By Fred Weir, GlobalPost
As Syria's uprising against Bashar al-Assad deteriorates into a potentially nation-destroying civil war, most of the diplomatic discourse has been dominated by a high-stakes blame-game between Russia and the West over who is most at fault for the horrific massacre and mayhem.
The most recent example: Monday’s tense meeting between the Russian and US presidents in Mexico, in which Obama failed to get Putin’s help in easing Assad from power.
So far Russia has been losing this rhetorical battle. But the Kremlin insists that its case transcends mere self-interest, and points the way back to a world governed by the rule of law. FULL POST
By Paul Ames, GlobalPost
As Band-Aids go, the 100 billion euro "bailout lite" for Spain looks pretty impressive. But it could be less than a week before the euro zone is confronted with its next existential threat.
Saturday's announcement of massive European aid to Spain's beleaguered banks led to an exuberant market opening on Monday morning. But rescue-weary investors quickly began fretting about the bigger picture — namely, a huge addition to Spain's debt burden. As the euphoria dissipated, European stock markets generally closed down on Monday, and interest rates on Spanish and Italian debt rose sharply.
Expect markets to drop even more next Monday, if Sunday's election in Greece leads to a far-left victory that opens the door for a euro departure.
Spain's rescue immediately became a factor in the Greek election campaign. FULL POST
By Paul Ames, GlobalPost
Sixteen months after it joined the eurozone, Estonia is booming. The economy grew 7.6% last year, five times the eurozone average.
Estonia is the only eurozone country with a budget surplus. National debt is just 6% of GDP, compared to 81% in virtuous Germany, or 165% in Greece.
Shoppers throng Nordic design shops and cool new restaurants in Tallinn, the medieval capital, and cutting-edge tech firms complain they can’t find people to fill their job vacancies.
It all seems a long way from the gloom elsewhere in Europe.
By Justin McCurry, GlobalPost
In one respect, the decision by Tokyo Disneyland to allow a gay couple to hold their "wedding" at the theme park is a sign of progress in a country that has, until recently, largely ignored the issue of same-sex unions.
But some campaigners have argued that leaving it to Mickey Mouse to give his blessing to Koyuki Higashi and her partner, Hiroko Masuhara — in a strictly symbolic ceremony — is also a mark of how far Japan has to go before it affords the same rights to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community as it does to heterosexual couples.
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.
By Paul Ames, GlobalPost
It was the scenario never to be named — a prospect so terrible that the mere mention of it would conjure up doom and destruction for the eurozone.
In the last few days, however, the risk that Greece could be forced out of the currency bloc has become too real to be ignored. The once-taboo subject has become an unavoidable topic of conversation among Europe’s financial leadership.
Editor’s Note: Dr Maha Hosain Aziz is a Professor of Politics (adjunct) in the MA Program at New York University, a Senior Analyst at geopolitical consultancy Wikistrat and an Asia Insight Columnist for Bloomberg Businessweek.
By Maha Hosain Aziz - Special to CNN
If you were a politician in 2011 in South Asia, there’s a good chance you might very well have been slapped. In both Nepal and India, a citizen so frustrated by political inertia physically lashed out at his local politician. If you were leader of a country with high youth unemployment in the Middle East or Western Europe, there’s no question you faced waves of anti-government protest. Even in Russia - usually immune to challenges to the state - you experienced some form of public discontent over the status quo.
In fact, on every continent last year, in major, middle and small states, citizens expressed bursts of frustration against their governments. Such sentiment has continued in 2012; recurrent protests indicate citizens’ lack of confidence in their political leaders and their conviction that there must be a better, more legitimate way to govern. FULL POST
By Alex Leff, GlobalPost
When the world looks back at 2012 in the Americas, one burning debate will stand out amid the year’s usual chatter: Should Latin America legalize drugs?
What was once taboo has now got presidents talking in public and writing charged commentaries. They’re trying to frame the new drugs debate in terms that Washington - which firmly stands by the drug war solution - will understand: supply and demand.
The U.S. government says it will listen, but will not bend.FULL POST
By David Trifunov, GlobalPost
Obviously, ax throwing and logrolling are not part of the selection criteria.
CareerCast.com suggests lumberjack is the worst job you could have in 2012, while computer programmer ranks at the top.
“The top-rated jobs have few physical demands, minimal stress, a good working environment and a strong hiring outlook,” said Tony Lee, publisher of CareerCast.com's 2012 Jobs Rated Report. “Conversely, lumberjacks and dairy farmers, two of the worst jobs in the nation, work in physically demanding, precarious, low-paying professions with a weak hiring outlook.”
The website ranks occupations based on five areas: environment (physical and emotional), income, outlook, physical demands and stress.
Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
The United States joined dozens of other countries at the Friends of Syria conference in Istanbul yesterday in agreeing to send communications equipment to Syria's opposition groups (NYT).
Arab countries pledged $100 million to opposition fighters, who remain under continued assault by Syrian government forces. The decision to aid the Syrian army defectors, known as the Free Syrian Army, brought the international Friends of Syria coalition closer to military intervention in Syria.
The move came as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad apparently failed to implement a peace plan developed by Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria. FULL POST
Only a small minority of conservatives now say they place a “great deal” of trust in science, according to a survey published yesterday.
The new result represents a drop of almost 30 percent since the 1970s, according to the study published in the American Sociological Review.
The study says data indicate that the public’s trust in science is largely unchanged since 1974 except among people identifying themselves as conservatives.
Whereas in 1974, 48 percent of conservatives trusted science — about the same share as liberals — the number is now down to 35 percent, a decline of nearly a third in 38 years. FULL POST
In what Starbucks says was a move intended to reduce its use of artificial ingredients, the coffee giant has started using cochineal extract to supply its Frappuccinos with their special strawberry color, according to ABC News.
The Daily Mail in Britain reports the company released a statement that explains they are using cochineal extract, which is derived from the ground up bodies of insects, as a way to give their popular drink that bright rosy, pink hue.
Cochineal dye has been used as a coloring agent since the 15th century, said ABC News, and is considered safe by the Food and Drug Administration. It is currently used as a way to color meat, alcoholic drinks, cookies and cheese. However, the World Health Organization, said it can cause asthma in some people, and in some others an allergic reaction.
In response to questions about whether the Strawberry Frappuccino was vegan, Starbucks wrote we "have the goal to minimize artificial ingredients in our products. While the strawberry base isn't a vegan product, it helps us move away from artificial dyes."