November 2007


Our regular blog posting will be interrupted until December 6 in order to solve some technical problems [i.e. I need to buy a new computer  😦  ]


This is a list of publications and reports on Literature publish by the National Endowment for the Arts. Their latest report: “To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence was publish last Monday, it is an interesting and disturbing report on American reading today. P. Kaufman posted at Scholarly Communication some interesting comments about the results of this report:

Gathering and collating available data, it reports that the data are simple, consistent, and alarming. Although there has been measurable progress in recent years in reading ability at the elementary school level, all progress seems to stop as children enter their teens. There is a general decline in reading among teenagers and adults and both reading ability and the habit of regular reading have greatly declined among college graduates.

The report reaches three conclusions:
* Americans are spending less time reading.
* Reading comprehension skills are eroding
* These declines have serious civic, social, cultural, and economic implications.

These conclusions are, as the report notes, “unsettling.” Clearly, more research is needed to explore factors that might contribute to this trend and to weigh the relative effectiveness and costs and benefits of programs to foster lifelong reading and skills development.

From National Endowment for the Arts:

publication cover To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence
This report is a new and comprehensive analysis of reading patterns of children, teenagers, and adults in the United States. To Read or Not To Read assembled data on reading trends from more than 40 sources, including federal agencies, universities, foundations, and associations. The compendium expands the investigation of the NEA’s landmark 2004 report, Reading at Risk, and reveals recent declines in voluntary reading and test scores alike, exposing trends that have severe consequences for American society. November 2007. 100 pp.
[Download pdf]
publication cover To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence Executive Summary
20 pp.
[Download pdf]
Big Read catalog cover, with covers of novels on Big Read list Big Read Catalog
This publication provides information on the first 21 books to be featured in the NEA’s Big Read initiative, including brief book and author descriptions and information on themes, film adaptations, performance possibilities, and accessability materials. Information on how to apply to the program is also included. June 2007. 28 pp.
[Download pdf]
NEA Literature Fellowships: 40 Years of Supporting American Writers
The publication includes a list of all the writers and translators who have received the award, as well as a brief history of the fellowship program, sidebars highlighting some of the NEA Literature Fellows, and a section on NEA Literature Fellows
who have received other national awards and honors.
March 2006. 60 pp.
[Download pdf]
publication cover Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary
Reading in America

This report presents the results from the literature segment of the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, conducted by the Census Bureau in 2002 at the NEA’s request. The survey asked more than 17,000 adults if during the previous 12 months they had read any novels, short stories, poetry or plays in their leisure time, that were not required for work or school. The report extrapolates and interprets data on literary reading and compares them with results from similar surveys carried out in 1982 and 1992. July 2004. 60 pp.
<!– [8/2/04: We are currently out of hard copies of Reading at Risk. A second printing will be available in late August. Orders will be filled as soon as we receive new copies.]
Order Hard Copy –> [Download pdf]
publication cover Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary
Reading in America Executive Summary

6 pp.
[Download pdf]
publication cover Operation Homecoming Booklet
The Operation Homecoming booklet will be distributed free to the troops participating in the writing workshops. It includes biographies of the writers visiting bases and those reading on the audio CD. The booklet also includes the Operation Homecoming anthology submission guidelines. NEA 2004. 28 pp.
[Download pdf]
publication cover Operation Homecoming CD
The Operation Homecoming audio CD features the literature of war, read in the voices of ten of America’s most esteemed writers. Narrated by NEA Chairman Dana Gioia, the CD presents fiction, poetry, letters, and memoirs from the Civil War, World War I and II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. NEA 2004. 24 tracks.
Order CD
publication cover Writing America
A literary anthology of 50 poets and writers who have received NEA Creative Writing Fellowships providing a glimpse of the tremendous vitality and diversity of contemporary American literature. NEA 1997, revised 1999. 112pp.
[Download pdf]

An interesting post by John Daly at the  UNESCO in the Spotlight: Science and Communications blog point out some of the findings of a recent report about  the contributions by member’s states to UNESCO . It is important to remember, that against conventional knowledge, the contributions of US to development follow the same pattern, U.S. contributions  development aid  were in 2005  about 0.1 percent of GDP.

From UNESCO in the Spotlight: Science and Communications blog:

UNESCO has the responsibility of leading the United Nations system efforts in education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture and communication and information. Its mission of building the defenses of peace in the minds of men remains critically important, and requires ever more diligent and extensive efforts. The 193 member nations of the organization each year add more programs and responsibilities to the organization. Yet its resources are very limited.
UNESCO’s budget is a complex affair. There are assessed dues for the member states, but there are also voluntary contributions. In addition, many of the centers, university chairs, and other entities attached to UNESCO receive contributions outside of UNESCO’s budget. Then or course, UNESCO operates with many partners who bring their own resources to the joint efforts. Still, the U.S. representatives to UNESCO have been concerned that its resources do not stretch to enable UNESCO to do everything it is asked to do well.

The UNESCO Secretariat presented a report to the recent meeting of the General Conference titled “COLLECTION OF MEMBER STATES’ CONTRIBUTIONS“. It notes that as at 30 June 2007 the United States which was assessed $66.1 million for 2007 (22 percent of the total assessed dues due to the size of our economy as compared to that of the rest of the world) was US$87.36 million in arrears.

At the end of May, according to the United Nations Association of the USA:

On May 25th, President Bush signed a $120 billion emergency supplemental spending bill for the current fiscal year that includes funding for war costs, veterans care, hurricane relief, and agricultural assistance, as well as $283 million for assessed contributions to UN peacekeeping. In addition, the bill (H.R. 2206; Public Law 110-28) provides $50 million for the budgetary account that funds US membership dues to international organizations, including the United Nations.

In other words, the government was not proposing to pay up its back dues to UNESCO in the near future. Until the Congress passes appropriations legislation for this fiscal year (which began October 10, the United States is limited to making payments on a month by month basis. As you can imagine, the shortfall is causing significant administrative problems for the Secretariat.

The problem of the arrears in assessments to UNESCO is of course a small part of a bigger problem of debt to the United Nations system as a whole. According to the Global Policy Forum:

The United Nations and all its agencies and funds spend about $20 billion each year, or about $3 for each of the world’s inhabitants. This is a very small sum compared to most government budgets and it is just a tiny fraction of the world’s military spending. Yet for nearly two decades, the UN has faced a financial difficulties and it has been forced to cut back on important programs in all areas. Many member states have not paid their full dues and have cut their donations to the UN’s voluntary funds. As of March 31, 2007, members’ arrears to the Regular Budget topped $1,355 million, of which the United States alone owed $785 million (58% of the regular budget arrears).

If you agree that the United States should pay its dues to UNESCO for education, science, culture and communications and the promotion of peace, and indeed that we should pay up our back dues to the United Nations system, tell your Congressmen and Senators!

philosophers_corner_250.jpgFrom Unesco:

© All rights reserved
Peter Paul Rubens, self-portrait with Justus Lipsius, Philip Rubens, and Jan Wowerius, known as The Four Philosophers

Over more than a decade, “The UNESCO Courier” spoke with some of the world’s leading thinkers and collected their views about the major issues we must contend with today. Here is a selection of their insights:

Edgar Morin, January 2004
The challenges of communication in today’s complex world are explored in a conversation with this French sociologist and philosopher. Read online.

Fernando Savater, July-August 2001
The Spanish Basque philosopher speaks out against minorities whose violent ideology is fragmenting humanity and undermining the rule of law. Read online.

Michael Walzer, January 2000
How can multiculturalism encourage social equality? One of the United States’ most renowned philosophers offers some answers to the quest for social justice. Read online.

Alain de Libera, February 1997
The French historian reminds us of the important contribution of Arab-Islamic thinkers to the development of medieval European philosophy. Read online. (PDF – 8.9 MB)

Umberto Eco, June 1993
Writing since the 1950s, the Italian author rose to world fame when his 1980 novel The Name of the Rose was translated into 22 languages. In this interview, he talks about his other major interest, semiotics. Read online. (PDF – 802 KB)

Eight philosophers contributed to this issue of the UNESCO Courier, focusing© UNESCO/Aleksandar Džoni-Šopov on the role of philosophy today. Different approaches, varied concerns, but one certainty: philosophy can’t stay in its ivory tower. It provides a weapon against dogma and manipulation. And, to cite one of Jostein Gaarder’s ideas, philosophers have a cosmic responsibility. (More)

UNESCO Courier, Number 9, 2007


The last report by the OECD assessing the contributions that migration is making to receiving and sending countries.


From OECD -Development Centre:


Migration can benefit all parties involved: migrant-sending countries, migrant-receiving countries and the migrants themselves. This is the major finding of an OECD report on Gaining from Migration: Towards a New Mobility System, which the Secretary General of the OECD, Mr. Angel Gurría, presented at the EU High Level Conference on Legal Immigration.




The study shows that policies can influence, but do not entirely control, migration flows. New instruments and approaches to establish an international labour mobility system will increase the gains from migration when:


  • high skilled migration flows are framed within partnerships between sending and receiving countries, encouraging the repatriation of skills and knowledge (brain circulation);
  • host countries integrate low-skilled migrants well into their economies and societies; and
  • policies harness the energies of diaspora networks, commercial banks and other businesses.



More specifically, the effect of emigration of the highly-skilled (brain drain) is not always negative, as is usually believed (Fig. 1). In fact, insufficient infrastructure in sending countries often discourages people from working in the sectors for which they have been trained: nurses that leave a poor country, for example, often do not work in the health sector prior to their departure. By migrating to another country, the highly-skilled thus receive further skills and experiences which may prove useful if this know-how can be returned to the sending countries.


Fig. 1: Brain Drain – A World Overview*


  Less than 2 %   Less than 5 %   Less than 10 %
  Less than 20 %   Over 20 %   Not included

* The depiction and use of boundaries shown on maps do not

imply official endorsement or acceptance by the OECD.


Comparing emigration rates of the highly educated — the share of a country’s nationals with a university education who live in the OECD — reveals that low-income countries suffer disproportionately from the brain drain (indicated by darker shading). However, developing countries could even benefit from high-skill migration if partnerships between sending and receiving countries encourage a repatriation of skills and knowledge (brain circulation).

Source: OECD Development Centre and Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs (2007).


Similarly, low-skilled migrants are not a threat to host economies as these people usually do not compete for jobs with the domestic population. Rather, low-skill migrants can actually fill positions which would otherwise remain vacant, increasing the overall productivity of a country. What is more, low-skill migrants contribute disproportionately to poverty reduction in their home countries as they generally migrate without their families and support them with financial transfers from abroad (remittances).

Finally, the report recognises the limited influence of governments. Non-state actors such as diaspora networks, commercial banks and other businesses play an important role: the former in providing a link between the sending and receiving countries, which could be used for a future transfer of goods and know-how; the latter two in providing a framework for commercial transfers which make a crucial contribution to the development process in migrant-sending countries.



The OECD’s newly published Latin American Economic Outlook indicates that Latin American countries need to invest more public funds in health, education services, infrastructure and innovation, but to afford this they will have to make major changes in the way their tax systems operate (go figures, who would imagine a different recommendation from OECD?).

From OECD:

What are Latin America’s most important economic challenges in a globalized world? Which policies should be implemented in order to maximize the opportunities offered in the current global context?

The Latin American Economic Outlook 2008 (LEO), the first volume in an annual series by the OECD Development Centre, provides recommendations in four key areas for Latin America’s development: fiscal policy, pension fund reform, private investments in telecommunications, and the impact of Asia’s emerging economies. LEO 2008 was launched by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría in Santiago de Chile on 7 November.

Read: Introduction and Overview of the Latin American Economic Outlook 2008

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