World Economic Forum

Davos faces the most pressing global challenge of the day: How to protect the elites from everybody else.

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Tonight, President Obama will accept the Democratic Party nomination with a speech in which he will lay out the case for a second term. The context, of course, is the volatility of the past four years in the U.S. economy and the entire global economy, marked by deep recession and weak recoveries in the developed economies and cooling growth in emerging markets. What about the long term? After all, the long-term game on jobs is competitiveness.

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The Idea Biz

Today’s New York Times op-ed page carries two separate citations from last week’s Aspen Ideas Festival, which probably means the thing has already paid for itself. The ideas cited are good ones, but the increasing dominance of corporate-sponsored idea-disseminators like the Aspen festival and the TED conferences (gently lampooned by my friend Nathan Heller in a recent New Yorker takeout) makes me wonder whether ideas upsetting to the moneyed classes will become harder to shoehorn into the national conversation.

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The Idea Biz

Today's New York Times op-ed page carries two separate citations from last week's Aspen Ideas Festival, which probably means the thing has already paid for itself. The ideas cited are good ones, but the increasing dominance of corporate-sponsored idea-disseminators like the Aspen festival and the TED conferences (gently lampooned by my friend Nathan Heller in a recent New Yorker takeout) makes me wonder whether ideas upsetting to the moneyed classes will become harder to shoehorn into the national conversation.

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Occupy Davos

The Occupy movement has found, at last, the heart of the beast. The good news is that it's in the Swiss Alps, with some of the finest skiing in all of Europe just a stone's throw away. The bad news is that instead of tents the Occupiers get igloos. Who knew Davos could be a hardship post? Give me Cleveland any day. "To dismiss the Occupy WEF [i.e., World Economic Forum] movement would be a mistake," an anonymous Davos blogger informs us. Do you hear that, plutocrats? The Wall Street Journal reports that there are 70 billionaires among the 2,500 attendees.

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Sunday’s announcement that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had granted Saudi women the right to vote and stand for office in municipal elections was big news around the world. At a glance, it certainly sounded like terrific news—what, after all, is a more direct emblem of the march of progress than the right to vote? But while the announcement may represent some very marginal progress, Saudi Arabia remains one of the worst places on earth to be a woman.

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Yesterday, the World Economic Forum released its annual Global Competitiveness Report 2011-2012, which compares the ability of 142 economies to produce quality growth.  A far-reaching endeavor, the report compares national economies based on a Global Competitiveness Index, a combination of 12 factors (expressed as 110 indicators) from institutions, infrastructure, and macroeconomic environment to market size, innovation and labor market efficiency.

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"Catalans should disregard rulings by Spanish judiciary" is the headline to a letter in the Financial Times. It is signed by Gustau Alegret who wrote from Washington, D.C. I do not know him.

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The Wall Street Journal reports that a lot of the bank executives who shunned last year's World Economic Forum in Davos are quietly returning this year. Which could get a little awkward, since the execs will rubbing elbows with the global glitterati right around the time the average American is fulminating against their outrageously high bonuses. How's a banker to deal with the potential PR problem? According to the Journal, the answer is ...

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It’s now widely believed that the global recession is coming to an end, but the path out has been far from typical: This time around, China, not the U.S. has led the global recovery. With its $600 billion stimulus package and with banks lending with abandon, China has become the engine of global manufacturing and industrial activity.

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