Monday, October 30, 2006

Stern review report on climate change

Stern review report on climate change

The exective summary of the Stern Report on Climate Change is on

The full text of the review is on

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Saudi unemployment

Unemployment, the new Saudi challenge

Analysis By Roger Hardy Middle East analyst

BBC 4 October 2006

"I think it's the number one challenge for Saudi Arabia," says Ihsan Ali bu Hulaiga, an economic consultant and a member of the majlis al-shura, the country's informal parliament.
It's a view you hear echoed by officials, Western diplomats and ordinary Saudis.
Many are shocked that such a wealthy country is unable to find employment for its own young men and women. And, right now, the Saudi kingdom is even wealthier than usual. "Oil prices have been very high for about three years," says Khan Zahid, chief economist at Riyad Bank.
At current prices of about $60 a barrel, the country is earning $480 million a day. A large slice of that - some 35-40% of the government budget, says Dr Zahid - is being spent on education, manpower and health.

More than money
If money alone could solve the problem, then, unemployment would not exist. In fact, however, it is growing at an alarming rate. The official figure is 9%, the unofficial estimate 20%. And among those under 30, who make up two thirds of the population, it is thought to be higher still.
So what has gone wrong? Talk of "Saudi-isation" of labour - replacing the country's six million foreign workers with Saudis - is hardly new. But making it happen is slow work.
The energetic labour minister, Ghazi al-Gosaibi, is pushing businesses to hire more Saudis and struggling to impose tough quotas. The private sector is resisting. Businessmen complain that Saudis are more expensive and less productive than non-Saudis.

Education, education, education
They also say the education system is failing to equip young Saudis with the right skills.
What is taught at schools and colleges is heavily influenced by the conservative religious establishment. The result, says Maha Akeel, a journalist with the Jeddah-based newspaper Arab News, is a stifling conformity.
"I think it starts with the curriculum and the way of teaching it," she says. "It's all based on memorising; it's not based on critical thinking."
What's more, she argues, young Saudis are not studying the subjects the society needs. "We cannot have 80% of our college students graduating in history, geography, Arabic literature and Islamic studies and we barely have enough students graduating in science, engineering or from the medical schools."

Cultural attitudes
I talked to students in Jeddah and found them remarkably frank about the problem. "The Saudi male has this idea that some types of jobs are for Filipinos or Pakistanis," says Salem, a 21-year-old business student. "He thinks a Saudi should be working at a bank or an oil company or as the manager of a company."
Thamer, who is 20 and studying law, says unemployed young men have nothing to do. "Young men are barred from ['family-only'] shopping malls or restaurants, simply because they are males," he says. "They have nowhere to go. They end up not wanting to work - or just playing the stock market."Officials and parents worry that unemployed young men are drifting into crime, drugs or even religious extremism.

Gender gap
As for the young women, in a sexually segregated society their job opportunities are few. As Maha Akeel points out, Saudi women comprise 55% of graduates but only 5% of the workforce. "Certain people think we can do it without the women," says Ihsan Ali bu Hulaiga. "It can't be done."
But convincing religious conservatives that women can enter the workplace without corrupting the morals of the nation is not easy. Dr Gosaibi, the labour minister, has drawn fire from the conservatives by trying to force the pace.
Abdel-Aziz al-Qasim, a young Islamist lawyer, warns against exaggerating the strength of opposition. He says that, in a recent opinion poll, 65% of Saudis supported letting women drive - which would make it much easier for them to work away from home.
But the environment has to be right, he insists. That means having a decent public transport system - and laws against sexual harassment.
Change is under way, but slowly. The population, in contrast, is growing in leaps and bounds. An expanding pool of bored, disaffected Saudis without work can only spell trouble.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Rediscovered Robert Frost poem

Student finds Frost poem lost for 88 years

· Letter held clue to work in US college library
· American poet's war verse handwritten inside book

Ed Pilkington in New York

Guardian September 29, 2006

A poem by Robert Frost that has lain unpublished and forgotten for 88 years has been rediscovered by a student in Virgina. The poem, War Thoughts at Home, casts light on the development of Frost's first world war poetry. It was written in 1918, shortly after his good friend, Edward Thomas, died in the trenches of France.
Robert Stilling, a graduate student at the University of Virginia, was browsing through correspondence relating to Frost in the university library when he came across a 1947 letter from another of the writer's close friends, Frederick Melcher. It referred to an "unpublished poem about the war" which Frost had written on an inside page of a book held by Melcher.
Mr Stilling discovered that the volume, a copy of Frost's second book, North of Boston, was itself part of Virginia university's substantial Frost collection.
"I went back to the desk for the book in question and, within minutes, I had in my hands a puzzle. There, inscribed by Frost, was a poem that began with a 'flurry of bird war' and ended with a train of sheds laying 'dead on a side track'."
The poem, with Mr Stilling's account of its discovery, will be published for the first time in the autumn edition of the Virginia Quarterly Review. The review's editor, Ted Genoways, was the last person to uncover a Frost poem, his discovery being seven years ago. "The poem was published and ballyhooed as the last scrap of Frost verse we could ever expect to read, and, at the time, it seemed most likely that was true," he said. "That is why the discovery of a complete, unpublished, and unknown Frost poem is so staggering."
War Thoughts at Home is set in a snow-bound house at the time of the first world war. Some blue jays are fighting outside the back door - "this flurry of bird war". The woman of the house is disturbed from her sewing and goes to the window. The birds fall silent, and in the next stanza one bird says to the other: "We must watch our chance/ And escape one by one/ Though the fight is no more done/ Than the war is in France." The woman thinks of the winter camps "where soldiers for France are made", then draws the shades. Outside the sheds look like "cars that long have lain/ Dead on a side track".
· Robert Frost, born in San Francisco in 1874, first came to prominence as a poet in London with his book A Boy's Will, in 1913. He became one of America's leading poets, writing on social and philosphical themes set against rural New England. He won four Pulitzer prizes and died in 1963 in Boston. The newly published poem will be publicly displayed for the first time at the Harrison Institute, University of Virginia, on October 20.

Please see also an account of the discovery of this poem and Frost’s relationship with Melcher by Robert Stilling in
See also a long critical analysis of this poem by Glyn Maxwell on