A Grapevine service announcement Pay attention: Holuhraun, still spewing lava. Bárðarbunga, still sinking.

WHY EDUCATION IS IMPORTANT:

Published January 14, 2005

The road to hell
The Great Depression wiped out the demand for coffee, Brazil’s major export. In 1930, Getulio Vargas seized power in a military coup, and democracy was only restored in 1954. In 1961, Brazil’s President Goulart tried to raise the minimum wage of labourers. This led to another coup in 1964 by the military. As a result of this, Brazil seemed like a poster boy for market capitalism as the World Bank offered loans, the US increased aid and foreign investment and GNP improved rapidly. The “Brazilian miracle” aimed to get rid of poverty by increasing the national pie. However, the pie was unevenly distributed. Within three years, real wages had been reduced by 25 percent.

In the peak growth year of 1975, expenditures by the Ministry of Health were lower than in 1965 and the World Bank reported that 68% of the population had less than the minimum calorie intake necessary. At most, 5% of the population had benefited immensely from the Brazilian Miracle. 4 out of 5 people had been left outside it all together. By 1990, when the generals withdrew, Brazil had the third worst education system in the world, clocking in after Guinea-Bissau and Bangladesh. The unequal income distribution remains a major problem. As for the country, which is the world’s 5th most populous, and has the world’s 8th largest economy, becoming one of the leading powers of the world, we’re still waiting.

The road less travelled
Compare this to Finland. It achieved independence in 1917, and three decades of Civil War, massacres of communists, culture clashes between Finnish and Swedish speakers, depression and finally a devastating war with the Soviet Union followed. At the end of the war it had to cede territory and pay reparations to the Soviet Union. It also had to be very mindful of Soviet interests in its foreign policy, but was largely left to conduct its internal affairs on its own. It chose the path of social democracy, with regulated financial markets and an all inclusive welfare system.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, one of Finland’s largest trading partners with huge unpaid debts, Finland went through one of the worst recessions of any Western country. Half a million jobs disappeared, and the government cut its spending by 20%. Two sectors, however, were spared; education, and research and development. By the late 90s, unemployment had been halved, Nokia was the 2nd largest manufacturer of mobile phones, and Finland was rated 5th in the world in terms of quality of life by a UN survey. Around 83% of the workforce belongs to unions which have been strong ever since World War II, whereas the labour movement in Brazil was crushed in the mid 1960s. Finland’s GDP is more than three times as high as Brazil’s, and more evenly distributed.

Although we may take it for granted today that Finland is a richer country than Brazil, it might not have been quite as evident that things would turn out that way in 1929.



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Holuhraun Continues To Erupt

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It’s been almost a month since the Holuhraun eruption started, and there doesn’t seem to be any indication of it stopping soon. Meanwhile, the Bárðarbunga caldera continues to subside, which means that it must still be feeding magma to the Holuhraun eruptive fissure. The surrounding area is still closed to the public (sorry!) due to high concentrations of poison gas and the continuing risk of flooding. In the last two weeks there has been quite a bit of air pollution (mostly sulphur dioxide, the one that smells like rotten eggs) due to gas emanating from the eruptive fissure. Daily forecasts

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Which Way 
The Wind Blows

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“This is what we call a ‘washing board,’” our guide Kormákur Hermannsson says, his voice barely intelligible as we jostle violently on the bumpy mountain road. Indeed it feels like we are driving over one. It’s been nine hours since we set off from Reykjavík to see the Holuhraun eruption in Iceland’s remote highlands, and we are shaking. To our right, the sun is a blinding red ball peeking out from behind the clouds. Mount Herðubreið looms over an orange haze that blankets the horizon. We are still a few hours away from the eruption, yet its presence is unmistakeable.

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One Man’s Miracle

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Möðrudalur, one of the most isolated farms in Iceland, lies under the icy nipple of Mt. Herðubreið in the northeastern part of the island.  In 1919, a man named Jón Stefánsson bought Möðrudalur from one of his brothers.  Jón was a saddler and harness maker by trade. He was also an accomplished musician. At night he’d sit at his organ, and the echo of Bach sonatas, which he’d play backwards note for note, would sweep over Möðrudalur’s lava and empty sands. Jón was, to put it mildly, an eccentric. He’d wake up at 4am and get the farm labourers working

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Mexicans: They’re Everywhere!

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When I began my search for Mexicans in Iceland, I was prepared to hear fantastic stories about cultural polarity. And that’s exactly what I got. From tiny Vopnafjörður we travel to the centre of it all, Reykjavík. This is the story of Rodrigo Aparicio, who found a second home in Iceland. What does “exotic” mean? For many, Mexico—with its countless ecosystems, dialects, blue shores, sandy beaches, archaeological sites and colonial cities—fits the bill perfectly. To Mexicans, “exotic” is perhaps the type of place where you’ll experience midnight sun and the Northern Lights, where folks aren’t coy about the human body,

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Höfði-San: Shrimp Salesman Built A Replica Of A Reykjavík Landmark

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Iceland became the focus of world attention when US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met in Reykjavík in October 1986 to discuss nuclear disarmament. The powerful couple met at Höfði, a small villa on Borgartún, the street where the ghosts of the fallen Icelandic banking system roam today. Many of the banks had headquarters and offices on this street, which lies only a kilometre or so away from the city centre. Before the international financial crisis obliterated the overweight Icelandic finance industry, the bankers wanted to build huge towers and other mega structures in the area, which

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Independence Is Not A Disaster:

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After decades of discussion on the political and economic details of a theoretically independent Scotland, the Scottish citizens finally face the vote that could bring this country into reality. The vote on the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill, asking “Should Scotland be an independent country?” will take place this Thursday, September 18, 2014. “We have a shared interest” As part of the discourse on their potential independence, Scottish political leaders are looking to the Nordic countries as models in developing their social and economic policies. In addition to potentially modelling welfare and taxation on Nordic systems, other involvement ranges from applying

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