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Ambition, A History: From Vice to Virtue

Ambition, A History: From Vice to Virtue [Hardcover]

William Casey King (Author)

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Release date: January 7, 2013

From rags to riches, log house to White House, enslaved to liberator, ghetto to CEO, ambition fuels the American Dream. Americans are driven by ambition. Yet at the time of the nation’s founding, ambition was viewed as a dangerous vice, everything from “a canker on the soul” to the impetus for original sin. This engaging book explores ambition’s surprising transformation, tracing attitudes from classical antiquity to early modern Europe to the New World and America’s founding. From this broad historical perspective, William Casey King deepens our understanding of the American mythos and offers a striking reinterpretation of the introduction to the Declaration of Independence.

Through an innovative array of sources and authors—Aquinas, Dante, Machiavelli, the Geneva Bible, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson, and many others—King demonstrates that a transformed view of ambition became possible the moment Europe realized that Columbus had discovered not a new route but a new world. In addition the author argues that reconstituting ambition as a virtue was a necessary precondition of the American republic. The book suggests that even in the twenty-first century, ambition has never fully lost its ties to vice and continues to exhibit a dual nature, positive or negative depending upon the ends, the means, and the individual involved. Read more of this post

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Apple to produce Siri-driven vehicle iMove

Apple to produce Siri-driven vehicle iMove: Yicai.com

Staff Reporter

2013-03-15

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A computer-generated image of iMove. (Internet photo)

Apple is secretly developing a vehicle incorporating its voice assistant technology Siri and map service, said China-based financial news media Yicai.com. Steve Jobs, the US technology firm’s co-founder, was said to be a car enthusiast and had planned to develop the vehicle before he died of cancer in Oct. 2011.

The development has been continued by the present Apple CEO Tim Cook after Jobs died. The vehicle, called iMove, and has a minimalist, chic design likes other Apple products. The top of its body is covered by solar panel, glass and ABS plastic, which greatly reduces its weight and energy consumption. The rest of the vehicle’s body is painted in chameleon patterns.

The vehicle is also completely electric-powered. Apple is riding the wave of alternative energy vehicles, a movement receiving considerable investment and commercialization in developed countries and China.

Read more of this post

Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor, Study Shows

March 16, 2013

Better Colleges Failing to Lure Poorer Strivers

By DAVID LEONHARDT

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Most low-income students who have top test scores and grades do not even apply to the nation’s best colleges, according to a new analysis of every high school student who took the SAT in a recent year.

The pattern contributes to widening economic inequality and low levels of mobility in this country, economists say, because college graduates earn so much more on average than nongraduates do. Low-income students who excel in high school often do not graduate from the less selective colleges they attend.

Only 34 percent of high-achieving high school seniors in the bottom fourth of income distribution attended any one of the country’s 238 most selective colleges, according to the analysis, conducted by Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford and Christopher Avery of Harvard, two longtime education researchers. Among top students in the highest income quartile, that figure was 78 percent.

The findings underscore that elite public and private colleges, despite a stated desire to recruit an economically diverse group of students, have largely failed to do so. Read more of this post

Coffee’s Economics, Rewritten by Farmers; Some coffee farmers are taking control of more of the supply chain, roasting and marketing their own beans for greater profit

March 16, 2013

Coffee’s Economics, Rewritten by Farmers

By NICOLE LaPORTE

IN 2005, Kenneth Lander, a lawyer in Monroe, Ga., moved with his wife, stepdaughter and the youngest three of his seven children to a coffee farm in San Rafael de Abangares, Costa Rica. He always “had a heart,” he said, for Latin America, and after a vacation to the lush cloud forests near Monteverde in 2004, he was determined to return on a more permanent basis.

He was also looking for more balance in his work-driven life. And so, after buying a coffee farm from a farmer he’d met on his earlier trip, he packed up his life and moved.

“It was like Swiss Family Robinson,” Mr. Lander jokes. “We just left.”

In Costa Rica, Mr. Lander, who is now 46, didn’t have to worry about making money. He had received a cash windfall from selling a portion of a residential subdivision he had helped develop in Georgia; the plan was to keep selling more lots and live off the proceeds. So he grew coffee for fun.

Then, in 2008, the financial crisis hit. The value of his subdivision plummeted. Suddenly, he had to support himself as a coffee farmer. Very quickly, he realized how difficult that was going to be. He had just 12 acres that produced 6,000 pounds of specialty-grade coffee beans a year.

He belonged to a “fair trade” co-op, which guarantees farmers a minimum price, but was making only $1.30 a pound on coffee that retailed in the United States for $12 a pound. His net profit was so low that at one point he was down to $120 that had to last two weeks.

“I was at the register debating whether or not to buy shampoo or a bag of rice,” Mr. Lander recalls.

Why wasn’t he seeing more of that final price?

That question has been asked by farmers throughout history, particularly in developing countries, where growers of commodity crops like coffee and cocoa often live in poverty. Over the last few decades, a worldwide movement under the broad banner of fair trade has tried to rectify that imbalance.

In exchange for receiving “fair” prices for their products, fair trade farmers must adhere to environmental and labor standards set by certification groups, the largest of which is Fairtrade International, a nonprofit organization based in Bonn, Germany. It represents 1.24 million farmers and workers in industries including coffee, bananas and honey.

But Mr. Lander started to think that he might improve on the idea. He began to experiment. Using a roaster he had bought in better times, he started roasting his beans and selling them on Facebook to friends in the United States. He also opened a coffee shop, called the Common Cup, in Monteverde, and sold his coffee to tourists.

When he ran out of beans, he teamed up with two other area coffee farmers, Jorge Fonseca and Alejandro Garcia — who also had a coffee shop, the Colibri — and began shipping greater volumes. Suddenly, he was making money. Read more of this post

IMF Says EU Banks Face Further Losses

March 15, 2013, 12:18 p.m. ET

IMF Says EU Banks Face Further Losses

By PAUL HANNON

With anemic economic growth likely to lead to more losses on loans, risks to the financial stability of the European Union remain “elevated,” and urgent action is needed to adequately capitalize the bloc’s banks and establish a shared system for closing down or restructuring failing institutions, the International Monetary Fund said Friday.

In its first-ever review of the health of the financial system across all 27 EU members, the IMF said the bloc has made some progress in addressing the weaknesses that have exacerbated its fiscal crisis and stalled its economic recovery.

But it said much work remains to be done, with banks likely to face higher losses on loans to households and businesses to add to the losses they have suffered on their holdings of government bonds. The Fund added that low economic growth and low interest rates may also weaken insurance companies and pension funds.

“Risks remain elevated, especially in a context of low growth and fiscal retrenchment,” the IMF’s board of directors said. “Regulatory and policy uncertainty, and gaps in policy frameworks also continue to pose vulnerabilities. Further ambitious steps are thus necessary to rebuild confidence and achieve long-lasting financial stability in the region.” Read more of this post

JPMorgan… Or Long-Term Capital Management?

JPMorgan… Or Long-Term Capital Management?

Tyler Durden on 03/15/2013 10:57 -0400

Compare and contrast to the performance of LTCM just before it had to be bailed out, ushering in the modern era of of Too Big To Fail.

CIO P&L_0LTCM P&L

Europe Does It Again: Cyprus Depositor Haircut “Bailout” Turns Into Saver “Panic”, Frozen Assets, Bank Runs, Broken ATMs, Bulldozer Parks Outside Bank; After Cyprus, Who Is Next?

Europe Does It Again: Cyprus Depositor Haircut “Bailout” Turns Into Saver “Panic”, Frozen Assets, Bank Runs, Broken ATMs

Tyler Durden on 03/16/2013 10:33 -0400

Loan to Deposit ratio_0Euro Banks Loans vs Total vs US_0

Europe has done it again.

Late last night, after markets closed for the weekend, following an extended discussion the European finance ministers announced their “bailout” solution for Russian oligarch depositor-haven Cyprus: a €13 billion bailout (Europe’s fifth) with a huge twist: the implementation of what has been the biggest taboo in European bailouts to date – the  impairment of depositors, and a fresh, full blown escalation in the status quo’s war against savers everywhere.

Specifically, Cyprus will impose a levy of 6.75% on deposits of less than €100,000 – the ceiling for European Union account insurance, which is now effectively gone following this case study – and 9.9% above that. The measures will raise €5.8 billion, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who leads the group of euro-area ministers, said. Read more of this post

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