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Archive for the ‘Global’ Category

Stratfor: Defining al Qaeda

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“Defining al Qaeda is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By Scott Stewart

The Obama administration’s efforts to counter the threat posed by al Qaeda and the wider jihadist movement have been a contentious topic in the U.S. presidential race. Political rhetoric abounds on both sides; administration officials claim that al Qaeda has been seriously crippled, while some critics of the administration allege that the group is stronger than ever. As with most political rhetoric, both claims bear elements of truth, but the truth depends largely on how al Qaeda and jihadism are defined. Unfortunately, politicians and the media tend to define al Qaeda loosely and incorrectly.

The jihadist threat will persist regardless of who is elected president, so understanding the actors involved is critical. But a true understanding of those actors requires taxonomical acuity. It seems worthwhile, then, to revisit Stratfor’s definitions of al Qaeda and the wider jihadist movement. Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by Theophyle

October 19, 2012 at 10:09 am

The Economist: For richer, for poorer

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Growing inequality is one of the biggest social, economic and political challenges of our time. But it is not inevitable. In 1889, AT the height of America’s first Gilded Age, George Vanderbilt II, grandson of the original railway magnate, set out to build a country estate in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. He hired the most prominent architect of the time, toured the chateaux of the Loire for inspiration, laid a railway to bring in limestone from Indiana and employed more than 1,000 labourers. Six years later “Biltmore” was completed. With 250 rooms spread over 175,000 square feet (16,000 square metres), the mansion was 300 times bigger than the average dwelling of its day. It had central heating, an indoor swimming pool, a bowling alley, lifts and an intercom system at a time when most American homes had neither electricity nor indoor plumbing. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Theophyle

October 15, 2012 at 8:16 am

Government, Geography, and Growth

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The True Drivers of Economic Development

According to the economist Daron Acemoglu and the political scientist James Robinson, economic development hinges on a single factor: a country’s political institutions. More specifically, as they explain in their new book, Why Nations Fail, it depends on the existence of “inclusive” political institutions, defined as pluralistic systems that protect individual rights. These, in turn, give rise to inclusive economic institutions, which secure private property and encourage entrepreneurship. The long-term result is higher incomes and improved human welfare.

What Acemoglu and Robinson call “extractive” political institutions, in contrast, place power in the hands of a few and beget extractive economic institutions, which feature unfair regulations and high barriers to entry into markets. Designed to enrich a small elite, these institutions inhibit economic progress for everyone else. The broad hypothesis of Why Nations Fail is that governments that protect property rights and represent their people preside over economic development, whereas those that do not suffer from economies that stagnate or decline. Although “most social scientists shun monocausal, simple, and broadly applicable theories,” Acemoglu and Robinson write, they themselves have chosen just such a “simple theory and used it to explain the main contours of economic and political development around the world since the Neolithic Revolution.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Theophyle

October 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm

NYT: The New World

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By Frank Jacobs and Parag Khanna

IT has been just over 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the last great additions to the world’s list of independent nations. As Russia’s satellite republics staggered onto the global stage, one could be forgiven for thinking that this was it: the end of history, the final major release of static energy in a system now moving very close to equilibrium. A few have joined the club since — Eritrea, East Timor, the former Yugoslavian states, among others — but by the beginning of the 21st century, the world map seemed pretty much complete.

Now, though, we appear on the brink of yet another nation-state baby boom. This time, the new countries will not be the product of a single political change or conflict, as was the post-Soviet proliferation, nor will they be confined to a specific region. If anything, they are linked by a single, undeniable fact: history chews up borders with the same purposeless determination that geology does, as seaside villas slide off eroding coastal cliffs. Here is a map of what could possibly be the world’s newest international borders. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Theophyle

September 29, 2012 at 8:36 am

WSJ-E: Prices of Raw Goods Plunge on Slowdown

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The sudden economic downdraft has caused one of the biggest and broadest declines in commodities prices since the financial crisis, surprising producers and creating a glut of raw materials around the world.

From crude oil to copper to cotton, prices were down an average of 9% since late February, based on the Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Theophyle

July 2, 2012 at 8:39 am

The Economist: Dithering in the dark

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Quantifying the effect of political uncertainty on the global economy

Europe teeters at the edge of an economic abyss, its fate in the hands of political leaders at odds over how to solve the continent’s twin debt and bank crises. America may be pushed over a “fiscal cliff” at the end of the year by political dysfunction. And even China, although unlikely to take a deep dive, is hostage to the will and ability of its government to stimulate growth. More than at any point in recent history, the global economy’s fate is tied to the capriciousness of policymakers. How much does such uncertainty cost?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it costs a lot. Customers of Cisco Systems, the world’s biggest maker of internet gear, are taking longer to make decisions, according to John Chambers, the company’s boss. Their orders tend to be smaller than before, and to require more in-house approvals. They say they are planning to buy more stuff later this year, reported Mr Chambers recently, but “then in the very next breath they say it depends on what happens on a global and macro scale.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Theophyle

June 19, 2012 at 8:52 am

Egypt’s military ruler orders parliament dissolved

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In line with court ruling, Field Marshal Tantawi says no MP should be allowed to enter building. [Muslim] Brotherhood: Coup against democratic process.

Egypt’s military ruler has ordered the dissolution of parliament, an official said, in line with a court ruling which Islamists who dominate the assembly condemn as a coup by the generals who took charge when Hosni Mubarak was ousted. The Supreme Constitutional Court declared the lower house election invalid on Thursday, dissolving a body seen as one of the few substantive gains from a messy and often bloody transition to democracy overseen by the army. An official in the speaker of parliament’s office told Reuters on Saturday that a letter had been sent a day earlier by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi ordering parliament dissolved and saying no member should be allowed to enter the building. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Theophyle

June 17, 2012 at 8:49 am