The Precautionary Principle Breeds Threat Exaggeration

French Intellectual Calls it “Excessive” and Ineffective

The swine-flu epidemic was the latest high-profile example of the precautionary principle as applied in France. Health officials in France (as in the United States and in other European countries) opted for a massive vaccination program. All the attendant problems (cost, statistical risks of deaths from vaccines, government credibility on health dangers) were accepted by the authorities, who said that they were compelled to take this initiative in the name of the precautionary principle. In the case of some previous threats (such as mad cow disease), Paris took a more cautious approach. In the instance of the swine flu scare, the policy provoked public debate and criticism, especially once it became clear that the imminent threat was small – and as a result, French people ignored the vaccination program. As a case study, this latest episode illustrates some of the contradictions and problems can arise with a systematic adherence to the precautionary principle. Exploring the issue, François Ewald, a French philosopher of risk management, does not criticize the authorities’ handling of the flu threat but he does conclude the precautionary principle may be incompatible with the real-life practices of contemporary Western societies.


"Libel Tourism" to London Faces Extinction – like Dodo Bird

Traditional British Law Overtaken by Evolution of Globalizing Realities

British libel law, according to The Economist, means in practice that “anyone anywhere in the world who can prove that someone in England has bought, read, or downloaded potentially defamatory material about them can start a court case.” That’s unique – and that jurisdictional sweep is not the end of it.


Sarkozy Proposes Tax on Google Ad Revenue and other Web Firms

Idea Google being Demonized in France as “Great Satan” of Web Hegemony

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made it official that he intends to tax foreign internet companies on their online sales in France, an initiative colloquially referred to as “The Google Tax.”
The idea -- the latest in a series of legal and political moves against Google's activities in France -- proposes to tax advertising revenues from online giants such as Google to support the creative industries in France hit by the digital revolution. But critics say it is unworkable, perhaps even counter-productive and could at best simply prop up failing business models.


“Could Europe Be Doing Something Right?” asks NY Times’ Krugman

Americans Should Think Twice about European Socio-Economic Models

A leading and sometimes controversial U.S. economist Paul Krugman says that Americans should look beyond their knee-jerk dismissal of European countries’ economic systems and recognize some ways in which the Europeans’ formulas have succeeded in sustaining long-run prosperity – arguably better than the results in the U.S.


A Post-Racial America? New Optimism Among African-Americans

Substantial Shift in Attitude Reflects Cumulative Reforms, Pollsters Say -- Not Just Obama Effect

African-Americans have become remarkably more upbeat about their personal prospects, according to a major national poll conducted at the end of President Barack Obama’s first year in office.

Fifty-three percent of African-Americans say life for their community is improving while only 10 percent predicted things getting worse. As recently as 2007, polls of the African-American community showed that 44 percent said things would get better and 21 percent expressed pessimism – nearly double the new figure.