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  • Antipope Charlie Stross argues that the publishing industry, beset by consolidations, is trying unsuccessfully to move from an artisan model of literary production to something new. Would that something new could be found and made to work.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper that tries to model the atmosphere and climate of the exoplanet Gliese 581g, potentially Earth-like but tidally locked.

  • The Dragon's Tales reports on the ongoing events in Ukraine.

  • Geocurrents' Martin Lewis maps the political divides of the south India state of Kerala onto caste and religious boundaries.

  • Language Log links to a paper analyzing big data in linguistics.

  • Languages of the World's Asya Perelstvaig notes that California is exceptionally diverse language-wise.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money's Erik Loomis notes that the ability of journalist Nicholas Kristof to be fooled by an alleged anti-prostitution activist in Cambodia prone to making things up fits in a long Progressive history of being easily fooled about things Progressives care about..

  • Torontoist introduces the new Fort York branch of the Toronto library system.

  • Towleroad's David Mixner interviews GLBT activists in Italy about their challenges.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy's Eugene Volokh notes, in discussing the underemployment of many minorities at Google relative to their shares of the American population, the ways in which Asians are assimilated to the white majority, at least rhetorically.

  • Window on Eurasia links to a Russian journalist's analysis of the consequences of Russia's annexation of Crimea. It's bad for Russia internationally, he concludes, but a good way for the state to consolidate its control domestically.

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Sometimes when links accumulate too much they just need to be posted all at once. This may become a regular Monday feature, who knows?


  • Gilbert Casasus at Marianne2 notes (in French) that Germany is now seeing net emigration, with Switzerland being a major destination and with East Germans being especially likely to leave.

  • Silicon India observes that over 2003-2008 remittances sent by Keralan guest workers in the Middle East have risen by 135%, with the United Arab Emirates emerging as a major target and with Muslim Keralans providing a disproportionately large share of remittances.

  • The Portugal News reports that Chinese trade with Lusophone countries fell by 34% in the first half of 2009, with trade with its most important Lusophone partners Brazil then Angola falling the most. In addition, efforts to promote trade between Lusophone countries aren't working.

  • Loro Horta in Thailand's The Nation comments on the long-term consequences of an increasingly close Sino-Brazilian relationship on the wider Americas.
  • National Geographic News' Brian Handwerk reports on new research suggesting that large differences between juvenile and mature dinosaurs may have led to a misidentification of juveniles as separate species.
  • National Geographic News also reports that, for a variety of reasons, indigenous peoples are suffering more at a per capita rate from swine flu than the general population.

  • Wired Science's Alexis Madrigal covers the news that some space scientists would like to dispatch a probe on a return mission to a Martian moon, carrying life, in order to see whether or not life could survive in space and panspermia would be possible.

  • The Times Online reports on the latest effort by the (disputed) heir to the French throne to try to reestablish the French throne in the face of general disinterest.

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Inter Press Service's Ranjit Devraj reports on how public and official opinion in the Indian state of Kerala is turning strongly against India's recent free trade agreement with ASEAN, the Southeast Asian trade and diplomatic alliance. These Keralan groups fear that Southeast Asian competition in agriculture and fisheries will overshadow whatever gains that India might make in exports to Southeast Asia.

With the Indo-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA) now slated to become operative in Jan. 2010, agricultural experts, fishermen’s representatives, trade union leaders and Kerala’s Marxist Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan have been at pains to convince the pro-reform central government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the deal should be postponed or scuttled.

India is a dialogue partner at ASEAN - which comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. ASEAN already has FTAs with three other dialogue partners - China, Japan and South Korea.

"The centre has bypassed its constitutional duty to take Kerala and other states into confidence before deciding to go ahead with this deal," Achuthanandan told IPS soon after a meeting with Singh in the national capital this week to discuss the issue. "We are yet to see a copy of the proposed pact which, if signed, will undoubtedly affect the fisheries and plantation sectors."

It does not help that Kerala - a state of 32 million people, with high human development indices - is ruled by the Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M), which is bitterly opposed to the pro-liberalisation polices of Singh’s Congress party-led government.

[. . .]

Also with multilateral trade agreements under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) having hit an impasse there is a new emphasis on bilateral and regional trade agreements. As for competition there is a need to improve productivity and quality as India gradually integrates into the global market.

"Such arguments are all very well but the ground realities are very different," says Thomas Verghese, a distinguished agricultural scientist and chairman of the Kerala State Prices Board. "There are huge differences in productivity, labour costs and inputs in the participating countries which cannot be easily bridged."

Speaking with IPS over telephone from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala’s capital, Verghese said while the productivity of pepper is 380 kilograms per hectare in India it is 1,000 kilograms per hectare in Vietnam and 3,000 kilograms per hectare in Indonesia. "If this FTA goes through, pepper may cease to be produced in Kerala, the land where it originated."
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  • Centauri Dreams speculates about the implications for SETI if most civilizations don't experience breakneck growth indefinitely but instead collapse, and highlights the discovery of a planet orbiting a star in the Andromeda Galaxy. (Yes, "!" to that second item.)

  • Crooked Timber's John Quiggin argues that the growing prominence of pro-piracy groups, in Europe and elsewhere, might trigger new clashes over the topic of strong intellectual property rights.

  • Over at Demography Matters, Aslak examines the demographics behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with fertility rates and migration rates and their implications and all.

  • Edward Lucas examines some of the main differences between Western and Soviet views of the Second World War.

  • Itching in Eestimaa examines Lithuania from the standpoint of an Estonian traveller.

  • Language Hat links to a report in Le monde diplomatique on the strength of the reading public of the Malayalam language, spoken in Kerala.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money links to an argument suggesting that perhaps North Korea doesn't have all of Seoul within easy range of its artillery.

  • At the Pagan Prattle, [livejournal.com profile] feorag links to a surprising number of religious-themed crochet projects.

  • Noel Maurer points out that members of American ethnic minority groups who excel need not have assimilated.

  • Strange Maps reproduces a Salazar-era map showing that Portugal was not a small country in the European context by superimposing its empire over a map of the European continent.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on the growing discontent of Crimean Tatars with a Ukrainian government that hasn't been of much help in restoring their property rights and giving them secure tenure.

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Way back when, I posted a link to an article claiming that the Indian state of Kerala had managed to achieve a high standard of living for its 30 million-odd people through its innovative state-led economic model characterized by high investment in education and health care. Others pointed out that Kerala was actually heavily subsidized by a very large migrant diaspora's remittances, said diaspora being particularly concentrated in the Persian Gulf. As The Guardian points out, this is no longer working out, as the experience of the community of Sakthikulangara shows.

All the villagers had taken a big gamble in the past when they sold their fishing boats, borrowed money at usurious rates, and went off to work on construction projects in the Gulf.

But the building boom stalled last year - according to Morgan Stanley, real estate projects worth as much as £263bn have been delayed or scrapped in the United Arab Emirates. The knock-on effects are being felt across south Asia, which has provided formidable legions of labour to the emirates.

"Around 1,500 to 2,000 fishermen from Sakthikulangara were employed in prestigious sea reclamation projects in the UAE, such as Palm Island or the World," said John Cyril, a local businessman assisting the Gulf returnees. "Due to the recession, almost 90% are back."

[. . .]

About two million people from Kerala work abroad, almost 90% of whom are in the Gulf and in Saudi Arabia. Many are poor, semi-skilled labourers who have taken loans of up to £2,000, often from moneylenders, to pay recruitment agents for overseas jobs. They work 12-hour days, live without their families in harsh conditions, earn between £500-£1,000 a month, and send most of the money home.

Every year migrant workers remit some £5.5bn to Kerala, money that has helped transform the state, and metamorphose places like Sakthikulangara. The first time the coastal village saw a rise in its fortunes was in the 1950s, when a Norwegian aid project helped modernise traditional fishing. But as the seafood business dried up due to overfishing in the 1990s, the Gulf provided a much bigger bonanza. Testimony to this are the brightly painted concrete houses that have replaced the traditional thatched dwellings in the village.

"We can always find some work here, but to improve our lives, to build a nice house, we have to go to the Gulf," said Peter Benziger, who was forced to return last month after working for four years as a construction worker.

The communist-led state government in Kerala is deeply concerned at the sudden influx of its own, and has announced a £15m rehab package for returning workers. "We could end up with half-a-million coming back in the months to come," finance minister Thomas Isaac told India Today weekly.
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Over at Asia Times, Shirin Shirin's article "Kerala sets example to the world" argues that the economic model of that Indian state sets an example for the world with its resistance to "market fundamentalism" and its significantly positive outcomes in terms of human and economic development.

Kerala boasts one of the nation's finest healthcare systems, even for those who can't afford to pay user fees and therefore depend on government hospitals. Kerala's infant mortality rate is about 16 deaths per 1,000 births, or half the national average of 32 deaths per 1,000 births.

Aside from the social development indicators, Kerala's growth rate in the last few years averaged between 6-10%, not only keeping pace with the national average but at times ranking among the fastest growing states in the country. The sectors that are doing well are largely those that are thriving across India - information technology, services and tourism - but agricultural production and small-scale manufacturing are also succeeding.

Development experts have debated for years about whether or not a "Kerala model" exists and, if so, whether that model can be exported to other countries or even other Indian states. Whether or not Kerala's development experience can be categorized and replicated, a few things stand out about its political and economic history.

In the first place, the state had a matrilineal and even a matriarchal society, with a line of forward-looking queens that still ruled much of Kerala in the early days of the British Empire. The queen of Trivandrum, for instance, issued a royal decree in 1817 declaring that "the state should defray the entire cost of the education of its people in order that there might be no backwardness in the spread of enlightenment". Not until the latter part of the 19th century would countries like Britain and the United States provide such services for their own populations.

A single party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M), has ruled Kerala for much of the past 50 years. The CPI(M) successfully pushed for three major reforms in the 1960s and 1970s. The first and most important was land reform. While nearly everyone looks on land reform as a huge success in Kerala, the policy was controversial when it was first proposed in 1959. Land reform, after all, is an attack on one of capitalism's founding principles - the right to property. The central government intervened and effectively blocked the implementation of land reform for 10 years. But planners and unions in Kerala understood that building a more egalitarian economy required attacking the old feudal system at its roots, and small farmers weren't going to stand for anything less.

Secondly, the CPI(M) deliberately and methodically invested in education, setting goals so popular with the electorate that even when the communists lost power, new governments did not dare modify education policies.

Lastly, Kerala invested heavily in government-financed healthcare. The state now boasts 160 patient beds per 100,000 people, the highest rate in the country.

When considered in its component pieces - state-sponsored land reform, education, infrastructure and social services initiatives - the "Kerala model" is not particularly revolutionary. Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) uses land reform (though it uses the phrase "market-based land reform" to justify a different kind of redistribution).

So why haven't other Indian states - or even many other developing countries - been able to use the Kerala model as a path to development? The answer may lie in when Kerala chose to follow this path. The 1960s and 1970s were before structural adjustment programs and free-market principles dominated the discourse of development economics. Kerala borrowed heavily - and still borrows - to finance its social investments. While other countries have made similar investments, IMF-backed austerity measures have rolled back those investments before they could bear fruit. Now that the age of Milton Friedman appears to be nearing its end, the world would do well to give Kerala another look.


Shirin overlooks ways in which Kerala's economic model is based on highly contingent factors like (say) the influx of funds via Gulf workers' remittances, and "market fundamentalism" is a phrase that leaves me cold. Still, there is still be something to Shirin's argument.
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Today at Wikipedia's front page, the article on the Indian state of Kerala is given pride of place. It should be; it's an impressively complete article about an impressively accomplished society.
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