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The Kobani riddle

The barbarians, in the form of Islamic State goons, are at the gates of Kobani, the bombed-out city in northern Syria which is also the epicenter of a non-violent experiment in local democracy. But don't expect the US, Turkey and the administration of Iraqi Kurdistan to save Kobani: the city is now an easy-to-lose pawn in a pitiless game because it embodies a people-power challenge to the hegemony of the nation-state.
- Pepe Escobar (Oct 24, '14)

Lords rule Hong Kong's democracy dance

The students who met Hong Kong government officials this past week are the foot-soldiers in the city's umbrella revolution because the adults feel it's not time for them to mount the stage. Even if there there is still room for a scenario in which everyone gets to sing "kumbaya", the rich still call the shots - and across the pro-democracy panoply it is well-known that the struggle with Beijing will be won on the streets, not in the debating hall. - Peter Lee (Oct 24, '14)

The importance
of being exceptional

"National exceptionalism" has gained traction in the past few years, yet the concept is nothing new and has played a part from ancient Greece to Abraham Lincoln's America. The subject is seldom explored, nor are the fealty oaths that politicians swear to it challenged. Yet shine light on the history of exceptionalism and the dark underbelly of such unconditional love through the ages is revealed.
- David Bromwich (Oct 24, '14)

The US and selective support for separatism
The Barack Obama administration strongly condemned the declaration of independence by Crimea, but so far as international justice is concerned, the separation closely resembles Kosova's break from Serbia in 2008, which Washington warmly welcomed. Although independence is a pillar of America's foundation, in modern times the US does not support moves that don't fit in with its policy of self-appointed indispensability. - Brian Cloughley (Oct 24, '14)

Uzbek president faults
Soviet system, keeps relics

Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov is a strong critic of the former Soviet Union, but is reluctant to dispense parts of its system, rules that curb the ability of Uzbeks to live in the capital. Demands for change could prove a vote-winner in forthcoming elections, especially from young, talented and frustrated voters. - Fozil Mashrab (Oct 24, '14)

Whitlam and Australia's forgotten coup
Gough Whitlam, who died this week, enjoyed a brief tenure as Australia's prime minister, but his three years in office were close to being revolutionary in both domestic and foreign policies. So much so that the United States and former colonial master Britain forced him from office in a manner Latin American countries will all-too-easily recognize. Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence. (Oct 23, '14)

Ideological dilemma grips Hong Kong
The so-called umbrella revolution in Hong Kong has at its heart a greater mistrust over the implications of Beijing's invisible hand in the city's governance than the design of the 2017 elections. This mistrust reflects fundamental ideological differences between the Hong Kong people and the inflexible Chinese government over the relationship between citizens and their rulers. - Crystal Lin (Oct 24, '14)

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Blackwater contractors convicted

The conviction of a former Blackwater contractor of murder and three of his colleagues of voluntary manslaughter in the shootings of 14 civilians killed in Baghdad's Nisour Square seven years ago has been welcomed as an "affirmation" of US commitment to the rule of law "even in times of war". Yet the US government continues to award Blackwater's successors millions of dollars each year in contracts, "essentially rewarding war crimes". - Jim Lobe (Oct 23, '14)

The rising cult of China experts
Western "China experts" who see the Beijing leadership as corrupt and illegitimate are increasingly becoming a law unto themselves. Policing social media, punishing "apologists" and vilifying anyone who refuses to discuss China solely on Western terms, the evangelists present themselves as social justice warriors. However, China isn't their country - and the negativity is poisoning everything.
- Thorsten Pattberg (Oct 23, '14)

Climate negotiators 'sleepwalking' in Bonn
Nearly half-a-million people protested last month in New York, demanding international leaders act on climate issues. Yet negotiators at this week's meeting in Bonn preparing for crucial upcoming talks in Lima are showing little urgency and unchanged political posturing.
- Stephen Leahy (Oct 23, '14)

Rouhani's 'economic package' is empty

The belief of Iran's Hassan Rouhani administration that the establishment of better relations with the US would serve as a panacea to the country's economic woes has effectively linked any chance of financial revival with an uncertain negotiation process. Perceptions that an unrestrained integration into global capitalism and wholesale privatization will end the West's imperialist policy on Iran are equally naive.
- Ismael Hossein-Zadeh (Oct 21, '14)

What could possibly go wrong?
You know the joke? You describe something obviously heading for disaster - a friend crossing Death Valley with next to no gas in his car - and then add, "What could possibly go wrong?" Such is the Middle East today, with the US again at war there. Here, then, are seven worst-case scenarios in a part of the world where the worst case has regularly been the best that's on offer.
- Peter Van Buren (Oct 21, '14)

China bids to curb mounting local debt
China has issued new rules aimed at ending backdoor lending schemes by local authorities used to finance construction and budget spending and which have led to a level of borrowing that threatens to spiral out of control.
- Michael Lelyveld (Oct 21, '14)

Pictures of life on North Korean tourist trail
Everyday life matters in forming a more complete picture of North Korea. In as much as anything can be learned about the trials and tribulations of ordinary people, observations "on the ground" count. One way, although not perfect, to gather them is to travel to the Hermit Kingdom as a tourist. - Emma Campbell (Oct 21, '14)

Ebola and security opportunities lost
A fraction of the trillions of dollars spent in the past decade on military activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere could achieve far more for human security if properly directed to areas such as public health and education. The threat of the Ebola virus demonstrates a key feature of the modern world: none of us can enjoy our full potential for security unless all of us have a basic level of security. - Paula Gutlove and Gordon Thompson (Oct 21, '14)

Low hopes for Hong Kong talks

Talks between student representatives and Hong Kong government officials are intended to end political stalemate, but are widely seen as unlikely to end the mass rallies, including in he Mongkok district, that have clogged the city for three weeks. Pro-democracy leaders have angrily denied claims by the city's chief executive that "external forces" are orchestrating their protests.

Britain's phantoms of the past in Palestine
The overwhelming vote in Britain's parliament in favor of a Palestinian state underlines how the British public and political establishment have grown disenchanted with Israel's occupation. However, London still pursues an openly pro-Israel foreign policy - and arms the country's soldiers - so there's no real threat of the Balfour vision being replaced as Britain's most definitive intervention over Palestine.
- Ramzy Baroud (Oct 20, '14)

The golden age of spying
No matter how fiercely the United States government may set out after whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, there will be more and they will be unstoppable, in part thanks to figures like filmmaker Laura Poitras, who has helped Snowden step into our lives from a Hong Kong hotel room and change the way most of us view our world. - Tom Engelhardt (Oct 20, '14)

Iran's energy market: a modest proposal
Iran can turn tumbling oil prices into an opportunity, by raising domestic energy prices and making use - at home and abroad - of energy credits, or Petro-Swaps, benefiting its citizens while weaning the country away from foreign price manipulators. - Chris Cook (Oct 20, '14)

Iran's Baloch insurgency and the IS
Separatist sentiment in Iran's restive Sistan-e-Balochistan province and the Salafist core of the insurgency there suggest the region could easily become fertile ground for Islamic State sympathizers - or more. While al-Qaeda has never launched any attacks on Iran or its interests, the IS has repeatedly stated the desire to strike the Islamic Republic.
- Daniele Grassi (Oct 20, '14)

North Korea in grip of leadership tension

North Korean leader Kim Jong-eun's extended absence for medical reasons created room for his powerful officials to offer more-conciliatory displays than the world has become accustomed to after more than two years of belligerence. The diplomatic outreach could imply that seniors close to the young leader have now convinced him that his policies were failing.
- Joseph R DeTrani (Oct 17, '14)

China deals blow to Australia coal
The Chinese government has struck a new blow against the domination of global commodity markets by countries allied with the United States in the sanctions war against Russia, with the announcement of a 3% to 6% tariff on coal imports to China. Australia will take the largest hit in its trade. Russia is amongst those who should benefit. - John Helmer (Oct 17, '14)


Rouble decline hits
home in Central Asia

The sharp decline in the value of Russia's currency is rippling across Central Asia, where economies are dependent on transfers from workers in Russia. As local currencies follow the rouble downward, import costs rise, reminding Central Asians how dependent they are on their former colonial master. - David Trilling

Climate negotiators
'sleepwalking' in Bonn

Nearly half-a-million people protested last month in New York, demanding international leaders act on climate issues. Yet negotiators at this week's meeting in Bonn preparing for crucial upcoming talks in Lima are showing little urgency and unchanged political posturing.
- Stephen Leahy (Oct 23, '14)

When socialism can 'work'
The re-election of Bolivian President Evo Morales comes on top of his apparent successful defiance of theory in his economic policies. In reality, that "success" reflects, importantly, his inclusion of the country's indigenous poor in the formal economy.
- Martin Hutchinson (Oct 21, '14)

The downside of

The recent sell-off has certainly taken some froth out of the markets, encouraging some that should know better to praise the Federal Reserve and condemn extreme market views. So is this just another "healthy correction? Think again. (Oct 20, '14)
Doug Noland looks at the previous week's events each Monday.

Russian economy skids on oil
All indications are that the European Union summit in Brussels won't bring any happy tidings for the Russian economy. The sanctions against Russia will remain in place for a foreseeable future and the only good thing will be that no additional sanctions are contemplated ...
- M K Bhadrakumar

[Re Scarier than '07, Sep 22, 2014] Few people will be laughing when a scarier version of the 2007 financial/economic crisis is replayed.
John Chen
United States
   Go to Letters to the Editor

1. The rising cult of China experts

2. Whitlam and Australia's forgotten coup

3. What could possibly go wrong?

4. Rouhani's 'economic package' is empty

5. Blackwater contractors convicted

6. Do the Trans-Siberian shuffle

7. When socialism can 'work'

8. A Caliph in a wilderness of mirrors

9. Britain's phantoms of the past in Palestine

10. Iran's Baloch insurgency and the IS

(24 hours to 11:59pm ET, Oct 23, 2014)


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