Archive for June, 2011

The Russian Wealth Divide

Posted on June 16th, 2011

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia’s richest have more than doubled their wealth. Yet a recent study by Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, (HSE), says that 60% of the country’s population is either no better off or poorer today than they were 20 years ago. The gap between Russia’s richest and poorest is widening while possibly intensifying class-based tensions. Photo Gordon Wiltsie In large cities like Moscow, Western capitalism has raised the standards of living for the top tier of Russian society. On the other hand, pensioners and those living is smaller cities are falling behind, disillusioned with the reform’s promise of a better life. During the Soviet-era, healthcare, education, and housing were subsidized by the government. These days, people…

How Distillation Became the Water of Life

Posted on June 9th, 2011

At Charbay one immediately gets a sense of place. And a sense of purpose. Perhaps it’s the giant antique copper stills that stand guard in front of the building, or perhaps it’s the long winding road to get there, or the quiet isolation, or perhaps it’s because that trickling sound was actually brandy, not yet aged, coming from the still. A clear brandy which the French call “eau de vie” or in English “water of life”. Photo Jodi Cobb “Distilling is the very essence of life on this planet,” says the elder Karakasevic as we all raise a glass of his deep golden brandy. Originally it was clear, like its trickling cousin behind me, but now it has turned color by nearly three decades…

An Unexpected Perspective of the Haiti Assignment – It’s From Space

Posted on June 2nd, 2011

I’ve always had a love for flying. Aside from the obvious miracle of physics that allows us to cruise above the clouds to get to our destination more quickly than any other mode of transportation, there is the riveting beauty of the ascent. Flying out of San Francisco airport, the seemingly longish drive from my home in Marin County – across one bridge, through one city and over three different freeways – fits neatly in the frame of the airplane’s portal window at about 10,000 feet. The world looks significantly different from up there. I can discern cars and boats and watch their path as if I’m looking at an incredible live action three dimensional map. It is a wonderful perspective that changes the…