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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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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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)

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)

The boom-and-bust Fed's rental society
The best thing investors can do in the world created in no small part by the Federal Reserve is be be ready to become "liquid" on a moment's notice - effectively "renting" stocks or bonds, rather than buying into the businesses underlying them. One consequence is less capital spending. (Oct 17, '14)


Do the Trans-Siberian shuffle
Take a trip back in time on a rumbling Trans-Siberian rail journey in the early years of the 1990s, then leap forward to the modern-era, circa 2020, with the route linked to a Chinese-driven high-speed rail network flashing across Eurasia. It's as if we were still frozen in time: both Russia and China remain pariahs in the eyes of the world's unipolar, imperial elite. - Pepe Escobar (Oct 17, '14)

No peace in Pakistan for Nobel laureate

Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai is a true "daughter of Pakistan" in fighting for the democratic and progressive country envisioned by founding father Muhammed Ali Jinnah. Those at home who malign her as a Western stooge for accepting the honor on behalf of Pakistan are ridiculous. - Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Oct 17, '14)

The missing context for IS's rise
While the Americans didn't create sectarianism in Iraq, Sunni militancy was alien to the Middle East before the 2003 invasion and its messy aftermath. To destroy the sectarian divisions now pervasive in the Middle East, fledgling democracies must be permitted to operate in safe environments, with national identities reanimated to meet the common priorities of Arab peoples.
- Ramzy Baroud (Oct 17, '14)

A Caliph in a wilderness of mirrors

Islamic State goons are taking over the whole, notorious Baghdad belt - the previous "triangle of death" in those hardcore days of US occupation circa 2004. Yes, Donald Rumsfeld's "remnants" are back, razing Ramadi and Fallujah to an accumulation of bombed-out schools, hospitals, homes, mosques and bridges. How could the Pentagon's spectacular Full Spectrum Dominance possibly not see any of this happening? - Pepe Escobar (Oct 15, '14)

Notes on the IS air war
As the Islamist State seemingly sidesteps Western strikes in Iraq and Syria only to re-emerge and launch devastating assaults, critics are dismissing the air campaign as a failure. The prospect of a protracted war may seem to benefit IS, but forces reliant on zeal and knowing nothing but conquest may not respond well to months of stagnation. - Brian M Downing (Oct 15, '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

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)

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.

China fosters Afghan reconciliation
This is not the first time that high hopes have been raised about a new beginning in Afghan-Pakistani relations, but the visit by the Pakistani foreign and security advisor Sartaj Aziz to Kabul on Sunday does look like a landmark event. - 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. Democracy and chauvinism in Hong Kong

2. Hong Kong protests bode ill for Beijing

3. Is Xi losing control of the 'peripheries'?

4. Beijing reaps bitter fruit in Hong Kong

5. Iran and Israel vie in Kurdistan

6. How Syrian jihad spawned Islamic State

7. The West's expectations of Sunni monarchies

8. What if 'Islamic State' didn't exist?

9. Umbrella Revolution yet to fold

10. Operation Tomahawk The Caliph

(24 hours to 11:59pm ET, Oct 9, 2014)


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