Current affairs

Oct 27th 2023
EXTRACT: "The cost of electricity from solar plants has experienced a remarkable reduction over the past decade, falling by 89% from 2010 to 2022. Batteries, which are essential for balancing solar energy supply throughout the day and night, have also undergone a similar price revolution, decreasing by the same amount between 2008 and 2022. ---- These developments pose an important question: have we already crossed a tipping point where solar energy is poised to become the dominant source of electricity generation? This is the very question we sought to address in our recent study."
Oct 9th 2023
EXTRACT: "Sooner or later, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s destructive political magic, which has kept him in power for 15 years, was bound to usher in a major tragedy. A year ago, he formed the most radical and incompetent government in Israel’s history. Don’t worry, he assured his critics, I have “two hands firmly on the steering wheel.” But by ruling out any political process in Palestine and boldly asserting, in his government’s binding guidelines, that “the Jewish people have an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel,” Netanyahu’s fanatical government made bloodshed inevitable."
Oct 9th 2023
EXTRACTS: "....whereas Israel can prevail militarily over any of its enemies, albeit at an increasing toll in blood and treasure, it cannot stop the most dangerous threat of all—the deadly erosion, resulting from its continuing brutal occupation, of that moral foundation on which the country was established." --- "....the Israeli public must demand the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Netanyahu."
Sep 27th 2023
EXTRACT: "......today’s American body politic has little patience for long-term thinking. This was not always the case. George Kennan, first as a diplomat and later as an academic, devised the containment strategy that the United States used against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Andrew Marshall, as the head of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, pushed the envelope on US military strategy. And Henry Kissinger, of course, was the ultimate practitioner of what has been dubbed “Grand Strategy.” "
Sep 23rd 2023
EXTRACT: "In a recent CNN interview, Paul Krugman of The New York Times finds it hard to understand why ordinary American voters do not share his euphoric view of US President Joe Biden’s goldilocks economy – which appears to be neither hot nor cold. Inflation is falling, unemployment remains low, the economy is growing, and stock-market valuations are high. So why, Krugman asks, do voters give Biden’s economy a lousy 36% approval rating?" .... "what matters to working people is not the monthly or yearly price change taken alone. What matters is the effect on purchasing power and living standards over time. Whether these are rising or falling depends on the relationship of prices to wages. When wage growth exceeds price increases, times are generally good. When it doesn’t, they aren’t."
Sep 14th 2023
EXTRACT: "The fundamental lesson, then, is that the issuer of an incumbent international currency has it within its power to defend or neglect that status. Thus, whether the dollar retains its global role will depend not simply on US relations with Russia, China, or the BRICS. Rather, it will hinge on whether the US brings its soaring debts under control, avoids another unproductive debt-ceiling showdown, and gets its economic and political act together more generally."
Aug 31st 2023
EXTRACT: "TOULOUSE – The days between Christmas and the New Year often prompt many of us to reflect on the problems facing the world and to consider what we can do to improve our own lives. But I typically find myself in this contemplative state at the end of my summer holiday, during the dog days of August. After several weeks of relaxation – reading books, taking leisurely walks, and drifting in a swimming pool – I am more open to contemplating the significant challenges that will likely dominate discussions over the coming months and pondering how I can gain a better understanding of the issues at stake."
Aug 30th 2023
EXTRACT: "To the extent that international relations is an extension of interpersonal relations, how leaders publicly talk about their adversaries is important. US rhetoric about Putin, as much as shipments of F-16s, can push him – and thus the war – in various directions."
Aug 20th 2023
EXTRACT: "Since the end of World War II, the United Nations has been the cornerstone of the international rules-based order. While numerous other international agreements address issues such as chemical weapons, biological warfare, and regional stability, the UN has been entrusted with the overarching role of maintaining global peace and stability. What made it effective, at least for a while, was the support of the world’s liberal democracies and, crucially, the unwavering commitment of both Democratic and Republican administrations in the United States." ---- "That all changed with the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq, a sovereign country, in the face of fierce international opposition and without the UN Security Council’s approval. In doing so, the US severely damaged its own credibility and undermined the global rules-based system,... "Many of America’s current domestic political divisions grew out of the Iraq War. Whereas presidents like Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower demonstrated that effective leaders can make the world a safer and better place, even in the face of great adversity, Bush’s presidency showed that the opposite is equally true."
Aug 20th 2023
EXTRACTS: "a period of parliamentary history between 1719 and 1772 called 'the age of liberty'. This marked the end of autocratic monarchy and the beginning of an era of parliamentary power " ---- "This was a period of large-scale legislative projects and freedom of speech became central to the idea of freedom from tyranny. The most important piece of legislation was the Freedom of the Press Act of 1766, a law that aimed to protect freedom of information as a means of promoting democracy. It has been amended since but its tenets remain the same. " ---- "Describing Muslims, to allude to the situation of the Qur’an burnings, as criminals would be criminal. But to burn the Qur’an is in itself not, according to the current formulation of the law, an attack on Muslims. It is rather seen as an attack on the religion of Islam. Such attacks are not illegal because the aim of the attack is not directed against a protected group of people but against a belief – an idea. That is not illegal."
Aug 18th 2023
EXTRACTS: "But if the dollar should lose its privileged place, what could replace it? At present, the euro, which accounts for 20% of global central-bank reserves, is the only currency that could realistically serve as a substitute. Its appeal, however, is undermined by the fragmentation of Europe’s national sovereign-debt markets, as well as lingering doubts about the European Union’s long-term viability in the wake of the UK’s departure.'" ---- "The Chinese renminbi, which accounts for less than 3% of global reserves, is not a serious threat to dollar hegemony. "
Aug 12th 2023
EXTRACT: "Around the world, supply is struggling to keep up with demand. Inflation remains stubbornly high, despite aggressive interest-rate hikes. The global workforce is aging rapidly. Labor shortages are ubiquitous and persistent. These are just some of the forces behind the productivity challenge facing the global economy. And it has become increasingly clear that we must harness artificial intelligence to address that challenge."
Aug 2nd 2023
EXTRACTS: "What explains the tenacity of Trump’s support? The force of his arguments is unlikely to be the key, because he makes few coherent arguments." ---- "The Trumpist bubble is deeply mired in pessimism. Some 89% of the GOP think the US is in steep decline, ...." ---- "There are several reasons for popular anxiety. Many American industrial workers feel left behind in a global economy where cheaper labor is sought overseas." --- "Trump has been a master at manipulating these conspiratorial anxieties," ---- "What is perhaps most important is that Trump, despite his success in stacking the Supreme Court with religious radicals, has not captured most of the elites, as Hitler did. "
Jul 19th 2023
EXTRACTS: "Little wonder then that Crimea has been heavily militarised since Russia’s illegal annexation of the peninsula in March 2014 – or that Russian troops there have increasingly been threatened by different anti-Putin partisan groups. These include both Russian volunteers and indigenous Crimean Tatars who have become more active since the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive."
Jul 19th 2023
EXTRACT: "Prigozhin’s fighters would not have been able to travel almost a thousand kilometers (621 miles) within Russian territory in less than a day without help from members of Putin’s inner circle or the military. Rumors are swirling that the billionaire brothers Yuri and Mikhail Kovalchuk may have played a role. The Kovalchuks, close associates of Putin, reportedly share Prigozhin’s belief that Russia has not been forceful enough in the war or in its broader confrontation with the West. Another possible collaborator is General Sergei Surovikin. Like Prigozhin, Surovikin has reportedly advocated a far more brutal war effort than Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu seems willing to conduct. Since the mutiny, he has not been seen in public, and is said to be “resting.” "
Jul 19th 2023
EXTRACTS:" While Western experts continue to view Russia as a modern state, they overlook the fact that Putin’s cronies, who represent the mingling of the security services – particularly the FSB, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB – and organized crime, control most state functions as their private domains." .... "The existence of multiple private armies will make these power games more destabilizing. As a commentator on RIA Novosti, Russia’s official news agency, put it after documenting the private armies of several oil companies: “[W]e are on the verge of a major increase in corporate and other paramilitary structures, as well as major changes in the very approach to the use of military force.” Against this backdrop, the Russian army has become another gang vying for power and property. But as the Kremlin’s grip on power slips, Russia’s generals will likely organize a putsch against Putin and his KGB/FSB cronies – the army’s historical rival."
Jul 16th 2023
EXTRACTS: "The fuel inside nuclear reactors needs continuous, active cooling for many months after a reactor shutdown" ..... "The world saw in dramatic fashion in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 what can happen when continuous, active cooling of nuclear reactors is disrupted. More than 70% of the total radioactivity at the Fukushima power plant was in the spent fuel ponds" .... "In his classic 1981 book Nuclear Radiation in Warfare, Nobel Peace Prize-winning physicist Joseph Rotblat documented how 'in a pressurised water reactor, the meltdown of the core could occur within less than one minute after the loss of coolant'. The radioactivity released from damaged spent fuel ponds could be even greater than from a meltdown at the reactor itself, he wrote. His study makes clear that a military attack on a reactor or spent fuel pond could release more radioactivity – and longer-lasting radioactivity – than even a large (megaton range) nuclear weapon."
Jul 6th 2023
EXTRACT: "The closer we get to the endgame, the greater the risk that the Kremlin will resort to some irrational act like ordering the use of a nuclear weapon. Prigozhin’s revolt offers a preview of the chaos that awaits. Almost anything is conceivable now, from the disintegration of the Russian Federation to the rise of another ultra-nationalist regime with neo-czarist dreams of imperial restoration. Like Putin’s Russia, this one would remain locked in the past, far removed from any prospect of social, political, or economic modernization. It would pose a permanent threat to Europe’s eastern flank, and to global stability more broadly. We will have to arm ourselves against it, and our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will most likely have to do the same."
Jun 27th 2023
EXTRACT: "So, who might seize the throne? Two obvious possibilities are Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, and his son Dmitry, the minister of agriculture. Another is Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who deliberately appeared on television hard at work during the crisis, while Putin reportedly flew to safety in Valdai, far from the Kremlin. Then there is Dyumin, as well as Moscow’s Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, who controls his own powerful armed force."
Jun 25th 2023
EXTRACT: "......because Prigozhin and his men enjoy the supportof many Russians. For them, Prigozhin is a hero, not a traitor, because he is one of the only public figures who dares to speak the truth about the Kremlin’s incompetent management of the war. And they also see in him a fatherly commander standing up for the soldiers whose lives are being thrown away needlessly by Putin’s clumsy, corrupt generals. People who think this way may well make up a very large part of Russian society. Whether Prigozhin ultimately is imprisoned, executed, or victorious, he will remain an icon for them."

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