Mar 27, 2015 18:13 UTC

Review: If only U.S. elite education didn’t matter

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Harvard's seal sits atop a gate to the athletic fields at Harvard University in Cambridge

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

Frank Bruni should have a good month in May. The New York Times columnist’s new book is an ideal present for high school students who failed to secure acceptance to one of the country’s elite universities. Bruni offers a salve for the off-brand bound.

Mar 27, 2015 16:19 UTC

Germanwings tragedy requires industry response

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REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

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

The crash of Germanwings flight 4U 9525 in the French Alps may mark a turning point in aviation history. French prosecutors say the co-pilot set the aircraft on its tragic descent while his pilot was locked out of the cockpit. It will be some time before investigations are completed. But the disaster has quickly drawn attention to a less evident aspect of flight safety – the possible risks posed by crew rather than passengers. That raises questions about procedures both across the industry, as well as at the parent Lufthansa.

COMMENT

The chances of a disaster like this happening again are already minimal. What percentage of commercial flights in the history of aviation have seen a pilot or other crew member deliberately kill the passengers? Maybe 0.00001%? In my view, nothing needs to be done here. This is a non-issue.

It’s not possible to completely eliminate every trace of risk from life. Everyone has to die sooner or later, one way or another. People should worry far less about ridiculously over-hyped threats to life (like plane crashes, terrorism, etc.) and worry far more about eating right, exercising, avoiding tobacco products, and so forth. You’re astronomically more likely to die from heart disease as from a crazed airline pilot, terrorist, or other such nonsense.

There’s a larger issue here than just airline security. The human tendency to deny the necessity of death has led to a world in which far too many laws and regulations exist. And what have we gained? Each of us will STILL die. However, now none of us will truly LIVE, since a life without freedom isn’t a life at all. The only parties that gain from excessive laws and regulations are power-hungry governments and their corporate allies.

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Mar 27, 2015 07:47 UTC

India’s boardroom diversity drive has weird result

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SEBI

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

India’s effort to break the old boys’ club is producing bizarre outcomes. Tycoons have responded to a requirement that they have at least one female board member by April 1 by appointing their wives and even stepmothers as directors. India’s corporate governance has room for improvement and gender diversity at the top can improve financial returns. But mandating change isn’t the answer.

Mar 23, 2015 21:33 UTC

Global water woes mix with trickle of good news

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Men fish next to cracked ground as the Atibainha dam lake dries up due to a prolonged drought in Nazare Paulista

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

Earth faces a major water crisis. By 2030, the planet could have 40 percent less H2O than needed, due to rising demand for food and energy from a growing population, the United Nations reiterated in a report published on Sunday to mark World Water Day. The multi-year droughts afflicting California and Sao Paulo, Brazil may be harbingers of doom on a broader scale. But there is enough progress to offer hope.

Mar 23, 2015 21:20 UTC

Elliott emits ray of pragmatism in Argentina feud

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The Citibank logo is pictured at its Nicaragua headquarters in Managua

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

Elliott Management has emitted the merest glimmer of pragmatism in its feud with Argentina. The hedge fund, with a U.S. judge’s approval, will allow Citigroup to process two of the country’s bond payments, despite an earlier court-ordered block. It’s a concession to cover the bank’s back, not a broader shift in the intractable spat between holdout creditors and Argentina. But it may qualify as progress.

COMMENT

Never pay to those vultures, never!

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Mar 20, 2015 18:24 UTC

China’s world bank has rickety foundations

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

If any country knows about the risks and rewards of building infrastructure, it is China. Over the past two decades, the People’s Republic has erected countless roads, dams, power plants, bridges and airports in its pursuit of economic development. The result has been a surge in debt, waste, corruption and pollution. It’s a dubious foundation from which to construct the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

COMMENT

“the People’s Republic has erected countless roads, dams, power plants, bridges and airports in its pursuit of economic development. The result has been a surge in debt, waste, corruption and pollution.”
Actually the result has been a surge in economic development and prosperity, immense savings in time and money for everyone, and productivity gains of 17% annually – more than sufficient to cover the nation’s modest – entirely domestic debt.
The pollution is no worse than Japan’s in the 1960s and much more benign than England in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Even today, Beijing’s air quality is 4 times better than New Delhi’s and slightly better than London’s.
Corruption was – judging by results rather than rhetoric – modest when compared to the USA’s.
The cleanup campaign is well under way – coal consumption is falling and corruption is withering – and the writer can look forward to an even cleaner, more honest, more prosperous China in the coming years.

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Mar 20, 2015 16:30 UTC

Review: The lucrative and controversial Blair Inc

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REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

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

Politics has a problem in the era of the global billionaire. The challenge is illustrated by the business empire of Tony Blair – dubbed “Blair Inc” – in a timely new book by veteran reporters Francis Beckett, David Hencke and Nick Kochan.

COMMENT

A useful review, thanks, Quentin. I won’t bother buying the book. Your criticism hits the very thing I personally dislike — a political commentary posing as analysis. What is needed is an analysis of the business deals Blair has forged – we can make our own conclusions from that. But that would perhaps be too much hard work.

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Mar 20, 2015 12:33 UTC

ECB torn between two roles in Greek bank support

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REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

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

The European Central Bank is responsible for the stability of both the euro and the single currency zone’s biggest banks. The two goals are not perfectly aligned, as a spat over Greece is making clear.

COMMENT

So this is obviously difficult and short of the ECB lifting the T bill cap, which hopefully will happen next week, if not before, President Juncker will release the two billion in development funding to see Greece through to this Friday and the possible Eurogroup meeting on the finalised list of reforms. Withholding everything exerts pressure, yes, but too much pressure could have a negative effect. A meeting where the humanitarian crisis has been relieved in the basic emergency areas of food and energy and where there is an element of knowing how government responsibilities will be paid, is bound to be more balanced and have a better chance of being productive.

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Mar 19, 2015 12:56 UTC
Edward Hadas

Swiss caught in the wake of massive FX currents

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REUTERS/Thomas Hodel

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

Pity the Swiss. Despite the best efforts of the central bank, their currency is caught in the slipstream of massive foreign exchange currents. The result is slower GDP growth and frustration all round.

Mar 16, 2015 16:34 UTC

M&A world could teach niche U.S. colleges

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By Kate Duguid

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

Sweet Briar College’s collapse bodes ill for small U.S. private schools. The twin pressures of falling enrollment and rising costs threaten to bankrupt the tuition fee-based business model of many small colleges. Efforts to lure students in with deep discounts on sticker prices have locked some institutions into a bank-breaking spiral. Merging may be one way to ease the pressure.