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Interview with Madhusree Mukerjee, Oct 29, 2020 audio icon

Never in the history of mankind was a system of extraction, looting and plunder so perfected as practiced by the British aristocrats in managing occupied India for nearly two centuries.

Not only did British aristocrats systematically steal grains from farms often at gun point, confiscate raw materials and manufacture goods often at below production costs but they also forced millions of young men into fighting British wars at worthless wages.

It was this system of rapacious looting of people, materials and money from India that Winston Churchill fell in love with and was so determined to preserve. Churchill knew only too well that without the resources and people from the “Pearl in the Crown”, Britain had limited options in any confrontation with Hitler’s Germany even with the help of the United States of America.

In Churchill’s Secret War, journalist Madhusree Mukerjee chronicles the British system of looting in India. With the help of meticulous research and thorough collation of facts, records, communications and intentions of British leaders and managers Mukerjee presents a callous system at its worst. 

The Bengal province, once rich in agriculture, vibrant in trade and run by an industrious community, was the envy of all of its visitors. However, that prosperous province was turned to utter poverty in merely five years after the British rule had been forced upon.

From diverting grains from Bengal to armies in the Middle East, sucking rice from Bengal to building stockpiles in Britain and first denying and then deleting much needed grain shipments to India from Australia, Churchill played a central role as ravaging famine spread from Bengal to the East Coast of India. 

Winston Churchill’s decisions and actions played a direct role in setting conditions of famine that killed at least 3 million people and many millions more faced starvation for another year. All the while, Churchill worked feverishly in building stockpiles of grains, cheese, wine and bread in England in 1943 as the Second World War raged on. 

Churchill’s right of self-determination did not extend to India with 300 million people so much so that he plundered at least 1.2 billion pounds (About 80 billion pounds in today’s currency) from the treasure of the Indian government to fight his war in Europe between 1943 and 1945.

This willful plundering of occupied India, the reckless war gambles and millions of deaths in Bengal is the true legacy of Churchill’s British Empire that is systematically covered up by British historians.

Churchill’s racial superiority views were often expressed in derogatory polemics, blaming the famine on the assertions that Indian were “breeding like rabbits” and that “if the rice shortages were so bad than how Mahatma Gandhi was still alive.”

Even after 75 years, the British system of denial, information blocking and downplaying in mass media continues. Most of the War Cabinet discussions related to Bengal and the famine in India between 1942 and 1944 are systematically blacked out, with a pile of perfectly collected documents having missing paragraphs and pages of information.

British historians tend to avoid in public discussions the existence of the Bengal famine altogether just as many are led to believe that the Jewish holocaust never happened.

Key Topics :

  • How did the British system of looting turn Bengal as the poorest province of India in less than five years?
  • What objectives did the British government have in managing affairs of India?
  • How did the British system of creditor rights in occupied India entrench the famine in agriculture? ...+
Interview with Barry C. Lynn, Oct 15, 2020 audio icon

Big Tobacco, Big News, Big Banks, Big Oil, Big Stores, Big Motors and now we have Big Data too. 

Over the past century, family controlled businesses were the driving force behind our economic system, and over the years that force was either dissipated or undermined by the emergency of big businesses across all sectors of the American economy.

As some businesses amassed economic power and leveraged that into political influence, the set of rules began to change in the 1960s before they eventually gained momentum in the mid-80s. Rising economic powers systematically dismantled the regulatory hurdles along the way, using their ever growing political influence in the name of providing more efficient and better services to customers.

In Liberty from All Masters, journalist and writer Barry Lynn offers a sobering view of the current state of the country’s political economy and its nexus to the political power structure.

Lynn’s lucid prose reveals why The Founding Fathers were concerned about the extreme concentration of power in the English aristocracy and its business structure that led to the support of the autocratic and repressive regime of English rule in North America and India. Citizens by design, the motto of the early leaders of the United States, led to the distribution of wealth and a wider democratic base.

The rules that emerged from the early experiments in efforts of wider dissemination of new technologies were enhanced in the course of the last two centuries. However, the tide has turned since the early 80s, with rules related to the Common Carrier Law often being selectively implemented or just plainly ignored as politicians pander increasingly to the Big Businesses.

Lynn probes further in providing concrete examples of how the extreme concentration of power in digital platform operators has taken a more worrisome form in a way that ultimately affects our democratic institutions. These large corporations that we have come to trust with our data now have the abilities to decide what we search, what we buy, what we sell, what roads we travel on and increasingly what we think and what we should not think.

Key Topics :

  • How does the extreme concentration of economic power corrupt society and hurt all of us?
  • How are digital monopolies affecting our abilities to communicate with one another, build our communities and our own identities?
  • Who are the masters of today’s political economy? ...+
Interview with Marc Levinson, Oct 9, 2020 audio icon

As long as we need and want products and services that others make or create, globalization is here to stay.

Nations have explored the earth to reach other civilizations and at times gone to wars, whether it is for spices, silk or precious metals like gold and silver. Civilizations have been subjugated and colonies were created only to get the reliable supply of the product of choice of the time.

In recent centuries, manufactured goods have become objects of desire as the rich want to dress themselves in style while the less privileged demand cheaper goods to access more technology driven lifestyles.

Whether it is the latest designer dress, the most affordable or the most expensive phones, these coveted items all have their global journeys, often rocky, carefully drafted by entrepreneurs and governments.

Economist, historian and author Marc Levinson offers a broad and expansive history of globalization and its fast-paced evolution in the last two centuries. In an insightful account, Levinson explains how globalization has been transformed in every stage by entrepreneurs, governments and technology.

Contract freight, deregulating finance, international supply chains, headquarter economy became the milestones of international trade leading to globalization.

Levinson offers profound insights into how aspiring national powers have subsidized manufacturing, highlighting that market forces have never been behind the rise of manufacturing in any significant powerful nation. In addition, the spread of supply chains to value chains have rendered most conventional government statistics on international trade to say very little about the status of societies, community prosperity and relationships among nations.

Key Topics :

  • What is the history of globalization?
  • How has globalization evolved during its four stages?
  • Why does scale matter and why do larger companies have advantages? ...+
Interview with David Polfeldt, Sep 1, 2020 audio icon

Merely two decades ago, computer games were still just a form of entertainment with primitive graphics, limited storytelling and little interactivity. With the advanced computing, enticing animation and multi-media capabilities, games have since evolved as an addictive medium for many.

However, integrating technology and creating an engrossing platform is a multi-dimensional challenge not only for the creating types but also for the managers of studios. Increasingly, computer and online games offer an additional and lucrative revenue streams for many publishing and movie studios.

In his book The Dream Architects, author David Polfeldt narrates a personal saga from the early days of false start to world fame in the computer game industry. David lived in an era when the game industry evolved from Commodore to Nintendo 64 and rode the tech curve where 3-D characters can move around a virtual space.

In multiple chapters, the author places the reader in the middle of intense game development strategy sessions and takes us on a tour of Hollywood studios, introducing us to celebrity movie producers.

David offers a sensitive and personal account of the rise, fall and rise of Massive Entertainment as he juggles management challenges and lives up to the expectations of bosses in Los Angeles and then in Paris, France.

David offers an insider account of what it took to conceive, develop and complete world famous games such as Assassin's Creed: RevelationsFar Cry 3, and Tom Clancy's The Division, which together have generated billions in revenues worldwide.

Every game is a chaos and every game has a war story. The book offers real life experiences from a battle-scarred successful executive and lessons for entrepreneurs in what it takes to combine quality and imagination as well as how to promote that culture from a small team to a large organization of talented and energetic people.

Key Topics :

  • Why is playing computer games so addictive to so many people?
  • How have computer games evolved over the past three decades?
  • What are the main challenges of game production? ...+
Interview with Dexter Roberts, Jun 9, 2020 audio icon

While gleaming towers, high speed trains and expressways of urban China are well known, there is another China that most of us know very little about. In the last three decades, the rural interior of China has seen a mass exodus of people as factories in coastal regions promise a dream of rising wages and prosperity.

Author Dexter Roberts offers a rare view of how the rural China is affected by this mass exodus in The Myth of Chinese Capitalism. With the help of several interviews with migrant workers, business owners, labor activists and policymakers, the veteran China journalist provides valuable insights into how Beijing policies are impacting urban and rural families differently.

China’s rapid rise to “factory of the world” status is driven by the willingness of farmers to abandon farming and move to urban areas in search of higher income and better life. However, China’s hukou policy has created a two-tier system and prevents migrants from setting roots and forming families in urban areas. Even after working for more than three decades, as many as 400 million workers are still migrants and cannot settle down in prospering cities, finding it also difficult to return home.

As the availability of cheap factory workers in China begins to shrink, Beijing policy makers are forcefully advancing rapid factory automation to preserve economic growth rate. However, the rapid “robot adoption” is coming at the same as more and more foreign companies are leaving China, forcing migrant workers into low-skill service jobs.

There are several myths surrounding the Chinese economy and the book deals with a few of them head on. The middle class in China will keep expanding; migrants will return to the countryside and spark the service economy boom; economic reforms will soon be followed by political reforms; and China is all equipped to avoid Japanese-style economic stagnation.

China is facing not only the middle-income trap but also the rapidly slowing economy, dramatic income and wealth inequality, a sharp decline in birth rate and extraordinary debt burden. Despite the best efforts of the government, the Chinese economy is likely to slump into years of stagnation similar to the one faced by neighboring Japan, once the factory to the world.

Key Topics :

  • How have China’s top-down policy directives created the world’s largest migrant population?
  • Who are China's migrant workers and why are they not able to settle down?
  • How does China’s hukou policy facilitate rapid economic expansion but also alienate migrants? ...+
Interview with Chris Miller, Jun 5, 2020 audio icon

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 left Russia with economic malaise, rapid inflation and a sharp escalation in foreign debt. Even after the collapse, the Russian Federation, the country with the largest land mass, a population of 143 million and spanning multiple continents with 11 time zones and sharing borders with 14 nations. What happens in Russia does matter.

Back in 1991, the newly formed bankrupt nation struggled for another eight years before Vladimir Putin rose to lead Russia. By the time President Putin took control of the Kremlin’s bureaucracy, Russia had already defaulted on its foreign debt, shortages were widespread and the hold of the central government was weakening in the far flung regions of the country. In other words, Russia’s rule barely mattered and the looting of the nation continued.

In Putinomics, Professor Chris Miller offers a detailed account of how president Putin perceived the nation’s problems and how he went about setting the priorities for his administration. Putin applied a methodical and pragmatic approach in getting the nation’s finances in order, tightening the control of the state and maintaining stability in the nation. But it all came at a huge human cost.

This is the story of a nation that managed to rise from its bankruptcy at birth to accumulating $600 billion in its sovereign wealth fund in less than a decade. In a well-researched historical account drawn from various Russian records, Professor Miller offers insights into various economic challenges faced by Putin and how he reestablished his brand of personal politics, mended Russia’s finances and held in check the power of oligarchs.

However, Putin ended up replacing one group of oligarchs with another, failed to check the widespread corruption at the highest level of government and he has still not found a way to steer Russia’s economy away from its dependence on oil and gas. As Russia faces decades of stagnation ahead, younger and more ambitious generations will continue to leave, private businesses will remain strangled as Putin and his likely successor are expected to keep a tight control of the state across the economy.

Key Topics :

  • What was the state of the Soviet economy in the late 1990s?
  • What did Putin inherit in 1999?
  • What defined Putin’s priorities after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Russian debt default? ...+
Interview with Daniel S. Markey, May 20, 2020 audio icon

China’s rapid economic development over the past three decades has enabled Beijing to spread its wings abroad, allowing the trading giant to secure its routes to world markets.

Most of China’s trade with the rest of the world is through maritime links that connect Chinese ports on the eastern seaboard and pass through the narrow and vulnerable strait of Malacca. With few friends in the region, China needs to protect its crude oil and commodities imports as well as trillions of dollars of goods exports.

With its newfound wealth and rising confidence, China has a strong desire to build alternative routes to markets in Europe, increasingly looking at its western border and overland routes passing through Eurasia.

In China’s Western Horizon, Professor Daniel S. Markey provides a comprehensive review of China’s western neighbors and the strategic challenges facing Beijing. He sheds much-needed light on a region of the world that is often forgotten and is rarely a priority of today’s leading powers.

Pakistan, once the focal point of the Chinese western border strategy, has been thrown in turmoil as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor is facing significant hurdles on the ground. Realities are no different in Kazakhstan and in other smaller neighboring nations. However, China has increasingly played a key role in supporting the ambitions of rival regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia in an attempt to become a new strategic alternative in the region.

Key Topics :

  • Why is China extremely sensitive to its hold over western territories?
  • How has Eurasia come to shape China’s trade routes and investment opportunities?
  • Why do local politics and needs dictate Beijing’s negotiation with border nations? ...+
Interview with James Henderson, May 14, 2020 audio icon

For the last five decades natural gas export has added significant foreign currency to treasuries of the ex-USSR and now Russia. By tapping the vast natural gas fields, Gazprom provides natural gas to more than 70% of homes and industries in Russia. Through the steady development of its distribution network, Gazprom has also become a leading supplier of natural gas to European Union member nations.

In The Globalization of Russian Gas: Political and Commercial Catalysts, professors James Henderson and Arild Moe offer a comprehensive review of the Russian natural gas industry and a detailed analysis of forces at play in Russia, Europe and Asia. Both in scale and scope, Russia’s energy complex is vast.

The global energy economy is in a state of flux and Russia, despite several technical hurdles, has managed to reach new peaks in natural gas production in 2018. Moreover, Russian gas now accounts for 36% of natural gas consumption in the EU and now with the Power of Siberia pipeline Russia has emerged as a leading gas supplier to China.

In spite of commercial and political challenges, Russia has not only increased its production but has also become a reliable supplier in the world market. How Russia balances its needs of domestic energy, the thirst of foreign exchange and diversification from its traditional markets in Europe to Asia with the help of pipe networks and LNG supply will impact global energy markets in the decade to come.

Key Topics :

  • What role have oil and natural gas played in the former Soviet Union and in today’s Russia?
  • What are the mechanisms of price discovery in Russia's gas market?
  • How has Russia's domestic natural gas market evolved and led to the rise of independent gas explorers and distributors? ...+
Interview with Chris Miller, May 12, 2020 audio icon

Only a hundred years ago, Russia was just another large country and was neither a powerful nation nor a regional or a super power. However, after World War I, Lenin and then Stalin quickly consolidated resources and focused on building an effective infrastructure that led to the steady rise of Russia to a regional power. By the time World War II broke out Russia had become a force to reckon with and was miles ahead of Britain and France in producing military hardware. 

In his well-researched book, The Struggle to Save Soviet Economy, Professor Chris Miller drives to the heart of the rise, expansion and fall of the Soviet Union. With access to thousands of Russian archived documents, Professor Miller dissects the political tensions, leadership objectives and decision-making processes at the highest echelons of Russia’s power structure.

Founded on Marxism-Leninism ideology, the Soviet Union was fueled to the near top of the world with the help of consolidation of political power in Kremlin, the sacrifice of its people and the fervent desire of its leaders to build a powerful state at the expense of personal liberty and property.

That system, though inefficient, survived more than seven decades and did manage to produce a powerful state that other powers in the world could not ignore. In the late 1970s, Russian leaders’ efforts to modernize the system unleashed forces that neither Politburo nor communist party leader Mikhail Gorbachev was able to contain. The political paralysis produced by powerful forces that opposed economic reforms was the ultimate cause of the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Although the arms race with the West, a sharp fall in crude oil prices – the Soviet Union’s main source of foreign exchange – and significant human losses in the Soviet-Afghan War contributed to the economic pain, they were not the main reasons behind the fall of the Soviet Union.

Key Topics :

  • How did Russia fight back to become a regional power first and then a superpower in the 20th century?
  • What role did Lenin and Stalin play in building and projecting power in the region?
  • How effective was central planning in directing resources to the benefit of the state? ...+
Interview with John M. Barry, May 8, 2020 audio icon

Viruses may be lethal, but it is the deadly combination of powerful lies, ignorance and fear that eventually kills more people. The flu outbreak in the spring of 1918 rapidly became a pandemic that ended up killing more people in 24 weeks than the HIV virus has killed in as many years.

While the making of the virus was a natural phenomenon, the making of the flu pandemic of 1918 was entirely human. In his award-winning book, John M. Barry weaves a detailed and well-researched story of the deadliest pandemic to this day.

We will probably never know the true account of how many people died, 50 million or 100 million or even more, but every estimate has been revised higher in the last century. What was more horrifying than the terrible loss of life was the fact that between 8% and 10% of all young adults living then may have been killed by the virus.

In a gripping and insightful account, Barry explains how the American medical education and research went from one of the worst in the world to world-class in merely three decades. He goes on to describe how dedicated and determined scientists at John Hopkins University and Rockefeller Institute and other newly established medical universities advanced the science of medical discoveries.

Key Topics :

  • What was the status of American medical science in the early 20th century?
  • How did medical research advance and “scientific medicine” take root?
  • What institutions played key roles in the advance of virology and immunology research? ...+
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