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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)

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)

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)


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)

Gas pains for China and Myanmar
Critics in China and Myanmar have pointed the finger at each other's government over the underperformance of a 793-kilometer pipeline through which natural gas started to flow to customers last July, but political accusations overlook a more intuitive economic explanation for the lackluster output - China's use of a gas pricing system that prizes strategic value over profitability. - Yun Sun (Oct 14, '14)

CY Leung or Lai: which is bigger?
In Hong Kong, who's the bigger story? Chief Executive CY Leung or media tycoon Jimmy Lai? Maybe the answer is "Both". Nobody expects Chinese President Xi Jinping to do something about Leung just because Hong Kong student groups wrote him a letter. The key point is to put it on record that CY Leung is the deserving target of the movement's righteous wrath. - Peter Lee (Oct 14, '14)

Navigating India's smart new electorate
Greater awareness, increasing restiveness and higher expectations among the Indian electorate are helping to shape a new era in Indian politics. While this new awareness helped the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party win a historic mandate this year, it is now leading to by-election jolts as the BJP fails to fulfill its grand promises.
- Abhirup Bhunia (Oct 14, '14)

China expands role in South Sudan war
China's diplomatic acumen has been sorely tested over the 10 months since South Sudan relapsed into war as Beijing once again found one of its sizable foreign investments embroiled in local political turbulence. The country's power struggle serves as a painful reminder to China that independence not only endowed South Sudan with 70% of unified Sudanís total oil output, but also daunting political and security risks. - Hang Zhou (Oct 14, '14)

Obama shuns UN peacekeeping forces
President Barack Obama once promised the UN General Assembly that the US would "strengthen our support for effective peacekeeping, while energizing our efforts to prevent conflicts before they take hold". In the event, any such effort has been made outside the UN, in pursuit of US interests, and certainly without any contribution to UN peacekeeping forces. - Brian Cloughley (Oct 14, '14)

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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)

Trains, hope and anguish in Sri Lanka
Newly laid railway line in Sri Lanka's northern Jaffna District restores services that last functioned in 1990. Yet the multi-million-dollar investment provides little of the spark needed to jumpstart an economy still in the doldrums despite five years of peace and massive reconstruction spending. - Amantha Perera (Oct 14, '14)

No 'orbital leap' in Sino-Indian ties
Despite the apparent upward trajectory in ties between current leaderships in China and India, chances of significant bilateral progress continue to be undermined by unresolved border issues and core differences like China's all-weather alliance with Pakistan. If New Delhi fails to act proactively, areas of potential cooperation could become areas of conflict. - Anand V (Oct 14, '14)

Hong Kong's democracy war gets dirtier
The "revelation" of undisclosed payments to Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung, and a "hacked" audio tape of a chat between a leading Taiwanese dissident and a serious backer of the Hong Kong protests show the tussle for the city's future is getting dirtier - and more indicative of what is really at stake. - Peter Lee (Oct 10, '14)

Ma, don't go
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's offer to hold an historic meeting with his mainland China counterpart in November has raised hopes of a game-changing summit that sets the tone for a new cross-strait relationship. But a meeting with Xi Jinping is unlikely to make decisions on Taiwan's political future any easier. Both publics' entrenched positions would remain - and expectations would soar dangerously high.
- Kristian McGuire (Oct 10, '14)

Iron ore revolution to benefit China
The Ukrainian civil war, and its aftermath, economic warfare between the US, the European Union, and Russia, are transforming global flows of the minerals from which steel is made. Starting with iron ore, the future for steelmaking will start at the minehead, not in Australia, nor Brazil, but in West Africa - and to China's benefit.
- John Helmer (Oct 10, '14)

The token Palestinian, inconvenient truths
Following Israel's brutal war on Gaza, solidarity conferences have been organized across the globe. A few Palestinians are paraded to describe the violence, and then an all-knowing Westerner takes charge of shaping the discourse. The Palestinian cause has been hijacked by student socialists for years, but in this day and age Palestinians shouldn't be excluded from their own narrative. - Ramzy Baroud (Oct 10, '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

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.
Doug Noland looks at the previous week's events each Monday.

India loses way
in Afghan great game

The Pakistan prime minister, Nawaz Sharif has taken a major initiative to engage the new leadership in Afghanistan by deputing the foreign and security advisor Sartaj Aziz to visit Kabul. Sharif would be keen on an early visit by President Ashraf Ghani to Islamabad. - 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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