The World Economic Forum gathers in a small town in Switzerland tomorrow. Who will be there, and what's at stake? By Sean O'Grady
Tuesday, 22 January 2008
From a suitably Olympian height, the world's rich and powerful are descending on the Swiss ski resort of Davos by private jet, helicopter and limousine to right the world's wrongs, network, take in a little practice time on the slopes, and cut a deal or two.
At 5,000 feet above sea level, the thin air will be thick with gossip, speculation and, this year, talk of recession. Once, our now moribund political parties used to gather at dismal British seaside resorts for their conferences. There, away from the party committee rooms, the council chambers and Westminster, they would indulge in lively debate, varying amounts of intellectual stimulation and a good deal of drinking. Now the World Economic Forum at Davos performs the same function for the big beasts of global business and politics; a few days out in a nice little corner of the Alps where socialising, thinking and sleeping battle for the participant's time.
For a few days an obscene proportion of the world's wealth and clout will be concentrated in one normally obscure Alpine town. Some 27 heads of state or government; 113 cabinet ministers; hundreds of chief executives, bankers, sovereign wealth fund managers, economists and the media: about 2,500 participants in all. This concentrated, eclectic mix of the top slice of humanity is part of the "magic" of this mountain redoubt. Where else, so the legend goes, might Gordon Brown find himself chatting over a cocktail with Sergey Brin? Or would we see Lakshmi Mittal sharing a plate of canapés with Ban Ki-moon? Or Carlos Ghosn chewing the fat with Mohamed ElBaradei?
With everyone from Bill Gates and Bono to Rupert Murdoch and Condoleezza Rice and the scores of lesser personalities expected in, it is no wonder the place will be surrounded by barbed wire and intense security. If you've ever wanted to know what the Swiss army is for (apart from inventing handy little multi-tools), an attempt to penetrate the perimeter of Davos will tell you, as 5,000 troops do their bit to protect international capitalism from its enemies. The Swiss air force, such as it is, also does its bit to patrol the skies. Right now there is probably no more tempting a target for the ambitious terrorist.
The WEF gets under way this week, and the formal title of the week's proceedings, as ever, gives little away about the true agenda. "The Power of Collaborative Innovation", while suggestive of the business elite's obsessions with the pace of technological change, is unlikely to be a phrase that will drop easily from many lips during the hundreds of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, plenary sessions, "workshops", parties and "nightcap" sessions that will exhaust even this most energetic cohort of gifted individuals until they return to the bosoms of their families – real and corporate – on Sunday.
So who's coming and what will they be chattering about? Well, apart from the luminaries already mentioned, the official co-chairs of the Forum are mostly well-known names: Tony Blair, of JP Morgan; James Dimon, chairman and CEO of JP Morgan; KV Kamath, MD and CEO of India's ICICI Bank; Henry Kissinger, chairman of Kissinger Associates; Indra K Noovi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo;, David J O'Reilly, chairman and CEO of Chevron Corporation; and Wang Jianzhou, CEO of China Mobile Communications Corporation.
The prominent role allotted to Mr Wang, while not entirely novel, is nonetheless significant. This year at Davos there will be fewer figures from Hollywood, and rather more representing the new forces in the global economy – the new transnationals based in China, India, other rapidly growing emerging economies and the sovereign wealth funds that those nations and the petro-states of the Gulf now command. The shift in the balance of world economic power eastwards will be apparent in the faces and accents around the seminars, chalets and hotel bars. Not since 9/11 has the Forum met in such a sombre mood.
The prospects for the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China and their smaller satellite economies) have been one of the staples of international gatherings for years, but now the ruminations have a little more point to them. In 2008, for the first time, China will contribute more to the growth of the world economy than the United States. Double-digit growth in China should still just be possible this year, and it alone seems to stand between the world and a full-blown recession.
Sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) from China and elsewhere have already been busy re-capitalising the West's stricken banks, often with a disregard for their own interests that borders on the philanthropic. The recycling of trillions of dollars of trade surpluses and petro dollars means that such deals will become more prevalent. Davos will provide one more opportunity for distressed American investment bankers to bump into munificent Singaporean or Qatari or Chinese SWF managers.
There will also be plenty of time and space for the likes of Al Gore and the green lobby to weld their hopes and fears for the planet with the more immediate, but connected, economic agenda of soaring food and oil prices, imminent water shortages and the conundrum of nuclear power.
So too will business leaders be able to get a first-hand take on the biggest single source of geopolitical instability in the world and, thus, the biggest threat to economic stability: the Middle East and central Asia. Condi Rice's keynote message will likely concentrate on this, and with the presence of Tony Blair, the representative of the "Quartet" in the region, Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai and Israel's Shimon Peres, we might expect some sort of initiative to come out of Davos. The conference has in the past been the scene of groundbreaking moves in the history of that region, and in the process of peaceful change in South Africa and eastern Europe after the fall of Communism. The WEF's slogan – "Committed to Improving the State of the World" – is a reasonably sincere reflection of what can come out of this huge talking shop.
So while we will miss Sharon Stone's impromptu charity auctions, Brad Pitt's unique contributions to economic thought and Richard Gere's perspective on global economic imbalances, the useful purposes of Davos will be immeasurably improved by the presence of serious movers from the emerging economies.
Apart from Bono, this year's stardust quotient will be provided by Emma Thompson, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and the writer Paulo Coelho; more of a pleasant interlude than a threat to overshadow the whole event in meaningless celebrity hype.
This is as it should be. The event has been growing in importance and prominence since its pioneering days in the early 1970s. In 1971 a German-born Swiss economist named Klaus Schwab hit upon the idea of an eclectic, informal, low-key, almost secretive gathering of the world's most influential figures and founded a not-for-profit foundation to achieve his ends.
In those days it had much in common with the Bilderberg group, but today the WEF has left its modest beginnings way behind and actively seeks out the attention of the world, whether it is to launch a campaign against World Poverty (as Gordon Brown and Bono did in 2005) or to balance the needs and aspirations of the old economies of the West, the emerging economies of the east and the still poor billions in the south.
More than anything, the WEF can push some unwelcome and unpalatable home truths under the noses of the bankers and business execs. It can stimulate the conscience as well as the imagination. It can even perhaps offer intimations of human frailty. A few scrapes on theski slopes might even convince some that they are far from invincible. A broken leg or a dislocated shoulder can do wonders for humility.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,the creator of Sherlock Holmes, "discovered" the delights ofskiing in Davos more than a century ago, and through Holmes even offered a little homily on its benefits. As the great detective remarked, "on any man suffering from too much dignity, a course of skis would have a fine moral effect".
Tony Blair Our former prime minister,Middle East envoy and now part time adviser to JP Morgan will be back where he likes to be: at the centre of attention. Davos is atraditional place for old business and political acquaintanceship to be rekindled, so maybe a chat over a drink with Gordon Brown might thaw their notoriously frosty relations.
Hank Paulson The US Treasury Secretary, and former Goldman Sachs chief, is bound to receive a careful hearing as the US economy moves steadily towards recession. Will President George Bush's latest proposal to boost the American economy work?
Bader al Sa'ad Former college basketball player and investment banker, who is now responsible for the Kuwaiti Investment Authority. One of the older of the now burgeoning breed of sovereign wealth funds. He has $3 trillion to play with; how many Western bankers will be looking to him to help them out of a sticky situation?
Mukesh Ambani Typical emerging markets big beast. Chairman and chief executive of Reliance Industries of India, the mining and energy conglomerate. Personally worth $45bn, making him the sixth richest person in the world. Who wouldn't want to share some fondue with him?
Where to be seen this year
Hotel Steigenberger Belvedere Where the bigwigs stay and scene of some of the best parties. Compared with this five-star establishment, little of importance goes on anywhere else in Davos, and some banks hire entire floors. This year, it's the site of Google's party, with Sergei Brin, Larry Page and assorted world leaders looking at the future of technology and sampling vintage wines while being entertained by the DJ and Kiss FM founder Norman Jay. Delegates can commiserate with Sir Wim Bischoff on Citigroup's $10bn losses there on Friday night; while earlier in the week Arcelor Mittal plans a late-night "speakeasy" at the hotel.
McDonald's The golden arches can be found, incongruously perhaps, even in this remote corner of the world. Just as well, as it is Bill Gates' favoured eaterie. For some, at the very top of the world, food is mere fuel, and the faster it is prepared and downed the better. Mr Gates sends out for his meals.
Bill Gates session Talking of whom, perhaps the business highlight of the week will be Mr Gates' session on the structural problems facing modern capitalism. He will be following a series of "brainstorming" sessions tomorrow where hundreds of chief executives will gather to debate and vote on fundamental challenges facing the world economy.
Hotel Schatzalp This former sanatorium was a pioneering site for research into TB and the setting for Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain. It possesses a certain jaded Art Nouveau era beauty, and is perched precariously above the town on the Parsenn mountain. Famous for its hot chocolate these days, and the Barclays' dinner.
YouTube Way outside the hall, indeed covering the world, is the World Economic Forum's "Big Question": YouTube users are being asked, "What single thing can global leaders do to improve the world?"
Hotel Europe Nightcaps are very popular, which makes the pace of Davos even more difficult to sustain. Try the piano bar of this Davos Platz institution, where Barry the cabaret singer will belt out Manilow and Queen covers. It's said that Barry has met more global leaders than Elizabeth II.
I believe that the greatest potential for danger will come in the form of TU24 being an asteroid whose plasma discharge with Earth may cause great chaos, even though it is hundreds of thousands of kilometers away.
Plasma is the fourth state of matter, and one that we know little about. 99.999% of the universe consists of this plasma.
Astronomers hold the theoretical assumption that bodies in space are electrically neutral. An electric comet or asteroid would strike at the foundations of the theoretical sciences. A few months ago, a surprise happened.
On October 24th, 2007, Comet Holmes was the largest object in our solar system. 42% larger than our sun. For no apparent reason, it erupted from a very dim magnitude 17 to about magnitude 2.5 and its coma expanded to 2,000,000 km diameter.
The unpredictable behavior from Comet Holmes can be explained by the breakdown of the plasma sheath that forms around a charged body in space. A plasma sheath insulates the charged body from the charge of the plasma outside it. Across the wall of the sheath, called the "double layer," there is a strong electric field. But when that wall breaks down, the result can be an explosive instability with accompanying electric discharge.
Because of Comet Holmes just a few months ago, scientists are starting to seriously consider the 'electric universe', or plasma cosmology.
Plasma Cosmology acknowledges the electrodynamic nature of all things in the universe. In this non-mechanical view, gavity and inertia are joined by other forces to create the universe we know (and don't know). Plasma is not electrically neutral, but is a superconductor that can carry electrical charges throughout the solar system.
IT IS POSSIBLE that asteroid 2007 TU24 is negatively charged like Holmes and will react when it enters our magnetosphere in a few days.
According to plasma cosmology, the difference in the electrical potential between Earth and TU24 will result in a plasma discharge between the two when TU24 reaches Earth's magnetosphere (as it is destined to do, from the calculations).
The question is, is it charged like Comet Holmes?
I believe if TU24 affects us, it will most likely be in this way. The chances of TU24 being a negatively-charged asteroid and hitting our magnetosheath is greater than the chances of a direct impact with Earth. Our magnetosheath extends a minimum of 65,000km in the direction of the sun, and even further out in the direction opposite the sun.
Here's what the sheath looks like: [link]
Videos about the electric universe:
There have been other explanations given for the Tunguska explosion. The fact that no crater was found suggests that it was not from elsewhere.
Tesla's future was in jeopardy at this time of his life, he would have done something desperate , (read stupid). Admiral Perry was in the North Pole at the time and would have witnessed a meteor if it had passed close to the planet causing the destruction at Tunguska. But, Admiral Perry, it is suggested, is whom Tesla was counting on seeing his demonstration. Problem is, his math was off and he missed the intended destination resulting in Perry seeing and recording nothing.
In an Exclusive BRAD BLOG Op-Ed, the Legendary 'Pentagon Papers' Whistleblower Calls on the Media to Perform Their First Amendment Obligations, on Congressional Leaders to Perform Their Oversight Duty, and for Insider Sources to Come Forward to the American Public...
27 Jan 2008 @ 20:30 by : Buzzzt, lol.
Well, I think an object has to get alot closer, for any major discharge to occure like Tungusta, you can test that with your TV screen, how far your finger has to be away from the screen before it sparks, although you can feel the potental around a foot away if you got hairy arms, lol.
28 Jan 2008 @ 09:30 by : Yes...
but it isn't the potential I'm concerned with where TU24 is concerned. It's the disinformation factory at work covering up other things plus TU24. The effects do not require discharge just influencing. Such as the Avalanches and storms in Calif and Oregon. It will peek on the 29th. Not saying anything about it, though, smacks to me of media deception of the worse order.
Like Vreelands (ONI) sending the Gov info that could have, would not have but should have prevented 911. Of course the insiders 'gov,' like the people in DAVOS, if you can call "them" people at all...are looking forward to dissing 90% of the useless eaters, their definitions of course, on this planet and turning this hellhole into major luxus for them abundant, of course, with debt slaves to fulfill their every high crimes wish...it is sickening to say the least. More Beyonce? ;)
More bounce to the ounce is more black butt for some to kiss as we wend into the futures of has been...
Ah bushman...glad I know the wilderness. Getting there will become the problem. SERE does a body good and saves the soul for breakfast. Panamounte anyone? Oh, what are your thoughts on good old shill Russell Means and our fellow 'Americans' of all colors going to the Lakotah for Sovereignty? Looks like a black op to me but, then, what the hell do I know? ;)
"I am simply identifying modes of experience. We need new perceptions to cope. Our technologies are generations ahead of our thinking. If you begin to think about these new technologies you appear as a poet because you are dealing with the present as the future. That is my technique. . .Never predict anything that hasn't already happened." Marshall McLuhan, The Hot and Cool Interview; Memories of Now
If you were after you, do you think you could get you?
"Absolutely! I can get anyone if I wanted them badly enough."
What information would you shake out of yourself?
"I'd want to know where the Wanta money is right now. Who in the Pentagon has done wrong? Who killed who-black ops-illegal arms trades, where are blueprints, the docs you brought back from Moscow? Where's Susanna at? Was it her or Oleg who poisoned Bastien? And did McComb County give up Bobby Moore intentionally? Who shot Foster?"
When did you leave ONI?
"The opportunity came, I was getting old, I don't like getting shot, getting stabbed."
Always a pleasure reading your comments, bushie...thanks.
28 Jan 2008 @ 19:01 by : Oh,
well, as with an astroid thats too close to do anything about but duck, this seems to be the case for those who are within the power structure, its the same as asking which rock killed the dinos. As we know lots of rocks in space break up and form a string, so there is always a tail/trail in orbit, those parts that missed are still there to wreek havoc at a latter date. I think that does apply to those people who are in control as well. Like shrapnel left flying after a bigger boom. To me its all the after effects going back millions of years when men wre literal giants rideing dinos, and then the little men who eventualy took out the giants. We see in real time, those events as symbols and metaphors, that all events and reality are just mimicing the big so called bang.
21 Feb 2008 @ 19:07 by : Yeah...
the so called is right. And meanwhile the dweebs blow up hydrogen, Cobalt, and Atom bombs...then call it carbon emissions as culprit. Cancer is big business on this planet. Stronteum in the bone marrow...gee, I wonder why? Oh, global warming. Dark Star will soon arrive with reinforcements then we'll get em! ;)
"Two roads diverged in a wood... I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost