The Great Debate UK

How social media can play a major role in disaster forecasting and recovery

–Julian Hunt is Visiting Professor at Delft University of Technology and the Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre. Joy Pereira is Deputy Director of SEADPRI, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. The opinions expressed are their own.–

The UN Climate Change Summit in Qatar will be negotiating levels of funding for adaptation against climate change. Social media, which can reduce impacts of disasters through community involvement and improved real-time management, must receive effective and rapid use of such funds.

Social media is increasingly joining public broadcasts and targeted radio messages as a means for central organisations, including government, to communicate forecasts and advisory information to people in affected areas ahead of a disaster, and effective advice during and after one.

Satellite observations and computer predictions may make accurate real-time forecasting of factors such as wind, waves and flooding possible several days ahead of the tracks of tropical cyclones, but, as with Nagi, which devastated Burma in 2010, thousands of casualties can occur in the poorest remote communities because there are no telecommunications providing warnings based on them. Many countries are now strengthening the structures that support such communication systems.

Imagining an election in the United States of Europe

By Kathleen Brooks. The opinions expressed are her own.

The aftermath of the U.S. presidential election has seen some tentative steps towards political harmony. After a bruising campaign with Democrats and Republicans at each others throats for most of the last two years, President Obama declared in his victory speech that there is no such thing as blue or red states, there is only the United States of America.

This is what makes America one country.  Different states may have various social and cultural attitudes, but at the end of the day each person identifies themselves as American, and they are proud. Likewise, the euro zone is made up of disparate member states with different cultures, attitudes and fiscal stances. But that is where the similarity ends. The U.S. presidential election was a stark reminder just how far we from a United States of Europe.

Party political policing

–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–

I hope I am proved wrong, but I am afraid that the decision to introduce elected police commissioners will turn out in the long term to be the most damaging of all the stupid things this incompetent Government is doing. It is a fear that has been reinforced by the leaflet shoved through my door on the eve of the election. At the top, it has a bright red band reading “From…., your Labour Police and Crime Commissioner candidate” and a matching red ribbon at the bottom says “Vote Labour Thursday 15th November”.

from Felix Salmon:

Why London is doomed to remain a financial capital

It's amazing how much coverage a thinly-sourced press release can elicit:


If you look at the PDF with the numbers in it, there's no indication at all of where the numbers being cited come from, or what exactly they're measuring. The idea, here, is that we're trying to measure "jobs in the wholesale financial service sector", which will include some but not most lawyers and accountants, if that helps.

In any case, Ben Walsh helpfully turned the press release into a chart:


This of course says basically nothing about which city if any is the financial capital of the world. If there were more wholesale finance jobs in Tampa than there are in London, that wouldn't make Tampa an international financial capital.

from Hugo Dixon:

Brexit could come before Grexit

Investors have been obsessed with the notion of “Grexit” - Greece’s exit from the euro. But “Brexit” - Britain’s exit from the European Union - is as likely if not more so. The country has never been at ease with its EU membership. It refused to join its predecessor, the European Economic Community, in 1957; it was then blocked twice from becoming a member by France’s Charles De Gaulle in 1960s; and shortly after it finally entered in 1973, it had a referendum on whether to stay.

The euro crisis has put further pressure on this difficult relationship. David Cameron’s Conservative Party, the governing coalition’s dominant group, delights in pointing out the flaws in the single currency. The party’s eurosceptics feel vindicated because they have long believed that monetary union was only possible with political union.

Strong storms could be even more dangerous in future

–Lord Hunt is a Visiting professor at Delft University, and former Director-General of the UK Met Office. The opinions expressed are his own.–

Sandy has been called, by some, the ‘perfect storm’ and the storm of the century’.  But there are reasons to believe that strong storms could be even more dangerous in the future.

Declare victory in the War on Drugs – then run like hell


By Laurence Copeland. The opinions expressed are his own.

Wherever you look – radio and TV, novels, internet – history is all the rage these days. Perhaps a large part of the appeal is the nice warm feeling it gives us of being able to look down on the sheer madness and heartless cruelty of our own ancestors. What did they think they were doing back in the 16th century burning witches? Or 300 years later, locking up poor young girls for getting pregnant? Or sending men to jail simply for being homosexuals, as we did until the 1950s ?

History may seem to be nothing but a catalogue of human folly, but have you ever asked yourself what features of contemporary life will have our own descendants scratching their heads and asking themselves: how could they – meaning us, today – be so crazy?

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Is a revolution in economic thinking under way?

Four years after the start of the Great Recession, the global economy has not recovered, voters are losing patience and governments around the world are falling like ninepins. This is a situation conducive to revolutionary thinking, if not yet in politics, then maybe in economics.

In the past few months the International Monetary Fund, previously a bastion of austerity, has swung in favor of expansionary fiscal policies. The U.S. Federal Reserve has committed itself to printing money without limit until it restores full employment. And the European Central Bank has announced unlimited bond purchases with printed money, a policy denounced, quite literally, as the work of the devil by the president of the German Bundesbank.

Free and Open Data as a Worldwide Economic Engine

 –Cameron Neylon is Advocacy Director at PLOS. Previously, he was a Senior Scientist at the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council and a faculty member at the University of Southampton. The opinions expressed are those of PLOS.–

California’s governor, referring as much to the state’s financial issues as its lead in technology, has signed into law a new fund to create 50 open-source undergraduate textbooks, as well as a digital library to host them. By being digital, the textbooks will be able to evolve rapidly as the needs of students and the state of knowledge change, but more importantly they will be made available under a Creative Commons license, allowing any individual or organization, anywhere in the world, to read, use, and remix the content.

from The Great Debate:

Obama, Romney missing the point on Libya

President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney in Monday's foreign policy debate are again likely to examine the administration’s handling of an Islamic militia’s murderous attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and its significance for U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, they may again miss the crucial question raised by the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans: Why is Libya at the mercy of hundreds of lawless militias and without a functioning state one year after U.S. and NATO support enabled rebels to overthrow dictator Muammar Ghadaffi?