Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not O.K.


TEXT AND PICTURE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES DATED: OCTOBER 19 2014 BY PAUL KRUGMAN


Paul Krugman /Picture from The New York Times

Paul Krugman /Picture from The New York Times

Amazon.com, the giant online retailer, has too much power, and it uses that power in ways that hurt America.

O.K., I know that was kind of abrupt. But I wanted to get the central point out there right away, because discussions of Amazon tend, all too often, to get lost in side issues.

For example, critics of the company sometimes portray it as a monster about to take over the whole economy. Such claims are over the top — Amazon doesn’t dominate overall online sales, let alone retailing as a whole, and probably never will. But so what? Amazon is still playing a troubling role.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s defenders often digress into paeans to online bookselling, which has indeed been a good thing for many Americans, or testimonials to Amazon customer service — and in case you’re wondering, yes, I have Amazon Prime and use it a lot. But again, so what? The desirability of new technology, or even Amazon’s effective use of that technology, is not the issue. After all, John D. Rockefeller and his associates were pretty good at the oil business, too — but Standard Oil nonetheless had too much power, and public action to curb that power was essential.

And the same is true of Amazon today.

If you haven’t been following the recent Amazon news: Back in May a dispute between Amazon and Hachette, a major publishing house, broke out into open commercial warfare. Amazon had been demanding a larger cut of -Read more

Lessons from mutiny on the bounty

The recommendations of the World Bank/IMF are presented to us, the people of the South, as scientific, objective, necessary, fair, and in the best interests of the countries where they are to be implemented. This is why the rebellion episode by the bank staff to its restructuring is so significant


FROM THE HINDU DATED: OCTOBER 21 2014 BY PETER RONALD DESOUZA


 

In the Financial Times of October 8, the columnist Shawn Donnan, reported that the World Bank was facing an internal “‘mutiny.” Yes, the word mutiny was used. The professional staff were apparently angry about several issues, a deep discontent, because of which the rebellion had been brewing over many days. The key issue was the restructuring exercise being undertaken by the President, Jim Yong Kim, to save, through both the elimination of benefits to staff on mission and also through possible lay-offs, the sum of $400 million. The restructuring exercise, staff felt, was deeply flawed both procedurally and substantively. The columnist reported some members saying that this “thing [restructuring] is affecting everything.” “We can’t do business. We don’t have the budget. It’s a mess, …” Another staff member complained that “nickel and diming” on travel budgets was causing travelling staff to have to pay for their own breakfasts. “It’s really small beer,” she said. “Has anyone ever thought about the impact of these changes on staff morale?”

Resistance against restructuring

To assuage their feelings, before the semi-annual meeting of the Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) with Finance Ministers and Central Bankers of member countries, President Jim Yong Kim had to hurriedly convene a “town hall” meeting with the staff to discuss their concerns. The issues that -Read more

Presumed Guilty in China’s War on Corruption, Targets Suffer Abuses

Zhou Yongkang, the former domestic security chief, faces charges of violating party discipline. Many lawyers view his case as a test of whether party leaders are committed to legal reform. Credit Feng Li/Getty Images

Zhou Yongkang, the former domestic security chief, faces charges of violating party discipline. Many lawyers view his case as a test of whether party leaders are committed to legal reform. Credit Feng Li/Getty Images /Picture from New York Times


FROM NEW YORK TIMES DATED: OCTOBER 19 2014

BY ANDREW JACOB AND CHRIS BUCKLEY


BEIJING — He was starved, pummeled and interrogated for days on end in an ice-cold room where sleeping, sitting or even leaning against a wall were forbidden. One beating left Wang Guanglong, a midlevel official fromChina’s Fujian Province, partly deaf, according to his later testimony. Suicide, he told relatives and his lawyers afterward, tempted him.

In the end, he said, he took a deal: He signed a confession acknowledging he had accepted $27,000 in bribes, wrongly believing he would be released on bail and able to clear his name of a crime he says he did not commit.

“He did what they told him to do in order to save his own life,” his sister, Wang Xiuyun, said in an interview. -Read more

The limits of autonomy

Over the years, as the RBI established a track record of performance, governments have found it sensible to confer the bank a large degree of autonomy. Governors have also understood that having the political authority on board was crucial. This informal arrangement is poised to end soon


FROM THE HINDU DATED: OCTOBER 17 2014  BY T. T. RAM MOHAN


 

At a symposium in Switzerland in May this year, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan told his audience, “The government can fire me, but the government doesn’t set the monetary policy … ultimately the interest rate that is set is set by me.”

All indications are that the position is set to change. Setting the interest rate will soon cease to be the prerogative of the RBI Governor. It’s hard to resist the feeling that the RBI’s actions over the past year will have contributed to the changes that are imminent.

In the present scheme of things, the RBI Governor consults his four Deputy Governors. There is a Technical Advisory Committee on Monetary Policy with five external members that provides advice. The Governor listens to bank chiefs and economists. But the final call on interest rates is that of the Governor alone.

In the past, RBI Governors did not think it necessary to trumpet the fact. They thought it more politic to emphasise that decisions on interest rates were made after due consultation with the government.

RBI autonomy

Discretion is warranted because the RBI’s autonomy is not sanctioned by statute. The RBI can only be as autonomous as the government wants it to be. Over the years, as the RBI established a track record of performance, governments have found it sensible to confer a large degree of autonomy on the RBI. Governors, in turn, have understood that having the political authority on board, to the extent possible, -Read more

President Pranab Mukherjee crosses Arctic Circle to meet ‘original’ Santa Claus


TEXT FROM THE TIMES OF INDIA DATED: OCTOBER 16 2014


ROVANIEMI, Finland: When President Pranab Mukherjee crossed the famed Arctic Circle on Thursday evening, becoming the first Indian head of state to do so, there was somebody even more famous eagerly awaiting to greet him with an unmistakable “Ho, ho, ho” deep-throated laugh. A chubby and merry white-bearded man, clad in a red coat trimmed with white, surrounded with mischievous-looking elves, reindeers with huge antlers and, of course, “jingle bells” playing softly in the background. Yes, Mukherjee also became the first Indian President to meet and greet the “original” Santa Claus in his “official home” on the Arctic Circle. Accompanied by daughter Sharmistha and his official delegation, Mukherjee crossed the Arctic -Read more

North and South Korea military talks end in stalemate

Kim Jong-un reappeared in public this week after 40 days out of the public eye.

Kim Jong-un reappeared in public this week after 40 days out of the public eye. /Picture from The Guardian


TEXT AND PICTURE FROM THE GUARDIAN DATED: OCTOBER 15 2014 BY JUSTIN McCURRY


 

The first military talks between North and South Korea in more than three years have ended in stalemate, with the rivals failing to narrow their differences on how to ease animosity after two shooting incidents last week.

Generals from both sides met on Wednesday at Panmunjom, the “truce village” that straddles the heavily fortified border dividing the peninsula since the end of the 1950-53 Korean war.

During the meeting, North Korea repeated its demands that its neighbour ban activists from dropping leaflets and media outlets from publishing articles critical of Pyongyang, a South Korean ministry spokesman, Kim Min-seok said. South Korean delegates said they could not do so because the country was a liberal democracy, he said.

The two sides were also at odds over the sea boundary, drawn unilaterally by the US-led UN command at the end of the 1950-53 Korean war without North Korea’s consent, Kim said.

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, reappeared this week after more than 40 days out of the public eye. State media coverage of his recent, but undated, visit to a residential area and energy research complex in -Read more

Rebuilding Visakhapatnam


FROM THE HINDU DATED: OCTOBER 15 2015 EDITORIAL


The level of preparedness and the response by the Andhra Pradesh and Central governments, along with their agencies, in the face of the severe cyclonic stormHudhud that ravaged Visakhapatnam on Sunday, have been commendable, and show that the lessons from previous natural calamities have indeed been learnt. Odisha was spared to a large extent, while the port city of Vizag bore the brunt of the cyclone. The airport, the naval establishments, roads, power lines, and the entire infrastructure of this garden city stand testimony to the massive scale of destruction. The disaster management teams, along with the Navy and other agencies, prepared the ground before the cyclone made landfall by evacuating about two lakh people living in vulnerable areas along the coast. And, after the storm crossed the coast, rescue and relief operations began. It is going to take a few weeks to get the basic infrastructure back in place. Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu rushed to review the situation, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an aerial survey of both States on Tuesday. Mr. Naidu has asked for -Read more

Turkey Catches Fire as ISIS Burns Kobani

A picture taken from Turkey shows smoke rising after an airstrike by an alleged alliance war plane on the ISIS targets in the west of Kobane, Syria, where Kurdish fighters are trying to defend the city, near Suruc district, Sanliurfa, Turkey, Oct. 8, 2014.

A picture taken from Turkey shows smoke rising after an airstrike by an alleged alliance war plane on the ISIS targets in the west of Kobane, Syria, where Kurdish fighters are trying to defend the city, near Suruc district, Sanliurfa, Turkey, Oct. 8, 2014. /Picture from Time.com 


TEXT AND PICTURE FROM TIME.com DATED: OCTOBER 8 2014 BY PIOTR ZALEWSKI


The Kurds are angry that Turkey isn’t doing more to help the fight against ISIS, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won’t budge

Tension over a peace process that has yet to deliver results, fear of a possible bloodbath in a besieged Kurdish enclave in Syria’s north, and frustration with the government’s unwillingness to confront Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) jihadists came to a boil in Turkey on Tuesday night, as clashes erupted across the countrybetween Kurdish protesters, -Read more

Corruption and the courts


TEXT FROM THE HINDU DATED: OCTOBER 9 2014 EDITORIAL


 

If there is a larger message in the Karnataka High Court’s refusal to grant bail to former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, it is that the judiciary will treat corruption among public servants with greater seriousness than ever before. In normal circumstances, an appeal against a four-year prison term by a person who is not expected to flee from justice may have been admitted as a matter of course and the sentence suspended without much ado. However, in the light of Supreme Court decisions describing corruption as a violation of human rights that leads to “systematic economic crimes”, and a “serious malady undermining the very health of the polity”, the High Court has chosen to place corruption cases on a different footing altogether. It cites a ruling that says a convicted public servant should be deemed to be corrupt until exonerated by the appellate court. And it also says suspension of sentence should not be an automatic event, but a relief that should be granted only if adequate grounds exist. The grant of post-conviction bail, undoubtedly, is not the same as one given in the pre-trial stage, when there is a presumption of innocence. In addition, early disposal of the -Read more

A lethal secrecy in trade deals


FROM DOWN TO EARTH DATED: SEPTEMBER 30 2014 BY LATHA JISHNU


Why do democratic governments hide trade negotiations that have dire consequences for public services?

THIS is the age of leaks. And thank goodness for that. Not just by WikiLeaks, the bête noire of secretive governments, but by bands of public-spirited individuals and organisations who have been instrumental in laying bare the machinations of corporate lobbies in shaping major trade agreements.

If not for the leaks, few of us would have known how governments are conceding policy space to powerful foreign governments and even more powerful multinational corporations. In the case of the EU-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA), protests against the negotiations over suspected tightening of regulations on intellectual property rights (IPRs) were confirmed in March last year when -Read more