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from Breakingviews:

America’s dumb elites risk fomenting a revolution

By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Why do so many of America’s wealthy elite seem hell-bent to foment a revolution? After all, the world’s plutocrats agreed at their annual confab in Davos last month that the big tail risk for Western economies is social unrest, spurred by rising financial inequality. The tail becomes fatter when One Percenters like AOL boss Tim Armstrong, realty mogul Sam Zell and venture capitalist Tom Perkins go pick fights with the little guy.

Armstrong stoked the fires of class conflict last week during his justification of the internet company’s planned reduction in employee retirement benefits. He talked up the company’s generous healthcare benefits, referring to the “million dollars each” paid for the care of two AOL employees’ “distressed babies.”

Armstrong sounded nosy and penny-pinching about healthcare, not to mention cheap about pensions. After a public outcry, including the hot breath of rebellion from the readers of AOL’s own Huffington Post, he expressed regret. A few days later, the company backtracked on the benefits cut. But the damage was done.

from Stories I’d like to see:

Christie’s legal bills, who profits from retailer hacking, and Davos economics

1. Christie’s legal bills and lawyers’ conflicts:

When it was announced earlier this month that Governor Chris Christie had hired Randy Mastro, the New York litigation head of California-based Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, to represent the Christie administration in dealing with all of the investigations involving Bridgegate, some observers told reporters that signing on Mastro signaled that Christie and his team might be gearing up to take an aggressive posture that is inconsistent with the governor’s initial promise to cooperate fully in all investigations.

That’s a logical assumption: Mastro, a former protégé of tough-guy New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, is a notoriously hard-nosed litigator.

from Felix Salmon:

Why the irrelevance of Davos is good news

No crisis can last forever, and the main lesson I'm taking from the 2014 World Economic Forum is that, at least as far as the world's elite are concerned, we've finally put the financial crisis behind us. There are still a lot of things to worry about, of course, both political and economic. But this was by far the least economically interesting Economic Forum I've been to.

Now admittedly I've been coming to this conference during extremely interesting times. My first WEF was in 2008, when the credit crisis was top of mind; in all of the conferences since then, the unquestioned center of the proceedings has been the various conversations -- formal and informal, public and private -- between all the financial-sector bigwigs who attend. Finance ministers, central bank governors, bank CEOs -- this was their conference, and it was important because they controlled the levers at the heart of all the world's major economies.

from Equals:

Davos still hasn’t solved its woman problem

In 2011, the organizers of the World Economic Forum announced they wanted to do something about the lack of women at their annual January gathering in Davos, Switzerland. They informed their leading corporate sponsors that one of out every five people they were sending were sending to the annual conference in the Swiss Alps would need to be a woman. In prior years, that number had hovered around 15-17%.

Since then, the percentage of women attending WEF’s gathering of business and political elites hasn’t changed much at all: in 2013 it was 17%. This year it’s 15%.

from Breakingviews:

The “R” word becomes taboo for global elite

By Chris Hughes and Rob Cox

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Spare a thought for the business and financial elite as they slide along the icy byways of the World Economic Forum in Davos. Life is undeniably picking up for them and it would be nice to say so. But the economic recovery has its winners and losers, and it looks bad to be a beneficiary at a conference whose overarching theme is “inclusive growth.”

from MacroScope:

Davos Day Two — Rouhani, Lew and Lagarde

Day one in Davos showed the masters of the universe fretting about Sino-Japanese military tensions, the treacherous investment territory in some emerging markets and the risk of a lurch to the right in Europe at May’s parliamentary elections which could make reform of the bloc even harder.

Today, the focus will be on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (and his main detractor, Israel’s Netanyahu). Presumably he’s there to woo the world of commerce now sanctions are to be relaxed in return for Tehran suspending enrichment of uranium beyond a certain level. Anything he says about Syria’s peace talks, which have so far been more hostile than conciliatory, will instantly be headline news.

from Breakingviews:

Pope’s “authentic” economics make sense

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Pope Francis is a Jesuit, a Catholic order which has traditionally, among other things, served the rich and powerful as teachers and confessors. At its best, a Jesuit education inspires the mighty to serve the lowly. The Pope’s address to the business and political leaders assembled at the World Economic Forum at Davos fits right into that tradition.

from MacroScope:

Iran and Japan in focus at Davos

Lots of action in Switzerland today with the annual get-together of the great and good at Davos getting underway and Syrian peace talks commencing in Montreux.

On the latter, few are predicting anything other than failure, a gloom that Monday’s chaotic choreography did nothing to dispel.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon Ban first offered Iran a seat at the table, prompting a threat to pull out by Syrian opposition groups which led to Washington demanding the invitation to Tehran be withdrawn. In the end, Ban did just that.

from Felix Salmon:

Davos FOMO

Andrew Ross Sorkin is a very old Davos hand -- he's been coming for years, he knows the ropes, he knows what happens and what doesn't. Which is why his column this week is so very odd.

Whatever their reasons for staying away, the leaders of some of the largest and most transformative companies are demonstrating, with their absence, the difficulty of convening a global conversation with all the main stakeholders...

from MacroScope:

Spain ascendant?

Spain appears to be on the road to recovery, if you can call it that with around a quarter of the workforce without a job.

The government says growth hit 0.3 percent in the final quarter of the year, the second quarterly expansion in a row, and may upgrade its forecast for 0.7 percent growth in 2014.

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