme. Integrating one or two genes from an old or wild variety into a modern variety is costly and difficult, says Fowler, and pre-breeding produces early-stage, new varieties with the desired traits, so that plant breeders can get a ‘head start’ on producing varieties for farmers’ fields.

“Plant breeders often have to make quick progress so they’re loathe to get involved in the kind of cutting edge research to put exotic traits in [a crop]. So the pre-breeding at least gets that first set of genes into some kind of form that is easier for a plant breeder.”

Funded projects include a scheme in Papua New Guinea to screen over 20 varieties of the root crop taro for drought and salinity resistance. Taro is particularly important to the poor island communities of the Pacific region, as it need not be harvested for a number of years, making for a sustainable source of food and an ‘insurance policy’ at times when the prices of other staple crops become too high.

A programme in Bangladesh will screen varieties of the grass pea, a hardy crop that is often the only crop left in times of environmental stress and grown by the poorest communities.

Long-term consumption of grass pea can lead to paralysis, as the plant produces a neurotoxin — giving people a choice between starvation or paralysis. Researchers will search for varieties with low levels of this neurotoxin.