Monthly Archives: September 2009

Do We Live in a Borderless World?

The Second World by Parag Khanna

The Second World by Parag Khanna

Parag Khanna, author of The Second World: How Emerging Powers Are Redefining Global Competition in the Twenty-first Century, delivered a fascinating talk at this past summer’s TED Conference. 

At the crux of his speech, and the book, is a rejection of the notion of a borderless world ruled only by First World powers, and a re-examination of other growing hot spots and spheres of influence that we ignore at our peril.

Do we live in a borderless world?  If not, is creating a borderless world a noble goal, for that matter, even attainable?

You may view the video by clicking here, and then share your thoughts with us by posting a comment. 

To the visit the author’s website, click here.  You may also follow Parag via Twitter @paragkhanna.

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Is Empathy Hardwired?

The Age of Empathy by Dr. Frans De Waal

The Age of Empathy by Dr. Frans De Waal

World-renown primatologist Dr. Frans De Waal’s new book, The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, draws upon decades of research and study, considering such fundamental questions as: Do we have an instinct for compassion?  Or is everything we do motivated simply by innate self-interest?

The book has received a lot of interest; most recently, the Wall Street Journal published an interesting review accompanied by compelling video and images, and the Los Angeles Times pondered the book’s central argument in light of all of the recent negative events (i.e. the War on Terror, the financial meltdown, the ongoing unrest in the Middle East) triggered by humans at the dawn of this still very new century.

You can read an excerpt here, and visit the author’s website for more information.

So what do you think of this newest chapter in the nature versus nurture debate?  Is empathy really hardwired?  If so, what does that mean for us?

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Why the Debate on Immigration is All Wrong

Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

by Sonia Nazario, author of Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a  Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother (Random House 2007).

Congress and the Obama Administration are again proposing new “solutions” to curtail illegal immigration. Sadly, they are the same tired ideas that have been tried — and failed — in the past. No one is proposing the one thing that would work.

First, a few facts. In recent years, driven by a dearth of jobs in the U.S., illegal immigration has dropped . Still, half a million people continue to enter the U.S. illegally each year; in all 4% of the population in the U.S. is undocumented. In Los Angeles, 4 of 10 people are from another country.

The benefits of this influx are clear. These migrants do some of the most backbreaking, dirty, dangerous jobs U.S.-born workers largely won’t do—and for rock-bottom wages. Immigrants’ low wages keep some businesses from closing or going abroad in order to compete. A 1997 study by the National Research Council, still considered the most objective and authoritative on the effects of immigration, found that immigrant labor also lowers the cost of food and clothing for all of us. Indeed, 5% of every good or service Americans buy is cheaper because of immigrant labor. That means more Americans can avail themselves of essential services offered at lower prices—like child care. Now, the downside….
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Legalize All Drugs Now!

HIGH by Brian O'Dea

HIGH by Brian O'Dea

by Brian O’Dea, author of HIGH: Confessions of an International Drug Smuggler (Other Press 2009).

“The most important… revolutions all include as their only common feature the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our certainty….” —Stephen Jay Gould

President Obama recently announced that his administration would bring a halt to “preemption”, a practice that used federal regulations to override state laws on the environment, health, public safety and other issues.  This includes the arcane drug laws that have seen the feds at odds with various states over the dispensing of medical marijuana and that have seen the DEA raid medical marijuana dispensaries in violation of state law and voters rights, which established these state laws in the first place.  Even the Supreme Court won’t hear another challenge to California’s decade-old law permitting marijuana use for medical purposes, finally coming down on the side of the state.  Now, more than ever, we have a true potential for change, a desperately needed change from treating the sickness haunting the weakest among us with the hammer of corrections.
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Welcome to Debate this Book

If the unexamined life is not worth living then perhaps the unexamined book is not worth reading?

Welcome to Debate this Book, a blog forum dedicated to discussion, debate and examination.  My name is Michael Gentile and I am the Director of Academic Marketing at Random House.  My colleagues and I could not be more excited about the potential for this new project but we must say upfront: the success of this endeavor lays completely at your fingertips. 

We’ve asked leading authors published by Random House—many of whom are your colleagues—to write brief essays taking a position on an issue in academe or in the wider world, positions further explored in more detail in the author’s book.  We then invite you, the academic reader, to respond to the author’s piece—to agree, to disagree, to share your own thoughts and experiences.  Authors will then reply to the responses, creating a conversation around important topics of our day.

Our team is committed to working with our authors to develop provocative and interesting essays, and we’ll regularly update the site to keep the conversation going but the debate, and thus this site, will only work with your involvement.

So dig in, post a comment and help make this a site worth reading.

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