Sunday, March 31, 2013

Early Westlake Village developer, who co-founded Conejo Valley Tea Party, dies » Ventura County Star

Early Westlake Village developer, who co-founded Conejo Valley Tea Party, dies » Ventura County Star:

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The Best New Way To Color Your Hair | Hair Color For Women

The Best New Way To Color Your Hair | Hair Color For Women:

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No budget? No problem! The strange politics behind a budgetless America. -

No budget? No problem! The strange politics behind a budgetless America. -

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Fw: Pakistan's Human Development Before, During and After Musharraf Years

Pakistan's HDI grew an average rate of 2.7% per year under President Musharraf from 2000 to 2007, and then its pace slowed to 0.7% per year in 2008 to 2012 under elected politicians, according to the 2013 Human Development Report titled "The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World".

Source: Human Development Report 2013-Pakistan

 At 0.515, Pakistan's HDI is lower than the average HDI value of 0.558 for South Asia which is the second lowest among the various regions of the world tracked by UNDP. Between 2000 and 2012, the region registered annual growth of 1.43% in HDI value, which is the highest of the regions. Afghanistan achieved the fastest growth (3.9%), followed by Pakistan (1.7%) and India (1.5%), according to the United Nations Development Program.

Overall, Pakistan's human development score rose by 18.9% during Musharraf years and increased just 3.4% under elected leadership since 2008. The news on the human development front got even worse in the last three years, with HDI growth slowing down as low as 0.59% — a paltry average annual increase of under 0.20 per cent.

 Who's to blame for this dramatic slowdown in the nation's human development?  Who gave it a low priority? Zardari? Peoples' Party? Sharif brothers? PML (N)? PML (Q)? Awami National Party? Muttahida Qaumi Movement?  The answer is: All of them? They were all part of the government. In fact, the biggest share of the blame must be assigned to PML (N)?

Sharif brothers weren't part of the ruling coalition at the center. So why should the PML (N) share the blame for falling growth in the nation's HDI? They must accept a large part of the blame because education and health, the biggest contributors to human development, are both provincial subjects and PML(N) was responsible for education ad health care of more than half of Pakistan's population.

Going further back to the  decade of 1990s when the civilian leadership of the country alternated between PML (N) and PPP,  the increase in Pakistan's HDI was 9.3% from 1990 to 2000, less than half of the HDI gain of 18.9% on Musharraf's watch from 2000 to 2007.

Acceleration of HDI growth during Musharraf years was not an accident.  Not only did Musharraf's policies accelerate economic growth, helped create 13 million new jobs, cut poverty in half and halved the country's total debt burden in the period from 2000 to 2007, his government also ensured significant investment and focus on education and health care. In 2011, a Pakistani government commission on education found that public funding for education has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2007 to just 1.5% - less than the annual subsidy given to the various PSUs including Pakistan Steel and PIA, both of which  continue to sustain huge losses due to patronage-based hiring.

Looking at examples of nations such as the Asian Tigers which have achieved great success in the last few decades, the basic ingredient in each case has been large social sector investments they have made. It will be extremely difficult for Pakistan to catch up unless similar investments are made by Pakistani leaders.

As Pakistanis prepare to go to the polls on May 11, it is important that the voters demand an explanation from the incumbent political parties for their extremely poor performance in the social sector. Without accountability, these politicians will continue to ignore the badly needed investments required to develop the nation's human resources for a better tomorrow. This is the best way to launch Pakistan on a faster trajectory.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Saving Pakistan's Education

Political Patronage Trumps Public Policy in Pakistan

Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman Defends Pakistan's Higher Education Reforms

Twelve Years Since Musharraf's Coup

Musharraf's Legacy

Pakistan's Economic Performance 2008-2010

Role of Politics in Pakistan Economy

India and Pakistan Compared in 2011

Musharraf's Coup Revived Pakistan's Economy

What If Musharraf Had Said No?
Riaz Haq

Engineers being put out of business by software robots

Forget blue collar and low skilled jobs being replaced, high skilled jobs a will also go, with increased technology/automation/robots...

"Two weeks ago, Infosys entered a partnership with IPsoft Inc., which uses software robots to replace engineers at top outsourcing customers including Comcast Corp., the largest cable operator in the US, according to three people aware of the development, who declined to be named because the deal that will see Infosys share revenue with the US firm is yet to be made public."

Infosys gets more flexible on pricing strategy

Software services firm cutting prices, offering add-on services for free, forming partnerships to regain momentum

Related: are-eating-manufacturing-jobs/

How robots are eating the last of America's—and the world's—traditional manufacturing jobs

Papal ritual raises hope for better ties with Islam


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Papal ritual raises hope for better ties with Islam
VATICAN CITY: The inclusion of two Muslims in a foot-washing ceremony by Pope Francis is one of several gestures of openness towards the Muslim world that could change perceptions of the Vatican, observers said.
The two teenagers — a boy and a girl — were among the 12 inmates at a youth prison in Rome taking part in the unprecedented version of a traditional Holy Thursday ritual as part of a series of pre-Easter papal ceremonies.

Land Mafia Construct Mosque in Balkh Province

The Great Deception: Jihadi Land Mafia Construct Mosque in Balkh Province

The CIA's "Ghost" Army is De-Stabilizing Afghanistan

Afghan Suicide Attacks - A Stunning Success

West Endorses Ethnic Cleansing in Mali


David Stockman, Ex-Reagan Budget Director: George W. Bush's Policies Bankrupt The Country

David Stockman, Ex-Reagan Budget Director: George W. Bush's Policies Bankrupt The Country:

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David Stockman, Ex-Reagan Budget Director: George W. Bush's Policies Bankrupt The Country

David Stockman, Ex-Reagan Budget Director: George W. Bush's Policies Bankrupt The Country:

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Kuenstle: A 'revolutionary' role for Jesus » Ventura County Star

Kuenstle: A 'revolutionary' role for Jesus » Ventura County Star:

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Kuenstle: A 'revolutionary' role for Jesus » Ventura County Star

Kuenstle: A 'revolutionary' role for Jesus » Ventura County Star:

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Fw: Indians vote like cattle and elect criminals: Markandey Katju


Also true for Pakistanis and Bangladehsis...

Andersen: GOP budget should be praised, not rebuked » Ventura County Star

Andersen: GOP budget should be praised, not rebuked » Ventura County Star:

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Urdu press at a glance on 31 March 2013


Expatriate exposes pathetic condition of Indian Muslims living in Middle East

They are no better than their counterparts back home, he says, wants from the govt. to rip off their NRI status

Petition | Johnsonville Sausage: Stop Being Cruel to Pigs! |

Petition | Johnsonville Sausage: Stop Being Cruel to Pigs! |

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Fw: State-Wrecked: The Corruption of Capitalism in America

David Stockman Is Outraged — And A Lot Of Powerful People Won't Like What's In His New Book

March 30, 2013

State-Wrecked: The Corruption of Capitalism in America


The Dow Jones and Standard & Poor's 500 indexes reached record highs on Thursday, having completely erased the losses since the stock market's last peak, in 2007. But instead of cheering, we should be very afraid.
Over the last 13 years, the stock market has twice crashed and touched off a recession: American households lost $5 trillion in the 2000 dot-com bust and more than $7 trillion in the 2007 housing crash. Sooner or later — within a few years, I predict — this latest Wall Street bubble, inflated by an egregious flood of phony money from the Federal Reserve rather than real economic gains, will explode, too.
Since the S.&P. 500 first reached its current level, in March 2000, the mad money printers at the Federal Reserve have expanded their balance sheet sixfold (to $3.2 trillion from $500 billion). Yet during that stretch, economic output has grown by an average of 1.7 percent a year (the slowest since the Civil War); real business investment has crawled forward at only 0.8 percent per year; and the payroll job count has crept up at a negligible 0.1 percent annually. Real median family income growth has dropped 8 percent, and the number of full-time middle class jobs, 6 percent. The real net worth of the "bottom" 90 percent has dropped by one-fourth. The number of food stamp and disability aid recipients has more than doubled, to 59 million, about one in five Americans.
So the Main Street economy is failing while Washington is piling a soaring debt burden on our descendants, unable to rein in either the warfare state or the welfare state or raise the taxes needed to pay the nation's bills. By default, the Fed has resorted to a radical, uncharted spree of money printing. But the flood of liquidity, instead of spurring banks to lend and corporations to spend, has stayed trapped in the canyons of Wall Street, where it is inflating yet another unsustainable bubble.
When it bursts, there will be no new round of bailouts like the ones the banks got in 2008. Instead, America will descend into an era of zero-sum austerity and virulent political conflict, extinguishing even today's feeble remnants of economic growth.
THIS dyspeptic prospect results from the fact that we are now state-wrecked. With only brief interruptions, we've had eight decades of increasingly frenetic fiscal and monetary policy activism intended to counter the cyclical bumps and grinds of the free market and its purported tendency to underproduce jobs and economic output. The toll has been heavy.
As the federal government and its central-bank sidekick, the Fed, have groped for one goal after another — smoothing out the business cycle, minimizing inflation and unemployment at the same time, rolling out a giant social insurance blanket, promoting homeownership, subsidizing medical care, propping up old industries (agriculture, automobiles) and fostering new ones ("clean" energy, biotechnology) and, above all, bailing out Wall Street — they have now succumbed to overload, overreach and outside capture by powerful interests. The modern Keynesian state is broke, paralyzed and mired in empty ritual incantations about stimulating "demand," even as it fosters a mutant crony capitalism that periodically lavishes the top 1 percent with speculative windfalls.
The culprits are bipartisan, though you'd never guess that from the blather that passes for political discourse these days. The state-wreck originated in 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt opted for fiat money (currency not fundamentally backed by gold), economic nationalism and capitalist cartels in agriculture and industry.
Under the exigencies of World War II (which did far more to end the Depression than the New Deal did), the state got hugely bloated, but remarkably, the bloat was put into brief remission during a midcentury golden era of sound money and fiscal rectitude with Dwight D. Eisenhower in the White House and William McChesney Martin Jr. at the Fed.
Then came Lyndon B. Johnson's "guns and butter" excesses, which were intensified over one perfidious weekend at Camp David, Md., in 1971, when Richard M. Nixon essentially defaulted on the nation's debt obligations by finally ending the convertibility of gold to the dollar. That one act — arguably a sin graver than Watergate — meant the end of national financial discipline and the start of a four-decade spree during which we have lived high on the hog, running a cumulative $8 trillion current-account deficit. In effect, America underwent an internal leveraged buyout, raising our ratio of total debt (public and private) to economic output to about 3.6 from its historic level of about 1.6. Hence the $30 trillion in excess debt (more than half the total debt, $56 trillion) that hangs over the American economy today.
This explosion of borrowing was the stepchild of the floating-money contraption deposited in the Nixon White House by Milton Friedman, the supposed hero of free-market economics who in fact sowed the seed for a never-ending expansion of the money supply. The Fed, which celebrates its centenary this year, fueled a roaring inflation in goods and commodities during the 1970s that was brought under control only by the iron resolve of Paul A. Volcker, its chairman from 1979 to 1987.
Under his successor, the lapsed hero Alan Greenspan, the Fed dropped Friedman's penurious rules for monetary expansion, keeping interest rates too low for too long and flooding Wall Street with freshly minted cash. What became known as the "Greenspan put" — the implicit assumption that the Fed would step in if asset prices dropped, as they did after the 1987 stock-market crash — was reinforced by the Fed's unforgivable 1998 bailout of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management.
That Mr. Greenspan's loose monetary policies didn't set off inflation was only because domestic prices for goods and labor were crushed by the huge flow of imports from the factories of Asia. By offshoring America's tradable-goods sector, the Fed kept the Consumer Price Index contained, but also permitted the excess liquidity to foster a roaring inflation in financial assets. Mr. Greenspan's pandering incited the greatest equity boom in history, with the stock market rising fivefold between the 1987 crash and the 2000 dot-com bust.
Soon Americans stopped saving and consumed everything they earned and all they could borrow. The Asians, burned by their own 1997 financial crisis, were happy to oblige us. They — China and Japan above all — accumulated huge dollar reserves, transforming their central banks into a string of monetary roach motels where sovereign debt goes in but never comes out. We've been living on borrowed time — and spending Asians' borrowed dimes.
This dynamic reinforced the Reaganite shibboleth that "deficits don't matter" and the fact that nearly $5 trillion of the nation's $12 trillion in "publicly held" debt is actually sequestered in the vaults of central banks. The destruction of fiscal rectitude under Ronald Reagan — one reason I resigned as his budget chief in 1985 — was the greatest of his many dramatic acts. It created a template for the Republicans' utter abandonment of the balanced-budget policies of Calvin Coolidge and allowed George W. Bush to dive into the deep end, bankrupting the nation through two misbegotten and unfinanced wars, a giant expansion of Medicare and a tax-cutting spree for the wealthy that turned K Street lobbyists into the de facto office of national tax policy. In effect, the G.O.P. embraced Keynesianism — for the wealthy.
The explosion of the housing market, abetted by phony credit ratings, securitization shenanigans and willful malpractice by mortgage lenders, originators and brokers, has been well documented. Less known is the balance-sheet explosion among the top 10 Wall Street banks during the eight years ending in 2008. Though their tiny sliver of equity capital hardly grew, their dependence on unstable "hot money" soared as the regulatory harness the Glass-Steagall Act had wisely imposed during the Depression was totally dismantled.
Within weeks of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in September 2008, Washington, with Wall Street's gun to its head, propped up the remnants of this financial mess in a panic-stricken melee of bailouts and money-printing that is the single most shameful chapter in American financial history.
There was never a remote threat of a Great Depression 2.0 or of a financial nuclear winter, contrary to the dire warnings of Ben S. Bernanke, the Fed chairman since 2006. The Great Fear — manifested by the stock market plunge when the House voted down the TARP bailout before caving and passing it — was purely another Wall Street concoction. Had President Bush and his Goldman Sachs adviser (a k a Treasury Secretary) Henry M. Paulson Jr. stood firm, the crisis would have burned out on its own and meted out to speculators the losses they so richly deserved. The Main Street banking system was never in serious jeopardy, ATMs were not going dark and the money market industry was not imploding.
Instead, the White House, Congress and the Fed, under Mr. Bush and then President Obama, made a series of desperate, reckless maneuvers that were not only unnecessary but ruinous. The auto bailouts, for example, simply shifted jobs around — particularly to the aging, electorally vital Rust Belt — rather than saving them. The "green energy" component of Mr. Obama's stimulus was mainly a nearly $1 billion giveaway to crony capitalists, like the venture capitalist John Doerr and the self-proclaimed outer-space visionary Elon Musk, to make new toys for the affluent.
Less than 5 percent of the $800 billion Obama stimulus went to the truly needy for food stamps, earned-income tax credits and other forms of poverty relief. The preponderant share ended up in money dumps to state and local governments, pork-barrel infrastructure projects, business tax loopholes and indiscriminate middle-class tax cuts. The Democratic Keynesians, as intellectually bankrupt as their Republican counterparts (though less hypocritical), had no solution beyond handing out borrowed money to consumers, hoping they would buy a lawn mower, a flat-screen TV or, at least, dinner at Red Lobster.
But even Mr. Obama's hopelessly glib policies could not match the audacity of the Fed, which dropped interest rates to zero and then digitally printed new money at the astounding rate of $600 million per hour. Fast-money speculators have been "purchasing" giant piles of Treasury debt and mortgage-backed securities, almost entirely by using short-term overnight money borrowed at essentially zero cost, thanks to the Fed. Uncle Ben has lined their pockets.
If and when the Fed — which now promises to get unemployment below 6.5 percent as long as inflation doesn't exceed 2.5 percent — even hints at shrinking its balance sheet, it will elicit a tidal wave of sell orders, because even a modest drop in bond prices would destroy the arbitrageurs' profits. Notwithstanding Mr. Bernanke's assurances about eventually, gradually making a smooth exit, the Fed is domiciled in a monetary prison of its own making.
While the Fed fiddles, Congress burns. Self-titled fiscal hawks like Paul D. Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, are terrified of telling the truth: that the 10-year deficit is actually $15 trillion to $20 trillion, far larger than the Congressional Budget Office's estimate of $7 trillion. Its latest forecast, which imagines 16.4 million new jobs in the next decade, compared with only 2.5 million in the last 10 years, is only one of the more extreme examples of Washington's delusions.
Even a supposedly "bold" measure — linking the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security payments to a different kind of inflation index — would save just $200 billion over a decade, amounting to hardly 1 percent of the problem. Mr. Ryan's latest budget shamelessly gives Social Security and Medicare a 10-year pass, notwithstanding that a fair portion of their nearly $19 trillion cost over that decade would go to the affluent elderly. At the same time, his proposal for draconian 30 percent cuts over a decade on the $7 trillion safety net — Medicaid, food stamps and the earned-income tax credit — is another front in the G.O.P.'s war against the 99 percent.
Without any changes, over the next decade or so, the gross federal debt, now nearly $17 trillion, will hurtle toward $30 trillion and soar to 150 percent of gross domestic product from around 105 percent today. Since our constitutional stasis rules out any prospect of a "grand bargain," the nation's fiscal collapse will play out incrementally, like a Greek/Cypriot tragedy, in carefully choreographed crises over debt ceilings, continuing resolutions and temporary budgetary patches.
The future is bleak. The greatest construction boom in recorded history — China's money dump on infrastructure over the last 15 years — is slowing. Brazil, India, Russia, Turkey, South Africa and all the other growing middle-income nations cannot make up for the shortfall in demand. The American machinery of monetary and fiscal stimulus has reached its limits. Japan is sinking into old-age bankruptcy and Europe into welfare-state senescence. The new rulers enthroned in Beijing last year know that after two decades of wild lending, speculation and building, even they will face a day of reckoning, too.
THE state-wreck ahead is a far cry from the "Great Moderation" proclaimed in 2004 by Mr. Bernanke, who predicted that prosperity would be everlasting because the Fed had tamed the business cycle and, as late as March 2007, testified that the impact of the subprime meltdown "seems likely to be contained." Instead of moderation, what's at hand is a Great Deformation, arising from a rogue central bank that has abetted the Wall Street casino, crucified savers on a cross of zero interest rates and fueled a global commodity bubble that erodes Main Street living standards through rising food and energy prices — a form of inflation that the Fed fecklessly disregards in calculating inflation.
These policies have brought America to an end-stage metastasis. The way out would be so radical it can't happen. It would necessitate a sweeping divorce of the state and the market economy. It would require a renunciation of crony capitalism and its first cousin: Keynesian economics in all its forms. The state would need to get out of the business of imperial hubris, economic uplift and social insurance and shift its focus to managing and financing an effective, affordable, means-tested safety net.
All this would require drastic deflation of the realm of politics and the abolition of incumbency itself, because the machinery of the state and the machinery of re-election have become conterminous. Prying them apart would entail sweeping constitutional surgery: amendments to give the president and members of Congress a single six-year term, with no re-election; providing 100 percent public financing for candidates; strictly limiting the duration of campaigns (say, to eight weeks); and prohibiting, for life, lobbying by anyone who has been on a legislative or executive payroll. It would also require overturning Citizens United and mandating that Congress pass a balanced budget, or face an automatic sequester of spending.
It would also require purging the corrosive financialization that has turned the economy into a giant casino since the 1970s. This would mean putting the great Wall Street banks out in the cold to compete as at-risk free enterprises, without access to cheap Fed loans or deposit insurance. Banks would be able to take deposits and make commercial loans, but be banned from trading, underwriting and money management in all its forms.
It would require, finally, benching the Fed's central planners, and restoring the central bank's original mission: to provide liquidity in times of crisis but never to buy government debt or try to micromanage the economy. Getting the Fed out of the financial markets is the only way to put free markets and genuine wealth creation back into capitalism.
That, of course, will never happen because there are trillions of dollars of assets, from Shanghai skyscrapers to Fortune 1000 stocks to the latest housing market "recovery," artificially propped up by the Fed's interest-rate repression. The United States is broke — fiscally, morally, intellectually — and the Fed has incited a global currency war (Japan just signed up, the Brazilians and Chinese are angry, and the German-dominated euro zone is crumbling) that will soon overwhelm it. When the latest bubble pops, there will be nothing to stop the collapse. If this sounds like advice to get out of the markets and hide out in cash, it is.
David A. Stockman is a former Republican congressman from Michigan, President Ronald Reagan's budget director from 1981 to 1985 and the author, most recently, of "The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America."

Camarillo, Calif. Porn Film Moratorium Passed After Deluge Of Film Permit Requests

Camarillo, Calif. Porn Film Moratorium Passed After Deluge Of Film Permit Requests:

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

For-Profit Colleges Are A Spectacularly Bad Investment

California Officials Turn Up The Heat On Secretive 'Dark Money' Groups

For-Profit Colleges Are A Spectacularly Bad Investment

Harvard Joins Rivals Reporting Record Low Admission Rates

Frats Worse Than Animal House Fail to Pay for Casualties


Not Housing Recovery, But Housing Inflation

The Risks of Relying on User Fees

In the past three years, states and cities have brought in billions of dollars in additional user fees. But there are pitfalls to this form of revenue boost.

It Can Happen Here: The Confiscation Scheme Planned for US and UK Depositors

JPMorgan Chase Faces Full-Court Press of Federal Investigations

Poorer families 'cut back on food'
Cyprus: Hot Russian money isn't going where you think (2:45) 
Mar. 28 - Assorted tax havens will benefit as Russian money flees Cyprus, but the ultimate winner could be the City of London, says tax haven expert Nicholas Shaxson

Cyprus: what the world's media has missed

Bank of Cyprus's Customers May Lose as Much as 60% on Deposits

     A Tale of Two Londons

Who really lives at One Hyde Park, called the world's most expensive residential building? Its mostly absentee owners, hiding behind offshore corporations based in tax havens, provide a portrait of the new global super-wealthy.

To bring down the biggest banksters you need the specialist skills that criminal detectives possess!

Why the British Banking Industry has become identical with an Organised Criminal Enterprise. Part 3

Why the British Banking Industry has become identical with an Organised Criminal Enterprise.

Why the British Banking Industry has become identical with an Organised Criminal Enterprise.

Response to the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards

The corrupt amoral culture at the heart of the UK banking sector

The greedy crooked banksters who have ruined this country are still taking home even more money than anyone else!

Why are banks refusing to disclose suspicious activities?

The major Banks are the organised criminal enemy within!

The LIBOR Crimes - A Tale of Two Cultures

The utter shamelessness of the financial regulators

The Failings of Regulators - Why the UK is so bad at regulating the financial services industry

Reforming the corrupted banking culture.

Boris Johnson is a very dangerous man - Beware Classicists bearing gifts!

The LGA can still save itself through politics, policy and peers

The Local Government Association must change if it is to survive – and here's how

Collaboration is vital if district councils are to drive growth

A poll of network members showed support for district councils taking the lead on growth, but what challenges do they face?

All in the planning? Local authorities go to war over development proposals

Inspectors have ruled Coventry's planning blueprint illegal – because the city failed to consult Birmingham about cutting its housebuilding programme

Councils seeking 'cash in the attic'

Wanted: a government minister responsible for infrastructure

After some neglect, the UK is ramping up investment in local infrastructure. We need a new department to lead the charge

Hot money flows fund India's current account deficit

The balance of payments numbers for the Dec quarter highlight India's vulnerability on the external front

Rupee may face pressure as current account deficit rises to a record

Current account deficit widens to $32.6 bn mainly on account of a larger trade deficit and moderation in net invisibles 

The knowledge society

Iran  is also supporting higher education and its women are doing very well! That is not mentioned by this educator; yet it indicates if this is possible in a country led by Mullahs, why are others behind? In Iran gender inequity is also lower than in Pakistan and India (Pakistan's gender inequity is better than India's-despite all the Wahhabi influence).

Iran also spends much more than Pakistan (1.8%) on education:


Human Development Report 2013: The Rise of the South: As others rise, Pakistan parks the bus

"The literacy rate for those aged between 10 and 49 was 93 percent."
"Education is an important value in Iran, as seen by a big jump in the number of people pursuing higher studies at university or in religious institutions (10.5 million, up from 6.9 million in 2006).
Men and women are split almost equally 50-50 in this category, underlining the growing number of educated Iranian women.
Iran has the biggest group of Internet users in the Middle East -- although the figure of 11.2 million declaring themselves connected was far smaller than the estimate of 36 million advanced by the telecommunications ministry."
Iran young, urbanised and educated: census


The knowledge society
From the Newspaper | Muhammad Ali | 2 days ago
THE capacity for learning is one of the distinct gifts bestowed upon human beings. It is because of this capacity that humans have contributed to civilisation through continuous reflection, exploration and discovery.
This curiosity for learning and construction of knowledge has today led human beings to the concept of a 'knowledge society'.
Historically, it is evident that the societies that valued knowledge and provided an encouraging environment to learners excelled in the construction and contribution of knowledge. Consequently, such a culture led those societies to progress in different aspects of life.
Islam has put significant emphasis on learning and seeking knowledge. For instance, in the Holy Quran seeking knowledge is considered khairan kathir (abundant good) and human beings are encouraged repeatedly to reflect on and understand the mysterious world.
Similarly, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) has termed seeking knowledge obligatory upon every Muslim man and woman and guided them to attain knowledge from the cradle to the grave. In short, there are abundant examples in the teachings of Islam that lay stress on learning and acquiring knowledge.
For Muslims, such teachings have been the major impetus for acquiring knowledge and for intellectual discourse. It was because of this motivation that in the formative period of Islam Muslim societies started to thrive due to the thirst for diverse knowledge.
In the 9th-10th centuries Muslim societies excelled in different fields of knowledge such as theology, philosophy, science, art and architecture etc. Those developments are viewed as a treasured contribution of Muslims towards human civilisation.
This conducive environment for learning helped Muslim societies in nurturing extremely dynamic individuals and establishing some highly vibrant centres of learning in cities such as Baghdad and Cairo.
In the early period of Islam Muslim societies were comparatively flexible in studying diverse perspectives. Society then was also considerably open to learning from other cultures. For example, at that period Greek philosophy and science were given substantial attention. The books of Greek scholars and intellectuals were translated into Arabic and conscious efforts were made to reconcile them with Islamic thought.
This tendency of attaining knowledge from diverse sources helped Muslims cultivate an atmosphere where knowledge was constructed and contributed to the larger society.
Today, many Muslim societies such as Pakistan are facing acute challenges in educating their citizens and contributing to knowledge. For example, in Pakistan the literacy rate is comparatively low if compared to neighbouring countries. According to a report around 25 million children are out of school, hence Pakistan will not be able to fulfil its commitment of providing primary education for all children by 2015.
Of the children who do go to school, most of them do not get the opportunity to actualise their potential and develop their competencies. As a result, poor performance can be observed in different spheres of life in the country.
Furthermore, universities are generally considered places from where knowledge is generated and contributed to society. However, it is discouraging to note that not a single university from the Muslim world comes in the top 100 universities of the world; very few are included in the leading 500. However, a few countries like Turkey and Malaysia are making conscious efforts to improve the quality of higher education.
Why does this situation prevail in the Muslim world? There can be many reasons for this disparity. First, it is evident that political will plays a vital role in enhancing the cause of education in any society. However, in many Muslim countries including Pakistan, education has never been the priority of successive governments. No political party or government has shown true commitment to the cause of education. Historically, various education policies have been developed but they have never been implemented properly.
Secondly, the collective mind/attitude also plays a very important role in learning and acquiring knowledge. In many Muslim societies memorisation and rote learning are considered effective methods of learning. Reflective and critical thinking have not been given due importance in the process of education. Such an attitude towards learning does not help society develop inquisitive minds.
Furthermore, dividing knowledge into different categories, such as religious and non-religious or 'ours' and 'others', limits the learners' capacity for looking at diverse perspectives. At times religious knowledge is viewed as superior and other scientific knowledge is considered less important. Such an approach shapes an attitude of rigidness and an environment of stagnation.
Looking at this situation, Muslim societies today require serious reflection on the challenges they face regarding learning and education. They need to re-examine their beliefs and reconcile them with the Islamic values concerning learning.
They must learn from the formative period of Islam how Muslims of that era were able to be open to different perspectives and to generate and contribute to the human civilisation's wealth of knowledge.
In short, no society can progress without education and seeking knowledge. Islam clearly stresses upon learning and, by making it obligatory, values the seeking of knowledge.
The writer is an educator.