Bringing Davos to book

Jan 25, 2007 11:18 UTC

So what is the World Economic Forum really? Talking shop, manna for conspiracy theorists or a useful get-together for the great and the good?

It’s certainly a mysterious institution for many. It’s privately run and unabashedly self-promoting, a meet-and-greet that brings together enough of the world’s super-powerful to delight any conspiracy theorist worthy of the name. But a new book tries to get behind the mystique and the hype to try to explain what it is all about – and what impact the WEF really does have on the world.

Geoffrey Allen Pigman, a political economist at Bennington College in the U.S. state of Vermont, has penned an academic study that is part of a series from publisher Routledge that includes the likes of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The World Economic Forum book

The author tells me that one of the WEF’s main achievements recently has been to diffuse some of the criticism hurled at it by what he calls the “alter-globalisation” movement. It is “alter” not “anti”, he says, because many people are not against globalisation but have a different view of what it should comprise to the mainstream capitalism one.

Pigman reckons the WEF did well to incorporate some of these critics and other NGOs into its discussion, inviting them to Davos and setting up a World Social Forum.

Kirchner splashes colour on Davos grey

Jan 25, 2007 10:11 UTC

Davos is not all about intense discussions on the world’s future mixed with deal-making and a bit of skiing. Even if there isn’t much glitz this year, anyone who tires of the non-stop geopolitics and economics will find respite in a land of blues, purples, greens and oranges at the nearby Kirchner Museum in the centre of town.

Belying its rather stark bunker-like architecture, the museum is awash with the colourful works of quasi-home town boy Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

The Kirchner Museum

Kirchner was German but lived in and around this Swiss resort between 1917 and his death in 1938. The embodiment of German expressionism, he painted a wonderful if rather different picture of Davos and its surrounds than a less artistic visitor might see on an overcast January day.

Waking up from the dream

Jan 25, 2007 01:56 UTC

 By now, every Oscar watcher knows that the big surprise from Tuesday’s nominations was the fact that musical “Dreamgirls,” despite being the most nominated film for Oscars, failed to get a nod in the best movie category. Why?

From here at the Sundance Film Festival, in numerous conversations with movie writers and publicists, the answer seems to be too much Oscar hype.

The fact is nobody likes to be told how to vote, and the day after reckoning is that voters at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who pick Oscar winners, were simply tired of being told “Dreamgirls” was the year’s best film. The buzz started nearly a year ago when the movie’s promoters at the DreamWorks studio were planning the release, and it continued at May’s film festival in Cannes. In December, when the film finally began playing in theaters, “Dreamgirls” delivered the goods and won mostly strong reviews. But then, Academy voters trained a far more critical eye on the film, and they saw flaws.

Oscar fun: Trivia and facts on the nominations

Jan 25, 2007 01:49 UTC

Best Actress nominee Judi Dench (“Notes on a Scandal”) is the only returning performer from last year’s roster. She was up in 2005 for Best Actress for her portrayal of the title character in “Mrs. Henderson Presents.”

More trivia and facts about the week’s Oscar nominations:

    Meryl Streep garnered her 14th nomination,  for her performance in “The Devil Wears Prada.” This adds to her record roster of nominations, in both the Actress and Supporting Actress categories. She’s won once in each category (“Kramer vs. Kramer” for Supporting Actress, “Sophie’s Choice” for Actress). Jack Nicholson and Katharine Hepburn are her closests rivals, with 12 nominations each. Hepburn, whos is deceased, holds the record for most wins — four, all for Best Actress. 

    If Penelope Cruz (“Volver”) or Rinko Kikuchi (“Babel”) win, they will join Sophia Loren (“Two Women”), Robert De Niro (“The Godfather Part II”), Roberto Benigni (“Life Is Beautiful”) and Benicio del Toro (“Traffic”) as the only performers to have won Oscars for performances in a language other than English. Marlee Matlin won Best Actress for her work in “Children of a Lesser God,” in which she performed almost completely in sign language.

Life beyond Davos? Huffington in Second Life

Jan 24, 2007 20:31 UTC

This posting is not for the uncool. My colleague Adam Reuters, aka Adam Pasick, has just scored a first for Davos, interviewing one of the participants in the virtual world Second Life. Avatars (online alter egos) of Adam and his special guest, Arianna Huffington, sat in a specially constructed Davos newsroom in Second Life and chatted about things including, well, Second Life.

You could see the snow-capped peaks outside.

Adam is virtual bureau chief of the virtual Reuters bureau in the virtual world. Ms Huffington is the celebrated blogger and columnist whose The Huffington Post is a popular read for those following U.S. politics. She sat with Adam in the middle of the Davos conference centre while audio was fed into Second Life and their avatars chatted along with it in front of what anywhere else would be described as a live audience.
Avatars who missed it can get the interview in Second Life on video. Others might hear of it on the BBC or in a newspapers as real world, old style media also covered the interview. (Reuters will post the video here)

Not all went well in the real world. Ms Huffington arrived later than expected which set off some virtual fidgeting among the assorted avatars waiting in the Secondwef_sl_huffington.jpg Life auditorium. One was having a good smoke — it’s about the only place left that you can — others discussed U.S. politics. One avatar said he/she was disappointed that Hillary Clinton did not announce her presidental plans in Second Life. It can only be a matter of time.

Watching the sands shift at Davos

Jan 24, 2007 19:05 UTC

One of the things Davosians love best when they meet up here in the mountains each year is the ability to hash out serious ideas about where the world is going. The World Economic Forum, after all, bills itself as “committed to improving the state of the world.”

This year is no exception and about 750 of the movers and shakers here have just decided that climate change is not only likely to have more impact than anything else on the world in the years ahead but that it is by a long shot the thing that everyone is least ready for.


It worked like this. After a morning divided between seminars on business, geopolitics, technology and the economy, participants identified a dozen shifting sands likely to have the most impact on the world. These included growing emerging economies, inequality, demographics and so on. After a vote, climate change won out. Emerging economies came a close second in the “most impact” vote. Inequality was a distant second in the “least ready” category.

Not much to glitter about

Jan 24, 2007 14:48 UTC

SomethAngelina at WEF.jpging is missing from this year’s Davos meeting — glitz. After years of grabbing the limelight, the likes of Sharon Stone and Angelina Jolie are nowhere to be seen. Rock ‘n’ roll hasn’t died, of course: Bono is due in town on Friday to talk about Africa and Peter Gabriel is supposed to be around somewhere. But apart from that the glitterati is thin on the ground. Could it be that Davos is no longer hip?

Not so, says Klaus Schwab, the founder, executive chairman and all-round booster of the World Economic Forum whose goal is no less than shaping the global agenda. “We invited what you call ‘star’ people only the last years because they were relevant to a very specific topic,” he told celebrity-starved reporters. “This year we don’t feel in need of such a special accelerator, multiplier of the message.” Ouch!

Winter of discount tent

Jan 24, 2007 10:10 UTC

So off it goes. The World Economic Forum’s Davos 2007 meeting has begun with early discussions on the global economy — which is doing quite well, they say — and more esoteric chats about “The Legal Landscape around Climate Change” and “Exploring Identity and the Communication Disconnect”. For the hundreds of journalists gathered to cover the eventDavos-Tent.gif communication disconnect is always a major worry.

With apologies to Shakespeare, meanwhile, could this be the winter of our discount tent? The media find themselves in a tent rather than the concrete command post of yore. That bunker had a certain poignancy for reporters, at least for Reuters ones, because where they work at big events is nearly always called the bunker. At Davos, it really was one — underground and no windows.

Now we find ourselves staring out of plastic windows at growing snowfall and dropping temperatures. The tent is actually quite expensive looking and is clearly supposed to be an all-weather construction. Lets hope that doesn’t mean, when the weather’s cold, so are we.

A mysterious array of figures

Jan 23, 2007 18:57 UTC

davos_figurines_3.jpgWith all these executives, journalists and politicians swirling around Davos, local shopkeepers are likely hoping for a nice boost in business. Their shops are chock-a-block with goodies. One, however, caught the eye with a rather strange collection of figurines. It is not often that you see Jesus and what appears to be Sigmund Freud on display together.davos_figurines_2.jpg

Even more mysterious is the small figure next to them. The nice lady behind the counter at Born To Board had no idea who he was, neither did her colleagues and they are not the only one’s stumped. Any ideas?

Davos – Risks to make the mighty meek

Jan 23, 2007 13:30 UTC

It’s a scary world and for anyone wanting to know just how scary, the answer is 23. Davos organisers WEF and business friends have identified this as the core number of threats out there and have offered up an analysis in a report called Global Risks 2007. Not exactly bedtime reading for those with nervous dispositions.

The report came out earlier this month, but with more than 2,400 of the world’s mighty gathering here for their annual chat, it is perhaps a good time to revisit some of the things that can swiftly make them meek. All the usual suspects are there — international terrorism, Middle East instability, earthquakes, storms, flooding and WMD proliferation. But others also get a look in. How about the tumbling dollar, or the arrival of risks associated with nanotechnology or the spread of “life style” diseases in the rich world? It’s nearly all getting worse, too, the report says.

Scariest of all for the faint-hearted is what the report, in sombre and rather inaccessible language, calls the “fundamental disconnect between risk and mitigation”. Translated that means bad things abound and governments, businesses etc can’t deal with them. Perhaps, after all, the answer is 24.