World Cup 2014: Year of Surprises

The World Cup usually is big, loud, but rather predictable and low-scoring. This year, however, everything changed. Costa Rica won, Mexico was the only non-European country to ever get a point against Brazil in the group stage, and Brazil scored an own goal. Stakes are high and drama is higher – red cards, discounted goals, and goal line technology used for the first time to count a goal that the referee would probably otherwise discount…this World Cup has it all. Here are my feelings and thoughts summed up after each of the games during the first round of games.

Marcelo after the first goal of the World Cup – an own goal.

BRA-CRO (3-1)
Brazil has been the projected winner of the World Cup from the get-go, but I was left unimpressed by their play. The own goal made them wake up and start attacking more often, but the game still felt a little meandering at times. Croatia played better than expected at times, making some solid plays, but most of the time, the team drifted around purposelessly. I remember liking their team back in WC ’06, so I’m hoping they will liven up in their following performances. Brazil, too, needs a little bit more warm up time to become the top-notch team it claims to be.

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Situation Analysis: Economic Inequality

Economic inequality was once a thing of the past in the United States. However, with the aid of globalization and financial deregulation, the issue has again resurfaced and went straight into the political limelight, triggering powerful, but unsuccessful movements such as Occupy Wall Street. The problem is growing, and not even an economic crisis slowed the disparaging gap between the rich and the poor.

source

Economic inequality has become one of the most talked about issue in today’s politics, especially following the routine economic collapse of various countries across the Western world since 2008. The United States of America has seen much social unrest as more and more citizens become frustrated at their seemingly static socioeconomic status while watching the rich get richer. Currently, the USA is ranked third among all the advanced economies in the amount of income inequality, per the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality. It seems to be getting worse, from the collapse of the middle class to rising costs of living and lowering of wages. Issues like healthcare and government aid – referred to by the more elite as “handouts” – have become issues of the poor, issues that are talked about but never really resolved. Nowadays it seems like the public is at war with the government: spurts of rebellion can be observed throughout the past few years, such as the Occupy Movement, and the average citizen’s disgruntled opinion on the state of the nation is resonated throughout America. Congress’s approval rating has pummeled into an all-time low starting in 2013. Gallup, the organization who has been monitoring a variety of political data since 1935, has attributed this rating due to the Congressional stalemate: a Republican majority in the House and a Democratic majority in the Senate. However, it goes deeper.

Economic inequality is not an issue to be taken lightly; enraging the masses has not tided over well for many governments in the past. But understanding why economic inequality has taken on an integral role in the political atmosphere and what implications it has – both if the government were to step it and offer a solution as well as if nothing is done about the expanding problem – on the USA’s sociopolitical structure.

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Risk Analysis: Russia

Russia has been heralded as an up-and-coming economy for a while now. With increasing GDP, inclusion in the BRIC alliance, and winning the draw to host both the Olympics and the World Cup, it’s no wonder that, on paper, Russia seems like a new economic super power. But is this the reality of the situation? Is Russia really business-friendly? The answer is a solid no. There are many risks involved in international business, but Russia, despite the good statistics, is a mess not ripe for foreign investment yet.

St. Petersburg, source: Ivan Smelov

The greatest risk in doing business in Russia is the corrupted socioeconomic environment that puts companies at a disadvantage as they are forced to pay out of their pockets. The more capital you have, or the more you expand, the more bribes your company will have to pay. Most of the affected firms are brick-and-mortars, who need to seek licenses and leases through corrupt bureaucratic agencies. Online businesses are, fortunately, less susceptible to this risk because they are harder to target, even if their servers are on Russian soil.

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Minimalism

Minimalism has been all the buzz for the last few years. We’ve all noticed the shift to flat design, the simplification and decluttering of websites and apps alike. But the movement goes deeper than appearances.

A minimalist’s dream house; source.

To older generations, especially those who survived the Great Depression, accumulation of things was equal to wealth. Money could come and go with the economic rollercoaster, but things would last long after the banks collected their loans. In today’s globalized world, obtaining things isn’t hard. Increasingly efficient logistics make anything we want available quickly and cheaply. Buying and accumulating things isn’t what it used to be.

Not only that, but we have digitized our consumption. We buy apps, ebooks, and mp3s instead of hauling to the store to buy a physical copy; it’s more cost efficient and hassle-free. Millennials are undoubtedly more environmentally-conscientious than previous ones, and care about the environmental impact of their consumption. That could mean more DIY, upcycling, self-sufficiency, anti-consumption, green habits, and frugality.

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