Special Briefing: How to Understand Tomorrow’s Economy Today

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This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.

WHAT TO KNOW

It’s been a decade since the Lehman Brothers collapse marked the start of the financial crisis, and the global economy is still feeling the impact. More recently, markets have reacted with volatility to President Donald Trump’s policies, among other prominent factors, feeding further uncertainty over what 2019 may bring. Hint: Slower growth — at least in the U.S. — seems to be on most economists’ minds.

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange before the closing bell December 1, 2008 in New York City. The Dow closed down nearly 680 points following negative economic reports.

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But as long-accepted principles of free trade face populist challenges, transformative new ideas are emerging. How will capitalism and currencies look a decade from now? Can we save the planet and eliminate poverty? Continuing our smart coverage of the global economy — including whether the U.S. will be blamed for the next global recession — OZY has launched an original series exploring the Economies of the Future and introducing you to the people whose work could shape them.

HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT

Sharing is caring. For years, governments viewed the disruptive nature of the sharing economy — think firms like Uber and Airbnb — with skepticism. But now that’s changing: Growing numbers of city, state and national officials from South Korea to Sweden are embracing the social, economic and environmental benefits of sharing. Whether by promoting incubators or easing regulations, governments are realizing that it makes more sense to join, and possibly even mold, the sharing economy instead of fight it. 

He’s banking on it. Once the No. 2 at the Bank of England, Sir Paul Tucker has chosen a somewhat peculiar retirement activity: waxing poetic about why we should place limits on the powers of central banking. Ask Trump, who’s repeatedly blasted Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell in recent weeks, and he might say the same thing. But Tucker’s taking a more thoughtful approach. Concerned that central banks wield too much power — which he believes compromises the legitimacy of representative democracy on both sides of the Atlantic — he wants to more closely involve elected officials in the policymaking process. Leading scholars, meanwhile, say he’s onto something. 

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Safe havens. Given bitcoin’s volatility this year, larger economies have approached cryptocurrencies with waves of regulation. But smaller countries and territories — from Bermuda and Liechtenstein to the self-proclaimed nation of Liberland — are welcoming investments in the new medium of monetary exchange, launching their own sovereign cryptocurrencies and steering clear of heavy-handed rules. While they’re also exposing themselves to the vulnerabilities of virtual currencies and their trading, these tax havens could serve as models for smaller economies of the future. 

The Keynes to prosperity. In a nod to British economist John Maynard Keynes’ 1930s prescription for government-guaranteed full employment, Duke University public policy professor William Darity Jr. has long advocated federal job guarantees for anyone in need of work. Until recently, that proposal seemed far-fetched. But jolted by Trump’s ascent, potential Democratic presidential contenders for 2020 are looking for bold new proposals — and they’re increasingly opening up to the idea of job guarantees. Such ideas are still a long way from becoming law, but Darity isn’t letting politics dissuade him.

WHAT TO READ

Tech Companies Aren’t the Only Ones Competing for Tech Workers, by Vanessa Fuhrmans in the Wall Street Journal

“Auto makers and a slew of Silicon Valley firms are hiring autonomous-driving technicians, but so is insurance giant Allstate Corp. And health-care company Johnson & Johnson has been recruiting experts in three-dimensional printing — touted as the next revolution in manufacturing — to develop customized orthopedics and surgical tools.”

How Business Schools Are Adapting to the Changing World of Work, by Brandie Weikle on CBC

“Canadian business school leaders say soft skills such as creativity and agility are now cornerstones of business education, as universities and colleges adapt to a world where many of the jobs graduates will hold don’t even exist today.” 

WHAT TO WATCH

The Tech Innovations Transforming Oil and Gas

“The spread of intelligent and connected devices has allowed automation to make operations safer, more efficient and cheaper.”

Watch on FT Tech 4.0 on YouTube:

Global Forum 2018: The Future of the Global Economy

“In some deep and profound sense, I think the world [is moving] in the right direction — but it does that because it’s a constant battle between the forces of reason, rationality and human concern, and the darker impulses that lie within people and lie within societies.”

Watch on Fortune on YouTube:

WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER

Help yourself. By getting them to rank their own economic condition red, yellow or green based upon 50 indicators, the Poverty Stoplight — a self-evaluation tool developed over nearly a decade — gives families the agency to whip themselves into financial shape. It also offers organizations insight into whether their anti-poverty programs are working.

Why the US Is the World’s No. 1 Hot Spot

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Projecting the outlook for a year ahead is always difficult and should be approached with a degree of humility by all who try — particularly in these times. 

The think tanks and experts who do this usually run through the world’s hot spots — places that are particularly volatile and unpredictable. The problem is that, for the first time in this century, the United States qualifies as one of those hot spots. Normally, the prognosticator can assume a degree of stability and predictability on the part of Washington. Not anymore. Today, other countries justifiably wonder what U.S. principles, priorities and policies are — and how we arrive at them.

Policies articulated one day are reversed with little notice the next (Syria); things the president says he’s solved turn out not to be (North Korea); changes normally debated publicly and signaled in advance are sprung on the world (the space force); problems that U.S. experts describe as ongoing, the president says are solved (ISIS).

As other countries assess their worries for 2019, what happens here in the U.S. is likely to be their No. 1 hot spot.

Many international observers have said to me, “We have no idea what’s going on in your country.” So as other countries assess their worries for 2019, what happens here in the U.S. is likely to be their No. 1 hot spot.

With the world unable to calculate our actions, it’s harder for them to plan theirs, and therefore harder to estimate which countries will do what. With that gigantic caveat, let’s pick five international issues that merit especially close attention in 2019.

 

China

China tops the list as our most important bilateral relationship, both economically and as a global competitor for influence and military power. Although some internal problems weigh heavily on China as it tries to reorient its economy away from dependence on cheap exports, President Xi Jinping has consolidated his power to a degree unseen since the days of Mao and should be able to pursue his goals with little real opposition.

What to Watch For: China is becoming more aggressive in asserting its claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea, where it has transformed coral reefs into full-fledged islands with runways for jet aircraft and storage areas for missile batteries. The U.S. periodically challenges Beijing’s assertion of rights by flying and sailing through what the rest of the world sees as international air and sea lanes — but China’s warnings to stay out are growing sharper. We are one miscalculation away from a military confrontation there.

Russia

Where Moscow perceives weakness, it tends to probe and push. With the U.S. in internal turmoil, disagreement between the White House and Congress, and European unity under strain, Putin probably smells opportunity.

What to Watch For: Putin will be in no mood to surrender any of his hold on eastern Ukraine. His expansion of the conflict into the seas with his blockage of the Kerch Strait and seizure of Ukrainian vessels shows sanctions have yet to deter his impulse to escalate. And if the U.S. leaves Syria, look for Putin to consolidate Russian influence there and use it as a base for extending his leverage in the Middle East, where arms sales tempt and where his diplomats have been as active as his military at a time of U.S. reticence. Look for him also to establish more of a foothold in Africa and in Latin America, where Russia has already wrestled oil concessions from an impoverished Venezuela. 

North Korea

The Hermit Kingdom has yet to deliver on the denuclearization pledges it made in its summit with Trump and meetings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

What to Watch For: Very little can happen in an arms control negotiation without a “declaration” — a statement of what a country claims to have (so that Washington can compare that with its own estimate). If that doesn’t happen fairly early in 2019, the odds of progress will remain low. Meanwhile, the momentum on diplomacy appears to have shifted to an intensifying dialogue between North and South Korea, the latter driving hard for a reconciliation with the North — potentially leaving the U.S. on the sidelines.

Iran & Saudi Arabia

The dynamic between these long-standing opponents is likely to become more dangerous in 2019. The pair, purporting to speak for the Shiite and Sunni parts, respectively, of the Arab world, remain at loggerheads in seeking pre-eminence in the region.

What to Watch For: Iran will work to exacerbate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s troubles in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. With a small investment, Tehran has thwarted the Saudi effort to defeat Houthi rebels in Yemen. With its successful defense of Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, in league with Russia, Iran has shown greater ability than Riyadh at projecting its influence outside its home base. In the competition between the two, 2019 is likely to belong to Iran.

Cyberwarfare

This newest domain of conflict will continue cutting through all of these issues and more in 2019.

What to Watch For: We will surely see more thefts of corporate and personal data such as the attacks on Marriott and Facebook this year. But all of this will become more sophisticated as artificial intelligence techniques start to merge with cyber intrusions (and with cyberdefense tactics as well). The early spread of 5G networks will increase the target base, particularly as the internet of things (connections among things like phones, cars and household appliances) becomes more pervasive. Such trends lend urgency to dealing with the shortcomings of our cyber policy — which include poor coordination between the public and private sectors and inadequate experience and understanding of elementary conflict concepts such as deterrence and escalation.

Having mentioned humility in my first sentence, I must conclude by saying that the only thing certain about 2019 is that it holds great potential for surprises we will not foresee — so buckle up.

The Political Impact of Sex Positioning

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Putting Your Left Foot Out

EUGENE, SIR: I thought I had a good sex life, but something has been coming up and I don’t think I should have to explain what seems perfectly natural: Some sex positions I like, and some I don’t. And when I say I don’t I mean to the point where I won’t do them. At all. Doggy-style, for example, feels demeaning to me; I like to look at my partner when we’re making love, and unless he’s using his hands while we’re doing it or I’m using mine, I feel less. Why am I being made to feel like a freak for this? — Name withheld by request

Dear Upward Dog: People like what they like and generally while open lines of communication might have some couples talking about their likes and dislikes, if it’s just a hookup, there’s scant time and maybe better things to talk about. However, if you’re at “won’t do them” and you’re not punctuating your first rejection of an attempt to go doggy with “I absolutely hate this position,” you’re inviting low-grade confusion, which is probably only made worse with your politicization of it. 

While it’s good to know what you like and what you don’t like, explaining it along philosophical and/or political lines seems a little like you’re trying to convince the other person too, and honestly, it’s rare to be talked out of what you like. So you might be wasting your breath and your time. Especially when you can look at your partner in a mirror when having sex doggy-style. Also, don’t apologize, don’t explain (unless you feel like it) and be prepared for an occasional lack of repeat business from people who don’t have time for all of that. Good luck.

 

Do the Jerk

EUGENE, SIR: My boyfriend has been after me to jerk him off. Our sex life is good, but there are places where intercourse isn’t possible, so a few times, like at the movies, he’s asked me to jerk him off. We were sitting in the back row and no one else in the theater could see us, so that’s not the problem. The problem is I don’t know how and learning in a theater or on an airplane (another place he’s asked for this) is very stressful. We’re both 28 years old, and I just never learned how to do it when everyone else did. Where would I look online to find out how to perform a hand job? Any info would be very welcome. Even in porn they spend very little time on people jerking men off. — DW

Dear Dream Works: Are there places where intercourse isn’t possible? Really? A serious question that I am clearly asking for a friend. If people have shown us nothing else, they’ve shown us that you can screw just about any place it suits you to screw. But entertaining your query in the spirit in which it was asked, let’s assume there are places where you do not feel like having intercourse, and oral sex also seems like a bridge too far, what about the lowly and seemingly forgotten art of the hand job, a relic of a time when it was a big deal to get one, a bigger deal to get a good one, and it was an acceptable substitute for intercourse?

Here’s something you already know: The hand job is dead. As porn goes, so goes our collective sex lives sometimes and very little porn features hand jobs (don’t send me links, I’m generalizing). Moreover, many men are not asking for that which they can do themselves, and often better, because other forms of sexual expression have been much more readily embraced. “Not a single one,” said one of our go-to sex worker advisers when asked how many hand jobs she’d been asked to give during four years of escort work. 

That’s not the point, though. In the same way that it makes very little sense to be able to read Latin, some still do, and for the same reasons, it’s good to know. Looking online might work, but why do that when you’ve got a living laboratory an arm’s length away? Tell your boyfriend what you told me, and start woodshedding. Which could be said about any sex act that requires some skill. Except … with hand jobs at least you have an excuse for not being good at it. 

Odd Man Out

EUGENE, SIR: My partner and I just started swinging and met a couple we wanted to play with. Dinner, drinks, dancing —  everything was working out. We headed up to the hotel room and it didn’t take long to get the feeling that while the other couple was into me, they were not that into my beau. He thinks I should have addressed it at the time. I told him he could have said something too. Long story much shorter, he wants us to stop and I’m OK with stopping but not because I did something “wrong.” How would you have handled this? — Tina

Dear Tina the Go-Go Queen: You’re not going to like this, but in a way your boyfriend is right. If you two go to a restaurant, a movie, shopping, bingo, whatever, the most steady and ready advocate for you, outside of you, should be your partner. You wouldn’t let a waiter treat him like slop, so why let people who are clearly unclear on the concept of swapping treat him so? Sounds like they didn’t want to play with y’all as much as they wanted to play with you, but they didn’t disinvite someone who’d been invited, specifically in a way that would’ve divided the other participating couple. They didn’t have to force themselves to like him, but they can’t choose to exclude midstream without addressing it.

What should you have done? You should have started directing traffic. “You know what I think would be sexy?” And then fill in the blank with that which most involves your partner. If the other couple goes for it? Fine. If they don’t? You two bid them adieu. But you come together, you play together, you leave together. Simple.

Western Universities Grapple With Whether to Accept Middle East Funding

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When Matthew Hedges, a Durham University Ph.D. student, set off on a two-week trip to the United Arab Emirates, he was following a tradition of British academics conducting research in the Arabian Peninsula. But when he tried to leave Dubai in May he was detained, held in solitary confinement in Abu Dhabi for six months and sentenced to life in prison for spying.

Hedges’ sentencing triggered a rare public spat between the United Kingdom and one of its closest Middle East allies. Both sides now appear keen to move on after the UAE pardoned Hedges in November. But British academia may find it more difficult to return to “business as usual.” The Hedges case revived Western scrutiny of the Gulf — which has periodically been criticized over labor conditions and human rights abuses — and the rewarding relationship U.K. universities have long enjoyed with the oil-rich states.

Some U.S. institutions are also reassessing their ties with Gulf entities in the wake of the October murder of Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi hit squad. A preliminary report by MIT into its links with Saudi donors and sponsors found no reason to end the relationships. But Harvard has chosen not to renew a five-year fellowship program with the MiSK Foundation, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s charity. In the wake of the journalist’s killing, U.S. senators said they believed MBS, the kingdom’s de facto leader, ordered the operation against Khashoggi. MBS has denied any involvement in the killing and Riyadh has blamed it on a rogue operation.

 

The debate about university links to the Gulf underscores how the repercussions of the Hedges and Khashoggi cases are being felt far beyond the political and corporate worlds. For Western governments, the dilemma is to appear robust in their responses to the incidents while maintaining relations with key allies. But for academics it is particularly sensitive as they seek to balance their traditional positions as defenders of human rights and freedom of expression with long-standing financial, educational and research relationships.

“It’s going to make us all a lot more conscious of, and careful about, how we look for money, how we accept money,” says William E. Granara, director of Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. “The latest incident is going to keep us all on our toes.”

***

Confident, assertive and keen to exert soft power, Gulf countries have been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into top academic institutions in the U.K. and U.S. for years.

Between them, the six Gulf states — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman — have provided $2.2 billion to U.S. universities since the beginning of 2012 to June this year, an analysis of the U.S. Education Department’s Foreign Gifts and Contracts Report shows. The Gulf total represents just under a quarter of all foreign gifts and contracts over that period. Qatar, the world’s richest state in per capita terms, led with $1.3 billion, followed by Saudi Arabia with $580.5 million and the UAE with $213 million.

The figures include funding from state oil companies, such as Saudi Aramco and Qatar Petroleum, Gulf universities and cultural missions. Much of the money also goes to student fees — Riyadh funded about 110,000 U.S. scholarships for Saudis between 2005 and 2015.

There is less transparency over foreign funding to U.K. institutions. But Gulf entities have donated tens of millions of pounds to the country’s leading institutions, primarily to their Middle East centers. Research by academics Jonas Bergan Draege and Martin Lestra, published in the Middle East Law and Governance journal in 2015, estimated that Gulf entities provided at least 70 million pounds to U.K. institutions between 1997 and 2007.

They [Gulf donors] are creating a sphere of influence at universities.

Madawi al-Rasheed, visiting professor, London School of Economics’ Middle East Centre

Oxford says it has received 17.7 million pounds from Gulf states since 2000, excluding donations to individual colleges, with more than 6 million pounds each from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. About 1 percent of its total donations came from the Middle East. That also excludes funding for the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, which is described as a “recognized independent center” of the university, built with a donation of 20 million pounds from King Fahd, the late Saudi monarch.

Cambridge University received 8 million pounds from Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in 2008 to establish a center for Islamic studies, and gifts totaling about 7 million pounds from Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said, Oman’s ruler, for the establishment of two professorships.

Richard K. Lester, MIT’s associate provost, told the university’s newsletter that his recommendation not to terminate its ties to Saudi donors was a “tough call because none of us wants to lend legitimacy to grotesque actions like the assassination of Khashoggi.” 

“But the judgment I have made [in the preliminary report] is that, on balance, the benefits provided by the work we’re doing outweigh the impact of any kind of reputational support our activities may provide to those in Saudi Arabia responsible for these malevolent actions,” Lester said.

Other academics are more skeptical. “I doubt it will be business as usual,” says one close to the Hedges case, “and nor should it be.”

***

There is also a deeper question that some academics say needs to be asked — the extent to which Gulf funding may influence research on the Middle East, a region where some topics are taboo and critics and dissidents are jailed. Hedges was researching the sensitive subject of military development in the Gulf after the 2011 Arab uprisings.

“It’s not easy to track. But if centers want to safeguard funding streams, then they might either commission research that falls within a specific remit and perhaps not commission research that doesn’t, or individual academics might feel they don’t wish to cross certain lines in case the funding is jeopardized,” says Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a Baker Institute fellow for the Middle East.

Ulrichsen is a former co-director of the London School of Economics’ (LSE) Kuwait program on development, governance and globalization in the Gulf states, a 10-year scheme launched with a donation of 5.7 million pounds from a Kuwaiti foundation in 2007. It was renewed for another five years in 2017 with a grant of 2.7 million pounds.

Ulrichsen says the only time he had an issue as head of the LSE program was when Kuwaiti donors called to complain about an article he had written about protests in the Gulf state in 2012. But a year later, he was denied entry at Dubai Airport after he wrote articles critical of Bahrain and the UAE. The LSE responded to Ulrichsen’s exclusion by canceling a conference in the UAE.

Ulrichsen believes “a lot of people may self-censor” to avoid a similar fate.

It was not the first time the LSE was plunged into a controversy over Middle East money. In 2011, as Libyans rebelled against Moammar Gadhafi, a scandal erupted at the university over 1.5 million pounds it received from the Gadhafi Foundation run by the late dictator’s son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi. The LSE’s director resigned over the affair.

The LSE also received a commitment of 9 million pounds in 2006, mostly from the UAE’s Emirates Foundation, to establish a center for Middle East studies, and has a 2.5 million pound lecture theater named after Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, the nation’s founder.

Professor Toby Dodge, director of that center from 2013 to 2018, says, “We’ve all learnt the lessons of what you don’t do” after the Libya debacle. “Our pluralistic, overlapping, critical research is beyond reproach,” he says. “It has furthered the academic study of the region, it hasn’t in any way led to self-censorship.”

But, he adds, “you have to be incredibly careful.”

Proponents of Gulf funding say universities’ relations with Gulf states have enhanced academic ties, enabled the transfer of skills and fostered collaborative research. Others point to long-standing ties between Gulf royals and U.K. and U.S. institutions, with many attending British and American universities, as well as military academies such as Sandhurst in the U.K., which has fostered philanthropy from Arab alumni.

“U.K. universities are the oldest Gulf think tanks in the world,” says Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a UAE academic and commentator, who has defended the UAE’s position in the Hedges case.

After the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S., Riyadh ramped up its foreign scholarship program with the aim of raising the education of young Saudis and exposing them to different cultures. It was also considered an important part of the kingdom’s efforts to rehabilitate its reputation through the students’ interaction with Western societies.

Harvard’s Granara acknowledges that donors may have national agendas but says “universities are pretty clear when they take money that there are no strings attached.” But other academics believe this rule is not always adhered to, particularly where funding goes to Middle East research centers.

“Universities are meant to uphold certain values and objectivity, and funding from Gulf countries, especially those notorious for violating human rights, tarnishes the reputation of these centers,” says Madawi al-Rasheed, a Saudi critic and visiting professor at the LSE’s Middle East Centre. “They [Gulf donors] are creating a sphere of influence at universities.… It’s an indirect influence, rather than a direct one.”

A British academic says that when he published an article on a Gulf state, a senior member of his U.K. university emailed him reminding him the subject was “a donor and longtime partner for the university, ‘so please bear that in mind.’” The academic, who asked that neither he nor the institution be identified, later left the university. “There was no doubt I would have to leave on a moral basis,” the academic says. “Would you accept a grant from a Kremlin official and name a building after him? Obviously not.”

A similar debate has been simmering in Australia amid concerns about Chinese influence after a series of multi­million-dollar donations to universities by Chinese businessmen with close ties to Beijing, including Alibaba founder Jack Ma and Chau Chak Wing, chairman of the Kingold Group.

There has been little research into whether foreign funding influences British universities. But the paper by Bergan Draege and Lestra found that before the 2011 Arab uprisings, Gulf-funded British institutions were less likely to raise issues of democracy and human rights, and “much less” issues of gender. Instead, they focused more on topics such as youth unemployment and education.

After the 2011 protests, all institutions paid more attention to democracy and human rights, but those funded by Gulf entities “continued to be somewhat less likely to raise these issues.” Bergan Draege, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, says that does not imply self-censorship or that the work is more credible at self-funded universities.

“The main difference is more of a focus toward the donor countries, and the output targeting that country focuses less so on certain topics,” he says. “It emphasizes some of the issues and not other issues [gender rights and democracy]. We don’t know if there’s a direct causal link, though.”

***

An issue academics repeatedly refer to is dwindling state funding for British universities. The inquiry into the LSE’s Libya scandal said British universities have to embark on fundraising on “the international plane on a scale that until recently was relatively unknown.” It added: “This scale of global operation carries ethical and reputational risk.”

“The funding climate has changed so drastically over the past 10 to 15 years that they are almost forced to raise money elsewhere. And the Gulf has prioritized through their soft power two things — education and sport,” says Ulrichsen.

In recent years, numerous Western institutions have also established satellite campuses in the UAE and Qatar. U.S. universities Georgetown, Texas A&M and Northwestern, alongside Britain’s UCL, are among those with a presence in Doha. New York University and the Sorbonne have campuses in Abu Dhabi.

But not all academics are happy with the situation. After Hedges was sentenced, staff at Birmingham University supported an emergency union motion to boycott a new campus that opened in Dubai this year. The decision was made over concerns about staff safety and the university’s failure to “guarantee academic freedom” on the campus.

The relationships risk being further complicated by a bitter regional rift that pits Saudi Arabia and the UAE against Qatar, with all sides bent on using their soft power to promote their message. The danger for academics is that their research and ties become politicized.

“There is a competition for influence globally between both sides of that dispute and that is fought out across London, Washington and the world, and that makes it difficult for anyone in academia or anyone else to steer a straight path,” Dodge says. “What I would do is not pick sides.”

This Family Doctor Lost Her Son … and Turned ‘Multidimensional’

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In the 20 years that Maree Batchelor worked as a family doctor, she never gave much thought to alternative medicine. To be more precise, her rigorous academic training made her suspicious of anything that even hinted of woo-woo. But then an underage driver plowed into her 4-year-old son, William, outside her home city of Melbourne, Australia, in June 2008. William died 11 days later, and everything in Batchelor’s life began to change.

Now on a mission to connect the worlds of metaphysics and medical science, the 52-year-old finds herself in the curious position of advocating for a new way to think about our health that her pre-accident self would have deemed crazy. In short: The human race is undergoing an evolutionary leap in consciousness to prepare us to take our rightful place in a community of extraterrestrial civilizations. If you want to feel your best, you’d better figure out what part in this cosmic drama you’ve been put on planet Earth to play.

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Maree Batchelor

“We’re multidimensional, galactic beings in human costume,” Batchelor says over Skype from her light-filled office, where photos of William and her three other children oversee her work. “My whole reason for existence now is to wake people up to the fact that our natural state is one of peace, love and joy and harmony — of well-being and self-healing.”

With her hair swept into a twist, and sensible rectangular glasses, Batchelor betrays no outer clue to her inner shift. But the depth of her conviction is apparent in the blunt way she broaches topics that would kill most watercooler conversations — she sometimes speaks with the exasperation of a military officer surrounded by civilians unaware that there’s an epic battle taking place between the forces of dark and light.

Though she’s still registered as a physician, Batchelor now practices energy work on people who have heard her speak on YouTube or at conferences and seek her help in dissolving emotional or mental blocks. Sessions — she estimates she’s done 3,000, both in person and via Skype — begin with counseling, then progress to a form of guided visualization in which Batchelor serves as a conduit for “higher-dimensional frequencies” that can help people experience greater clarity and overcome self-sabotaging beliefs.

If I met myself 10 years ago, I would have said that I was insane.

Dr. Maree Batchelor

Batchelor traces her journey from by-the-book GP to the farthest medical fringe to what she describes as a series of encounters with higher-dimensional beings who activated her dormant healing abilities. 

“I woke up to the fact that mainstream medicine does not have all the answers — they fall very short,” she says. “I’m not here trying to convert the sleeping unawakened because they cannot reach or feel it. But you’d be surprised at how many people are starting to look at alternatives.”

It’s safe to assume that any doctor who mentions spiritual awakenings and extraterrestrials is courting ridicule. Health care professionals might even consider such an idiosyncratic approach as potentially harmful if it deters people from seeking evidence-based psychological support. Nevertheless, Batchelor’s transformation is significant because it opens a window into a little-known subculture in alternative health that is growing rapidly in her native Australia, Europe and North America, but which remains invisible outside dedicated online platforms.

 

There is no central orthodoxy to which practitioners subscribe. But in broad terms, they share Batchelor’s belief that we are spiritual beings undergoing a human experience. By cultivating a stronger connection with our “higher self,” we switch on more strands of our DNA, which in turn can awaken latent psychic abilities and reverse the course of disease. Progressing along this “ascension” path, it’s possible to detect subtle messages from spirit guides, angelic forces and beings from other dimensions. The key to resolving our problems, physical and emotional, is to enlist the help of these nonhuman intelligences so we can learn to live in alignment with our true nature.

“We’re always going outside of ourselves for the quick fix,” Batchelor explains. “But the energy of who we are has a great power to heal.”

Mary Rodwell is a British former midwife who counsels people who believe they have had reality-shattering encounters with aliens. She is also a co-founder of the Dr. Edgar Mitchell Foundation for Research into Extraterrestrial and Extraordinary Encounters, or FREE, named after the late Apollo astronaut whose epiphany in space convinced him that the universe is teeming with advanced life.

Rodwell says Batchelor is one of a small group of people with backgrounds in medicine, physics, neuroscience and psychology who have been so transformed by their glimpses into non-ordinary reality that they don’t care what their colleagues think if they go public — an act she calls “coming out of the space closet.”

“When someone who’s an M.D. — who’s got her professional life at stake — stands up and says, ‘This is my reality now,’ it’s huge,” says Rodwell, who wrote about Batchelor in her book, The New Human. “What is so brilliant about Maree Batchelor is that she now sees the limits of her scientific education because of her own experience.”

Like many of the hundreds of “experiencers” that Rodwell has interviewed, Batchelor had zero interest in the paranormal prior to her encounters; her picture-postcard life revolved around her medical practice, her marriage and her children. The first clue that something extraordinary was happening occurred shortly after the accident, when Batchelor describes being visited by an otherworldly bright light. At first, she thought it had to be the effects of a migraine, only to discover that the light had appeared at the precise moment that surgeons were fighting to save William with open-chest cardiac massage.

Later, when she returned to the scene of the accident, the light reappeared. Batchelor recalls feeling an ineffable sense of peace and receiving a message: “It’s all OK; it’s all going according to plan.” The guidance continued in the form of “downloads” — knowledge that dropped into her mind like high-speed data. In search of answers, she visited an ashram in Melbourne, which led her to a temple in India in 2014. There she received an infusion of “cosmic consciousness” that showed her that human existence is one aspect of a much larger hierarchy spanning multiple dimensions and worlds.

The metamorphosis came at a cost: Her marriage ended, and Batchelor struggled to build a new professional identity, surrounded by people who suspected she’d fallen prey to a grief-fueled delusion. Susan Clancy, a Harvard psychologist, concluded in a two-year study published in 2007 that experiencers were rarely lying, but that their accounts were best understood in terms of fantasy-proneness, memory distortion, culturally available scripts, sleep hallucination and scientific illiteracy — aided by therapists who used hypnosis to unearth supposed repressed memories of trips aboard alien craft.

Professor Chris French, who heads the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London, takes a similar position: “There are one or two cases that appear to be deliberate hoaxes. But my personal opinion is that most of the people who claim that they have had alien contact are victims of false memory.”

Batchelor is unfazed. “I always say if I met myself 10 years ago, I would have said that I was insane,” she says. “I totally get the inability of people to understand this.”

Meanwhile, the “multidimensional physician” focuses on reaching more people, certain that the intelligences guiding her have something to teach each one of us — if we can still our minds long enough to listen.

“I’m constantly contacted by people who say, ‘I didn’t know any of this; I woke up a year ago, and everything you say makes sense to me,’” Batchelor says. “We are going through a shift in human consciousness. This is going to become a much more accepted way of being.”

5 Questions for Maree Batchelor

  • What’s a book that changed your life? The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle.
  • What do you worry about? The enslavement of humanity by a negative agenda reflected in war, poverty and the financial system. This agenda is actively attempting to block our abilities to perceive our higher-dimensional self.
  • What’s the one thing you can’t live without? My children.
  • Who’s your hero? Bhagawan Nityananda, the Great Being buried in the temple I visited in India who generates a field of energy I could feel there and beyond.
  • What’s one item on your bucket list? Enlightenment.

Great Books for the End of the World

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It’s 2018 and every book is a dystopia. OK, not really, but sometimes it feels that way: Young adult shelves have been taken over with series spawned by the success of The Hunger Games and adult ones with near-future imaginings like The Power and Red Clocks. So how to sort through the end-of-the-world narratives? We’ve told you to read The Power before, so you’ve probably already done that. But we’ve come up with a whole new crop of funny, offbeat and exceptional takes on how society as we know it might disappear — all three of them actually possible.

Severance by Ling Ma

This is a book about the collapse of society, yes, but it’s also a book about work culture, coming-of-age, the immigrant experience. Candace, who came to the U.S. from China with her parents as a child, is working in a Manhattan office when the city, the country and the world are overtaken by Shen Fever. “The fevered,” as they’re called, fall into old repetitive movements for no reason, going through motions of preparing dinner or walking to their car that they remember from being alive. Candace does the same, continuing with her job long after it means anything, just to have something to do, as New York breaks down and empties out around her. When she finally does have to venture out, it’s into a whole new world.

This graphic novel isn’t exactly a dystopia. It’s just that all the men have died off. 

Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal 

This graphic novel isn’t exactly a dystopia. It’s just that all the men have died off. “But the comic I’ve drawn takes a scary idea, and focuses in on the good,” explains Dhaliwal. “The sense of community and love that, in my opinion, never disappears (even in a ’dystopian’ world).” The women of Woman World don’t murder each other — they run for mayor, talk awkwardly to their crushes, get pregnant. It’s a gentle, funny and weird book, one that in someone else’s hands might have focused on the absence of men but here skillfully turns the classic sci-fi treatment of an oversexed women-only planet on its head. 

 

An Excess Male by Maggie Shen King

King, an American writer who grew up in Taiwan, peers into a dystopian Chinese future where the only recently relaxed one-child policy has resulted in the few women taking multiple husbands. A literary novel that elegantly takes on dystopian tropes, An Excess Male follows the deeply dysfunctional relationships of May-ling, who has two husbands already, and Wei-guo, the man who wants to become her third. Thoughtful and character driven, the book delves into the secret lives of all its characters, exploring issues of patriarchy and China’s policies toward LGBT people … with an action-driven side plot, for those who buy their futuristic novels expecting that sort of thing. 

NFL Defenses Need to Be Quicker to Prevent the Flea-Flicker

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It was arguably the play that got the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl in 2018. In the NFC championship game against the Minnesota Vikings last January, Philadelphia held a daunting 24-7 lead at halftime. Then the Eagles went in for the kill.

On the first drive of the second half, Eagles coach Doug Pederson called a flea-flicker for the first time that season — and quarterback Nick Foles, running back Corey Clement and wide receiver Torrey Smith pulled it off perfectly for the 41-yard touchdown.

The flea-flicker isn’t a commonly run play in the NFL, making it something of a spectacle whenever it does make an appearance. So, what exactly does it entail?

Flea-flicker: An American football play wherein the quarterback laterals the ball to another player, usually a halfback, who then laterals it back to the quarterback, who attempts to pass it downfield.

The flea-flicker is one of the NFL’s most enduring trick plays, and undoubtedly one of its best-named. All credit goes to former University of Illinois head football coach Robert Zuppke, who claimed to have invented the play while coaching at Oak Park High in 1910.

According to Merriam-Webster, the first known use of the term was in 1927, when Zuppke was coaching at Illinois. As former University of Illinois archivist Maynard Brichford writes of Zuppke in Bob Zuppke: The Life and Football Legacy of the Illinois Coach, “Many sports writers credited him with inventing the spiral pass from center, the multiple passes of his flea-flicker play and the screen pass.” Zuppke’s 1927 Illini team was known for its “trick razzle-dazzle plays” like the flea-flicker, Brichford notes.

As for the play’s evocative name? Exactly what it suggests. In their 1967 book Football Lingo, Zander Hollander and Paul Zimmerman — better known as “Dr. Z” — wrote that Zuppke was inspired by the quick movement a dog makes as it tries to shake off fleas.

 

The play call is rare, with just five instances so far in 2018 and 40 in the past five years, according to Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders. And for good reason: It’s incredibly risky. When it goes right, it will often lead to a big gain, because the defense will have been successfully fooled into covering a running play. That leaves the receivers running downfield wide open — and the quarterback free from pressure. But when a flea-flicker goes wrong, it can result in fumbling the football and, even worse, a turnover. When players do get the chance to attempt it, it makes them a little giddy.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever run a flea-flicker,” Foles said in a postgame press conference after his successful attempt. “It was my first time, so I just tried not to smile.”

“You definitely perk up a bit after getting the call in — and see it with everyone when you call the play,” says former NFL quarterback–turned–Pro Football Focus analyst Zac Robinson. “Nothing extra is said; you try to almost play it cool. You get up to the line, and as soon as you see the defensive look you were hoping for, you know it’s on.” 

Something must have been in the water on Championship Sunday 2018, as two other teams in addition to the Eagles trotted out flea-flickers in their game plans. The Jacksonville Jaguars, feeling good about their 20-10 lead on the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter, completed a 20-yard pass off a flea-flicker. As they mounted a comeback near the end of the game, though, the Patriots pulled out a flea-flicker of their own as they eventually dismantled the Jaguars 24-20. Given how much is at stake, it’s unusual to see a risky trick play like the flea-flicker in the postseason.

So the next time your team’s quarterback takes a snap, watch carefully. He just might be preparing to engage in a bit of 100-year-old trickery.

The World of OZY … Through Carlos’ Eyes

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As loyal OZY readers, viewers and listeners know, I inherited a love for news and storytelling from my dad. As a kid, he’d send me into the Miami International Airport to buy a pile of newspapers from around the world. Then he’d pore over them for hours, highlighting all the interesting facts he’d found and quizzing us from time to time. Ever since, I’ve been hooked.

I founded OZY in part to quench my thirst for new information. I didn’t just want to know what happened yesterday. I wanted to know what to expect and do tomorrow — where to travel, who to look out for, what trends to consider. 

OZY keeps my finger on the pulse, as I hope it does yours, too. In this video, I highlight a few of my favorite stories from the last year, with emoji’s to boot. You can also find links to those stories at the bottom of the page. Enjoy.

My Best of OZY Curation:

With warmest wishes from my family to yours, Carlos

This Weekend: An App to Keep Your Running on Track

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WHAT TO WATCH

The Hook Up Plan – French Entanglements. Netflix’s forays into international content aren’t always great, but this is a total winner with eight episodes of bubbly Parisian joy. We won’t spoil the twists, but this tale of lonely dumpee Elsa, her best friends and the group’s romantic entanglements manages to be sexy, charming and relatable — the perfect rom-com. (Recommended by Viviane Feldman, Love Skeptic)

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The Hook Up Plan

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The Favourite — Court Intrigue. Ahead of Olivia Colman’s turn as Queen Elizabeth II in the next season of The Crown, check out her work as Queen Anne in this smart, dirty, incredibly enjoyable tale of two women jockeying for the queen’s favor in her opulent 1711 court. (Recommended by Wade Best, Popcorn Enthusiast)

The Masked Singer — Korean Import. We don’t want to overhype it, but this is the best reality show premise of all time: Celebrities have an on-screen singing competition … while wearing elaborate, identity-concealing costumes. It’s a Korean concept (there it’s called King of Mask Singer) that’ll make its U.S. debut in January, hosted by Nick Cannon and featuring Ken Jeong and Jenny McCarthy as judges. No word yet (obviously) on who the celebs will be, but you’ll find out their identities only after they get kicked off. (Recommended by Royd Chung, Binge Watcher)

WHAT TO READ

Uncommon Type — Hanks at His Best. Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks somehow manages to pull off having a collection of old vintage typewriters and makes it seem folksy rather than pretentious. But more than that: He’s written a collection of 17 short stories and … they’re actually lovely. The topics range from three weeks of non-stop sex and activities in his first piece to the tale of a mellowed-out veteran remembering his time overseas during the latter half of World War II. (Recommended by Branda Brumaire, Literati)

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Tom Hanks attends a book signing for his new book ‘Uncommon Type’ at Waterstones Piccadilly on November 2, 2017 in London, England.

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If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things — Poetic Suspense. The heart of this Jon McGregor novel, set on a quiet English street, is a violent tragedy. What that tragedy is, you don’t find out until the end of the book, keeping you on the edge of your seat as you discover McGregor’s quietly poetic style and skill at uncovering the hopes, dreams and fears of his diverse cast of neighbors. It’s a balancing act, one that got the novel longlisted for a Man Booker Prize, and one that you should definitely read. (Recommended by Barb Fletcher, All-Night Reader) 

WHAT TO DOWNLOAD

RunSocial — Keep Your Resolutions. Running is boring. Apologies if you like running, but winter running especially can be a slog. Either you’re outside freezing and probably getting rained on, or you’re inside on a treadmill for what feels like forever. But RunSocial, an augmented reality app, might help you stay on your running toes if you’ve sworn to do more cardio in 2019. It allows treadmill users to choose their setting — and then watch the screen as they go running in the Swiss Alps, in Death Valley or along the track of the London marathon. And if friends are using the app at the same time, they can all run along together.

Obviously, it’s not as good as running in all these places for real, but it beats staring at the wall … and, hey, maybe it’ll inspire you to really get yourself to the Alps. (Recommended by Sophia Akram, Exercising Under Protest)

AND WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T DO THIS …

Biohack yourself like an idiot. A French high school student made translated passages from the Bible and Koran into DNA code sequences to create new proteins, then injected them into his legs. As yet, the ill effects have been limited to swelling, but doctors warn such experiments could have serious consequences. (Daily Mail)

SLIDE INTO OUR DMS

Do you have a killer potato salad recipe that you’d like to share? Think you discovered the next great jam band? Share your suggestions with us here at OZY! Email us: Weekender@ozy.com.

Our 10 Must-Read Stories: The Best of OZY … Tribe Curations

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This week we introduced you to some of the many amazing personalities who make up OZY’s tribe — from recent graduate and Atlanta native Nat Roe’s thirst for adventure and Eugene Robinson’s sly sense of humor (and embrace of grandfatherhood) to managing editor and British transplant Fay Schlesinger’s unquenchable curiosity. Each day, a different OZY staffer curated the OZY Daily Dose, sharing with you their favorite features, TV shows, videos and podcasts.

Here’s a roundup of 10 of the top picks from this week’s curations. But please be sure to tune in tomorrow to see cofounder and Editor-in-Chief Carlos Watson’s 2018 must-reads. Meanwhile, we wish you all a happy, healthy holiday season and 2019.

No. 1: On Your Plate: This Toilet-Themed Restaurant Is Not for the Faint of Stomach

Why You Should Care: With menu items like explosive diarrhea curry, this Taiwan eatery is visited for the experience, not the cuisine.

No. 2: New Form of Protest: Nicaragua’s Forrest Gump Runs Against President Ortega

Why You Should Care: Alex Vanegas risks his life by running to protest a murderous regime, but he doesn’t know how to stop. 

No. 3: Generation Gap: Becoming a Grander Father

Why You Should Care: Having kids is heavy enough of a life event all on its own. But when your kids start having kids? That kind of event is measured on the Richter scale.

No. 4: LOL: The Most Ambitious Clown in the Middle East

Why You Should Care: Sabine Choucair travels around Lebanon’s refugee camps to record and create art based on the stories of the displaced.

 

No. 5: Breaking Big: Trevor Noah’s Mom Thought He Was Selling Drugs

Why You Should Care: The South African host of The Daily Show tells Carlos Watson about the hardships he endured on his way to success.

No. 6: Knockout: When Black Men Defended Brett Kavanaugh in Baltimore

Why You Should Care: Take on America: This is what happens when 100 Black men discuss race, Donald Trump, policing and fatherhood.

No. 7: Sexism Challenged: Ugandan Women Fight Lazy Husbands With $6 Sex Tax

Why You Should Care: Married women in Uganda are employing an unlikely weapon against a patriarchal society: demanding money from their husbands for sex. 

No. 8: Bible Education: What the Foreskin of Jesus Can Teach Us All

Why You Should Care: The legendary sacred foreskin of Jesus of Nazareth has been the subject of marvel, ridicule, faith and scandal throughout its illustrious history. 

No. 9: Rhyme & Reason: This Poet Slams the Competition. Is Broadway Next?

Why You Should Care: At 21, Mecca Verdell is at the forefront of Baltimore’s thriving slam poetry scene. Is it too far too fast?

No. 10: On the Catwalk: Your Next Hot Fashion Is Made in Vietnam

Why You Should Care: A new generation of designers is bringing international attention to Vietnam.