The Globalist http://www.theglobalist.com Daily online magazine on the global economy, politics and culture Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:49:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Eurozone is About Tough Love http://www.theglobalist.com/the-eurozone-is-about-tough-love/ http://www.theglobalist.com/the-eurozone-is-about-tough-love/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 06:00:17 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=35161 By Holger Schmieding

Help is available to countries in trouble – in exchange for meeting conditions.

Credit: ilolab - Shutterstock.comHelp is available to countries in trouble – in exchange for meeting conditions.

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By Holger Schmieding

Help is available to countries in trouble – in exchange for meeting conditions.

Credit: ilolab - Shutterstock.com

Contrary to perceptions in the United States and elsewhere, the Eurozone is not at all about the mindless application of rigorous austerity.

Countries that face problems with their economies can count on one simple rule: Help is available to them in exchange for meeting conditions.

And those conditions are not set in stone, as some ardent Eurozone critics often argue. They can be amended if circumstances change, but – message to Rome and Paris – they cannot be rejected wholesale.

Make no mistake: The political will to stay together and play by the rules is the potential Achilles heel of the Eurozone.

Exiting is your own choice

And realize this: If a country really wanted to leave the euro, neither the ECB nor Berlin could do anything about it. (I do not expect such an accident to happen.)

The new economic setback, stemming from a weakening economic outlook first in Europe and also globally, will hurt some banks. And, crucially, it will delay the point in time when the citizens of Spain, Portugal and Greece will see the full benefits of their unavoidable harsh austerity-cum-reform programs.

This fact of global economic life adds to the political tail risk that one of these countries may elect a populist leader who then makes a full reform U-turn. And yes, such an election could plunge the country in question into a deep crisis and toward potential euro exit.

On the other hand, in a pan-European perspective, among business and political elites, the economic setback seems to reinforce the long looked for sense of urgency to deliver reforms in France and Italy. By the same token, the slowdown can also add to a perception in the public at large that reforms are all pain and little gain.

As usual in the Eurozone, we need to watch the politics even more than the economic data. But the euro is much more than just a currency. It is part and parcel of a dense web of intra-European relations that are not easily broken, or only at great costs.

Putin’s war against Ukraine has been another potent reminder of the (non-economic) ties that bind continental Europe together, strengthening the cohesion of the club. I remain confident that the political strains will not get out of hand.

Tough love in action

Tough love, that is the Eurozone promise of support for all those who respect the rules, may not please radical-left opposition leader Alexis Tsipras in Athens.

If he came to power in March 2015 (unlikely, but not impossible), he faces a clear alternative: He would either have to grow up fast (and pursue almost exactly the policies of the current pro-reform government, as he might well do) – or he will go down in history as the man who catapulted Greece out of Europe – and into the Middle East.

In that event, the Eurozone would deploy all its emergency instruments to contain the risks of contagion from Greek economic self-destruction.

But there also is an alternative scenario: Tspiras, once in charge, may not only accept reality – but, as an outsider, actually decide to transform the country. Since he is not a part of the country’s old political, economic and media establishment (and the problematic web that binds it together), he might be in a position to modernize Greece’s outmoded political culture.

To do so, however, he would have to ditch all his fiery rhetoric and turn into a Greek version of Italy’s energetic center-left reformer, Matteo Renzi. Time will tell whether Tsipras can get real.

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The ECB’s Battle With the Markets: Home Truths from the Eurozone http://www.theglobalist.com/the-ecbs-battle-with-the-markets-home-truths-from-the-eurozone/ http://www.theglobalist.com/the-ecbs-battle-with-the-markets-home-truths-from-the-eurozone/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 06:00:01 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=35165 By Holger Schmieding

Amidst global stock market turmoil, what about Europe’s fundamentals?

Credit: Symbiot -  Shutterstock.comAmidst global stock market turmoil, what about Europe’s fundamentals?

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By Holger Schmieding

Amidst global stock market turmoil, what about Europe’s fundamentals?

Credit: Symbiot -  Shutterstock.com

Amid an equity rout, tensions have resurfaced in Eurozone markets. Economists generally think that markets reflect fundamentals. But sometimes, it is the other way around. Whatever triggered serious market turmoil in the first place, the turmoil itself can create new facts.

And if these sentiments are headline-grabbing enough, then they can – and will – further dent economic confidence in Europe. Business investment as well as some consumer spending will decline for a while. The transmission mechanism is simple: Uncertainty begets uncertainty.

But such self-reinforcing dynamics usually do not run for long. The less scary – or less spectacular – reality usually prevails again after a while.

Fundamentals and sentiments

What about Europe’s fundamentals then? Germany and much of core Europe is fundamentally healthy. Equally notable is the fact that Spain, Portugal and Ireland are in much better shape than they used to be.

The “problem countries” now are the ones that never had to ask European authorities for help, France and Italy. But even there, the “mountain” is beginning to move. Structural reforms measures are on the verge of being launched.

Given that, there should be a return to growth in the Eurozone in early 2015, after the stagnation now, with a significant risk of a mild recession in late 2014.

Strong safety net

What if the panicky mood takes hold on a more prolonged basis? Then Berlin and the ECB will do all it takes to defend all euro members who play by the rules against any irrational market panic.

True, the two do not act as readily and as fast as markets would like. But if need be, they could – and would – jointly deploy a safety net strong enough for almost any contingency. Just ask those market participants who bet on a euro break-up in late 2011 and in spring 2012.

Fiscal policy cannot and will not play a major role in staving off the tail risk of a third Eurozone recession in six years. Those dreaming of massive German infrastructure spending to lift France out of its largely self-inflicted misery should think again.

The role of monetary policy is limited

With Germany’s cumbersome procedures and its dismal record on big infrastructure investments (ever heard of the new train station for Stuttgart, the new airport for Berlin or the new concert hall for Hamburg?), it would take years before serious money could actually be spent. And hardly any of that would benefit France.

Instead of counting on a big boost which never worked for long in Japan, the one country that tried this strategy in earnest, automatic stabilizers will be allowed to work everywhere in the Eurozone.

In addition, fiscal targets can be relaxed if France and Italy reform their labor markets – and EU funds could be disbursed with less conditionality and hence faster. But a headline-grabbing fiscal boost is not on its way.

We would also all do well to realize that a serious stimulus is in the pipeline already. It consists of five arrows:

1.

      A more fairly valued euro

2.

      Low financing costs

3.

      The end of the ECB’s health check of banks on October 26th

4.

      The ECB’s new liquidity offers and

5.

    Its coming purchases of ABS, RMBS and covered bonds of, say, €300 billion plus.

Low oil prices are adding to that stimulus package nicely. But it will take time to work.

What about America’s favorite tool, QE? Major purchases of sovereign bonds are the ultimate last resort. Under extreme circumstances – such as a serious recession, a huge flare-up of tensions in the Eurozone or a need to shield the Eurozone from the fallout from an unlikely, but not impossible Greek accident – Berlin would give the ECB the nod to do it.

For now, full-scale QE is not yet the most likely outcome (I see a 40% probability for it to start in early 2015). The situation isn’t seen as dire enough for the last resort. And anyway, it would take time for a sufficiently overwhelming ECB majority and for Berlin to conclude that there is no other way out.

OMT-style magic again?

Before then, the ECB still has one shot left short of actually buying a vast amount of sovereign bonds. In other words, it could try the OMT magic all over again.

Mr. Draghi could thus announce that the ECB will finalize the logistical contingency planning for QE (which bonds to buy by maturity and country, as well as other technical and legal details) within a month or two without committing to actually activate the program.

In a way, it’s a game between markets and the ECB. If markets lapse into full panic mode, the ECB would have to deploy its ultimate panic-control instrument. If markets mistake the ECB’s (and Berlin’s) hesitation to do so as evidence that the ECB would always remain passive, that would eventually force the ECB’s hand.

But if global investors understand that the safety net is there even if it is not deployed as eagerly as markets would like, calm may prevail after a while without the ECB actually having to buy tons of sovereign bonds.

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Nurses Urgently Needed: Another critical global shortage http://www.theglobalist.com/nurses-urgently-needed-another-critical-global-shortage/ http://www.theglobalist.com/nurses-urgently-needed-another-critical-global-shortage/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 00:00:28 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=35149 By Tara Sonenshine

Why nurses need us to care.

Credit: haveseen- Shutterstock.comWhy nurses need us to care.

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By Tara Sonenshine

Why nurses need us to care.

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The Ebola crisis has focused global attention on the nursing profession. Rightly so.

Many of the first victims of Ebola have been health care professionals on the frontlines of this deadly disease that has now claimed close to 5,000 lives and affected 9,000 people, according to the World Health Organization.

The global media spotlight has turned on nurse Tina Pham – now treated for Ebola at Maryland’s National Institutes of Health – and on another nurse, Amber Joy Vinson, who is being treated for Ebola at Emory University Hospital.

A nurse in Spain, Teresa Romero, also developed Ebola after treating a patient there. Countless African nurses have succumbed to the Ebola outbreak.

An outcry  from nurses at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital where Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man, died of Ebola has also heightened awareness of the difficulty nurses face. In their profession, they can risk getting exposed to infectious disease and, as the Texas case showed, often are unprotected and ill-prepared by their employers even for the most dangerous infections.

If there is one bright side of the Ebola crisis, it is that it has finally focused global attention on nurses. The world desperately needs more of them.

Years before the Ebola crisis hit, evidence was mounting of a major nursing shortage worldwide – from North America to Africa and Europe. Ebola only exacerbates an already worrisome crisis that has gotten scant attention.

United States

The United States has a very large population of registered nurses—almost 3 million in 2012, and about half a million more than estimated a decade ago.

The problem is not supply—it’s demand. Growing healthcare needs outstrip capacity—especially for skilled and specialized nurses who know how to work in highly complex and technologically driven healthcare systems.

By 2020, the United States may have one million openings for nurses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
capacity and diversity; and redesigning educational curricula.

The Affordable Health Care Act—also known as Obamacare—will increase the numbers of citizens with access to healthcare facilities and thus looking for care.

By next year, 30-40 million Americans who previously had no health insurance might show up in clinics and hospitals on an ongoing basis. That is quite a demand push. As a result, nurses may become the equivalent of doctors in many healthcare settings.

No wonder that nursing schools across the United States are struggling to expand capacity to meet the rising demand of care.

It doesn’t help either that a significant segment of the U.S. nursing workforce is nearing retirement age (although the 2008 recession has led many babyboomers to stay in the workforce longer.)

Funding for nursing education, like many other forms of U.S. education, has suffered in times of cutbacks. Nursing remains a top professional choice with very strong employment prospects. However, the aging workforce, dwindling enrollment and increased demand will strain the system.

Europe

Europe’s aging populations mean aging nurses, aging nursing educators – and more elderly people who need nursing care. By 2030, 25% of the European population will be over the age of 65.

According to the European Union, Europe may be facing a shortage of one million health care workers by 2020. Next to the United States, the United Kingdom has the largest chronic shortages of nurses.

As in the case of the U.S., an aging population puts a growing burden on healthcare services. A diminishing pipeline of new students in nursing compounds the problem.

Just as is the practice in the United States, Germany is also looking around the world for more nurses—in its case, to China, with an abundance of health care workers.

Joint German-Chinese programs train specialized nurses to address the acute shortage – a shortage that will, of course, also hit China itself, whose population is aging rapidly. What will help Germany and other wealthier (West) European societies is that, in the former Eastern bloc nations of Europe, wages for nurses are up to ten times lower in a country like Romania than in Germany.

While this might help Germany and other countries in the west of the continent to fill its shortages, this is really a strategy of Peter robbing Paul.

As with the U.S., which sources many of its nurses from the Philippines,  or the UK which “imports” them from countries like Spain and Portugal, these shifts are no real solution.

Asia

China, despite its own growing healthcare needs, is providing a supply of nurses to fill the global void. The Shandong International Nurse Training Center has a partnership with Germany and other countries to place nurses in assisted care facilities and hospitals.

‎The most recent statistics show that China has approximately two million registered nurses — up 52% from 2005, according to the Chinese Ministry of Health. Yet, with a growing elderly population, nurses will have plenty of work in China itself.

It is not just the U.S., but also Britain and Australia which have been recruiting nurses for years from low-to-middle income countries in Asia like Vietnam and the Philippines—known for intensive education and training of nurses.

Yet, even in these countries, mobility and migration is coming under great scrutiny as governments increasingly recognize two crucial factors: First, while they provide for the initial training of nurses, other nations benefits from the supply thus created. And second, when a disaster strikes, the domestic healthcare system – which is the first line of defense everywhere – is coming up short. That is not a sustainable strategy on either front.

Latin America

English-speaking Caribbean nations have advanced nursing programs and a large nurse-to-practitioner ratio. Again, high wages and better working conditions lure nurses to the United States and Europe. What is initially “merely” a brain drain of nurses quickly turns into an exodus, leaving those countries without supply.

Africa

Globally, the picture is gloomiest for parts of Africa – as well as India. In 2010, a World Health Organization report revealed that India needed 2.4 million more nurses. In sub-Saharan Africa, the shortages are enormous and data is difficult to come by. ‎

‎South Africa is in the market for 45,000 nurses—in part because many of the domestically trained nurses have moved to Europe in search of higher pay and better working conditions.

The hardest hit countries are those in West Africa—precisely where the Ebola epidemic hit three of Africa’s poorest countries. Weak health systems, lack of infrastructure, poor education and limited access to clean water has further fueled this outbreak.

What to do?

The answer to future nursing needs is as complex as the story of the shortages. One solution is to create more public-private partnerships to create talent pools of highly skilled health professionals.

Another strategy involves global awareness of the nursing shortage and joint solutions to spread the talent. Aligning wages and creating better measurement and standards across countries could help.

In the end, Ebola will force us to focus much more on the nurse shortage issue, which is really a global phenomenon. For all the attention many nations still accord to their militaries, they might be far better off as nations and societies if they spent at least as much attention on nurses (and the rest of their medical and care sectors.

Nurses have the power to change lives.  It is our duty to ensure they are protected and  appreciated, particularly given their occupational risks during this Ebola crisis. This is a time when we have to care about people who care for others.

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Beethoven for the World http://www.theglobalist.com/beethoven-for-the-world/ http://www.theglobalist.com/beethoven-for-the-world/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2014 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=35116 By The Globalist

Beethoven's music helped fundamentally reshape the way we experience music.

360b / Shutterstock.comBeethoven's music helped fundamentally reshape the way we experience music.

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By The Globalist

Beethoven's music helped fundamentally reshape the way we experience music.

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1. The first commercial 33-1/3 r.p.m. vinyl LP, released in 1931 by RCA Victor, contained a recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

2. The duration of Sony’s first-generation compact disk was fixed at 75 minutes in order to contain an entire rendition of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

3. During the 1848 and 1849 revolutions in Europe, performances of Beethoven’s symphonies were associated with the longing for liberty.

4. During World War II, the opening notes of his Fifth Symphony were associated with the short-short-short-long Morse code for the letter “V,” as in “V for Victory.”

5. On December 24, 1989, just weeks after the Berlin Wall fell, Leonard Bernstein conducted the Ninth Symphony in West Berlin.

6. Bernstein conducted the same work the following day in East Berlin.

7. After Beethoven, it became increasingly common for concert programs to feature works by dead composers –mostly works by Beethoven himself and the composers he influenced.

8. In the German city of Leipzig, only 11% of the works performed in 1782, when Beethoven was 12 years old, were written by dead composers.

9. By 1870, about four decades after Beethoven’s death, 76% of the works featured in Leipzig’s concert programs were by dead composers.

Source: Deus Ex Musica by Alex Ross (New Yorker, October 20, 2014).

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Modi and Jokowi: Why the World Should Take Notice http://www.theglobalist.com/modi-and-jokowi-why-the-world-should-take-notice/ http://www.theglobalist.com/modi-and-jokowi-why-the-world-should-take-notice/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 08:00:05 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=35134 By Pallavi Aiyar

Comparing the leaders of the world’s largest and third-largest democracies.

Credit: xtock - Shutterstock.comComparing the leaders of the world’s largest and third-largest democracies.

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By Pallavi Aiyar

Comparing the leaders of the world’s largest and third-largest democracies.

Credit: xtock - Shutterstock.com

For India and Indonesia, the world’s largest and third-largest democracies, 2014 is a watershed. It is the year that powerful political dynasties, a long-term feature of the region’s electoral landscape, were finally supplanted by a new breed of popular leader.

That is why the twin elections — of Narendra Modi in India and of Joko Widodo in Indonesia — are both landmarks.

The two leaders come from outside of what are the traditional bastions of political power in their countries. Modi, whose family ran a tea stall, has risen from the near bottom of India’s caste and class hierarchies to become Prime Minister.

Jokowi, as Widodo is universally known in Indonesia, came from a similarly underprivileged background. The son of a carpenter, he was a furniture seller, before becoming Mayor of Solo, a mid-sized city in central Java.

In elections earlier this year, both Modi and Jokowi took on political opponents who were the very embodiments of the entrenched political establishment. Modi squared off against Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family that has led India’s Congress party since Indian independence.

Jokowi’s main rival was Prabowo Subianto, a former son-in-law of military dictator Suharto, and the head of the country’s Special Forces in the years before Suharto’s downfall in 1998.

With their strong grass-roots support, clean personal reputations and reformer credentials, Modi and Jokowi have raised hopes for change within their nations.

The story of their rise and the dynamism they represent has also given investor sentiments around the globe a boost.

A captivating storyline, but…

And yet, these superficial similarities obscure the more trenchant differences that separate the two men in terms of temperament, policy inclinations and political circumstances.

As a leader, Modi is dominant and combative, whereas Jokowi is consensual and conciliatory. In his more than 12-year reign (2001-2014) as Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, Modi acquired a reputation for governing with a firm hand, as he pursued an aggressive, pro-business agenda.

Since taking charge of the country, Modi has ensured a concentration of powers in the Prime Minister’s office (PMO). Ministers have been left with little elbowroom and need to secure PMO approval even before appointing key staff.

Modi’s authority is embodied in his person. He was widely described in the Indian media as running a Presidential-style campaign in this year’s election, although India has a parliamentary system of governance.

Modi’s projection of power is physical. During the election campaign, he crisscrossed the country attending thousands of events. And he even used 3D holograms to project his image in places where he could not be present.

On the campaign trail, he also famously remarked that it took a man with a “56 inch chest,” a reference to his own broad torso, to bring development to the relatively backward parts of India.

Different temperaments

In contrast, Jokowi is physically slight and unassuming in manner. As governor of Jakarta (a post to which was elected in 2012), he avoided the tangible trappings of power like fancy cars and security details.

He often walked around public markets and squares listening to people’s concerns first hand, and he was known for unexpected­ly joining popular city events like rock concerts and marathons.

While Modi’s reputation in Gujarat was built on the back of large infrastructure projects, Jokowi’s reputation derives from his two-term stint as mayor of Solo. During this time, he was able to transform a formerly crime-ridden city into a center for regional arts and culture.

It was in Solo that he demonstrated his mediation skills by developing a consultative approach, as demonstrated for example by relocating street vendors away from a park in the city centre.

The vendors had built up a squalid, semi-permanent market–place that caused major traffic snarls. All attempts at forcibly removing them had failed. Spurning heavy-handed tactics, Jokowi held over 55 informal meetings with the street sellers to find a mutually acceptable solution. This entailed moving them to an alternative location in exchange for financial incentives, as well as the establishment of public transportation links to the new venue.

As Jakarta governor, Jokowi employed a similar approach in encouraging 500-odd smallholders at the city’s crowded Tanah Abang market to move off the streets. Although this second attempt met with less success, it nonetheless underscores Jokowi’s preferred approach to tackling problems: patience and dialogue with an aim to developing consensus.

Different priorities

Modi and Jokowi also have markedly divergent policy priorities. The Indian Prime Minister is an economic reformer with capitalist instincts.

A known admirer of the Chinese model of development (he visited China four times as Gujarat’s Chief Minister), Modi’s achievements in Gujarat included attracting substantial investments into large manufacturing and power projects. He introduced business-friendly policies aimed at cutting red tape and making land acquisition easier than in other parts of the country.

However, critics say that Modi’s conception of “development” came at the cost of the large-scale displacement of the poor. Gujarat’s strides in social infrastructure (such as education and gender-empowerment) have also been criticized as not matching the pace of economic progress.

Since becoming Prime Minister, Modi has surprisingly not focused on economic reforms as much as on foreign policy positioning. He has also announced two well-publicized domestic programs, one related to sanitation and the other to financial inclusion.

The first one, called the swachh bharat scheme, aims at eliminating open defecation by constructing toilets in every household by 2019. The latter’s goal is to open 75 million bank accounts by January 2015 to serve the country’s poor.

These are both programs aimed at the the underprivileged , rather than the business elite. And yet, in emphasizing personal hygiene and finance rather than any broader public policy strategy, they reveal Modi’s inclination towards viewing the individual, rather than the community, as the locus for “progress.”

Individualism vs. communitarianism

Jokowi, on the other hand, is a communitarian. In Jakarta, as in Solo, he made community welfare a consistent priority. His sympathies lie with small business owners, like the street vendors of Solo.

As governor of Jakarta, his flagship projects included a free healthcare card and education funds for the poor, the shifting of thousands of squatters out of flood catchments into low cost apartments, and the restarting of a much-delayed public transport overhaul.

None of these projects were an unqualified success. And yet, Jokowi was elected President, despite the well-run and cash-rich campaign conducted by his rival, Prabowo Subianto.

Moreover, it was and is Prabowo, not Jokowi, who enjoys the support of the majority of big industrial conglomerates in Indonesia. (Prabowo’s own brother, Hashim Djojohadikusomo, is a business tycoon whose net worth was estimated at $700 million in 2013, by Forbes).

Jokowi’s popularity derives largely from his humble style, personal honesty and commitment to community participation in the political process.

Minorities as a test case

Significantly, for a large and plural country like Indonesia, Jokowi has also ensured he has strong credentials amongst the country’s minority communities.

When he ran for governor of Jakarta, for example, he chose Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese-descent, as his running mate. This was remarkable because Indonesia is a Muslim-majority country with a history of racially motivated discrimination against the ethnic Chinese community.

During the Presidential campaign, Prabowo openly played the “Muslim” card, garnering the support of the majority of Islamic parties and laying claim to the mantle of “true” Muslim.

Meanwhile, Jokowi, was the subject of a disinformation campaign that insinuated he was a Chinese Christian, rather than the Javanese Muslim he is. Nonetheless, the former Jakarta governor remained steadfast in his public espousal of pluralism

In contrast, Modi’s track record with regards to India’s minority communities is bleak.

The Indian Prime Minister is accused of doing little to stop the 2002 religious riots that took place under his watch as Chief Minister in Gujarat, in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

These are allegations he has consistently denied and been cleared of by the courts, although many civil society groups continue to hold him culpable. Modi is also closely affiliated to the right-wing Hindu organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), whose objective is to make India a Hindu nation.

Veteran politician vs. the novice

The third major contrast between the Indian Prime Minister and Indonesian President is in their political circumstances. Modi might have risen from humble origins, but he is a political veteran with a proven knack for working party machinery to his advantage.

Under Modi, the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) won a landslide victory, giving them a clear majority in parliament. This is a feat that has not been pulled off since the start of India’s so-called “coalition-era” in 1989.

Modi can therefore operate on the basis of a strong mandate. And while he still needs to work with the Chief Ministers of India’s multiple states, many of whom are from opposition parties, the Prime Minister has more of a free hand at the center than any other Indian leader has had in decades.

Jokowi is a comparative newbie to politics, having entered the fray as recently as 2005. Prior to being elected as President he has only had experience running cities. Most importantly, his room for maneuver as leader of Indonesia is far more constrained than Modi’s is in India.

Getting things done

The Indonesian legislature is controlled by a coalition led by Jokowi’s archrival Prabowo. Known as the Red and White coalition, this grouping has already used its majority to pass a bill opposed by Jokowi, ending direct elections for village heads, mayors and governors.

Notably, Jokowi was himself a beneficiary of such direct local elections. Without them, he would have had precious little chance to get elected as mayor of Solo. The new bill is widely seen as an attempt by the political establishment to fight back against the possibility of “upstarts” like Jokowi coming to power again.

To complicate matters even more for Jokowi, not only is parliament dominated by Jokowi’s rivals, his authority is weak even within his own party, the PDI-P. The party chairperson is Megawati Sukarnoputri, Indonesia’s president from 2001 to 2004 and the daughter of Indonesia’s founding President, Sukarno.

Very much an establishment person, she continues to control the party machinery. That significantly reduces Jokowi’s leeway to conduct negotiations with potential political allies.

Both Modi and Jokowi face a formidable task as leaders of the world’s first and third-largest democracies, respectively India and Indonesia are eclectic and demographically immense nations.

The two new leaders share a long list of challenges: cleaning up politics and public life, harnessing demographic dividends to productive use, fixing creaking infrastructure, maintaining pluralism, and trying to find the right power-sharing equation between the center and provinces.

Modi and Jokowi differ in their outlook and approach to solving these problems – and neither has an easy task. How each fares will be of great relevance to both countries, and of continuing interest globally.

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Old Industry in Indonesia: Pictures of a Sugar Cane Community http://www.theglobalist.com/old-industry-in-indonesia-pictures-of-a-sugar-cane-community/ http://www.theglobalist.com/old-industry-in-indonesia-pictures-of-a-sugar-cane-community/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 21:38:48 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=34853 By The Globalist

Industrial communities in Indonesia form community around old sugar cane plants.

Credit: Tomasz Tomaszewski - The Other HundredIndustrial communities in Indonesia form community around old sugar cane plants.

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By The Globalist

Industrial communities in Indonesia form community around old sugar cane plants.

Credit: Tomasz Tomaszewski - The Other Hundred

Tomasz Tomaszewski is a regular contributor to the National Geographic magazine, and a photographer with thirty years of experience. He teaches photography in addition to taking his own photos, and specializes in press photography.

•  •  •

In 1933, Java was the world’s leading sugar producer, with more than 200 factories processing sugar cane and selling their output to the world. A product of colonialism, the industry had got its start in the early 19th century after the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean led to European sugar firms looking for new locations for plantations in Asia.

After failing in India, the Dutch found success in Java, expanding output throughout the 19th century. In 1945, Indonesia regained its independence and nationalized the industry.

Today, only just over ten factories remain in operation, all using steam-powered machinery installed over a century ago.

Although wages are low in Indonesia, productivity is poor, and production costs in Brazil and Suriname are lower. Most of the sugar consumed in the country is now imported.

Despite the industry’s decline, for those who still work in them, the factories are an important part of their life. Shuttered for much of the year, they awaken when the cane is harvested. Casual workers are hired, and the towns around the mills fill up with peddlers and travelling fairs.

Text and photographs by Tomasz Tomaszewski


Sugar TownEnlarge   Workers repairing steampowered machinery installed more than a century ago at Pangka sugar factory in the central Java city of Tegal.

Sugar TownEnlarge   A farmer drives his f lock of ducks across a disused railway line at the now shuttered sugar factory in Comal, central Java.

Sugar TownEnlarge   A mechanic tightens a bolt just before the milling season starts at Sumberharjo sugar factory in Pemalang.

Sugar TownEnlarge   A worker takes a cigarette break while carrying out maintenance work before the start of the milling season at Tegal’s Pangka sugar factory.

Sugar TownEnlarge   Local people relax during the weekend at the Comal Baru sugar plant’s swimming pool, built during the industry’s golden age for use by the factory’s Dutch staff.

Tomasz Tomaszewski is a regular contributor to the National Geographic magazine, and a photographer with thirty years of experience. He teaches photography in addition to taking his own photos, and specializes in press photography.

The Other Hundred is a unique photo-book project (order here) aimed as a counterpoint to the Forbes 100 and other media rich lists by telling the stories of people around the world who are not rich but who deserve to be celebrated.

Its 100 photo-stories move beyond the stereotypes and cliches that fill so much of the world’s media to explore the lives of people whose aspirations and achievements are at least as noteworthy as any member of the world’s richest 1,000.

Selected from 11,000 images shot in 158 countries and submitted by nearly 1,500 photographers, The Other Hundred celebrates those who will never find themselves on the world’s rich lists or celebrity websites.

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Russia: Really Part of Europe? http://www.theglobalist.com/russia-really-part-of-europe/ http://www.theglobalist.com/russia-really-part-of-europe/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 06:00:14 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=34628 By The Globalist

Most of Russia's land lies in the East, but most of its people live in the West.

russia articleMost of Russia's land lies in the East, but most of its people live in the West.

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By The Globalist

Most of Russia's land lies in the East, but most of its people live in the West.

russia article

1. About three-quarters of Russia’s landmass lies on the Asian side of the Urals.

2. In contrast, about 78% of Russia’s population lives on the European side.

3. In other words, the European part of Russia has three-fourths of the entire countries population — and one-fourth of the land area.

4. As a result, the population density of Russia’s two continental regions is vastly different.

5. European Russia has a population density of about 26 people per sq. kilometer — which is only about a tenth of Germany’s 229 people per sq. kilometer.

6. Meanwhile, Asian Russia’s population density is only 2.5 people per sq. kilometer. — one of the least densely populated regions on earth.

7. Two of European Russia’s cities, Moscow (12 million) and St. Petersburg (5 million), account for 12% of Russia’s total population of 143 million.

8. Moscow and St. Petersburg also play a significant role in the Russian economy, accounting for about 25% of the country’s GDP.

Source: RussiaPedia by Russian Times and analysis by The Globalist Research Center

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Oil as a WMO: The West’s Weapon of Mass Obedience? http://www.theglobalist.com/oil-as-a-wmo-the-wests-weapon-of-mass-obedience/ http://www.theglobalist.com/oil-as-a-wmo-the-wests-weapon-of-mass-obedience/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 06:00:34 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=35057 By Stephan Richter

Will lower oil prices drive Saudi Arabia and Russia to pursue sensible reforms at home at long last?

Putin and Abdullah bin Abdulaziz (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)Will lower oil prices drive Saudi Arabia and Russia to pursue sensible reforms at home at long last?

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By Stephan Richter

Will lower oil prices drive Saudi Arabia and Russia to pursue sensible reforms at home at long last?

Putin and Abdullah bin Abdulaziz (Credit: Presidential Press and Information Office)

Ever since OPEC’s oil embargo in 1973 and the resulting oil price shock, Western nations have had to deal with the vagaries of oil price induced inflationary pressures and/or significant GDP growth dampeners.

Conversely, a range of other nations – primarily the likes of Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran – were put into the position of coasting along nicely, irrespective of their domestic failings and shortcomings.

Putin’s ride in Russia, for example, is best explained by the fact that, unlike Boris Yeltsin before him, he never had to deal with cataclysmic declines in the oil price.

And Saudi Arabia’s preferred “game” – buying off its young men with cushy state-sector do-nothing jobs so as to stave off any revolutionary instincts – very much depends on a high oil price.

Buying off the people

In fact, given the costly welfare state the Saudi princes are running to numb their undereducated, unproductive masses, they have great reason to worry about their physical safety in their princely estates – if the oil price goes down too much.

And that decline is precisely what may be in the offing now. For the moment, it still seems as if the oil market – like the stock market – can’t quite decide whether or not it should go into a sustained downward spin.

But the writing is certainly on the wall – and it makes such global entities as the Kremlin and Riyadh very nervous.

As well it should. The cynical strategy of these “leaders” to rule by mass bribing of their people, while not reforming their countries in any useful manner to make them productive citizens in the 21st century, may well come to haunt them very soon.

It is said, for example, that the Saudi welfare state gets into budgetary troubles once the oil price goes below $97 a barrel. To be sure, the Saudis have plenty of money stashed away somewhere that they can infuse now in their “let’s-prevent-a-revolution” games.

But some oil prices are now as low as $85. That’s going to hurt for real in a short amount of time.

Western temptations

At a time of great geopolitical upheaval as now, there is a temptation for Western minds to lift their collective hopes that these pariahs are becoming more malleable, reasonable and reform-oriented.

Compared to the Saudis, the Russians have a clear advantage: Their population is so despondent and aging that it has next to none of the young Saudi males’ sense of dissatisfaction.

The Russian people are conditioned by a long history of being treated like mules by their leaders, irrespective of the latters’ ideological stripes. After a while, that has a real impact on a deep-seated sense of passivity and hopelessness.

The Saudis are at the opposite end of the demographic curve. The average age of their population is 25.3 years, compared to Russia’s 38 years. And the Saudi princes’ efforts to rely on their oppressive domestic intelligence services to keep their people in line will only work for so long.

Once young men become truly restive, there is little state power to hold them back. It stands to reason that the Saudi princes have an ominous sense of their present fragility, which already hits at all their border regions.

Should these developments make us Westerners rejoice? Can we realistically hope that the Russian and Saudi leaderships wise up now?

The big white hope is that, on the global stage, low oil prices are a WMO – a Weapon of Mass Obedience. (Of course, those same low oil prices are already driving up U.S. consumers to buy SUVs once again…)

Voluntary regime change needed

The problem as regards the Saudis and the Russians is that both nations are poorly prepared – no, unprepared – for an internal “regime change,” even if that term only refers to structural economic reforms and better education policies.

The past addiction to, and presence of, a high oil price had the effect of these (mis-)leaderships believing they were inoculated against the need to do the inevitable. In other words, they hope to avoid what everybody else has to do –pursue sensible economic reforms and advance the home population’s human resource potential.

As things stand, the low oil price may well have the opposite effect of what Westerners are currently hoping for. Rather than creating more obedience – not toward “the West” itself, but the principles of modern civilization, including the rule of law – despair and obstinacy may reign supreme.

When faced with desperate circumstances, desperate leaders in certain cultures rather have a tendency to circle their wagons that much harder than in the “good” times.

Desperados in the making

The Saudi and Russian leaders are cut from a fundamentally different cloth than China’s. The latter certainly have their drawbacks and challenges too. But China – under Deng Xiaoping at first, and then under the leaders that followed him – made a fundamental, top-to-bottom bet that it had to reinvent itself.

Perhaps that stark departure from its very ideologized past was facilitated by China not being able to rely on raw material riches.

But for Russia and Saudi Arabia, having those riches only meant that dealing with pressing human realities was postponed, not superfluous.

However, it is precisely because of the devastating tendency of both leaderships to believe that their oil riches could lull them into safety that they can now be counted upon to become that much more desperate.

The odds are that lower oil prices, rather than anything we may wish for at this juncture, will turn into a WMI – a weapon of mass irrationality – when it comes to Russia and Saudi Arabia.

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ISIS as a Colonial Creature: Is Washington Being “Played”? http://www.theglobalist.com/isis-as-a-colonial-creature-is-washington-being-played/ http://www.theglobalist.com/isis-as-a-colonial-creature-is-washington-being-played/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 06:00:27 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=35004 By Richard Phillips

ISIS is not an aberration. It is a legitimate part of the Middle Eastern political landscape.

Credit: Michael Wick - Shutterstock.comISIS is not an aberration. It is a legitimate part of the Middle Eastern political landscape.

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By Richard Phillips

ISIS is not an aberration. It is a legitimate part of the Middle Eastern political landscape.

Credit: Michael Wick - Shutterstock.com

It is striking to see how in the United States the tactical discussion over how best to deal with ISIS has totally eclipsed the broader strategic debate over how best to deal with political transformation in the Middle East in general.

One U.S. politician after another, including President Obama, has proposed short-term expedients such as intensified air strikes or providing arms to one faction or another. But no one has even attempted to define a long-term strategy for dealing with the underlying causes of Mideast strife.

Even more troubling is that proposals coming from all across the U.S. political spectrum seem to harken back to old school solutions such as coalition building, as if ignorance can somehow legitimize ignorance. And when these coalitions turn out to be dominated by former colonial powers, one must ask serious questions.

Outdated policies for outdated structures

In essence, the United States — along with the major European powers — seems intent on enforcing political structures that were planned and implemented nearly 100 years ago.

These political solutions – the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the Treaty of Sevres and the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 — were designed to dismantle the Ottoman Empire. They were effective in achieving that goal, but highly ineffective in establishing a stable political landscape through much of the Middle East.

The European post World War I agenda for the Middle East proved difficult to impose. To start with, the still-colonial European powers defined fictional jurisdictions that did nothing to address issues of ethnicity or sect.
In fact, many of these “countries” housed fiercely opposing factions — a factor that neutralized them as international threats.

Left largely unresolved in these agreements and treaties, for example, was what to do with the Kurds, which maintain militant minorities in Iraq, Iran, Syria and, significantly, Turkey. The post-Ottoman treaties made no provision for dealing with these minorities, which together populate a contiguous strip of oil-rich land that is referred to by the Kurds as, yes, Kurdistan.

Nor did the Europeans try to address issues on the Arabian Peninsula. Here, tribal rivalries were thought to have been beyond rational resolution.

Totally unmentioned was the Sunni-Shia schism.

Thousands of years of conflict and Baghdad Airport

Although the ethnic and sectarian divisions that define Middle East politics are now well-understood, the discussion in the West has come to focus on whether or not one Iraqi faction can fend off another Iraqi faction to maintain control of the Baghdad airport!

This point of view, whether it involves Sinjar Mountain, the city of Erbil, the Mosul Dam or the Kurdish enclave of Kobani, is myopic in the extreme, because it regards ISIS as an aberration.

ISIS is not an aberration. It is a legitimate part of the Middle Eastern political landscape.

Indeed, much of the debate over ISIS seems to focus entirely on its inclination toward terrorism. While there is validity in viewing ISIS as a terrorist threat, such a view ignores a crucial reality: In both Syria and Iraq, ISIS has taken the lead in a broad-based, Sunni-driven insurgency.

The temptation in the West to conflate terrorism and insurgency is great, especially because insurgent groups often employ terror tactics in their pursuit of political objectives. But insurgency incorporates an element that terrorism seldom does.

That element is popular support, where the local population either actively or tacitly supports the insurgency and the insurgent group leading it.

This is precisely the factor that makes dealing with ISIS so confounding. In both Iraq and Syria, ISIS enjoys broad-based support among much of the Sunni population.

Although there may be general antipathy to the radical Islamic tendencies of ISIS, there is also recognition that ISIS is leading the fight against repressive regimes in Baghdad and Damascus – that is, regimes that repress Sunni Muslims.

Are we being “played”?

Voices in the West have suggested many different ways of dealing with ISIS. Inevitably, they involve choosing sides.

In particular, the Kurds seem to have many friends in the West, especially in Washington, D.C. There, they have lobbied the U.S. Congress with a persistent intensity that would be denied to them were they an actual legal jurisdiction.

The Shia majority in Iraq also gets sensitive treatment, mainly because of their long-term repression at the hands of Saddam Hussein, who got a big career boost from the U.S.’s CIA.

The Shia minority in Syria, which forms the backbone of the Assad regime, however, gets no such sensitivity. In part because of its ongoing state of war with Israel, Assad’s Syria has few if any friends in Washington, even though the Baathist Assad regime promotes a secular and pluralistic political order.

A simple conclusion — for simple minds

These political realities lead to a simple set of conclusions for U.S. policy:

1. Support the Kurds.

2. Collaborate with the Iraqi Shia to make Iraq work as a state.

3. Oppose Assad, but without disturbing the secular and pluralistic political order.

This set of political expediencies, however, is so contradictory that it is impossible to implement effectively. Furthermore, it provides a logical basis for Sunni populations in both countries to support a radical insurgency.

It is important to realize that this radical insurgency gets support from those Sunni tribesmen of the Arabian Peninsula that Messrs. Sykes and Picot so judiciously overlooked.

In the meantime, the tactical approach of bombing and taking sides runs the risk of alienating the generally moderate Sunni populations in both countries. It also inflames regional tensions and redirects anger away from local problems toward Washington. The inevitable outcome of such an approach is the creation of another generation of anti-Western jihadists.

Barack Obama was right when he said that America doesn’t have a strategy for dealing with ISIS. Excoriated by the U.S. media for saying this, he has since proposed a grab-bag of tactical measures presented as strategy. That will do little to resolve the long-term political issues that grip the region.

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Muslims and Islam – Now and Then http://www.theglobalist.com/muslims-and-islam-now-and-then/ http://www.theglobalist.com/muslims-and-islam-now-and-then/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 06:00:05 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=34985 By The Globalist

Can Islam rediscover the tolerance it practiced for many centuries?

Al-Azhar University (Credit: - Waj Shutterstock.com)Can Islam rediscover the tolerance it practiced for many centuries?

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By The Globalist

Can Islam rediscover the tolerance it practiced for many centuries?

Al-Azhar University (Credit: - Waj Shutterstock.com)

1. Of the top ten countries where terrorist attacks took place in 2013, seven were Muslim-majority.

2. Of the 24 countries that are most restrictive on the exercise of religion, 19 are Muslim-majority.

3. Of the 21 countries that have laws against apostasy, all have Muslim majorities.

4. The Islamic world was generally more tolerant of minorities than the Christian world, until approximately the last 70 years.

5. More than one million Jews lived in the Arab world until the early 1950s — nearly 200,000 in Iraq alone.

Sources: “Bill Maher gives Islam a bad rap,” by Fareed Zakaria (Washington Post, October 10, 2014). “Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High,” (Pew Research Center, January 14, 2014). “Peace Be Upon You: Fourteen Centuries of Muslim, Christian and Jewish Conflict and Cooperation,” By Zachary Karabell (Knopf, 2007).

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Kurdistan and the Kurds http://www.theglobalist.com/kurdistan-and-the-kurds/ http://www.theglobalist.com/kurdistan-and-the-kurds/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 06:00:04 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=34929 By The Globalist

The history of Kurdistan helps explain the Kurds’ current conundrum.

Credit: Vinko93 Shutterstock.comThe history of Kurdistan helps explain the Kurds’ current conundrum.

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By The Globalist

The history of Kurdistan helps explain the Kurds’ current conundrum.

Credit: Vinko93 Shutterstock.com

1. Kurdistan today is almost equal to the size of Germany and the UK combined.

2. Today’s 30 million Kurds constitute one of the world’s largest ethnic groups – without a country.

3. World War I’s victorious powers drew maps with no regard for ethnicities, religions, geography or logic.

4. WWI’s conquerors divided up the Kurds among four countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.

5. Kurdistan, though an unofficial region, is a crossroads of civilizations.

6. Kurdistan has been subjected over millennia to military, linguistic and cultural invasions, and genocide and ethnic cleansing — from all sides.

7. The Kurds have somehow survived in their mountainous region and preserved their culture and language.

8. Kurdish identity encompasses many languages, including Sorani, Kurmanji and Zazaki.

9. Kurdish identity includes many religions – Shiite and Sunni Islam, Yazidism, Chaldean and Assyrian Christianity and Judaism.

10. The Kurds have political organizations in each of Kurdistan’s four parts. Kurds account for a fifth of Turkey’s population.

Sources: “Why Turkey Shrugs as ISIS Closes In on Kobani,” by Luqman Barwari and Barry A. Fisher, Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2014, and
“Turkey’s Syria policy hurts Kurds’ rapprochement,” by Daniel Dombey, Financial Times, October 9, 2014.

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The New Washington Consensus? Deutschland Über Alles http://www.theglobalist.com/the-new-washington-consensus-deutschland-uber-alles/ http://www.theglobalist.com/the-new-washington-consensus-deutschland-uber-alles/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 06:00:03 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=34932 By Stephan Richter

The art of casting Germany both as chief villain and magic wand of the global economy.

Credit: Axel Lauer - Shutterstock.comThe art of casting Germany both as chief villain and magic wand of the global economy.

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By Stephan Richter

The art of casting Germany both as chief villain and magic wand of the global economy.

Credit: Axel Lauer - Shutterstock.com

Now that the annual meeting of the World Bank and IMF lies behind us, it is finally clear that a new Washington Consensus has emerged.

If you believe that new consensus, propagated by U.S. and UK policymakers and media voices, the resolution of the world economy’s current troubles overwhelmingly lies in Germany. If only stubborn and intransigent Angela Merkel and her sidekick, Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister, changed their position on key issues, all would be well soon with the global economy.

Seldom has the search for solutions to global problems been so focused on seeking salvation by focusing on one nation. Never mind that Germany accounts for a mere 3.66% of global GDP.

This is not to make light of the fact that the German government can be dense and intransigent at times. And now certainly is such a time. But the Germans are also more fleet-footed in making required changes once the evidence becomes overwhelming. Angela Merkel, in particular, tends to be cautious for a prolonged time. But then she acts, often with remarkable determination.

German infrastructure as a global obsession

So when we are told now that Germany is catastrophically failing to spend more on its crumbling infrastructure, as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard just dramatically wrote, rest assured that the German government will act. It’s a matter of self-interest, after all.

The world will learn faster than many of the advocates of the “It’s Germany, Stupid!” school appreciate that the German government will take a variety of measures to use its fiscal space, particularly to undertake infrastructure investments.

And since Germany is truly a country where the bureaucracy always has a lot of good plans in its drawers, the world can also rest assured that this spending will be effective and that it can be brought to bear soon, with a minimum of “boondoggle” (aka corruption) that hampers such spending elsewhere.

Germans, for their part, may be forgiven for finding this sudden attention to German infrastructure a bit “rich,” considering which voices are favoring that it spend more on this item.

The need to improve the country’s infrastructure to serve future productivity gains is certainly at least as great in the United States and the United Kingdom. And the fiscal space there is similar – and the interest rates equally low.

Imagine this: Why structural reform is for the birds

Or listen to Martin Wolf who, at an event in Washington, disputed the usefulness of structural reforms. After declaring Germany the master student of undertaking structural reform, he then asked this question: What benefit is there for other countries to engage in similar actions, given that Germany may be entering a technical recession soon, with a second quarter of GDP on a slightly declining trend?

It sounds as if Mr. Wolf, the estimable economic commentator, in his obsession with Germany, has become a true believer in the “throw out the baby with the bathwater” method.

The answer to Europe’s economic puzzle evidently lies in everybody doing what they need to do for their own nation’s long-term future. For some nations, that means the launch of irreversible structural reforms. This must be accompanied by flanking measures by others, including offering more fiscal leniency for those nations who, at long last, finally do the right thing.

Forget the German model?

Under the current charged circumstances, where many a nation (including the Germans) feel uncertain about the future direction of the world economy, one can also witness an increasingly contrived European debate about the “German model.”

I recently heard voices in Italy that dismissed for a spectacular reason whatever ideas Germany may offer on organizing a national economy. In a true display of speciousness, short-termism and escapism, all in one, they offered this insight: “Since Germany’s GDP declined in the last quarter, the country’s economy obviously can’t be regarded as a model for Italy.”

Export meister no more?

Then there are those who feel happy because Germany’s exports are stalling. Indeed, global stock markets recently took that occurrence as the key reason to sell off.

Never mind that the main reasons for this particular development – a slowdown in China and sanctions against Russia – are well understood and should have been properly discounted by the markets. And lest anybody predict this to be a long-term trend, it is safe to count on German exports rising again soon.

When that happens, the odds are that the slowdown of the world economy is going to be explained by its polar opposite: Global growth will then be declared in trouble because Germany exports too much, thus choking off the growth space (via exports) of other nations.

The lesson in all this is self-evident: The global economy does indeed face major troubles. And Germany – about 1/27th of the global economy – certainly has its forms of shortsightedness, errors and idiosyncrasies. But so does pretty much everybody else.

Improving global economic prospects – no doubt an urgent task – is a team sport. And while some have to (and can) do more than others, the idea to single out one or a few nations as being overwhelmingly responsible for all the ills of the global economy may be an interesting rhetorical proposition. But with regard to proper economic analysis, it is simply flawed.

Savor the irony

In conclusion, savor the major irony here: There was a time when the Germans indeed believed that “the essence of Germany shall cure the ills of the world.” (Of course, other nations had their own moments of megalomania as well.)

The relevant point now is that the Germans no longer believe in such supremacy. They are even too timid to act these days on the international stage. But the fact that other major Western nations’ elites now single them out as super-important to everyone else’s future – not just the Eurozone’s – is truly bizarre.

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The Centennial Crisis Cycle and the Middle East http://www.theglobalist.com/the-centennial-crisis-cycle-and-the-middle-east/ http://www.theglobalist.com/the-centennial-crisis-cycle-and-the-middle-east/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 06:00:20 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=34763 By Meghnad Desai

How the West is implicated in the current fires burning in the Middle East.

Credit: Steven Wright Shutterstock.comHow the West is implicated in the current fires burning in the Middle East.

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By Meghnad Desai

How the West is implicated in the current fires burning in the Middle East.

Credit: Steven Wright Shutterstock.com

In August 2014, we “celebrated” the centenary of the start of the First World War. Much attention was paid to the ill-fated legacy of the Versailles Treaty, which more or less led to the Second World War. The underlying “German problem” only came to an end in 1991, when all of Germany was at peace with Europe and reunited.

There was also much debate about the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after 1918, which brought many nations to life for the first time in Europe. Their fate after the Second World War still occupies us to this day, even though in 1991, the liberation of Eastern Europe brought a chapter of that unwinding to a positive resolution.

But there is still one chapter unfinished – and we are currently very much embroiled in it. This is the end of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War. By 1916, France and Great Britain had signed the secret Sykes Picot Treaty partitioning the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Emperor was also the Caliph. Kemal Pasha, who took over Turkey, the heart of that Empire, was an atheist and abolished the Caliphate. For the first time in 1,200 years, Sunni Islam was without a Caliph. It was as if someone had abolished the Papacy.

The problems of today were born in the past

The upheaval we face in the Middle East today, properly understood, is not about ISIS. It is the last unresolved problem of the First World War.

To be sure, the Islamic State or ISIS or ISIL, the “Caliphate,” however one calls it, harkens back to that deep wound in Sunni Islam’s psyche.

The state boundaries drawn by the Sykes Picot Treaty were somewhat imaginary — though the territories known as Iraq or Syria have been known even before they became provinces of the Empire.

The people chosen to be the kings of these “countries” were of equally dubious merit, as the memoirs of Lawrence of Arabia tell us.

Lest we forget, the Kurds were left unhappy at having been partitioned between three newly designated countries –Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

In the case of Syria, Iraq and Egypt, these kings were succeeded by secular governments. The dream then became a united Arab entity under one leader.

It was the advent of Israel in 1948 — itself a result of the Balfour Declaration during WWI and the Arab rejection of it — which set off the first cycle of wars in the Middle East.

After three defeats (in 1948, 1967 and 1973), the secular pan-Arab parties were in disgrace. The people of the region realized that the answer to their problems was not to be found in socialism or Ba’athism.

Religion beckoned as the fall-back answer. As if to add oil to the proverbial fire, the oil shock of 1973/4 greatly enriched the Saudis and they used those funds to propagate their radical brand of Islam as the only path.

The 40 years since 1973 have been unsettling for the region. The revival of Shia Islam in Iran and the overthrow of the monarchy in 1979 led to a ten-year war between Iraq and Iran. This was soon followed by the takeover of Kuwait by Iraq and the 1991 war sanctioned by the UN.

That did nothing to settle the underlying issues going back to WWI. Particularly crucial in this historic context is that fact that the U.S. and UK armies failed to make any post-war settlement which would have addressed the issue of making a nation out of Iraq.

The Shia majority took their revenge for decades of oppression — and answered in kind under Nouri Al-Maliki’s government.

Russia’s incursion into Afghanistan, presumed to be a late footnote to the Cold War, was the first time we in the West became aware of the mess which was – and is — the Middle East.

It was also a sign, though we did not see it that way, of a deep crisis in Sunni Islam. Islamism is a movement against governments in Muslim-majority countries more than it is against the West. Its advocates want sharia-compliant governments everywhere there is a Muslim state.

From Pakistan at one end to Algeria at the other and now extending southward to Nigeria and Sudan, Islamist forces are undermining Muslim populations and their governments.

History reveals the follies of the West

Once we part with our own cultural chauvinism (in the form of a Eurocentric view of modern history) and look at a centennial arc in a wider context, we realize that we are now stuck with the Ottoman Empire and its decline.

But this is no time for any finger-pointing or cultural disdain. Any sound analysis – even as simple and undeniable as looking at cause and effect — points to the West’s key role in this.

The boundaries between Syria and Iraq are still fluid because key powers did not solve the issue. Syria has faced a revolt against Assad, which he has successfully stalled at a great cost in human lives. Refugees have flooded into Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

Now, in ISIS, we do not only face an extreme version of Islamism – but also a direct echo of prolonged Western negligence, if not irresponsibility. Hard though it may be to imagine for Western minds “trained” on the peril and radicalism of Al Qaeda, ISIS rejects that force as not pure enough.

It is as painful as it is logical that ISIS has parked itself in the large territory between Iraq and Syria since the boundaries have been artificial anyway. By reviving the Caliphate, it has addressed the deep wound in the Sunni psyche.

The West is responding — but only hesitantly so (and, once again, more from its own selfish, short termist perspective than the crisis demands).

There is a lot of latent and even open dislike of Muslims in the West. It would be cynical to say “let them kill each other.”

But that would be neither wise nor prudent. We have a humanitarian crisis which requires a military response as much as relief operations.

This may be the final unsolved problem of the First World War — but maybe we can solve it within a century of 1918. Then, the pernicious cycle of collective irresponsibility that unloaded itself in the famed guns of August (1914) would finally have come to a long-overdue close.

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Churchill’s Disgruntled Diatribe on Islam http://www.theglobalist.com/churchills-disgruntled-diatribe-on-islam/ http://www.theglobalist.com/churchills-disgruntled-diatribe-on-islam/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 06:00:10 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=34740 By The Globalist

The West's policy in the Muslim world may hearken back to opinions held by leaders from its past.

churchillThe West's policy in the Muslim world may hearken back to opinions held by leaders from its past.

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By The Globalist

The West's policy in the Muslim world may hearken back to opinions held by leaders from its past.

churchill

Read the Globalist’s Features on Islam:

Features on Islam

Islamophobia is not a condition recently born into the world. In the unabridged edition of The River War (1899), Sir Winston Churchill infamously expounded his view of Islam, following his short stay of a few months in Sudan:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.

A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die. But the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proseltyzing faith.

It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science—the science against which it had vainly struggled—the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.”

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Charity in Brazil: Helping Children on the Street http://www.theglobalist.com/charity-in-brazil-helping-children-on-the-street/ http://www.theglobalist.com/charity-in-brazil-helping-children-on-the-street/#comments Sun, 12 Oct 2014 08:20:25 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=34786 By The Globalist

Picturing the growth of homeless children in Brazil.

Credit: Viviane Moos - The Other HundredPicturing the growth of homeless children in Brazil.

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By The Globalist

Picturing the growth of homeless children in Brazil.

Credit: Viviane Moos - The Other Hundred

Vivian Moos is a professional, award-winning photographer based in New York City. She uses her knowledge of six languages to build trust with those she photographs, allowing her to put a story behind her pictures. She focuses on putting a personal picture to the topics she covers.

•  •  •

In the early 1990s, Viviane Moos spent several months on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, sharing and photographing the lives of child street gangs. In 2013, she returned to see what had happened to the children she had known, and in particular to see what difference one man, Robert Smits, founder of Refúgio de Meninos e Meninas da Rua (REMER – Shelter for Street Boys and Girls), had made to the children in his care.

Text and photographs by Viviane Moos


At five, Adriano ran away from the poverty and abuse of his family to live in the district around Rio de Janeiro’s central station, begging, stealing and taking drugs. In 1994, he was living in a REMER refuge with Robert Smits as his guardian. Here, as on many evenings, he has tucked himself onto a shelf to watch television, above Monique (see opposite) sucking her thumb on the couch below.


In March 2013, Adriano is a bus change-maker. He has just completed a heavy equipment training programme as an excavator operator and is now planning to change jobs and start working on one of Rio’s many construction sites.


In 1991, Monique, aged four, sits on her older sister’s lap as they beg beneath a ticket counter in Rio de Janeiro’s central station. The two sisters lived with their mother, an alcoholic, in the central station rubbish tip. In 2002, a bus hit and killed their mother as she crossed a street while drunk.


In 1994, Monique gives her teacher a dose of street attitude on her first day at school. By then she was living in the REMER refuge. A few months later, the courts allowed her to leave for Shalom farm, another REMER facility, several hours drive from Rio, where she lived until she was 18.


In March 2013, Monique, now 25, sits on the floor of her brother’s one-room apartment, beneath her daughter, five, and her daughter’s two best friends. She has just got a job selling phone plans to customers. With a low base salary, commissions will be the main part of her earnings. Now she wants a closet in which to hang her clothes and then to move out of her brother’s home into her own apartment.


Vivian Moos is a professional, award-winning photographer based in New York City. She uses her knowledge of six languages to build trust with those she photographs, allowing her to put a story behind her pictures. She focuses on putting a personal picture to the topics she covers.

The Other Hundred is a unique photo-book project (order here) aimed as a counterpoint to the Forbes 100 and other media rich lists by telling the stories of people around the world who are not rich but who deserve to be celebrated.

Its 100 photo-stories move beyond the stereotypes and cliches that fill so much of the world’s media to explore the lives of people whose aspirations and achievements are at least as noteworthy as any member of the world’s richest 1,000.

Selected from 11,000 images shot in 158 countries and submitted by nearly 1,500 photographers, The Other Hundred celebrates those who will never find themselves on the world’s rich lists or celebrity websites.

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The Congress of Vienna at 200 http://www.theglobalist.com/the-congress-of-vienna-at-200/ http://www.theglobalist.com/the-congress-of-vienna-at-200/#comments Sun, 12 Oct 2014 08:00:05 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=34541 By Martin Hutchinson

The enduring legacy of the best peace conference of all time.

Credit: Ronnie Chua - Shutterstock.comThe enduring legacy of the best peace conference of all time.

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By Martin Hutchinson

The enduring legacy of the best peace conference of all time.

Credit: Ronnie Chua - Shutterstock.com

The bicentennial of the Congress of Vienna is upon us soon. The conference had been organized to settle the questions outstanding from the 22-year Napoleonic Wars. The Congress itself opened officially on October 1, 1814 and the Final Act was signed on June 9, 1815.

Despite all the attention paid this year to the outbreak of World War I and the effective failure of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles to create a stable order, it was the Congress of Vienna that basically established the foundation of the global system we inhabit today.

The 1814/15 conference established a number of principles of international governance, some of which we have kept and others that we would do well to re-apply.

Prior to the Congress of Vienna, there had been multi-party peace conferences before, notably for the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht and the 1763 Treaty of Paris.

However, the Congress of Vienna for the first time attempted to create a “Congress System” which aimed at the future and regular coordination between the Great Powers. This resulted in the Quadruple/Holy Alliance of 1815 (which became the Quintuple Alliance when France joined in 1818.)

The Congress System established in Vienna at the time was highly effective for the crucial years of economic disruption following the wars’ end. Four Congresses met between 1818 and 1822, at Aachen, Troppau (Opava), Laibach (Ljubljana) and Verona.

Systemic support for legitimate governments

The Alliance powers’ principal objective was to prevent any outbreaks of revolutionary violence, especially the overthrow of legitimate governments. The lack of such a system in place after the disruption of the French Revolution in 1789 had led to 20 years of war.

Accordingly, the Alliance was prepared to intervene in domestic quarrels, but only to prop up or restore existing regimes, not to overthrow them. This was encapsulated in the 1820 Troppau Protocol, mostly the work of the Austrian Klemens von Metternich. It provided that:

“States, which have undergone a change of government due to revolution, the result of which threatens other states, ipso facto cease to be members of the European Alliance, and remain excluded from it until their situation gives guarantees for legal order and stability. If, owing to such alterations, immediate danger threatens other states the powers bind themselves, by peaceful means, or if need be, by arms, to bring back the guilty state into the bosom of the Great Alliance.”

System-stabilizing, no doubt. However, the system showed its strains, once the immediate danger of systemic destruction had lifted.

Serious divisions surfaced as soon as a proper response to a constitutional uprising in Spain had to be found in 1822.

A British Foreign Secretary not interested in peace

The system was ultimately destroyed when George Canning, the British Foreign Secretary for much of the 1820s, made it clear that he was not interested in working with the Continental autocracies to preserve the peace of Europe.

The result was several 19th century wars that might have been avoided and the creation of two 20th century successors to the Congress System, the League of Nations and the United Nations, neither of which had its strengths.

The Congress of Vienna nevertheless produced a number of new ideas that have survived to this day. One was the principle that the major powers could work together on a recurring basis to preserve peace and ensure that the world order met certain generally agreed objectives.

At the time, an important such objective was to stamp out the slave trade, which had been prohibited by Britain in 1807 and was abolished in French, Spanish and Portuguese possessions.

Later in the 19th century, the Congress of Vienna precedent began to be used to move towards free trade on a coordinated basis. This was impossible at the Congress itself, since only the British delegation and the prime minister, Lord Liverpool, was convinced even theoretically of free trade’s advantages.

But significant progress was made on free trade, so that by the mid-19th century various international agreements covering shipping, postal services and other international trade matters emerged.

A principle to preserve peace and promote trade

The principle of major powers working together to preserve the peace and promote trade has survived to this day. International agreements and Congresses have been succeeded by permanent international bureaucracies such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.

There were however two principles adopted at the Congress of Vienna which we have abandoned, much to our detriment.

The first was that decisions should be agreed between a small number of major powers, each of which was large enough to disturb peace on a Europe-wide basis and which shared a basic commitment to the existing international order.

Smaller powers, for their part, were expected and indeed compelled to abide by decisions reached by the larger powers. This principle survives today in the G7 economic club, but is notably absent in the UN, the WTO, NATO and other international agencies.

A golden rule for our time

The other principle of the Congress System, embodied in the Troppau Protocol referred to above, was that intervention would take place only to prevent or reverse regime change, not to produce it.

You can see the beneficial effects of applying such a principle by considering the U.S./NATO interventions since the 1970s. Under the (now imaginary) Troppau Protocol, intervention would have been legitimate in 1979 to prop up the Shah of Iran, in 1990 to remove Saddam Hussain from Kuwait, in 2011 to prop up Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak — and possibly in 2014 to remove Russia from Ukraine, but on no other occasion.

Alternative history is impossible to prove scientifically, but I cannot help thinking the world would be very much better off under such a system-stabilizing regime.

The Troppau principle of intervention in limited cases only to prop up existing regimes when change would endanger the country’s neighbors has a number of advantages over our current ad-hoc approach to intervention.

Politically, the chance of unforeseen bad outcomes from regime change is eliminated. The mullahs’ regime in Iran and the chaos in Libya were both largely unforeseen before the removal of their predecessor regimes. In any event, they were both far worse for the country’s inhabitants and the world as a whole than the regimes they replaced.

Minimizing counterproductive disruption

Economically, the Troppau principle is optimal because it minimizes counterproductive disruption: An existing regime, however corrupt, is already taken into account by businesses seeking to operate in the country, and hence propping it up eliminates substantial “menu-changing costs.”

The economic chaos from regime change is even worse when regime change involves geographic disruption. The countries of former Austria-Hungary suffered badly during the inter-war period, as did the post-Soviet republics in the 1990s and the countries of former Yugoslavia after 1991.

Human history contains many examples of well-constructed peace treaties following painful conflicts. But the Congress of Vienna was about the best of them, benefiting from far-sighted statesmanship of the highest quality from at least two participants, Metternich and Castlereagh. Many of its principles still govern our world today; we would do well to revisit some of its innovations that we have lost.

Editor’s Note: This is adapted from www.prudentbear.com, where this text was originally published.

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Is ISIS Islamic? http://www.theglobalist.com/is-isis-islamic/ http://www.theglobalist.com/is-isis-islamic/#comments Sat, 11 Oct 2014 08:00:11 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=34886 By Mark Juergensmeyer

Every religion has its dark sides, but the conflict is about politics.

Credit: Ronnie Chua - Shutterstock.comEvery religion has its dark sides, but the conflict is about politics.

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By Mark Juergensmeyer

Every religion has its dark sides, but the conflict is about politics.

Credit: Ronnie Chua - Shutterstock.com

Recently, world leaders and politicians have called ISIS or ISIL the “Un-Islamic State” in a public attempt to disassociate ISIS’s actions from the religious tradition of Islam. Just how “Islamic” or Muslim is ISIS?

As for much else in this complicated world, the answer is yes and no. Let me offer a parallel: In Christianity – I am a Christian – there is the Ku Klux Klan and there’s the Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa and Uganda.

That army is a terrible terrorist organization – they slaughter people – but they claim to be “The Lord’s” Resistance Army – they claim to be a Christian organization.

As a Christian, I feel like they have nothing to do with me or with the Christianity that I know. I certainly do not feel that I have to apologize for them, as if I were responsible for people I regard as nuts.

That is the same position most Muslims are in now with regard to ISIS.

A pretty cheeky proposition

The situation is a challenge for all Muslims. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, is putting forth a pretty cheeky proposition that ISIS will create a Caliphate to rule over all Muslims in the world.

Al-Baghdadi is a lower echelon-Al Qaeda figure from Iraq and is suddenly vaunting himself as the leader of the Muslim World. It is safe to say that does not go over well among most Muslim communities.

What makes things even more complicated is that ISIS bases its beliefs and actions on a form of Islamic interpretation called Salafism. The Salafi movement is similar to an extreme fundamentalism in Christianity.

It is a very narrow interpretation of Islam and especially a very narrow interpretation of Islamic law. The interesting thing and yet another complication about this movement is that the leader al-Baghdadi actually has some religious credentials.

This is unlike Al Qaeda, where Osama Bin Laden had no religious credentials at all. He was issuing fatwas as if somehow he was clergy and could do things like this, but he couldn’t.

So, radical groups see that al-Baghdadi does have more credentials than most Muslims, because he does have a PhD in Islamic studies. He knows the tradition. He knows the literature.

Is he true to it? Is he faithful to it? If I were a Muslim, I would say “No.” But he does have a credible Koranic training.

It is important to remember that there is a dark side to every religious tradition. But there’s also the other side. Traditions are vast. They are very large, complex and carry with them all shadings and tempers of the human condition. So we should simply accept that as a fact.

So, yes, ISIS is ultimately Islamic – whether you like it or not – but it is certainly not the kind of Islam that most Muslims would accept or profess.

That is the point that world leaders are trying to make in saying that ISIS is “not Islamic.” I think if I were a world leader speaking to a vast public, I would say the same thing.

As a scholar, however, I have to talk about the whole complexities of faith, but when leaders are talking to large groups of people, it is important for them to try to distance the actions of a perverted few from the reputation of a great tradition.

Particularly with regard to a tradition like Islam, whose very name means “peace” – leaders are right to say, “This is not true Islam. This is not the Islam most Muslims would accept.”

It’s about political voice and power

Besides religion, it is critical to recognize that all the forms of terrorism that we have seen are about politics. Any act of violence in the public sphere is aimed at trying to claim political space – at taking over power to assume control over regions or peoples. This is certainly true in the case of ISIS.

Most people directly involved in ISIS are not pious Muslims. Most of the people in Iraq and Syria are disaffected Sunnis who feel that they have been left out of any kind of political role within their countries.

So they are supporting ISIS as if to say, “Hey, these guys are going to put us back into power.” But most of the people are not religious fanatics, not religious nuts – they are just Sunnis who want to have a stake in their political life.

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Women and the Nobel Prize http://www.theglobalist.com/facts-women-nobel-prize/ http://www.theglobalist.com/facts-women-nobel-prize/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 16:56:06 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=18697 By The Globalist

Across all disciplines, only one in twenty Nobel recipients have been women.

Credit: Vladislav Gajic - Shutterstock.comAcross all disciplines, only one in twenty Nobel recipients have been women.

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By The Globalist

Across all disciplines, only one in twenty Nobel recipients have been women.

Credit: Vladislav Gajic - Shutterstock.com

1. The Nobel Peace Prize was just awarded to Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai, who has fought for young people’s rights, including education.

2. Since 1901, Nobel Prizes have gone to 846 individuals for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, economics and peace.

3. Over the course of 112 years, only 45 women have received a Nobel Prize, just over 5% of the 846 people who have received the prize.

4. The first woman to win the Nobel Prize was Marie Curie in 1903, who shared the physics prize with her husband and a colleague for discovering radioactivity.

5. Only one other woman has won the physics prize. Maria Goeppert-Mayer shared the 1963 prize for discoveries in nuclear shell structure.

6. Women account for just 1% of the 195 winners of the Nobel Prize in physics. Most women have been kept out of the sciences for decades. This figure may rise as more become scientists.

7. By the end of the last decade, women accounted for 32% of science and engineering graduate program enrollment in OECD countries. In 2010, women earned 53% of US PhDs in biology.

8. Elinor Ostrom, who won the economics prize in 2009, is the sole woman among 74 economics prize winners – equal to 1.4% of all recipients.

9. Canadian writer Alice Munro was the only woman in 2013 among the 12 individuals honored.

10. Of the six fields in which Nobels are awarded, women have had the greatest success with the peace prize. Since 1901, women have received 15% of the Peace Prizes awarded to individuals.

From The Globalist Research Center.

 

 

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TTIP: Transatlantic Blues? http://www.theglobalist.com/ttip-transatlantic-blues/ http://www.theglobalist.com/ttip-transatlantic-blues/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 06:00:48 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=34843 By Kathryn Hauser

The TTIP negotiators have lost their way. Time for a reset.

Credit: Niyazz - Shutterstock.comThe TTIP negotiators have lost their way. Time for a reset.

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By Kathryn Hauser

The TTIP negotiators have lost their way. Time for a reset.

Credit: Niyazz - Shutterstock.com

Trade negotiators from the United States and the European Union just met in Washington for the seventh round of negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

I participated in the so-called Stakeholder Consultation that the two negotiating teams had arranged for — and came away with the sense that the negotiators have lost their way.

As somebody who has long been involved in and advocated for an intensifying transatlantic business relationship, I do not say this lightly. What are my principal reasons for this judgment?

Emphasis on jobs and growth is missing

During the preparatory phase of TTIP, when the leaders called for recommendations from the High Level Work Group on Jobs & Growth (2011-2012), the dominant focus was on how expanded trade and investment across the Atlantic would lead to economic expansion and job creation.

Economists inside and outside of government, whether in the United States or the EU, calculated the size and scope of the transatlantic market. They also looked at the deep integration across the Atlantic in manufacturing and services, linkages to global value chains, valuation of current tariff and non-tariff barriers, as well as the 15 million plus jobs connected to this trade.

The consensus was clear: The gains to overall economic growth and prosperity demanded that the two sides seize the opportunity to forge a “21st Century” trade partnership.

However, at last week’s public read-out session, the lead negotiators were far from any such dynamism. Instead, they paid mere lip-service to the economic rationale for TTIP.

The crucial emphasis on jobs and growth – the core rationale of the entire negotiating effort — was nowhere to be found in their remarks. Instead, the two sides seemed stuck in their inability to move beyond their talking points on the egregious barriers both have had in place for decades (Jones Act, French audio visual barriers, etc.)

Negotiating framework is outdated

When President Obama, EU Commission President Barroso and European Council President Van Rompuy agreed to begin trade talks in July they notably named the negotiations the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” – not the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Negotiation.”

Yet, both sides have approached the talks as though they were a traditional FTA negotiation, generally with a far weaker trading partner. As a result, both the Americans and the Europeans believe they could act as the demandeur and give up nothing of consequence to the other side.

Far from underlining a partnership of any kind, the negotiating dynamics have taken on an “us versus them,” or “I win, you lose” character.

Given such a frame of mind on both sides, it is not a surprise that the negotiators are stuck. They fail to see that the trade negotiating structure of the post World War II period — where reciprocal “concessions” had to be balanced within and across sectors — does not reflect the dynamism and complexity of today’s transatlantic economic relationship.

It is already a hyper-complex, tightly integrated $6 trillion trade and investment relationship, reflecting global value chains and advanced regulatory structures. Changing the mentality of the negotiators from a “win-lose” proposition to one of joint problem solving is the key challenge in front of us.

Do not lose sight of global benefits

It is understandable that trade negotiators caught in the intensity of the talks have become myopic and stuck. Yet, it is a huge failing for their political leaders not to keep their eye on the larger issue at hand – that of the implications of U.S.-EU Leadership on trade and investment.

The rest of the world is watching how the EU and United States address the challenges we face in our bilateral relationship. The outcome will have implications for how other countries behave in bilateral, regional and multilateral talks.

The incoming EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has called for a “reset” in the negotiations. Her U.S. counterpart, Michael Froman, has indicated he agrees that both sides need to take a step back.

Indeed, based on the mood of the Stakeholder Consultation last week, all participants are disappointed in the process. This is reflected in the rare fact that there are calls from civil society for greater transparency and statements from business groups who are unsure where their recommendations stand.

A “Reset” is needed

We cannot expect a different outcome unless we change the negotiating dynamics and better define what will constitute a “successful” outcome.

Priority should also be given to joint problem-solving and to addressing market opportunities one side has identified in the other’s market (e.g., government procurement) and establishing a program of ongoing work that evolves as the transatlantic economy evolves. This will require a new way of thinking and working.

For now, the problem is that the structure for the negotiations is out of sync with the dynamism of the transatlantic market as well as the need for transparency. We must work together to reset the negotiations and emphasize, “It’s a Partnership, Stupid!”

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How ISIS Catches the United States With Its Pants Down http://www.theglobalist.com/how-isis-catches-the-united-states-with-its-pants-down/ http://www.theglobalist.com/how-isis-catches-the-united-states-with-its-pants-down/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 06:00:14 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=34806 By Stephan Richter

A new form of asymmetric warfare against the world’s biggest military.

Sole of shoe at Highway of Death in Iraq (Christiaan Briggs)A new form of asymmetric warfare against the world’s biggest military.

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By Stephan Richter

A new form of asymmetric warfare against the world’s biggest military.

Sole of shoe at Highway of Death in Iraq (Christiaan Briggs)

The sense of outright shock towards ISIS in Washington is becoming ever more palpable. While there still is the temptation to deal with the ISIS phenomenon in the usual fashion, making it a political football match between the two parties, shock is rapidly turning ISIS into a bipartisan issue.

On a daily basis, catastrophic news reports are featured on the front pages of newspapers that demonstrate that the United States as a whole has been caught with its pants down. ISIS is, literally, having fun with the world’s largest military by playing a mean game of strip poker with it.

Despicable as ISIS is, it is putting forth a new dimension of asymmetric warfare. The mighty U.S. Air Force – flying high and terrifically well-resourced – is proving impotent against ISIS’s ground game.

The temptation to blame the Obama Administration or the U.S. intelligence services for their lack of foresight may be irrepressible, but it is way off the mark.

Pants down America

At the core, this is the profound failure of an over-resourced and thoughtless U.S. political establishment that has wrongly played the nation’s cards in a militarized style of foreign policy making.

The failure now witnessed in Iraq and Syria therefore is also a strategic failure – and one for which the U.S. military, with its simplistic can-do mindset, bears profound responsibility. This failure is far worse than the Vietnam War (no lessons learned, after all).

What ISIS is bringing to bear can be most straightforwardly described as simply using the avenger style moves of the Old Testament. For example, cutting off water supplies to make a population subservient is as old a tactic as human conflict. So is mass rape and deportation of young women and girls. Nobody needs to attend West Point to see the devastating strategic effects of such moves.

Delusion persists, on bipartisan basis

Even when faced with a torched earth style of enemy, it is still misleadingly argued by many, including those in the Democratic Party camp, that this is the result of Obama withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

One might wish for that to be true, but it isn’t. The original sin, which cast the die for everything that is unfolding in the region now, was the creation of a power vacuum in Iraq. The dismantling of the Iraqi military and the Baath Party must clearly be the most foolish foreign policy decision in modern U.S. history.

That dual move, perpetrated under the aegis of George W. Bush by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, removed the structural backbone from the hellhole that Iraq becomes without such a structure, unsavory though the Baathists and Saddam undeniably were.

In foreign and security policy, the core issue isn’t whether an outfit is likable or not. The core issue is whether or not it is ever advisable for the United States – with all its resources in terms of vast military and intelligence budgets and personnel – to destabilize entire regions.

That was the choice made when Republican amateurs decided “to deal with Saddam.”

Now, these same people – and the same U.S. military that has been executing its campaign – are wondering out loud about the effectiveness of the “new” Iraqi military.

“But we have poured so many resources, especially financial ones, into training the new army, they must become effective at some point,” their pleading goes.

Arguing in that manner is the height of self-delusion. Have they still not learned that “throwing money at it” is the worst of all possible solutions – worse, in fact, than doing nothing?

Anybody who has his or her eyes even half open can tell exactly where much of that money went – into the private pockets of senior Iraqi “military” staff and other officials.

They now own posh residences in Doha and elsewhere in the Gulf region. And, not to be outdone by Russian and Chinese kleptocrats, they have stashed away even more of the hard-earned American taxpayer money that came their way in offshore bank accounts. Bahamas, here we come!

American naiveté aside, the world can see with its own eyes on the TV screens every single day where all the money went that the United States expended on buying the Iraqi “military” all that state-of-the-art equipment. When the under-trained and under-motivated Iraqi “army” met true counter-pressure in former predominately Sunni areas of Iraq, they simple left.

The abandoned equipment went straight into the arsenal of ISIS. The terrorist organization should really pay the U.S. Treasury a licensing fee.

More asymmetry in action

ISIS not only exploits the fact that the United States and its allies can’t put boots on the ground. As for Western nations, the door to that option was closed when George W. Bush created the “alliance of the willing” that drove Iraq into ever deeper morass.

Contrary to American thinking, in a country with no moral core or compass (such as Iraq), no amount of money will bring back any degree of rationality. Like pouring oil onto the fire, it will only fuel further irrationality.

It was also Iraq that created the vacuum in Syria. The United States, discredited and exhausted from a disastrous “war of choice”(!), ended up destabilizing the entire region. The net result of that is that ISIS now has tremendous freedom to move on the ground and prosecute an effective roll-up campaign.

Does anyone seriously think such a vacuum would have come about with Saddam in power? Anybody feel reminded at this stage of the good old adage “Better the devil you know than… ISIS?”

Next stop: Afghanistan

And lest you wonder whether the current crisis in Syria and Iraq is the end of the story, rest assured that it is not. The next “surprise” on this train trip to Hades will occur in Afghanistan. Despite the recent “good” news of a kind of national unity government, the odds are that the situation there will unravel as fast as it has unraveled in Iraq.

The only thing that has held Afghanistan together, if you seriously want to see it as such, was not the presence of American troops, but of American booty. Money flows — officially all the American “reconstruction” funds – are what the various Afghan factions really care about. Noble-sounding interviews in Western media are mere window-dressing.

Washington still has a hard time realizing that its only “achievement” in Afghanistan is that it has fuelled the biggest racket ever perpetrated in any country in the world that has such a low level of economic development.

Stay tuned.

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