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from Photographers' Blog:

The other Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan

By Zohra Bensemra

A fist slams into a punching bag. Sparks flare from a saw as a punk carves a huge guitar from a block of stone. A female climber dangles precariously from a cliff.

A Pakistani interior designer Zahra Afridi uses a circular saw as she sculpts a guitar outside the classic rock cafe she designed in Islamabad

Welcome to Pakistan, a country of 180 million people whose residents are as varied as they come. Among them are millionaires and beggars, child brides and female executives, the Taliban and an ultra-chic international jet set.

Many Pakistanis feel angry that headlines about their beloved nation are dominated by violence and extremism, saying that a number of troublemakers has been allowed to define their country’s image.

Everyone has heard of Malala, the schoolgirl activist shot by the Taliban, but few outside the country know about the exploding private education sector. The private Beaconhouse School System, for example, has established around 150 schools across the country.

from Edward Hadas:

Shhh – don’t talk about higher taxes

By Edward Hadas

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

Many people assume that tax increases are the only realistic response to excessive income inequality. They are wrong. There is a better way.

from Lawrence Summers:

On inequality

Inequality has emerged as a major economic issue in the United States and beyond.

Sharp increases in the share of income going to the top 1 percent of earners, a rising share of income going to profits, stagnant real wages, and a rising gap between productivity growth and growth in median family income are all valid causes for concern. A generation ago, it could have been plausibly asserted that the economy’s overall growth rate was the dominant determinant of growth in middle-class incomes and progress in reducing poverty. This is no longer plausible. The United States may well be on the way to becoming a Downton Abbey economy.

from The Great Debate:

How do we measure whether Americans are better off than in the past?

Are you better off than you were twenty years ago? Probably not relative to very rich people today, but what about relative to you, or to someone your age and position twenty years ago? Income inequality has been called the defining issue of our time. Powerful leaders, from President Obama to Pope Francis, have cited it as evidence that the unfettered capitalism that has enriched the wealthy hasn’t been shared. Of course, there’s a difference between the gains in income being shared evenly, shared a little, or making everyone else poorer. In many ways the average American is much better off than he used to be; in other ways he’s worse off.  But even if we focus on what’s gotten better, we may still need to worry about the future.

The most common metric used to measure changes in our economic condition is income, but several other factors determine quality of life: health, consumption, leisure time, financial security, and prospects for the future. Which of these factors matters most comes down to personal values. Some people prefer more leisure to income. If they work less, even at the cost of lower earnings, they’ll be happier. Some people are more comfortable with risk; health care coverage and financial security matter less if they can buy more stuff.

from The Great Debate:

Heads, the rich win; tails, the poor lose

The rich, to mangle F. Scott Fitzgerald slightly, they rationalize differently than you and me. Whether they succeed or fail, they’ve always got a pseudo-scientific excuse. If they do well, it’s because their habits are better than those of the rest of us peons. If they do badly, it was their upbringing, since wealthy parents too readily substitute lucre for love.

Don’t believe me? Let’s turn to the headlines.

Last month, personal finance and self-responsibility guru Dave Ramsey posted a list on his website entitled, “20 Things the Rich Do Every Day,” originally written by New Jersey accountant and certified financial planner Thomas C. Corley, who, according to his website “studied the daily activities of 233 wealthy people and 128 people living in poverty.”

from Photographers' Blog:

Documenting the wealth gap in China

Beijing, China

By Kim Kyung-hoon

Showing the great contrast between China’s rich and poor in photos should be simple. After all, both exist just a few blocks away from each other or sometimes in the same place in any city. A poor family rides a rusty tricycle as a shiny Ferrari passes by. Just around the corner from an expensive restaurant, poor migrant workers eat cheap meals and take naps on the street.

But trying to get people to agree to be photographed was much more difficult than I expected. In six months of roaming around Beijing, visiting places where the rich congregate, such as luxury brand fashion boutiques and cocktail parties at fashion shows and even a luxury car maker’s promotional event, I tried all sorts of things, hoping that someone would open up their lifestyle to my lens.

from Photographers' Blog:

Rich and poor in the Philippines

Manila, Philippines

By Erik De Castro

Taking photos of poor people is nothing unusual for me, as the poor comprise more than a fourth of the Philippine population of nearly 97 million. They are also the most vulnerable during disasters such as typhoons, landslides and fires that frequently dominate the headlines in the country.

Late last month, the Secretary General of the state agency National Statistical Coordination Board wrote in an article that the gap between the country’s rich and poor is widening, with the country’s strong growth, the fastest in Asia so far this year, benefiting high-income earners more than those from the middle- and low-income classes. The article said the rich were enjoying significantly faster growth in incomes compared with people from lower income classes.

from Breakingviews:

Fed generates the wealth, but where’s the effect?

By Agnes T. Crane

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

The so-called wealth effect looks overrated. Americans’ private worth grew twice as fast as the U.S. economy last year, according to the Boston Consulting Group, due largely to the rise in stocks and other financial assets. But consumers aren’t rushing to spend their gains.

from Photographers' Blog:

Gold rush

Vienna, Austria

By Heinz-Peter Bader

Remember the James Bond film Goldfinger and how the characters handled the gold bars without even thinking of their weight? Each gold bar at Fort Knox weighs about 12 kilos (24 pounds), as much as six six-packs of beer. But they could certainly buy you a lot more Champagne!

I witnessed gold bar production at Austria's Oegussa company. A one kilo (two pound) gold bar is only about the size of a small mobile phone. It was impressive to hold something of so much value - as of November 15, each of the Oegussa 1 kilo gold bars would sell for 43,854 euros ($61,264).

from Photographers' Blog:

Coffin, sweet coffin

By Damir Sagolj

Just around the corner from where Blade Runner met Bruce Lee, in the neighborhood where Hong Kong’s millions are made, 24 people live their lives in coffins. They call it home - but they're only 6 by 3 feet wooden boxes, nicknamed coffins and packed into a single room to make more money for the rich.

SLIDESHOW: LIVING IN COFFINS

In a crazy chase for more dollars, landlords in the island city are building something unthinkable in the rest of the world – a beehive for people collected from the margins of society. Math is a rat; pitiless and brutal. Twenty-four times 1450 Hong Kong dollars a month is more than anyone would pay for this just over 500 square feet room.

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