By Fareed Zakaria
“Disrupting ISIS’ oil income is more of a challenge than might meet the eye,” writes Charles Lister for Brookings. “Thus far, a great deal of focus has been placed on an erroneous assessment that ISIS is deeply reliant on selling its oil to foreign customers (in Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan, Jordan and elsewhere). Instead, while this market focus does exist, it is decreasing. Since the summer, ISIS has been increasingly focused on establishing a durable internal market for its oil produce, thereby ensuring a reliable source of fuel for its own fleets of vehicles but crucially creating a source of dependence between civilians and its capacity to provide them cheap oil. In this respect, the fact that recent coalition strikes have targeted oil at its source — rather than its means of transport or sale, for example — may prove deeply damaging to the international community’s efforts to counter ISIS.”
“If you're reading this, it's possible you'll live for a few hundred years. Maybe even thousands. Even better: you could live those years at your peak physical state,” writes Nicholas Warino for The Week. “At first glance, that's an absurd statement, going against the experience of all human history. However, Oxford University's Aubrey de Grey, a leading theoretician of aging, believes there is a 50 percent chance that someone alive today will live for 1,000 years.” FULL POST
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The world's second richest man said recently that we should all be working just three days a week. Which is why Stephen Colbert joked: “Now you know why he’s only the second richest man.”
Actually, Mexico's telecom magnate Carlos Slim isn’t alone. His fellow billionaire, Larry Page (the co-founder of Google), recently pushed for a reduced work week as well.
Why are the mega-rich telling the rest of us to work less?
They have different strategies and goals. But they're right that being a workaholic is not only bad for your health and sanity – it's bad for the economy. Really.
Americans are notorious workaholics. They take much less vacation and work longer work weeks than most of their counterparts in advanced industrial countries. And here's one more piece of American exceptionalism: the U.S. is the only advanced economy in the world where workers are not guaranteed paid vacation time. As a result, it's said that as many as 23 percent of Americans get no paid holidays or vacation. Americans who do get paid time off only take about half of it on average, according to one survey. FULL POST
By Greg Scoblete and Kevin Sullivan, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Greg Scoblete and Kevin Sullivan are the editors of RealClearWorld, which recently named GPS one of the top 5 international news analysis sites of 2013. The views expressed are their own.
There was no shortage of eye-grabbing global headlines in 2013. The Catholic Church chose a new Pope. China and Russia flexed their muscles. The U.S. and Iran, meanwhile, took a step back from the brink of what looked like a potentially explosive confrontation. But while these stories commanded an ample share of media attention, we’ve found four significant stories that may have slipped under your radar.
Global poverty retreats
With Southern Europe still reeling and the anemic U.S. recovery wobbling along, good economic news has been in short supply. But if you widened the lens, 2013 actually delivered some encouraging, indeed historic, news. It came in the form of a study from Oxford University’s Poverty and Human Development Initiative that concluded that developing countries were enjoying remarkable success in alleviating the worst poverty. They’ve had so much success, in fact, that Oxford predicted that crushing poverty in many of the least developed countries in the world (think Bangladesh, Rwanda, Nepal) is actually on track to be fully eradicated within 20 years.
This optimism was echoed by the United Nations’ 2013 Human Development Report, which noted that “[n]ever in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast.”
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed speaks with Kenneth Cukier, data editor of The Economist, and Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, a professor at Oxford’s Internet Institute, about the applications of “big data.”
So, what’s the big story here? I mean, we’ve always had data. Why is big data a quantum leap?
Cukier: Well, first we have vastly more data than we ever had before. That’s new. But secondly, we have more data on things that we never had rendered into a data format before. It was always informational, but not data. So you can take where you are, a location, as one example. Words in books that are now digitized and also datafied, is another. When you think about social media platforms like Facebook, it “datafies” our friendships. LinkedIn datafies our professional contacts. And we can do new things with that.
You have an example about the flu that’s fascinating, how Google and big data allowed people to figure out where flus were breaking.
Mayer-Schonberger: Yes, indeed. Think back at the H1N1 flu crisis that we had. And the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta wanted to find out where the flu was. And they asked doctors to report every flu case. But, by the time they had collected all the information and tabulated it, two weeks went by. And that’s an eternity if you have a pandemic at hand. And Google, at that time, thought that they could do better just by looking at what people searched for online.
By Christopher B. Barrett, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Christopher B. Barrett is a professor at Cornell University and author of an American Enterprise Institute paper on U.S. food assistance programs and the book Food Aid After Fifty Years: Recasting Its Role. The views expressed are his own.
How many of us read a story of disaster striking people half a world away and respond by getting out our checkbooks? Tens of millions of us in any given year, and Americans are especially generous. Relief agencies received more than $1.2 billion in the wake of the disastrous 2010 earthquake in Haiti and $3.9 billion following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. But is anyone foolish enough to go to the local grocery store, buy food and ship it to communities devastated by disaster? Of course not. That would cost much more, take too long to reach people in need, risk spoilage in transit, and likely not provide what is most needed.
Yet with only minor oversimplification, this is precisely what our government’s food aid programs have done since 1954. Our main international food aid programs are authorized through the Farm Bill and must purchase food in, and ship it from, the United States. This system was originally designed to dispose of surpluses the government acquired under farm price support programs that ended decades ago. These antiquated rules continue today thanks to political inertia in Washington.
By Fareed Zakaria
As we debate whether the two parties can ever come together and get things done, here’s something President Obama could probably do by himself that would be a signal accomplishment of his presidency: End the war on terror.
For the first time since 9/11, an administration official has raised this prospect. Jeh Johnson, the outgoing general counsel for the Pentagon, said in a speech to the Oxford Union, that as the battle against al Qaeda continues, “there will come a tipping point…at which so many of the leaders and operatives of al Qaeda and its affiliates have been killed or captured such that al Qaeda as we know it…has been effectively destroyed…At that point…our efforts should no longer be considered an armed conflict.”
If you want to know why we’re in such a deep budgetary hole, keep in mind that we have spent around $2 trillion on foreign wars in the past decade. In addition, we have had the largest expansion of the federal government since World War II. Dana Priest and William Arkin have described how the U.S. government has built 33 new complexes for the intelligence bureaucracies alone, occupying 17 million square feet, the equivalent of 22 U.S. Capitols, or three Pentagons.
Watch the video for the full Take.
By James Lindsay, CFR
Editor’s note: James Lindsay is senior vice president and director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This entry of Water’s Edge was first published here. The views expressed are his own.
The new college rankings are out. No, not the rankings for football prowess (though they are out too). The Times Higher Education World University Rankings. They debuted last week, and American higher education has reason to chant, “We’re Number One!” The question, though, is for how long?
Now university rankings should always be taken with a grain of salt for anything other than establishing broad trends. For example, I don’t know any University of Virginia graduate who thinks that UVA (#118) ranks behind the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (#42), let alone nearly every school in the Big Ten (which oddly enough has a dozen members). The reality is that universities have different strengths and weaknesses, and there’s no sure way to measure either. Even if there were, it’s not obvious whether great strength in, say, engineering should count more, the same, or less than great strength in the physical or social sciences. Throw in the differences across borders in terms of teaching formats and approaches, and global college rankings are a dicey enterprise.
By Enrico Moretti, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Enrico Moretti is professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and director of the Infrastructure and Urbanization Program at the International Growth Centre (London School of Economics and Oxford University). He is the author of ‘The New Geography of Jobs.’ The views expressed are his own.
The economic map of America today does not show just one country – it shows three increasingly different countries. At one extreme are America’s brain hubs – cities like Seattle, Raleigh-Durham, Austin, Boston, New York and Washington DC – with a thriving innovation-driven economy and a labor force among the most creative and best paid on the planet. The most striking example is San Francisco, where the labor market for tech workers is the strongest it has been in a decade. At the other extreme are cities once dominated by traditional manufacturing – Detroit, Flint, Cleveland – with shrinking labor force and salaries. In the middle there is the rest of America, apparently undecided on which direction to take.
Historically, there have always been prosperous communities and struggling communities. But the difference was small until the 1980’s, and has been growing dramatically since then. In 1980, the salary of a college educated worker in Austin was lower than in Flint. Today it is 45 percent higher in Austin, and the gap keeps expanding with every passing year. The gap for workers with a high school degree is a staggering 70 percent by some estimates. It is not that workers in Austin have higher IQ than those in Flint, or work harder. The ecosystem that surrounds them is different. The mounting economic divide between American communities – arguably one of the most important developments in the history of the United States of the past half a century – is not an accident, but reflects a structural change in the American economy.
Editor's note: Timothy Stanley is a historian at Oxford University and blogs for Britain's Daily Telegraph. He is the author of the new book "The Crusader: The Life and Times of Pat Buchanan." The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Timothy Stanley.
Thursday afternoon, Barack Obama presided over the unveiling of George W. Bush's official portrait in the White House, a warm event that reminds us: It feels like years since President Dubya regaled the world with his famous spoonerisms. His retirement has been defined by an awkward silence. While John McCain's endorsement was trumpeted by Mitt Romney, Bush delivered his in just four words. "I'm for Mitt Romney," he shouted to a journalist as an elevator door closed between them. If, just for old time's sake, Bush had said, "I'm for Ritt Momney," it would have been perfect.
Bush's silence may be motivated by the recognition that much of the public doesn't like him. He left office with the worst approval rating for a president since Watergate. But Bush could undergo a renaissance of enthusiasm. FULL POST
By Paul Ames, GlobalPost
French President Francois Hollande thinks he’s found a solution to the eurozone crisis: the name’s Bonds. Euro bonds.
Unfortunately, Angela Merkel’s still playing Dr. No.
Editor's Note: Isobel Coleman is a Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy, Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative. This blog post is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
By Isobel Coleman, CFR.org
Libya’s emergence from years of dictatorship is predictably a rocky one. The country is moving toward its first post-Gadhafi national elections next month, but the process is marked by considerable confusion and deep disagreements.
On Tuesday, Libyan candidates and voters began registering for June elections for a constituent assembly that will be tasked with writing a new constitution. However, a recent law restricting political parties has sparked some bewilderment.
Last week, the NTC banned political parties “based on religion or ethnicity or tribe,” but the implications are not clear. When the law was first announced, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated party complained, “We don’t understand this law… it could mean nothing or it could mean that none of us could participate in the election.” FULL POST
Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of an article from the ‘Oxford Analytica Daily Brief’. Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a worldwide network of experts to advise its clients on their strategy and performance.
Israeli Chief of Staff Benny Gantz reportedly said yesterday that he did not believe Iran would decide to build an atomic bomb. Officials in Tehran argue that Israel will not launch a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities due to its fear of retaliation. While the Iranian regime tends to exaggerate its military capabilities, it has a number of options that, in a worst-case scenario, would broaden an Iranian-Israeli conflict into a global campaign against Israel, the United States and their allies.
Iran's response to any Israeli attack will depend heavily on whether Israel limits its strikes to a handful of nuclear sites or targets the Islamic Republic's centers of power. FULL POST