Ten interesting things that we read this week

Some of the most interesting topics covered in this week's iteration are related to 'tackling rising US healthcare costs', 'China's work ethic', and 'Maasai's brand fight'

Published: Feb 4, 2018 06:10:41 AM IST
Updated: Feb 2, 2018 03:20:18 PM IST

Ten interesting things that we read this weekImage: Shutterstock

At Ambit, we spend a lot of time reading articles that cover a wide gamut of topics, including investment analysis, psychology, science, technology, philosophy, etc. We have been sharing our favourite reads with clients under our weekly ‘Ten Interesting Things’ product. Some of the most interesting topics covered in this week’s iteration are related to ‘tackling rising US healthcare costs’, ‘China’s work ethic’, and ‘Maasai’s brand fight’.

Here are the ten most interesting pieces that we read this week, ended February 2, 2018.  

1) Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase join forces to tackle employees’ health-care costs [Source: Washington Post]
Three giant and influential employers - Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase - announced on 30th January that they are partnering to create an independent company aimed at reining in health-care costs for their U.S. employees. There were almost no details available about what the company would do or how it would use technology to disrupt and simplify the complicated fabric of American health care. But there's no doubt that the companies, which collectively employ more than 1 million workers worldwide, have a real interest in ratcheting down their spending on health care. Health-care premiums are split between employers and employees and have been growing much faster than wages. Major health company stock prices tumbled on the news, and the announcement stirred excitement — and questions — about how the three companies could bring their clout to containing costs in the massive employer-sponsored health insurance market, which provides coverage to approximately 160 million Americans.

Between 2012 and 2017, workers' earnings grew by 12%, while premiums went up by 19%. Between 2007 and 2012, premiums increased twice as fast as workers' earnings. The announcement by the three corporate giants comes amid rampant rumors and anticipation that Amazon could disrupt health care as it has in other industries, particularly in the business of selling prescription drugs. The joint venture is not currently expected to be a new health insurance company or a hospital or a pharmaceutical company, but a company that can bring technology tools to bear on making health care more transparent, affordable and simple. Interestingly, this isn't the first time big employers have tried to tackle health-care costs. Two years ago, 20 major companies including Verizon, American Express, IBM and Shell Oil joined in a Health Transformation Alliance to improve the way health care is purchased for employees. Mercer, a human resources consulting firm, runs several collectives of employers that join forces to purchase prescription drugs, using the extra leverage from having a larger group to wring better prices.

Brian Marcotte, president of the National Business Group on Health, said that one of the problems of employer purchasing coalitions is that the existing health-care market remains very centered on the providers. The new effort, he said, might be able to change that. Amazon, with 541,900 employees globally as of October, is known for transforming industries. For months, rumours that it could enter health care have sent shudders through the stock prices of companies whose business models might be threatened. Some see the biggest health-care deal in years - a merger between CVS and Aetna announced last year — as partially fueled by the threat that Amazon could start selling drugs. Berkshire’s longtime chairman, Warren Buffett, said last year at his shareholder meeting that health-care costs were a bigger impediment to American competitiveness than taxes. It’s unclear as of now what new expertise this group will bring to the effort, but Berkshire has a lot at stake in reining in health-care spending. The company last year spent $1.25 billion on medical benefits for 300,000 U.S. employees and family members.

The independent company would be jointly led by executives from all three companies, although a chief executive has not yet been announced. It will be free from the need to deliver a profit. Todd Combs, an investment officer of Berkshire Hathaway, Marvelle Sullivan Berchtold, a managing director of JPMorgan Chase and Beth Galetti, a senior vice president at Amazon will manage the company in its early stages. The vague details about what the company will do to contain health spending raise more questions than they answer, said Benjamin Gomes-Casseres, a professor of strategy at Brandeis University International Business School. “They are all companies who know well about profit. Their expertise is managing profit in their core operations. If it does what they want to do, which is lower health care costs for employees, that goes to their bottom line — lowering the health-care costs of employees lowers the cost of employment," Gomes-Casseres said. Whether and how that will benefit employees directly — and whether solutions the company develops will scale and be a model that could be used by other employers — remains uncertain, he said.

2) China’s work ethic threatens to leave Silicon Valley behind  [Financial Times]
In California, the blogs are full of chatter about the inequity of life. In recent months, there have been complaints about the political sensibilities of speakers invited to address a corporate audience; debates over the appropriate length of paternity leave or work-life balances; and grumbling about the need for a space for musical jam sessions. These seem like the concerns of a society that is becoming unhinged. These topics are absent in China’s technology companies, where the pace of work is furious. Here, top managers show up for work at about 8am and frequently don’t leave until 10pm. Most of them will do this six days a week — and there are plenty of examples of people who do this for seven. Beyond the week-long breaks for Chinese new year and the October national holiday, most will just steal an additional handful of vacation days. Some technology companies also provide a rental subsidy to employees who choose to live close to corporate HQ.

In California, this sort of pace might be common for the first couple of years of a company, but then it will slow. In China, by contrast, it is quite usual for the management of 10 and 15-year-old companies to have working dinners followed by two or three meetings. If a Chinese company schedules tasks for the weekend, nobody complains about missing a Little League game or skipping a basketball outing with friends. Little wonder it is a common sight at a Chinese company to see many people with their heads resting on their desks taking a nap in the early afternoon. While male chauvinism is still common in the home, women have an easier time gaining recognition and respect in China’s technology workplaces — although they are still seriously under-represented in the senior ranks. Many of these high-flyers only see their children - who are often raised by a grandmother or nanny, for a few minutes a day. There are even examples of husbands, eager to spend time with their wives, who travel with them on business trips as a way to maintain contact.

There is also a deep-rooted sense of frugality. You don’t see $700 office chairs or large flat panel computer screens at most of the leading technology companies. Instead, the furniture tends to be spartan and everyone works on laptops. It is common for facility managers to allocate 80-100 square feet to each employee, compared with two to three times that amount in California. On long-haul business flights most employees will fly economy and many share hotel rooms to save costs. It is also striking to the western eye how frequently a tea bag is reused or how, in winter, employees dress in coats and scarves at their desks to ward off the bone-chilling temperature. There are plenty of workplaces in China insulated from these sorts of sensibilities — particularly within the large, state-controlled companies. The pace is also slower outside Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangdong. There is also no doubt that the roots of this work ethic spring from memories of privation and the desire to improve personal circumstances. Some of it is also due to the disregard paid to physical fitness — a pursuit that can chew up eight to 10 hours a week in Silicon Valley.

The Chinese approach may seem unhealthy and unappealing to westerners and, as China’s gross domestic product rises the collective thirst for improvement may start to wane — but for now it’s a fact of life. Western investors may complain that there are some companies from which they are excluded but, for the most part, investment opportunities in the best companies are available and, in many respects, doing business in China is easier than doing business in California. As the Chinese technology companies push ever harder outside the mainland, the habits of western companies will start to seem antique.

3) Warrior tribe enlists lawyers in battle for Maasai ‘brand’ [Source: Financial Times]
The Maasai, known for their red-checked togas, fine beadwork and proud warrior history, are an attractive icon for firms wishing to establish particular brand values. Light Years IP, a Washington-based advocacy group, estimates that more than 1,000 companies, including Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Jaguar Land Rover and Masai Barefoot Technology, a shoe company, have used Maasai imagery or iconography to project their brand. The Maasai are now taking a legalistic approach to protecting — and monetising — their cultural heritage. They are working with Position Business, a spin-off from Light Years IP, whose founder, Ron Layton, helped Ethiopian coffee growers build trademark protection around their premium coffee. That involved a battle with Starbucks, the US coffee chain, which sought to block the registration of Ethiopian coffee trademarks on the grounds that they had become generic. Mr. Layton estimates that Ethiopian farmers, who used to earn “a fraction of the retail value of their premium product”, have gained at least $100m because of the trademark protection.

He says royalties that could be claimed by the Maasai are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He adds that they could eventually use their brand to strike deals across a range of products from fashion to vehicles, in which a typical licensing fee would be 5% of the retail value. “If someone were using Taylor Swift’s image, she would ask for at least 5% and she would get it,” Mr. Layton says, referring to the American singer-songwriter. “A human being can stop others from using their image. With the Maasai this is an asset that belongs to 2m people,” he argues. The Maasai recently struck their first deal with Koy Clothing, a UK retail company, which has agreed to pay a licence fee for clothes based on Maasai designs. They are hoping to persuade other companies using their brand to pay a royalty. Masai Barefoot Technology, a Singaporean company, is one of the Maasai’s first targets. It markets a popular brand of sports shoe whose destabilising-sole design is intended to build muscle by emulating the Maasai gait over soft ground. Some of its shoes resemble those that the Maasai fashion from old tires.

The Maasai are not the first community to seek to protect and profit from their brand. Aboriginal Australians have, after years of struggle, established protocols that mean they are now routinely paid fees when companies use their image or ancestral lands for commercial or marketing purposes. However, the Maasai have a long battle ahead of them. It could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to register trademarks in every jurisdiction and for every category of product, she adds. “If you are the Maasai and you want to prevent people using your trademark, you are going to have to pay,” Ms. Cornell says. “And you’re up against commercial players with deep pockets.”

4) Why the alt-right is winning America’s meme war [Financial Times]
Almost a decade ago, Matt Goerzen, a Canadian artist and social scientist, stumbled into the world of subversive internet chatrooms. He was fascinated — and alarmed. Goerzen could see that the anonymity of the internet was enabling a virulently angry, anti-establishment community to emerge on platforms, such as “4chan”, where users post under pseudonyms with little or no moderation. And while these groups did not initially seem very political (the message boards were notorious instead for puerile humour and pornography), as the years passed they became infused with an “alt-right” agenda — that of the white nationalist movement. They also became adept at launching online attacks on their opponents, or “trolling”. The artist in Goerzen observed something else: what made the alt-right so influential was that the users were not just using words to communicate their messages, but snappy visual images too. Alt-right users had become adept at creating visual “memes”, to use the phrase coined by Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist, back in the 1970s, to describe a “unit of cultural transmission” that spread from “mind to mind”.

“These [white nationalists] are a small group of people,” explains Goerzen, who now works as a researcher at a New York-based project called Data and Society, which studies modern cyberculture and media. “But these groups can deliver an outsized impact because of their ability to push the right buttons to bait the media.” It is an important point to ponder, particularly given the furore in Washington around racist imagery, and the degree to which malevolent political forces (in Russia, for example) have been using social media to discredit and delegitimise political debate. When reports emerged that President Donald Trump had used the word “shithole” to describe countries such as Haiti or Nigeria, mainstream observers were understandably appalled. But many alt-right message groups were thrilled. “Shithole” is a tag that has circulated in these message groups for a long time, giving birth to a range of memes. “Ha, CNN is actually saying shithole,” crowed one commenter on 4chan. Another participant said, amid a stream of cartoons and messages on the subject: “Who wants to colour in the world in five shades of brown?”

To be fair, there is no evidence that Trump has visited sites such as 4chan, and the word “shithole” is a fairly common expletive in America. However, the images created on 4chan and the more extreme 8chan have been seeping into social media and news publications such as Breitbart. During the presidential campaign, Trump shared an image on Twitter of Hillary Clinton against a backdrop of money, with the phrase “Most corrupt candidate ever!” in a red six-pointed star. The image, with its anti-Semitic overtones, was discovered to have been previously featured on 8chan, though Trump’s social-media director later said it had been “lifted from an anti-Hillary Twitter user” and insisted that the star was a sheriff’s star.

The alt-right has swelled in power by presenting itself as a victim of elitist attacks, and the memes are so potent precisely because they are designed to be subversive and to bait their opponents into a reaction. Indeed, what is going on here is a classic example of the type of “network” effect described by Niall Ferguson, the British historian, in his 2017 book “The Square and the Tower”: people are congregating online to challenge hierarchies, using the power of the (cyber) crowd against the elite. This fight is not just about ideas, but communication styles too. Five centuries ago, Martin Luther upended the power of the Roman Catholic Church by using vernacular speech to undercut priestly Latin. Today, alt-right trolls are using memes to overturn mainstream ideas about political communication. The urgent question is whether there is any way for people to counter alt-right memes. After all, as Goerzen points out, one of the great oddities of our cyber age is that the leftwing of American politics (never mind the mainstream) has hitherto been ineffective at using this visual language.

5) The UK opened the door for Facebook and Google to start acting like banks [Source: qz.com]
Now tech companies can get into banking, without having to become a bank. Starting 13th January, the UK’s nine biggest banks, which service most of the population, no longer have a lock on the state’s financial transactions. New rules that are part of a UK directive called Open Banking aim to make it easier to compare and switch UK banks. Financial institutions will have to share their customer data with other companies if customers give permission. That means third parties will also be able to make payments on behalf of customers, or manage their finances for them. This opens the door for tech companies like Facebook and Google. Both Facebook and Google have waded into payments in the UK with products like Pay by Messenger, which launched in November, and Google Wallet, where you can send payments via email. With the new rules, Facebook could think about extending payments to WhatsApp as it has in other part of the world, and Google Pay could someday be used as freely as it is in the US, where users pay for travel via apps such as Airbnb, or buy goods in physical stores.

Previously, companies like Facebook and Google had to negotiate deals directly with banks in the UK to get access to account or transaction data when given permissions, which limited the opportunities for these kinds of products. Startups with less negotiating power needed to ask for your username and password, then log into your bank’s website and scrape it for information like your transaction history. The new rules force the UK’s big banks—Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, Barclays, Danske, HSBC, Lloyds, Nationwide, RBS, and Santander—to put APIs in place that standardize and secure the release of customer data, so that it’s easier to share when customers allow it. “Next time you need to send your friend a tenner, you’ll instant-message them the money, rather than opening up your boring bank app, fiddling about finding their bank details, authenticating yourself again and finally firing off the cash,” digital-financial consultant David Birch wrote in Wired UK this month. “You’ll just type ‘+£10’ in your WhatsApp chat.” It would also mean that when you buy something on a site like Amazon, the retailer wouldn’t have to contact a third party to get in touch with Visa or Mastercard to take the payment from your account. It could cut out the middle men and take that payment directly from your bank account.

And it paves the way for products that could allow you to see all of your banking information in one place if you have accounts with multiple banks, or securely share all of your finances with lenders when you apply for a loan. With the new directive, tech companies and startups could become real rivals to historic financial institutions.

6) The problem with Annihilation’s messy release [Source: The Atlantic]
When Paramount released the Amy Adams–starring Arrival in November 2016, it was one of the biggest hits of the year for the studio. It grossed $203 million worldwide, was critically acclaimed, and netted eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for Denis Villeneuve. On paper, the upcoming sci-fi drama Annihilation looks like a similar project for the studio. It’s from an acclaimed filmmaker (Alex Garland, who made Ex Machina), has a big female star (Natalie Portman), and is aimed at the kind of grown-up audience Paramount has targeted in recent years with movies like Fences, Allied, and The Big Short. Only this time, the studio doesn’t seem eager to be associated with the project. Annihilation is being released in American theaters on February 23, but with much less promotional fanfare than Arrival got. Outside of the U.S., Canada, and China, the movie isn’t getting a theatrical rollout at all— its international release will be handled by Netflix, to whom Paramount sold the rights in December. This arrangement is practically unheard of for a major studio, since it openly acknowledges that Paramount doesn’t think the film will make money. So what’s the rationale behind Paramount’s decision?

Paramount apparently sold the international rights to Annihilation after poor test-screening results last summer indicated the film might be “too intellectual” for general audiences. Garland’s last movie, Ex Machina, was a pint-sized hit, grossing $25 million and garnering an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. For the indie studio A24, that was a solid result, and it was enough to get the director a deal at a major studio. But it seems Paramount wanted something more mainstream from Garland. Annihilation will still hit screens in the world’s two biggest markets—the U.S. and China—but the Netflix partnership is an unusually public show of nervousness over the film’s profitability. Paramount can use the money from the deal to help recoup the film’s reported $55 million budget, but if Annihilation is a hit, the studio will miss out on any international grosses. The deal also effectively signals Paramount’s lack of trust in the vision of the filmmaker it hired.

It’s a more extreme version of the clash between commerce and artistry that’s repeatedly played out in Hollywood in recent years, though it’s rare for such drama to break out after the film is completed. Annihilation isn’t a small-scale drama; it’s a visually inventive sci-fi epic, the likes of which major studios have produced for decades. Paramount bowing out of its international theatrical rollout is another example of the industry shifting away from films that aren’t proven box-office quantities. Ironically, the same kind of Netflix deal is reportedly being mulled for another Paramount movie, God Particle, part of the loosely connected Cloverfield franchise. The other two Cloverfield films were hits for Paramount, but apparently, the studio’s new CEO Jim Gianopulos has identified the $40 million–budgeted space thriller as a risk. Paramount’s decision is partly motivated by internal politics, too. Annihilation was ordered by the late Brad Grey, the studio’s prior CEO, who was ousted in February 2017 after a string of flops. His replacement, Gianopulos, has less attachment to the projects Grey shepherded and is seeking to shore things up after the studio’s disastrous 2017. But it’s rare for an upcoming film to lose theatrical distribution because of the failure of unrelated past projects; Annihilation, after all, had very little to do with Baywatch not connecting with audiences.

Annihilation and God Particle could be one-off casualties dumped onto Netflix as the studio tries to get its books in order. Or this could be the sign of a more worrying Hollywood trend, in which the very idea of a bigger-budgeted film that isn’t a guaranteed financial success is simply anathema to a big studio, with Netflix used as a last-resort, cost-saving measure. Another studio, New Line, has cut a deal with the service for an upcoming Shaft movie starring Samuel L. Jackson and Jessie Usher, in which the studios split the production costs and Netflix gets the international rights. It’s a model other studios could soon follow. But there’s a difference between making such a deal up front and doing it well after a movie has completed production. When Garland made Ex Machina in 2015 and released it to strong reviews, healthy box office (it made more than twice its budget worldwide), and Oscar success, he seemed primed as one of the most exciting new voices in Hollywood. He was a perfect candidate to helm a bigger-budgeted studio film. Paramount’s demonstration of its lack of faith in Annihilation is a particularly chilling reminder of how risk-averse many big studios have become, and perhaps a sign to artists to consider taking their work elsewhere.

7) Why I left Google to join Grab [Source: Medium.com]
In this article, Steve Yegge, recounts his experience at Google. While he’s got several good stories to share, he talks about a few observations to help paint a backdrop for why, of all the great companies out there, he chose to join Grab. The main reason he left Google is because they can no longer innovate. According to him, they’ve pretty much lost that ability. He believes there are several contributing factors, of which he lists four here – they’re conservative, they are mired in politics, they’re arrogant and Google has become 100% competitor-focused rather than customer focused.

According to him, Google’s nearly the entire portfolio of launches over the past decade, copy a competitor: Google+ (Facebook), Google Cloud (AWS), Google Home (Amazon Echo), Allo (WhatsApp), Android Instant Apps (Facebook, WeChat), Google Assistant (Apple/Siri), and on and on and on. They are stuck in me-too mode and have been for years. They simply don’t have innovation in their DNA any more. And it’s because their eyes are fixed on their competitors, not their customers. To be fair, there are exceptions. Google’s Cloud Spanner, BigQuery, TensorFlow, Waymo and a few others are generational innovations and will take some time for the industry to catch up with. In short, Steve feels Google just isn’t a very inspiring place to work anymore. And so, like many Googlers, he had been thinking of moving on for a few years. But where would he go? It takes a lot to pry someone away from the best place to work on earth, since if nothing else, Google still has a pretty incredible work environment, especially for engineers. Also, he feels that almost all big name-brand tech companies are much the same now. It seems like you can only really get inspiration from startups these days.

About joining Grab, he feels it’s like going on a revolutionary war. He has never felt so excited about something since maybe the early days of Grok, when he was working 12+ hour days on his mini-startup within Google to revolutionize the way developers interacted with a billion-line code base. So what is Grab? Well, the simple and unsatisfying answer is: They’re the Uber of Southeast Asia. But that’s a terrible marketing message, because Uber is trying their best to become the most hated company in the U.S. It’s like touting them as the Comcast of Southeast Asia. And it’s also inaccurate because the Grab and Uber company philosophies are so radically different.

Further, he feels after the ride-hailing transport, food-delivery would be a game-changer. And he adds that transport and food are only scratching the surface. You need to download the Grab app in order to hail a ride or order food. Everyone in Southeast Asia has smartphones, so everyone there is getting the Grab app. Which means the next step is mobile Payments. Grab is signing up local merchants — and there are millions of them who can participate — at an incredible rate, so that people can pay for stuff with their Grab app. Southeast Asians use smartphones possibly more than anyone else in the world. There’s another player in SEA, strongly resembling Grab. And they’re fierce. That competitor is Go-Jek. Go-Jek and Grab are mortal enemies, locked in a life-and-death land war that’s going to enable the biggest social and economic transformation in modern history.

8) New brain mapping technique highlights relationship between connectivity and IQ [Source: rdmag.com
A new and relatively simple technique for mapping the wiring of the brain has shown a correlation between how well connected an individual's brain regions are and their intelligence, say researchers at the University of Cambridge. In recent years, there has been a concerted effort among scientists to map the connections in the brain - the so-called 'connectome' - and to understand how this relates to human behaviours, such as intelligence and mental health disorders. Now, in research published in the journal Neuron, an international team led by scientists at the University of Cambridge and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA, has shown that it is possible to build up a map of the connectome by analysing conventional brain scans taken using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner.

The team compared the brains of 296 typically-developing adolescent volunteers. Their results were then validated in a cohort of a further 124 volunteers. The team used a conventional 3T MRI scanner, where 3T represents the strength of the magnetic field; however, Cambridge has recently installed a much more powerful Siemens 7T Terra MRI scanner, which should allow this technique to give an even more precise mapping of the human brain. A typical MRI scan will provide a single image of the brain, from which it is possible to calculate multiple structural features of the brain. This means that every region of the brain can be described using as many as ten different characteristics. The researchers showed that if two regions have similar profiles, then they are described as having 'morphometric similarity' and it can be assumed that they are a connected network. They verified this assumption using publically-available MRI data on a cohort of 31 juvenile rhesus macaque monkeys to compare to 'gold-standard' connectivity estimates in that species.

Using these morphometric similarity networks (MSNs), the researchers were able to build up a map showing how well connected the 'hubs' - the major connection points between different regions of the brain network - were. They found a link between the connectivity in the MSNs in brain regions linked to higher order functions - such as problem solving and language - and intelligence. "We saw a clear link between the 'hubbiness' of higher-order brain regions - in other words, how densely connected they were to the rest of the network - and an individual's IQ," explains PhD candidate Jakob Seidlitz at the University of Cambridge and NIH. "This makes sense if you think of the hubs as enabling the flow of information around the brain - the stronger the connections, the better the brain is at processing information."

While IQ varied across the participants, the MSNs accounted for around 40% of this variation - it is possible that higher-resolution multi-modal data provided by a 7T scanner may be able to account for an even greater proportion of the individual variation, says the researchers. "What this doesn't tell us, though, is where exactly this variation comes from," adds Seidlitz. "What makes some brains more connected than others - is it down to their genetics or their educational upbringing, for example? And how do these connections strengthen or weaken across development?" "This could take us closer to being able to get an idea of intelligence from brain scans, rather than having to rely on IQ tests," says Professor Ed Bullmore, Head of Psychiatry at Cambridge. "Our new mapping technique could also help us understand how the symptoms of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression or even schizophrenia arise from differences in connectivity within the brain."

9)  The female price of male pleasure [The Week]
The world is disturbingly comfortable with the fact that women sometimes leave a sexual encounter in tears. When Babe.net published a pseudonymous woman's account of a difficult encounter with Aziz Ansari that made her cry, the internet exploded with "takes" arguing that the #MeToo movement had finally gone too far. "Grace," the 23-year-old woman, was not an employee of Ansari's, meaning there were no workplace dynamics. Her repeated objections and pleas that they "slow down" were all well and good, but they did not square with the fact that she eventually gave Ansari oral sex. Finally, crucially, she was free to leave. The Aziz Ansari case hit a nerve because, we're only comfortable with movements like #MeToo so long as the men in question are absolute monsters we can easily separate from the pack. Once we move past the "few bad apples" argument and start to suspect that this is more a trend than a blip, our instinct is to normalize.

This is what Andrew Sullivan basically proposed in his latest, startlingly unscientific column. #MeToo has gone too far, he argues, by refusing to confront the biological realities of maleness. Feminism, he says, has refused to give men their due and denied the role "nature" must play in these discussions. Ladies, he writes, if you keep denying biology, you'll watch men get defensive, react, and "fight back." The real problem isn't that we — as a culture — don't sufficiently consider men's biological reality. The problem is rather that theirs is literally the only biological reality we ever bother to consider. Research shows that 30% of women report pain during vaginal sex, 72% report pain during anal sex, and "large proportions" don't tell their partners when sex hurts. A casual survey of forums where people discuss "bad sex" suggests that men tend to use the term to describe a passive partner or a boring experience. But when most women talk about "bad sex," they tend to mean coercion, or emotional discomfort or, even more commonly, physical pain.

Back in the 17th century, the conventional wisdom was that women were the ones with the rampant, undisciplined sexual appetites. That things have changed doesn't mean they're necessarily better. These days, a man can walk out of his doctor's office with a prescription for Viagra based on little but a self-report, but it still takes a woman, on average, 9.28 years of suffering to be diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition caused by endometrial tissue growing outside the uterus. By that time, many find that not just sex but everyday existence has become a life-deforming challenge. That's a blunt biological reality if ever there was one. In the real world, the very first lesson the typical woman learns about what to expect from sex is that losing her virginity is going to hurt. She's supposed to grit her teeth and get through it. Women have spent decades politely ignoring their own discomfort and pain to give men maximal pleasure. They've gamely pursued love and sexual fulfillment despite tearing and bleeding and other symptoms of "bad sex." Next time we're inclined to wonder why a woman didn't immediately register and fix her own discomfort, we might wonder why we spent the preceding decades instructing her to override the signals we now blame her for not recognizing.

10) The case for getting rid of borders, completely  [Source: The Atlantic]
This article mulls on freedom and getting rid of borders, and thereby poverty. To paraphrase Rousseau, man is born free, yet everywhere he is caged. Barbed-wire, concrete walls, and gun-toting guards confine people to the nation-state of their birth. But why? The argument for open borders is both economic and moral. All people should be free to move about the earth, uncaged by the arbitrary lines known as borders. Not every place in the world is equally well-suited to mass economic activity. Nature’s bounty is divided unevenly. Variations in wealth and income created by these differences are magnified by governments that suppress entrepreneurship and promote religious intolerance, gender discrimination, or other bigotry. Closed borders compound these injustices, cementing inequality into place and sentencing their victims to a life of penury.

The overwhelming majority of would-be immigrants want little more than to make a better life for themselves and their families by moving to economic opportunity and participating in peaceful, voluntary trade. But lawmakers and heads of state quash these dreams with state-sanctioned violence—forced repatriation, involuntary detention, or worse—often while paying lip service to “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Wage differences are a revealing metric of border discrimination. When a worker from a poorer country moves to a richer one, her wages might double, triple, or rise even tenfold. These extreme wage differences reflect restrictions as stifling as the laws that separated white and black South Africans at the height of Apartheid. Geographical differences in wages also signal opportunity—for financially empowering the migrants, of course, but also for increasing total world output. On the other side of discrimination lies untapped potential. Economists have estimated that a world of open borders would double world GDP.

Even relatively small increases in immigration flows can have enormous benefits. If the developed world were to take in enough immigrants to enlarge its labour force by a mere one percent, it is estimated that the additional economic value created would be worth more to the migrants than all of the world’s official foreign aid combined. Immigration is the greatest anti-poverty programme ever devised. And while the benefits of cross-border movements are tremendous for the immigrants, they are also significant for those born in destination countries. Immigration unleashes economic forces that raise real wages throughout an economy. New immigrants possess skills different from those of their hosts, and these differences enable workers in both groups to better exploit their special talents and leverage their comparative advantages. The effect is to improve the welfare of newcomers and natives alike.

What moral theory justifies using wire, wall, and weapon to prevent people from moving to opportunity? What moral theory justifies using tools of exclusion to prevent people from exercising their right to vote with their feet? No standard moral framework, be it utilitarian, libertarian, egalitarian, Rawlsian, Christian, or any other well-developed perspective, regards people from foreign lands as less entitled to exercise their rights—or as inherently possessing less moral worth—than people lucky to have been born in the right place at the right time. Nationalism, of course, discounts the rights, interests, and moral value of “the Other, but this disposition is inconsistent with our fundamental moral teachings and beliefs. Freedom of movement is a basic human right. Thus, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights belies its name when it proclaims this right only “within the borders of each state.” Human rights do not stop at the border. Today, we treat as pariahs those governments that refuse to let their people exit. We should look forward to the day when we treat as pariahs those governments that refuse to let people enter.

Is there hope for the future? Closed borders are one of the world’s greatest moral failings but the opening of borders is the world’s greatest economic opportunity. The grandest moral revolutions in history—the abolition of slavery, the securing of religious freedom, the recognition of the rights of women—yielded a world in which virtually everyone was better off. They also demonstrated that the fears that had perpetuated these injustices were unfounded. Similarly, a planet unscarred by iron curtains is not only a world of greater equality and justice. It is a world unafraid of itself.

- Saurabh Mukherjea is CEO, and Prashant Mittal is Strategist, at Ambit Capital. Views expressed are personal.

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