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Echo Chambers
20 August 2014 Last updated at 11:06 ET

Critics of the US focus on Ferguson

Law enforcement offical

Pictures coming out of Ferguson, Missouri, of masked protesters engulfed in clouds of tear gas and police armed with military-grade kit have sparked debates within the US. At the same time, many commentators abroad see the chaos in Ferguson as hypocritical.

Much of the criticism comes from those the US has taken to task for human rights violations. They say that while US has tried to position itself as a defender of human rights abroad, it seemingly cannot uphold the same standard within its own borders.

Indeed, Amnesty International, the international human rights watchdog group, has deployed a team to Ferguson to observe law enforcement and support the community. It's the first time the group has made such a move in the US, they said.

Such news contributed to a growing narrative abroad. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei lashed out on Twitter at what he considered to be the US's crimes against its own people.

Start Quote

America now stands on a similar precipice and must remember the lessons of Los Angeles and London”

End Quote Miles Godfrey Syndey Daily Telegraph

"Today the world is a world of tyranny and lies. The flag of #HumanRights is borne by enemies of human rights w/US leading them! #Ferguson," he posted.

Qasem Ghafuri of the Iranian newspaper Siyasat-e Ruz agrees.

"Considering the developments in Ferguson, the question is how can America chant slogans about supporting people and security in the world at a time when the people's simple demands are suppressed inside the country and people do not even have the right to protest?" he writes.

A few Iranian papers and some agencies have chosen to highlight the story on their front pages, BBC Monitoring reports, including hardline conservative Hemayat's front page headline which reports incorrectly that reporters are banned from entering Ferguson.

China's state-owned news agency, Xinhuanet, says that while the US has been trying to play the role of judge and jury around the world, Ferguson shows that there is still work to be done at home.

"Obviously, what the United States needs to do is to concentrate on solving its own problems rather than always pointing fingers at others," writes Li Li.

Another opinion piece in China's Global Times says that the unrest "tells us that racism still overshadows minorities in the US even while they have a black president".

And in Russia, which is suffering under the brunt of US sanctions, a state-owned paper was eager to call attention to the situation.

"Though the US portrays itself as a country of equal opportunities, it is too early to talk about the victory over racism and segregation there," writes Igor Dunayevskiy for Rossiskaya Gazeta.

And popular pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda says bluntly, "Not only are the police acting as the US Army does in Iraq (simply put, like occupation forces), but it is this model that the US exports to countries that seek help... in reforming their interior ministries." The paper cites US involvement in Georgia under Saakashvili.

Not all of the international coverage of Ferguson has pointed fingers at the US.

The Sydney Daily Telegraph's Miles Godfrey called for both sides to try and gain some perspective.

"What matters is a man has been shot dead in the prime of his life. The officer who shot him was just 28. One life has been lost, another changed forever," he writes.

Barack Obama gives a speech President Obama addressed the situations in Ferguson and Iraq in a press conference this week

Reminding readers of the 2011 UK riots and the violence following the beating of Rodney King in 1991, he urges protesters to not use Brown's death as an excuse to be destructive.

"America now stands on a similar precipice and must remember the lessons of Los Angeles and London," he writes.

After many people in Turkey compared the turbulence in Ferguson to last year's Gezi Park protests, Dogan Eskinat argued that the origins of the protests are different.

"It is perfectly understandable that some media outlets might rather translate old-school racial tensions into hipster language and make it about social media rather than race, but suggesting that Turkey's angry youth were motivated by the same reasons as the urban poor in the American Midwest does great disrespect to past generations who suffered the most grave violations of their human rights and were systematically deprived of human dignity," he writes.

Tim Stanley writes for The Telegraph that the White House will not be the driver behind the type of meaningful change in how the US deals with racism, inequality and violence. He says President Barack Obama has not claimed a meaningful leadership role within the country's racial narrative.

"He was never going to be someone who would confront racism head on or seek a substantial redistribution of power and money of the variety that many civil rights leaders feel is necessary to help the poor," he writes.

Mom arrested for swearing at children

A mom clutches her head in anger.

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According to WSPA television news, a South Carolina mother was arrested for swearing at her children while she shopped in a North Augusta grocery store.

A fellow shopper overheard the alleged abuse and informed a police officer, who issued a citation for disorderly conduct.

"He was like, 'You're under arrest' ... right in front of kids, in front of my husband, in front of customers," Danielle Wolf says she was told by the officer.

She goes on to say that her obscenity was directed at her husband, who had placed a frozen pizza on top of the bread in their cart.

Theresa Edwards of the Mommyish blog says this is just the latest example of parenting policing getting out of hand.

"I have a really filthy mouth, and so does my husband, and while I've made a halfhearted effort to improve my language, we often say profane things to each other that aren't even spoken in anger," she writes. "Our daughter may or not be present sometimes."

Did it do the children any good to witness their mother getting arrested, she asks.

"More and more, I feel like I have less to fear from the outside world than I do of getting in trouble when someone doesn't like the way I parent," she concludes. "I used to let my child walk to the park solo, but I haven't done that for a while, since that's apparently a criminal offense."

In case you're wondering, a North Augusta defines disorderly conduct, in part, as uttering "while in a state of anger, in the presence of another, any bawdy, lewd or obscene words or epithets".

"Annoying teachers" is also a violation - so, kids, your moms aren't the only ones who could end up on the wrong side of the law.


Behind the Russian facade - Will Russians have to eventually face real consequences for Vladimir Putin's "Ukraine adventure," asks Time's Simon Shuster.

"For most Russians, indeed nearly all of them, the crisis in Ukraine has had a distant, almost virtual quality," he writes. "It has been something they watched on TV, or debated in their kitchens, rooting for the pro-Russian rebel militias and cursing the Ukrainian government as though the war between them was hardly more than a gruesome sporting match."

Although many Russians feel strongly about the current conflict, their suffering is not personal, says Shuster. But as the conflict deepens, the Russian consensus on Ukraine could change.

"Russians have started asking themselves - or rather, they have been forced to ask themselves - whether they are prepared to make real sacrifices for the sake of their country's policy in Ukraine," he writes.


Planned consumption tax increase debated in Japan - The decrease of Japan's gross domestic product is attributed to a decline in consumer spending just before a recent increase in consumption tax, write the editors of Mainichi. The Japanese government plans to further raise the consumption tax to 10% in October.

"Whether consumer concern about livelihoods can be dispelled and consumer spending will grow is a key to supporting the economy after the consumption tax is to be raised to 10% in October 2015," the editors write.

They say the government must hold continued debate on the consumption tax increase.

"Such a hike would further increase the financial burden on households," they say. "Now is the time for the government to consider sufficient measures to support household budgets as part of its discussions on how to stabilise the social security system and help rehabilitate state finances."

North Korea

Kim Jong-un's dangerous intimidation - North Korea might be a small country in terms of population and territory, but it continues to remain "disproportionately important," partially because of anxiety that the nation's arsenal provokes, writes Christopher Lee for Real Clear Defense.

"While Pyongyang's nuclear capabilities still remain unknown, one thing is clear - Kim Jong-un is remarkably adept at 'manipulating global public opinion'," writes Lee.

The bellicosity of North Korea's leader also serves a domestic audience, intended to create anti-Western sentiment, he says.

"All things considered, starting a second Korean War would not serve any of Pyongyang's interests. But threatening one does," he concludes. "Kim Jong-un's behaviour may seem irrational, but he is not ready to sacrifice his power."

Latin America

Simmering anti-Semitism in Latin America - As the conflict between Gaza and Israel continues to reverberate across the world, global anti-Semitism stirs in its wake, including within the countries of Latin America, writes Enrique Krauze for the New York Times.

"Some Latin American governments have signalled their dissatisfaction with Israel's actions," he says.

"While such political rejection is not anti-Semitic, something new is emerging in Spanish-language social media, mostly among young people, where condemnation of Israel is often accompanied by anti-Semitic diatribes."

Following the most recent confrontation between Israel and Gaza, anger among the educated left has grown into an anti-Semitic movement, particularly among university circles, Krauze concludes.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Regional commentators discuss the ongoing unrest in Gaza.

"Hamas dictates to us the way and rhythm of life and the weak, hesitant and flaccid government waits for its utterances." - Alex Fishman in Israel's Yedioth Aharonot.

"A battle has just broken out in Israel that will have the heads [of many officials] rolling on the ground... Meanwhile, at a time when the Israelis are increasingly divided, the Palestinians look more cohesive." - Talal Awkal in Palestinian Al-Ayyam.‎

Have you found an interesting opinion piece about global issues that we missed? Share it with us via email at echochambers (at)

A new, complicated chapter in Ferguson

Surveillance stills allegedly showing Michael Brown robbing a convenience store.

Friday morning's revelation by Ferguson, Missouri, police Chief Thomas Jackson that Michael Brown was a suspect in a convenience store robbery hours before he was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson could change everything.

Or it changes nothing.

Shortly after Mr Wilson was identified as the officer involved in an apparent attempt to apprehend Mr Brown, the internet erupted in reaction - exposing a fault line in opinion that will be difficult to bridge.

First and foremost, however, comes the question of why it took so long for this new information to come out.

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This seems like an attempt to poison the well, not clarify anything”

End Quote Charles Johnson Little Green Footballs

"This by no means justifies what happened to Brown," writes Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall. "But it seems to bring home in an entirely new way just how unprepared and frankly clueless the Ferguson police department is that they're only managing to mention this part of the story after days of war-zoning the city streets."

Ed Morrissey of Hot Air blog agrees: "If the Ferguson police had been more forthcoming about the incident up front, much of this week's drama might have been avoided, or at least somewhat mitigated."

For some, the information provided by the police is evidence of a rush to judgement on the part of protesters, activists and the media.

"Facts don't matter," tweets conservative columnist Ben Shapiro. "Media, pols report that every shooting by a white cop of a black unarmed suspect reflects generalised American racism."

"We still don't know what went down with cop and Michael Brown," he adds. "But we can say that the 'gentle giant' stuff seems over the top."

The Daily Caller's Jim Treacher tweets: "And yet another leftist narrative starts to unravel. But the important thing, for them, is to establish it in the first place."

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson reads his notes during a press conference. Ferguson police were unprepared and clueless, says Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall

Others say the St Louis County police are only muddying the waters by releasing information that has no direct bearing on whether Mr Wilson was justified in shooting Brown.

"Ferguson police chief gave the officer a week to clean up his internet history, then released a report unrelated to the shooting," tweets Charles Johnson of the Little Green Footballs blog. "This seems like an attempt to poison the well, not clarify anything."

"Thanks for the pics of alleged convenience store shoplifting," tweets Salon's Mary Beth Williams. "Where are the ones of the cop shooting an unarmed man, again?"

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The Ferguson police and America are playing with fire if there is an attempt to justify the murder of Mike Brown”

End Quote Greg Carr Howard University

David Corn of Mother Jones tweets: "Bottom line: cops are supposed to use deadly force only when lives are at risk. You don't shoot robbery suspects."

Only that may not be the case according to Missouri law.

The Federalist's Sean Davis notes that the state's relevant statute allows law enforcement officers to use deadly force "when he reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest and also reasonably believes that the person to be arrested … has committed or attempted to commit a felony."

If Mr Wilson reasonably believed Mr Brown committed a strong-armed robbery felony, which is alleged in this case, it could give the officer legal cover.

If such a charge for swiping a box of cigars and shoving a store clerk seems extreme, it's not without precedent. In 2007 another Missouri man faced robbery charges and up to 30 years in prison for stealing a 50-cent doughnut and shoving a store employee. (The story made national headlines, and the perpetrator ended up receiving a five-year suspended sentence and 90 days in jail.)

As if there was any question, the Ferguson case - and the controversy surrounding it - is far from over. And it may be starting a new, highly charged chapter.

"Let me be very clear," tweets Greg Carr, chairman of the Howard University Department of Afro American Studies. "The Ferguson police and America are playing with fire if there is an attempt to justify the murder of Mike Brown."

Start of a 'libertarian moment'?

A St Louis police officer holds a sniper rifle.

Much of the commentary on the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer has been dominated by liberal outrage over what some see as racial injustice.

There is, however, a growing chorus from the conservative movement's libertarian wing that connects the perceived overreaction by a militarised local law enforcement to their critique of the heavy-handed power of government.

"The state is big and powerful and violent and can hurt you, whether it's the FDA, the state prosecutor or the local police force," writes Hot Air blog's Mary Katharine Ham, concisely summarising the gist of this libertarian argument.

Representative Justin Amash tweets about the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

Breitbart's John Nolte puts it a bit more sharply: "The media hate police but without them, who will ultimately force us to buy ObamaCare and confiscate our guns?"

On Wednesday night Congressman Justin Amash, a libertarian-leaning Republican embraced by the grass-roots Tea Party movement, tweeted that the news from Ferguson was "frightening", asking: "Is this a war zone or a US city? Gov't escalates tensions w/military equipment & tactics."

One of the leading figures in today's libertarian movement, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, offers his take in an opinion piece for Time magazine on Thursday afternoon:

Start Quote

Whether they look like it or not, cops will be an occupying force seeking compliance from local residents on behalf of democratically elected central authorities”

End Quote Ed Krayewski Reason magazine

"When you couple this militarisation of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury - national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture - we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands…

"Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country."

Reason magazine's Ed Krayewski builds on this theme of a militarised police force as the spear-point of an intrusive government, causing more harm than good:

"What's happening in Ferguson certainly looks like a counter-insurgency," he writes. "If cops keep it up long enough, some residents might respond with an insurgency. Around the world, insurgencies are fueled by unemployed young men with few prospects. It's the way things like this tend to work, actions and reactions, supply meeting demand, in this case residents filling roles cops seem to be waiting to have filled."

He continues by noting that much of the criticism of law enforcement abuses are instigated by laws that intrude on individual rights.

"Whether they look like it or not, cops will be an occupying force seeking compliance from local residents on behalf of democratically elected central authorities," he writes.

US Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Senator Rand Paul says police have become "judge and jury"

Comments like these mark a sharp break from the previous conservative embrace of government authority when it comes to public safety issues.

"The modern GOP, the one that elected Richard Nixon and built its base in the South and the suburbs, established early on that it was the 'law and order' party," writes Slate's David Weigel. "Only recently, as violent crime rates have tumbled, has the libertarian tendency of the GOP reasserted itself."

In Sunday's New York Times magazine cover story, Robert Draper asks: "Has the 'libertarian moment' finally arrived?" He cited poll data showing young people embracing smaller, less intrusive government and concluded that the once sidelined ideology could be poised to take control of the Republican Party.

The piece started a debate over libertarianism's current influence within the conservative movement and was criticised from both the right and the left for being an "unsophisticated, laughable fantasy".

That was before Ferguson exploded, night after shocking night. Now, with a few exceptions, law-and-order conservatives are silent (look, for instance, at the front page of the conservative commentary site Town Hall, where Iraq and Hillary Clinton continue to dominate the conversation).

Perhaps the libertarian moment has arrived after all, borne in the ashes and smoke of Missouri riots.

Williams tweet prompts suicide concern

A tweet from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences following the death of Robin Williams

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Following the suicide of Robin Williams on Monday, fans poured their grief into cyberspace, filling Facebook and Twitter feeds with tributes, movie quotes and scenes.

One tweet from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - otherwise known as the Oscars - has sparked an online controversy, however.

The Academy tweeted, "Genie, you're free," alongside an iconic image from the animated Disney movie Aladdin. After more than 320,000 retweets, many commentators across the Internet are wondering if this viral tweet could cause more harm than good.

"It violates well-established public health standards for how we talk about suicide," writes Caitlin Dewey for the Washington Post.

"Adolescents are most at risk of suicide contagion; in recent years, groups like AFSP [American Foundation for Suicide Prevention] have also become particularly attentive to the role the internet plays in romanticising notorious or high-profile deaths, something it has long asked both the news and entertainment industries to avoid."

Although the Academy certainly had good intentions, the speed of social media often makes it difficult to communicate the subtle issues surrounding difficult topics such as suicide.

"Despite the Academy's sentiment, suicide is not freedom," writes Holly Thomas for the Independent. "It's a cry for help that always comes too late."

She continues:

"To intimate, however subtly or unintentionally that taking your own life is a liberating action, is irresponsible and dangerous. While someone who is not suicidal might look at the picture of the genie and find comfort, someone whose mind is weighed heavy by depression may see something dangerously different."

When dealing with suicide, our expressions of grief ultimately should not end up harming those who are still living, says Thomas.

"Messages of hope for the dead need to be categorically distinct from those we send to the living," she concludes. "Only the living read Twitter."


A bombing campaign with a different goal - President Barack Obama announced plans to increase military aid and airstrikes over Kurdistan on Monday, but his motives aren't about getting back into the Iraq War, according to Slate's Fred Kaplan.

The US president's announcement is about responding to the humanitarian crisis in Kurdistan, he says, and supporting a Kurdish population that is increasingly a valuable US ally in the region.

"It's become very clear that, if Iraq - whether as a centralised state or a loose federation - has any hopes of ever becoming stable, much less democratic, a thriving Kurdistan must be part of it, even a model for it," Kaplan writes.


State-controlled Christianity - China announced last Thursday that increasing efforts to nationalise Christianity will benefit the country economically and culturally, writes the Diplomat's Zachary Keck.

"The CCP has increasingly turned to Chinese nationalism as the ideational complement to economic growth and prosperity," he writes. "The 'Sinicisation of Christianity' would be consistent with its drive to push Chinese nationalism."

Keck says that possible reasons for China's boost for this programme are the growing number of Christians in the country, illegal and underground churches, and the threat of foreign influences.

"The fact that the Chinese leaders this week discussed the importance of nationalising the Christian faith suggests that anti-foreign sentiment is part of the motivation behind the campaign," he concludes.


Independence could be hazardous to Scottish health - Scotland votes on independence next month, but many citizens still don't know how it could affect healthcare and research, according to the Conversation's James Mittra, Gill Haddow, and Michele Mastroeni .

"The Scottish government's white paper on independence includes a relatively small section on health, social care and the NHS [National Health Service]," they write.

Ultimately, the self-governed healthcare system's success will revolve around ensuring that current levels of funding continue, say Mittra, Haddow and Mastroeni.

"Is Scottish independence bad for your health? It may seem like a dramatic question to ask, but it's fundamental to our future," they warn. "Citizens of Scotland should have the answer before they head to the polls in September."


A plea for freedom - Jason Rezaian, a US-Iranian journalist, and his wife and fellow journalist Yeganeh Salehi have been unjustly detained in Iran for three weeks, according to Mr Rezaian's mother, Mary Breme Rezaian.

"We do not know why they were taken, who took them and what charges - if any - they face," she writes in the Washington Post.

Her son and daughter-in-law are dedicated to showing the true Iran to the West, she says, and Iranian officials must release them.

"My son and daughter-in-law have committed themselves to dispelling many of these misconceptions through their nuanced and fair reporting. And, once released, they will continue to do so in a country they both call home," she writes.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Ukraine is currently refusing to allow aRussian aid convoy heading for the rebel-held eastern portion of the country from crossing the border over fears that it could be a pretext for invasion. The International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] says it is still waiting for details of the supplies carried by the 280 trucks. Russian commentators offer their views.

"According to a Vedomosti source in the Russian Defence Ministry, the information campaign over a Russian invasion under the guise of humanitarian aid was initiated by the Ukrainian authorities in order to cover up a humanitarian disaster in Luhansk and Donetsk that they previously denied." - Aleksey Nikolskiy in Vedomosti.

"In fact, it is Russia who should have the biggest concern. Since no military escort was allowed for the convoy … there is a high probability that the humanitarian cargo intended for deprived people in Luhansk and Donetsk will be used to 'feed' the personnel of the anti-terrorist operation." - Yelena Gamayun in Moskovskiy Komsomolets.

"After the controversial accession of Crimea and because of the continued unofficial support for rebels fighting in the south-east of Ukraine, it is stupid [of Russia] to expect to be given complete credibility." - Pavel Aptekar in Vedomosti.‎

Have you found an interesting opinion piece about global issues that we missed? Share it with us via email at echochambers (at)

Conservatives misguided after shooting

Protestors hold up signs calling for justice after the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

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There are sensible conservative responses to the ongoing violence in Ferguson, Missouri following the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Unfortunately, writes the National Review's Charles CW Cooke, many of his ideological brethren are going about choosing another route.

Instead of cautioning against a rush to judgment, denouncing the rioting as counterproductive or offering evidence that white-on-black violence is not prevalent, he writes, many seem eager to point out that black-on-black violence is the real problem.

"It is indisputably true that the United States has a problem with blacks killing blacks," Cooke writes. "And yet this has absolutely nothing to do with the question at hand, which is: 'Did a police officer unjustifiably kill an unarmed black man in Missouri?'"

He continues:

"It is feasible, is it not, to be worried about the internecine violence in America's inner cities and to want to get to the bottom of an allegedly unwarranted shooting? So why the conflation? After all, whether or not it is intentional, reacting to a community's grief by raising an entirely separate topic smacks largely of distraction - of reflexively throwing up a roadblock to what is a legitimate line of inquiry in the hope that the subject might swiftly be changed."

Police shootings like the one in Missouri "open old and real wounds", Cooke says. Conservatives should acknowledge that.

Moreover, he adds, police shootings have the "imprimatur of the state", which makes them more disturbing than civilian violence:

"Even if the United States did not boast a history in which blacks were routinely disfavoured, beaten, and even murdered by the governments that were ostensibly established to protect them, there would still be something distinct about being killed or hurt by a man in uniform."

With Cooke's criticism in mind, then, consider the following passage from an on-the-scene in East St Louis, Illinois, piece by National Review's Kevin Williamson that also currently appears the magazine's website:

"'Hey, hey craaaaaacka! Cracka!White devil! F*** you, white devil!' The guy looks remarkably like Snoop Dogg: skinny enough for a Vogue advertisement, lean-faced with a wry expression, long braids. He glances slyly from side to side, making sure his audience is taking all this in, before raising his palms to his clavicles, elbows akimbo, in the universal gesture of primate territorial challenge. Luckily for me, he's more like a three-fifths-scale Snoop Dogg, a few inches shy of four feet high, probably about nine years old, and his mom - I assume she's his mom - is looking at me with an expression that is a complex blend of embarrassment, pity and amusement, as though to say: 'Kids say the darnedest things, do they not, white devil?'"

New York magazine's Jonathan Chait offers his take on what he sees as the racist overtones of the piece:

"When the writer … decides the best comparison for a young black kid's behaviour is a monkey and to gratuitously question his parentage, there's really not much question, is there?"

North Korea

Kim Jong-un's martial arts campaign - North Korea is using theatrical martial arts videos to show that their army is "ready for any threat", writes Vice's Sascha Matuszak.

Viewers are treated "to that special North Korean mix of reverent-bordering-on-hysterical narration, alternate reality Communist hype track and stuntin' on your many imaginary foes", writes Matuszak.

The videos, he says, are meant to show North Koreans and the world that the country is resilient and durable.

"They can absorb all that the mighty imperialist enemy can throw at them, and still advance on to victory, utilising traditional martial arts techniques and the indomitable juchen (self-reliant) spirit … a message which speaks to the core of North Korean political and social ideology," he concludes.


Russian food import ban is a major setback for globalisation - At one point globalisation seemed inevitable and irreversible, says the Washington Post's Anne Applebaum. With Russia's ban of agricultural imports, however, the open world economy seems on the verge of coming undone.

"A large country that contains internationally traded companies has decided it prefers a territorial war with one of its neighbours to full membership in the international economic system," she writes.

The Russian government has decided that national honour is more important than having the lowest prices for food, she says. "If it can happen in Russia, it can happen elsewhere, too."


Turkey's new prime minister big plans - Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected Turkey's president on Sunday, and he plans to create what he calls a "New Turkey", says the Hurriyet Daily News's Murat Yetkin.

"He wanted to consolidate all the executive power in his hands, and now he has the chance and capacity for that after taking the Presidential Palace on top of Cankaya Hill in Ankara from Abdullah Gul," Yetkin writes.

Mr Erdogan's victory means Turkey will shift from a "parliamentary to a strong presidential model ", Yetkin says. This will allow him to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy "at a time when the region Turkey is a part of is burning in flames".


Central bankers in Australia could sink the global economy - Australian central bankers may be too confident, according to Bloomberg's William Pesek, and their mistakes could have worldwide implications.

Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens is making some wrong moves, says Pesek, such as objecting to a decrease in interest rates, which was followed by an increase in the country's jobless numbers.

"Central bankers are the only ones doing anything to maintain growth these days," writes Pesek.

Overconfident central bankers have caused economic trouble throughout modern history, Pesek warns. Australians should take note.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

US President Barack Obama called China "a superpower that no one expects to intervene" during an interview with the New York Times. He added that China had been "free riders for the last 30 years". This comes after Mr Obama told the Economist in an interview published last week that the West must be "pretty firm" with China, as Beijing will "push as hard as they can until they meet resistance". Several Chinese commentators have responded to the statements.

"China's contribution to the world in the past 30 years is widely seen - it has provided the basic necessities for its population of 1.3 billion people without outputting any refugees to the world. This is China's single biggest contribution internationally.... As a head of state for Obama to casually accuse China of not having done anything', either he is ignorant or he has ulterior motives." - Wang Dehua in Huanqiu Shibao (Global Times).

"In the face of a China with an ever-increasing strength and given the fact that the US can neither defeat China in a war nor ignore China entirely, there is no doubt that the US can delay China's development by shifting some of its responsibilities to China." - Ling Shengli in Haiwai Wang.‎

Have you found an interesting opinion piece about global issues that we missed? Share it with us via email at echochambers (at)

Johns prefer blondes (with degrees)

A Dutch prostitute looks out a brothel window.

The internet has disrupted commerce around the globe. It should be no surprise, then, that the business of prostitution also has been transformed.

Now, in an Economist cover briefing cheekily titled "More bang for your buck", we have some solid figures about what the information age has meant for the sex-for-money business:

"Specialist websites and apps are allowing information to flow between buyer and seller, making it easier to strike mutually satisfactory deals. The sex trade is becoming easier to enter and safer to work in: prostitutes can warn each other about violent clients, and do background and health checks before taking a booking. Personal web pages allow them to advertise and arrange meetings online; their clients' feedback on review sites helps others to proceed with confidence."

Some of the findings drawn from a review of 190,000 profiles on an international sex worker review site can be classified as profoundly unsurprising. For instance blonde, buxom, fit women are able to charge a premium for their services, as are those who offer what the magazine delicately describes as "niche services".

Start Quote

The unrealistic goal of ending the sex trade distracts the authorities from the genuine horrors of modern-day slavery”

End Quote Cover briefing The Economist

Others are more revelatory. Race matters. In major US cities and London, white workers charge higher hourly rates than blacks. In Kuala Lumpur, however, blacks are in greater demand.

"What counts as exotic and therefore desirable varies from place to place, and depends on many factors, such as population flows," the magazine writes.

The struggling global economy, the Economist reports, has led to a decline on prices across the board, as have global migration patterns. An influx of cheap labour from Eastern Europe, for instance, has pushed down rates in the EU.

Having a college degree also appears to make a difference:

"Although sex workers with degrees are less likely to work than others in any given week (suggesting that they are more likely to regard prostitution as a sideline), when they do work they see more clients and for longer. Their clients tend to be older men who seek longer sessions and intimacy, rather than a brief encounter."

While sex transactions conducted online and consummated in hotels and residences have flourished, more traditional brick-and-mortar and street-side prostitution is declining, the magazine reports. This has already had profound public policy implications:

"That shift will make the sex industry harder for all governments to control or regulate, whether they seek to do so for pragmatic or moralistic reasons, or out of concern that not all those in the industry are there by their own free will."

The reality, of course, is that the public policy drive has been in the opposite direction. The "Nordic model" of prosecuting clients and not sex workers has been adopted in France and is being considered by the UK. It is also on the verge of being implemented in Canada, after its Supreme Court struck down the nation's existing prostitution laws.

In the US, prostitution (outside of a small portion of Nevada) is illegal, and there have been recent highly publicised efforts to crack down on sex trafficking and shut down the kind of websites on which the Economist study relied for data.

In the end, however, the Economist's editors believe technology will lead to more lenient prostitution laws, as the anonymity and wealth of information available online increases the number of consumers.

In a separate editorial, the Economist calls for legalisation.

"The unrealistic goal of ending the sex trade distracts the authorities from the genuine horrors of modern-day slavery (which many activists conflate with illegal immigration for the aim of selling sex) and child prostitution (better described as money changing hands to facilitate the rape of a child)," the magazine writes. "Governments should focus on deterring and punishing such crimes—and leave consenting adults who wish to buy and sell sex to do so safely and privately online."

Tony Stewart, racetracks and tragedy

Nascar driver Tony Stewart sits at the wheel of a race car

Was three-time Nascar racing champion Tony Stewart responsible for the death of 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr?

On a dark dirt track in upstate New York on Saturday night, sprint cars driven by Stewart and Ward collided, knocking Ward out of the race. The young driver jumped out of his vehicle and, clad in a black racing suit, walked onto the track in an apparent effort to confront Stewart in his still-speeding car.

What happened next has engulfed Stewart - and all of professional racing - in a controversy that shows no signs of abating.

The rear right section of Stewart's car struck Ward as it passed, pulling him under the tyre and flinging his body over 50ft (15m). Reports are that Ward died instantly.

Start Quote

Stewart is so confident and so cocky - and yes, so competitive - that I think he simply was trying to scare Kevin Ward Jr”

End Quote Bob McManaman Arizona Republic

Because the event was part of a small-time racing circuit - the only video recording currently available is from a spectator's camera phone - reports of the incident trickled out slowly. Social media exploded with the news, however, as fans and commentators argued over incomplete facts and looked to assign blame.

Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that the 43-year-old Stewart is a highly successful driver with a net worth in the millions and a reputation as an aggressive competitor whose emotions can sometimes get the better of him.

Tyler Graves, a sprint-car racer and friend of Ward's, was quoted in the Sporting News:

"I know Tony could see him. I know how you can see out of these cars. When Tony got close to him, he hit the throttle. When you hit a throttle on a sprint car, the car sets sideways."

Graves adds that Stewart "needs to be put in prison for life".

Stewart has been interviewed by local law enforcement representatives, who say he is co-operating with the investigation into Ward's death.

"At this very moment, there are no facts at hand that would substantiate or support a criminal charge or indicate criminal intent on the part of any individual," Ontario County Sheriff Philip C Povero told the New York Times.

Some commentators said that even if Stewart did not intend to hit Ward, he acted irresponsibly.

"Stewart is so confident and so cocky - and yes, so competitive - that I think he simply was trying to scare Kevin Ward Jr," writes the Arizona Republic's Bob McManaman. "I think he wanted to send a message of his own that, 'Hey, who are you trying to challenge me on my race track?' So he opened up the throttle, which appears to be the case in the video, and ran a little too close to Ward. But it's that split-second shot of adrenaline that made the difference."

Tony Stewart's sprint car races in Iowa in 2013. Tony Stewart races his sprint car in Iowa in 2013

On Sunday Stewart issued a statement expressing his condolences and announcing that he would not compete in that day's Nascar race. The Greensboro News & Record's Ed Hardin says Stewart should be sidelined for as long as it takes to fully investigate the incident - or perhaps permanently:

"It's time for Stewart to stop racing. He's 43 and this isn't the first time he's been involved in a crash that he caused. For his own sake, someone needs to tell him it's over. This is about to get very ugly, and the last thing we need to see is Tony Stewart driving a race car right now."

Other writers contended that Ward's death was a tragic accident for which Stewart is not to blame.

"There is no doubt that Stewart can be a jerk. There is no doubt that he is a short-tempered competitor," writes Slate's John Swansburg. "But he's also a man with a deep understanding of racing and an abiding love for it. I can't imagine him jeopardising either the sport or his ability to compete in it by wilfully committing an unspeakably heinous act."

Start Quote

To believe that Tony Stewart intended to hit a pedestrian on a racetrack is to believe that Tony Stewart is violently unhinged”

End Quote Cathal Kelly The Toronto Globe and Mail

Motorsport's Steven Cole Smith agrees:

"The idea that any driver would purposely hit another over what was a comparatively minor, that's-racing incident is hard to swallow. That Tony Stewart would do it on purpose? That is unthinkable."

Just because Stewart has a reputation as having a temper, writes the Toronto Globe and Mail's Cathal Kelly, that doesn't make him homicidal.

"To believe that Tony Stewart intended to hit a pedestrian on a racetrack is to believe that Tony Stewart is violently unhinged," he writes. "Sometimes, terrible things happen. People get angry and do foolish things, like walking out onto a racetrack. People panic. They make small, fatal mistakes."

As the accusations and defences continue back and forth, a larger discussion is emerging about racetrack safety and whether the confrontational bravado that some drivers display, much to the delight of their fans, is jeopardising lives.

"I truly believed, given all the safety measures put in place over the last decade, the link between death and Nascar drivers was gone forever," writes the Dallas Morning News's Tim Cowlishaw. "Maybe if there is one good thing to come from this awful night it's that racers at all levels will learn that leaving a car to confront a rival still driving one is a terrible idea."

Could Iraq become Obama's war?

A child who is fleeing the violence in Kurdistan A child fleeing the violence

President Obama once said the US should not be fighting a war in Iraq. Now he has approved air strikes, trying to protect Americans and help minorities under threat from Sunni militants. So will the president find himself entangled in Iraq?

The New York Times' Peter Baker says Mr Obama did not want this war - but seems to feel he has no choice. "Hoping to end the war in Iraq, Mr Obama became the fourth president in a row to order military action in that graveyard of American ambition," writes Baker.

In the Wall Street Journal journalists Carol Lee and Felicia Schwartz explain that Mr Obama had once said he would scale back the role of the US in Iraq. He ran his presidential campaign on that promise.

But things have changed.

"The situation on the ground became untenable in recent days," write Lee and Schwartz, "pushing Mr. Obama to authorise air strikes".

Writing in Commentary Magazine, John Podhoretz says Mr Obama made a mistake when he said the US would pull back from Iraq. Former president George W Bush had created a situation in which Iraq was "on its way to a stable future", wrote Mr Podhoretz.

Unfortunately Mr Obama "assumed we had lost in Iraq", says Mr Podhoretz. Today Mr Obama is forced to reckon with his mistake. "And so we come full circle," writes Mr Podhoretz - with the US again playing a military role there.

Yale University's Emma Sky, who once served an adviser to Gen Raymond Odierno, the commanding general of US forces in Iraq, says Mr. Obama is doing the right thing.

"It was the morally correct intervention of the United States in 1991 to impose a no-fly zone and to drop humanitarian supplies that prevented Saddam's forces from massacring Kurds," she writes in the New York Times.

Americans also need to help those who are in danger in Iraq, she says.

Start Quote

Every time the US touches the Middle East, it makes things worse”

End Quote Stephen Walt Foreign Policy

Her view is shared by editorial writers for the Wall Street Journal. "His decision to withdraw all US troops in 2011 was a strategic and increasingly a moral disaster," they say.

"The president - which is to say the US - bears responsibility now for the humanitarian catastrophe occurring in Iraq, just as it did for the mass flight of Vietnam's boat people, some two million, after the Communist triumph in the 1970s."

Some say the president's decision is long overdue.

"Finally", writes a blogger for the Lonely Conservative, Mr Obama has authorised "limited airstrikes in Iraq against the murderous Islamic terrorists".

Not everyone agrees, however, that Mr Obama should continue the fight Mr Bush started.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Harvard's Stephen Walt says: "Every time the US touches the Middle East, it makes things worse. It's time to walk away and not look back."

Iraqi Christians in a church courtyard Iraqi Christians, including these in a church courtyard after leaving Erbil, are trying to escape from militants

His view is summarised in the headline of his column: "Let it bleed."

Mr Obama is certainly not the first president who has faced tough choices - or reversed an earlier position. Indeed lesons have emerged over time.

Historian Douglas Brinkley, co-author of The Nixon Tapes, says audiotapes recorded at the White House under President Nixon reveal important truths about foreign policy.

"I found listening to all these tapes that you do have to a have a sense of human rights - that democracy has to represent some kind of goodness," Brinkley tells the BBC.

Brinkley says: "Otherwise when you listen to what Nixon's trying to do, it's just, 'Bomb these people. Who cares how many dead. We'll achieve this.' It's very cold and callous."

Brinkley describes President Nixon as a 'diabolical pragmatist'

In contrast Mr Obama has tried to make moral decisions regarding foreign policy. He has also been willing at times to admit he has to change course.

While finding himself under fire from some quarters for not acting sooner, some Americans seem to appreciate his "willingness to grapple with moral complexity", wrote Ross Douthat last year in the New York Times.

But sometimes the decisions - even with a moral compass - are wrenching. Iraq is a test of the president's ability to navigate this terrain, and the story is now unfolding.

Iran, a regional superpower

President Hassan Rouhani Experts describe Iran under President Hassan Rouhani as a regional superpower

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Iran "relishes the chance to secure a place as the region's superpower, a quest made all the easier by America's reluctance to get embroiled", according to the Economist.

Officially Iran does not have forces in Iraq. But they seem to have a presence. Last month, for example, they held a public funeral for "an Iranian pilot killed in Samarra".

US officials worry about the role Iran plays in Iraq. Still the Americans seem to think - or hope - Iran will eventually bail on Nuri al-Maliki and scale back their role in the Middle East.

Yet that is "wishful thinking", says Ramzy Mardini, an Iraq expert at a think-tank in Washington.

Meanwhile - at least according to Robert Joseph, a former undersecretary of state, writing in National Review - the US "has lost enormous credibility in the region with friends and adversaries alike".

As a result, he writes, Iran will continue to make gains in its efforts to build a nuclear weapon. US and Iranian officials are meeting in Geneva on Thursday for nuclear talks.

The Iranians, he says, will attempt to exploit gaps in an agreement to place limits on centrifuges.


In the Washington Post, opinion writer Harold Meyerson says Hungary is leaning toward Moscow - not Washington. He says Hungarians seem to view "Putin's Russia" as a "more attractive political model than the liberal democracies of the West".

As he points out, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Oran is attacking the European Union - and saying good things about Russia and China.

Meyerson says Europeans should pay attention - and take action. "Creating and observing democratic laws and norms", he says, "is a prerequisite for EU membership."

He adds: "Why shouldn't dismantling such laws and norms be grounds for expulsion?"


Adewale Maja-Pearce, the author of a book entitled Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa, and Other Essays, writes in the New York Times about Nigeria's National Electric Power Authority. It is widely known as "Never Expect Power Always", he says.

In his essay he describes how power is distributed unequally - and unfairly.

"Even though about 85% of Nigeria's urban areas and 30% of rural areas are on the power grid - the result of years of government monopoly and its attendant corruption - the supply is intermittent at best," he writes.

He concludes by saying the power shortages are a symbol of a bigger problem.

"Cutting corners has become a way of life for all Nigerians, great and small. We don't expect anything better, which is why we are so quiescent," he writes. "But power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, and, in their own small way, so do power shortages."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Moscow officials are providing a list of US-and EU-imported fruits and vegetables that will be banned for up to a year. The ban is being imposed in response to Western-imposed economic sanctions.

"Agricultural producers and experts welcome the head of state's decision to introduce reciprocal measures in retaliation for the West's sanctions." -Izvestiya

"'Russia is ready for lawsuits under the WTO [World Trade Organization] framework and is prepared to respect the rulings of the organisation's arbitration mechanisms.'" -Kommersant

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'Torture report' stirs up row in US

President Obama President Obama signed an executive order that banned torture

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

A retired major general in the US army, Antonio Taguba, says CIA officials are trying to undermine a report about the agency's interrogation programme. In a New York Times op-ed, he also says CIA officials have used extraordinary means to resist oversight of their activities.

"Agency officials, past and current, surely believe that by seeking to undermine the credibility of the report, they are acting in the best interests of the agency," he writes. "But when the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, has accused you of spying, you may want to reconsider your PR strategy."

A columnist for the National Review, Tom Rogan, however, writes in the Telegraph that "Democrats are pursuing a destructive publicity stunt against the CIA".

In addition, he says, the report is incomplete. "No relevant CIA officials were interviewed by senate investigator," he writes. "This begs the question, why are Democrats behaving with such disregard for objectivity? The answer: publicity."

William Taft IV, who served as legal adviser to the State Department from 2001 to 2005, disagrees with Mr Rogan's view - and says the report is valuable.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post that appeared several months ago, he describes the report as an "extensive review of the CIA's rendition, detention and interrogation programme after 9/11".

He says the report should be released. He writes: "It is time for the CIA to open itself up to oversight and implement changes in order to emerge stronger."


Writing in Foreign Policy, Gal Luft says that studying World War I is important today, especially for those who are analysing the policies of President Vladimir Putin.

"Understanding Russia's strategic calculus at the time can help decode Moscow's recent behavior in Ukraine," Luft writes.

"As European and American leaders contemplate what to do next with Russia, it is worth remembering that Putin's takeover of Crimea has much more in common with Tsar Nicholas's concerns in the Black Sea in 1914 than Leonid Brezhnev's in Czechoslovakia in 1968," he writes.

"Putin's takeover was an act in defense of Russia's national interest, fully consistent with the country's geopolitical DNA, rather than one of sheer, blind aggression."


In an article for Foreign Affairs, Mitchell Orenstein looks at diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and Russia. He describes how "European nations such as the Netherlands have long kept smiling as the Kremlin has continued to humiliate them".

In his piece he looks back at an incident in 2006 - when "Russia insisted that Royal Dutch Shell renegotiate the terms of its Sakhalin-2 project". Then he describes how the relationship between the Netherlands and Russia developed in the years that followed - and what the future holds.

In the piece he argues that the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 has forced the Netherlands and other Europeans to "get real about Moscow".


Editorial writers at the Miami Herald say the US should take a hard line against some Venezuelan officials, imposing further sanctions on them because of the way they have violated human rights.

"The Obama administration's decision last week to impose visa sanctions against unnamed government officials in Venezuela is a step in the right direction, but it's nothing more than a slap on the wrist - and a mild one at that," they write.

Human Rights Watch has recorded "more than 40 deaths and 50 cases of torture, in addition to some 2,000 unjustified detentions" in Venezuela, they write, and "opposition leaders say Venezuela's jails hold more than 100 political prisoners".

The visa sanctions will help show Venezuelan officials that they must respect human rights, according to the editorial writers. But US officials should go further.

"The individuals who have been denied entry are not named, which limits the measure's political effectiveness," they write. "Freezing their assets and property in the United States, however, would really hit them where it hurts."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi has resigned from the UK government, describing the government's position on the crisis in Gaza as "morally indefensible".

"Warsi's resignation is not expected to change anything in British policy in the region, but it is a worrying sign of the way in which Israel splits British public opinion." - Ha'aretz, Israel

"The UK has failed to make serious efforts to protect the innocent people of Gaza against Israeli aggression, which made Sayeeda Warsi take the principled decision of quitting the government." Nawa-i-Waqt, Pakistan

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Canadians warned over China dealings

Flags in China

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

Two Canadians have been accused of spying, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The couple, Kevin and Julia Garratt, ran a small coffeehouse in Dandong - and helped people plan tours of North Korea. But now the Garratts have been identified by Chinese authorities as suspects in espionage.

If found guilty, reports CBC News, the Garratts could be sentenced to death.

The espionage case highlights the tensions between China and Canada. Canadian officials said recently they believed that China had cyber-hacked one of their agencies, the National Research Council.

Chinese officials said the accusations are false.

Writing on Foreign Policy Blogs, Gary Sands, the director of a venture-capital company, says Chinese officials have a complicated past.

He writes: "China stands out not only for stealing information but technology, in a desperate bid to compete economically in green technologies, new information technologies, biology and high-end manufacturing with the likes of the US and Japan."

Writing in the Globe and Mail, David Mulroney, who has served as Canada's ambassador, says Canadians should be "clear-eyed" when dealing with China.

"China is not our best friend, any more than it is the sum of all fears," he writes.

"China is at the heart of changes that expose us to new levels of threat and uncertainty," he writes. "We need to respond with skill, purpose and confidence," he writes. "The only thing more dangerous than engaging China is not engaging it."


There has been a "global battle of regimes" between authoritarian capitalism and democratic capitalism across Africa in recent months, says the New York Times' David Brooks.

China has a strong economic presence across Africa, which adds to the economic repression of minorities and the illusion of power for elites, he says.

African leaders are gathering in Washington this week. But the US has a small presence throughout Africa compared to that of China, says Brooks.

"What happens in Africa will have global consequences in the battle of regimes," he writes. "If African nations succumb to the delusion of autocracy, we'll have Putins to deal with for decades to come."


Religious minorities in Sinjar are in danger, says The Daily Beast's Andrew Slater. "Without Western champions and sympathisers, the non-Christian religious minorities of Nineveh province are being slowly exterminated, driven off or forced into hiding," he writes.

Kurdish fighters are planning their defence, he says, but time is running out.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

A factory explosion in Kunshan, China, killed at least 68 people. Local media report an initial investigation has suggested the blast was ignited in a polishing workshop - and that local safety authorities had warned the factory about risks.

"Local authorities should comprehensively investigate the work environment of local companies and inform the public whether work conditions at the Zhangrong factory are indeed as bad as reported by its employees and whether similar work environments are widespread." - editorial in Youth Daily.

"It is worrying that against the background of a transforming economy and adjustments to [China's] industrial structure, more and more companies resort to heartless approach to business and turn their workers into machines." - editorial in Jinghua Shibao (Beijing Times).

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Why Ebola is hitting Africa hard

Woman preparing meat This small African restaurant has changed what kind of meat it serves to help stop the spread of Ebola

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

Ebola is still in the headlines - and is now in the US. The disease has been wreaking havoc in countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia, and an Atlanta hospital began treating the first case of Ebola in the US this week.

The patient is a doctor who had been providing medical care in Africa; he has shown signs of improvement since his arrival in the US. A second US aid worker is set to be flown from Africa shortly, while a local ABC affiliate in New York City reports a possible case of Ebola at Mount Sinai hospital.

Most health experts agree that an outbreak in the US would be quickly managed, Vox's Stephen Hoffman and Julia Belluz say the disease is taking such a toll in Africa, however, because the global medical and research communities are not designed to treat diseases that affect the poor.

"Right now, more money goes into fighting baldness and erectile dysfunction than hemorrhagic fevers like dengue or Ebola," they write.

Most medical innovation is left to the private sector, which is profit-driven, they write, while aid organisations devoted to public health devote little of their budgets to research and development.

Government funding for diseases like Ebola are mostly doled out by the Department of Defense, and only if the disease has a threat of being weaponised.

"The result of this architecture of investments is that most health products that hit the market don't focus on sicknesses of the poor. Of the 850 health products approved by regulators between 2000 and 2011, only 37 focused on neglected diseases," they write.

"As long as we perpetuate this global system of R&D funding, outbreaks of neglected diseases like Ebola will keep happening. Sadly, it's a cause shared by many more diseases of the poor, some of which affect multiple times more people than the one that's currently making headlines."


Detainee denied - The Canadian government will not let a Toronto Star reporter interview a former child solider and Canadian citizen who was detained at Guantanamo Bay in 2002, according to the New York Times' editorial board.

"The Toronto Star thinks he should be allowed to tell his side of the story and respond to questions from one of its reporters, Michelle Shephard, who has been following his case for years," the editorial board writes.

But the Canadian government won't let the Toronto Star conduct an on-camera interview with Omar Khadr because doing so could cause trouble within the Canadian prison where Khadr is now detained. That's a mistake, says the Times.

"The Canadian government should allow the interview and let Mr Khadr, now an adult, share his perspective on his ordeal. The public has been kept waiting long enough," they write.


Departing diplomacy - Several Latin American countries are pulling their ambassadors out of Israel for consultation, according to the GlobalPost's Simeon Tegel, Alex Leff and Noga Tarnopolsky. It's a move designed to show the country's disapproval of Israel actions in Gaza prior to the latest ceasefire.

"Recalling an ambassador for consultation falls short of breaking off relations outright, but it can lead to that," Tegel, Leff and Tarnopolsky write.

So far, Chile, Peru, El Salvador, Ecuador and Brazil have pulled their ambassadors out of Israel, the authors say. Many other Latin American countries, such as Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela, do not currently have ambassadors in Israel, they add.

Some Latin American leaders say the recall is because of "foreign and domestic policies," while others are condemning Israeli forces for its "bombardment of Palestinian civilians."


Should America cut its losses? - The US should move on from efforts to improve its relationship with India because the country doesn't have much to offer it, according to the Daily Beast's Tunku Varadarajan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modii has offered little proof that he is the one who will improve the status of business in his country. That should be a deal breaker for the US, says Varadarajan.

"American private enterprise has always tread cautiously in India, and there is every indication that it will have to continue to tiptoe its way through, around, and over the cactus grove of Indian regulations," he writes.

Until India makes up its mind as to what they want their country to be, the US should discontinue efforts to build a relationship with the country, concludes Varadarajan.


Fighting rural flight - Japan's population is declining in rural areas, but some Japanese are creating possible solutions, according to the National Interest's John W Traphagan.

"While the challenges are significant, there are also a variety of innovative programmess being developed to help people cope and, perhaps, even keep younger members of the population from moving to the cities," writes Traphagan.

For instance, Panorama Farms is a new business that helps rice farmers with high industry costs and provides labour, says Traphagan.

"Panorama Farms hopes that by using organic techniques, their products will appeal to Japanese consumers and also provide a more sustainable approach to farming in the long run," he writes.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Russian commentators implicate the West in violence that broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, in recent days. Some that the conflict's escalation is in the interests of the West, which is unhappy about Armenia joining Russian President Vladimir Putin's integration project, the Eurasian Economic Union, in October.

"Since Yerevan set a course for Eurasian Economic Union membership, it has come under systemic pressure from the West - and the rising tension over Nagornyy Karabakh is a component of these systemic efforts, especially since public blame will be shifted to Moscow." - South Caucasus expert Andrey Areshev in Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

"It would be advantageous for the West to portray Armenia as the weak link in Eurasian integration." - Director of the Centre for Political Studies Andrey Fedorov in Kommersant.

"Had this happened six months ago, we could have said confidently that the current escalation would not lead to any more serious bloodshed. But now, unfortunately, given the situation in Ukraine, this cannot be said with confidence." - Carnegie Moscow Centre research fellow Aleksey Malashenko in Novyye Izvestiya,

"I don't rule out the possibility of other conflicts around Russia's perimeter flaring up as well - in the Dniester region, for example - in order to create as difficult a situation as possible for Moscow, so it would have to tackle several 'fronts' at once, with the ring of conflicts around Russia's borders becoming increasingly apparent." - South Caucasus expert Andrey Areshev in Nezavisimaya Gazeta. ‎

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A liberal nerd 'problem'

Astrophysicist and Cosmos presenter Neil deGrasse Tyson. Neil deGrasse Tyson: nerd alert!

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

As presenter of the popular science programme Cosmos and director of the Hayden Planetarium, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has become the leading voice of science and reason for many Americans. But not all.

"He is the fetish and totem of the extraordinarily puffed-up 'nerd' culture that has of late started to bloom across the United States," writes Charles CW Cooke for the National Review. "'Nerd' has become a calling a card - a means of conveying membership of one group and denying affiliation with another."

For Cooke the idea of the "nerd" no longer represents World of Warcraft and Star Trek. Instead the term has been co-opted by liberal Americans as a kind of political strategy:

"One part insecure hipsterism, one part unwarranted condescension, the two defining characteristics of self-professed nerds are (a) the belief that one can discover all of the secrets of human experience through differential equations and (b) the unlovely tendency to presume themselves to be smarter than everybody else in the world."

But the political left's embrace of "nerdom" is "little more than a ruse," he continues. "They have the patois but not the passion; the clothes but not the style; the posture but not the imprimatur."

Cooke's portrayal of these supposed fake, liberal nerds prompted a sharp response from the left.

"It's easy to see why, despite their supposed enthusiasm for excellence, conservative pundits would offer up liberal scientists, journalists and artists as hate objects for their base," writes Amanda Marcotte for Salon.

"This is a time of economic instability and ordinary people are seeing their fortunes declining," she adds. "It's easy to turn that anxiety into rage at people conservative audiences think have easy, charmed lives as coastal elites."

Other commentators that the view that perhaps it's not about economic instability as it is a fear of educated voters.

"The danger Tyson brings to the political structure, as he gains an increasingly large foothold in the popular culture, is the threat of an informed populace," writes Matthew Fleischer for the Los Angeles Times.

"That may not sound radical, but the promise of a large, nerdy, young voting block that subscribes to Tyson's sentiment is a threat to the political status quo - certainly Republicans, but Democrats as well."

South Korea

The dark side of South Korea's education model - Although South Korea is renowned for its education system, the consequences of its success should not be overlooked, writes Se-Woong Koo for the New York Times.

"Dominated by Tiger Moms, cram schools and highly authoritarian teachers, South Korean education produces ranks of overachieving students who pay a stiff price in health and happiness," he writes. "The entire program amounts to child abuse. It should be reformed and restructured without delay."

Because of the emphasis on success, many South Korean students experience physical symptoms from the academic stress, Se-Woong says.

"Before South Korea can be seen as a model for the 21st century, it must end this age-old feudal system that passes for education and reflect on what the country's most vulnerable citizens might themselves want," he writes.


Deconstructing a default - Following Argentina's descent into its second default in 13 years, many scholars and commentators are left wondering how it could have been avoided.

Although some have blamed predatory hedge funds or Argentina's high-rolling government, the Conversation's John Weeks says that Argentina's economic system may be the real culprit.

"The massive debt accumulation resulted from the hapless attempt to maintain a one-to-one exchange rate between the national currency and the US dollar via a 'currency board'," he writes. "This neoliberal bright idea legally links the amount of national currency in domestic circulation with the US dollars held by the central bank (in this case, the Banco Central de la Republica Argentina)."

Contrary to what many believe, says Weeks, default could be good for Argentina. "Default serves as the solution to an otherwise intractable problem, an unsustainable foreign debt."


A green movement that China can't ignore - An increasing awareness of environmental issues in China has led to an unusual wave of local and uncoordinated protests, writes Stephen Vines for Al Jazeera.

The Chinese government reported 712 "abrupt environmental incidents" in 2013 alone - more than a 30% increase over 2012.

"These protests can be dismissed as part of a not-in-my-backyard syndrome," he says. "But they are also powerful reminders of public awareness over the environmental impact of manufacturing activity and the profound consequences of pollution."

Although the Chinese government seems to be tolerating the environmental protests, "the big questions now are whether the current protest trend will continue to escalate".


A nation at risk - Libya is at the brink of a civil war, but its citizens are more determined than ever for change, according to Hisham Matar in the New Yorker.

It won't be an easy task, however, because of the lack of military and police forces and a democratic government, he says.

"A revolution is not a painless march to the gates of freedom and justice," he says, "it is a struggle between rage and hope, between the temptation to destroy and the desire to build."

Overcoming the turmoil that was created by former ruler Muammar Gadhafi will be difficult, but Libyans want it more than ever, he concludes.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Israeli commentators debate whether to continue the ground operation in Gaza in the light of Palestinian civilian casualties.

"International support for Israel is gradually declining. The British accuse us of war crimes, and also Germany says enough. It is difficult to ignore the scenes of ruination in Gaza." - Yoel Marcus in Ha'aretz.

"It is impossible to bring about a political settlement in Gaza without a lever embodying force... The only lever that can work in the short term is military." -Oded Tira in Yisrael Hayom.

"Perhaps when Hamas is defeated or severely weakened there can be talk of peace. But not before. No change in Israel policy short of the disappearance of the State of Israel will satisfy Hamas. And that is not going to happen." - Editorial in Jerusalem Post.‎

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Immigration flop boosts Boehner critics

Speaker of the House John Boehner.

It was supposed to be different this time. The sheer volume of Central American children coming across the US southern border was such that Congress would have to take action on some form of immigration reform to address the crisis.

Reports of legislative life, however, appear to have been greatly exaggerated.

On Thursday Speaker of the House John Boehner was unable gather the requisite support from his caucus for his party's immigration bill, and plans for an afternoon vote were scrapped.

With the August congressional recess looming, chances for any sort of measure to be passed before legislators head back to their home districts and gear up for the fall's election campaign appear to be dwindling.

Start Quote

The Republican Party is in the midst of a massive intraparty struggle that makes it incapable of laying out its own vision for governance”

End Quote Chris Cillizza The Washington Post

The bill, which would have authorised $659m (£391m) in funding for border detention facilities and security and rescinded a 2008 policy delaying the deportation of Central American children, did not go far enough for grassroots Tea Party conservatives.

Most prominently, it did not address President Barack Obama's 2012 decision to suspend deportations of children who came into the US at a young age - the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme.

Conservatives blame the president's unilateral action - enacting through executive order a policy Congress had considered but failed to pass in previous years - as the driving factor for the recent influx of tens of thousands of child immigrants.

The latest developments have renewed criticisms of Mr Boehner's ability to lead his Republicans in the House - as he's seen his party fracture over issues like increasing the US debt limit, passing a federal budget and agriculture appropriations.

US Senator Ted Cruz Ted Cruz's fingerprints are on another conservative revolt in the House of Representatives

Salon's Simon Maloy writes:

"This is the story of John Boehner's speakership: He does nothing until circumstances force his hand; he waits until the last minute to act, trusting that the ticking clock and partisan loyalty will be enough to get him over the finish line; and then he faces the inevitable, predictable embarrassment that comes from relying on a bunch of anti-government zealots who hate the Republican establishment almost as much as they hate Barack Obama. It happens over and over, again and again."

According to the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, the problem is larger than a simple lack of leadership on Mr Boehner's part, however. It's the latest battle in an ongoing war for the soul of the Republican Party:

Start Quote

We the people have just enough Tea Party types left in office to trouble the statist GOP establishment and flummox their plans”

End Quote Jeff Goldstein Protein Wisdom

"What Thursday's machinations proved - or, maybe more accurately, re-proved - is that no matter what happens at the ballot box this fall, the Republican Party is in the midst of a massive intraparty struggle that makes it incapable of laying out its own vision for governance."

As with any good story of unrest and conflict, fingers point to a Machiavellian outsider quietly pulling the strings - in this case, Senator Ted Cruz.

The Texas Republican had condemned the House leadership's proposed bill as ineffective and held a closed-door meeting with House conservatives on Wednesday night. A similar series of events played out last October, when Mr Cruz was considered instrumental in leading a Tea Party revolt against House leadership, which was trying to avoid a government shutdown.

"Ted Cruz and a handful of Republicans have hijacked the party," Republican Representative Peter King of New York told the press on Thursday night.

Conservative blogger Erick Erickson defended Mr Cruz, saying he was one of the few Republicans who was willing to stand up for rolling back Daca.

The House leadership "would rather be embarrassed in their failure to do anything than do the right thing and close this programme", he writes.

Protein Wisdom blogger Jeff Goldstein cheered on the Cruz-led Tea Party forces, who put principles ahead of expediency.

"Once again we'll hear lectures about the political optics of all this, rather than celebrate the fact that we the people have just enough Tea Party types left in office to trouble the statist GOP establishment and flummox their plans," he writes.

Meanwhile in the Senate, the outlook for legislative action doesn't look much brighter. A $2.7b (£1.6b) bill to address the border crisis received 50 votes, 10 short of the number needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.

In other words, even if the House had managed to pass a bill - or if it successfully regroups and approves a measure on Friday - chances of an actual piece of legislation emerging from Congress are slim to none.

New crisis, same (lack of) results.

The government bank conservatives hate

US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

The Import-Export bank, a government-run financial entity that provides low-interest loans to foreign groups seeking to import goods from US companies, has become a bogeyman of the conservative right.

Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a darling of grass-roots Tea Party conservatives, takes to the pages of USA Today to lay out the case against an 80-year-old institution few Americans know much about.

He argues the bank is a "corporate welfare fund" and a sop to foreign corporations and governments, many of whom are hostile to US interests.

"Americans shouldn't be forced to finance those who are actively working against them, as a basic matter of prudence," he writes. "The Export-Import Bank operates outside of common sense."

He goes on to contend that the bank is rife with fraud and is needlessly exposed to risk in a few key industries, such as aviation.

Congress is currently considering whether to reauthorise the bank. Mr Cruz lays down a challenge to his fellow conservatives:

"The debate over keeping it open will be a telling one.

"Those siding with foreign corporations, lobbyists and crony politicians will be on one side. Those fighting for the values and interests of American workers will be on the other."

On the left, the bank isn't being given much of a defence. Its most ardent supporters, it seems, are the export-focused business interests that benefit from the loan subsidies.

As this map shows, its benefits are primarily limited to a few states - Washington (home of airline manufacturer Boeing and by far the largest beneficiary), tech industry giant California and, interestingly enough, Mr Cruz's Texas.


A flashpoint for a US-Russia war? - The US is supporting a Ukrainian government siege of Donbass that is escalating the crisis in the eastern portion of the country, according to the Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel and Stephen F Cohen. The end result could be a full-scale conflict with Russia.

The US is considering supplying the Ukrainian military with information about the position of rebel military equipment. In effect, Heuvel and Cohen write, Ukraine has become a US military proxy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will never let Donbass fall to the Ukrainians and, by implication, to US influence, they write. If need be, the Russians will respond with a full-scale military intervention.

"If the hawks on both sides prevail, it might well mean full-scale war," they write. The solution, they say, is an immediate cease-fire and a robust debate in the West about dangers of continued meddling.


A leader exceeding his authority? - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Administration is undermining the country's laws, which is contributing to the "deterioration of Japan as a nation," according to Hosei University Prof Jiro Yamaguchi in Japan Times.

Yamaguchi's ire is directed at Mr Abe's cabinet-level decision to alter restrictions on the nation's Self-Defence Forces.

"If the content of norms and rules of a nation can be freely changed by those who interpret them, the nation is no longer under the rule of law; it's under the rule of man," he warns.

The Abe administration is acting unilaterally because it cannot get its way through the legislature, Yamaguchi writes. Because they cannot win the game, he concludes, they are changing the rules - no matter the cost.


US and UK supporting continued oppression - The Colombian government says that peace talks with the rebel group Farc are promising, but the citizens say the violence and repression continue, according to the Guardian's Seumas Milne.

"It's the Colombian state and military, responsible for decades of dirty war and the worst human rights record in the hemisphere, that the US and British governments stand behind," writes Milne.

Despite continued oppression and an intolerable human rights record, the US and UK governments support Colombian actions because the country is rich with resources, says Milne.

Change in Colombia "demands support for those genuinely trying to make it happen - and for the global powers that preach human rights to end their backing of repression and terror on an industrial scale", concludes Milne.


More than lemurs at risk - Globalisation and Mother Nature are impeding the future of Madagascar, according to the New York Times' Thomas L Friedman.

Chinese businessmen are conspiring with corrupt officials to plunder the Madagascar economy, he writes. Meanwhile, the population of the island is growing, and natural resources are running out.

The country's new, democratically elected president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, is Madagascar's best chance for positive change, he says. The path to prosperity lies in preserving ecosystems and attracting tourism.

"But that requires good leadership, and good leaders today - anywhere - are the rarest species of all," he concludes.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Arab commentators offer their views on the situation in Libya, where rival militias are tearing the country apart while an apparently helpless government looks on.

"Libya is breathing with a punctured lung having been infiltrated by militias that choked the country with smoke from the heavy use of cannons and bullets, and caused the death of many and the injury of dozens, prompting many Libyans to flee to neighbouring countries." - Editorial in Saudi Arabia's Al-Watan.

"There are two options for the militias: the first one is to lay down their weapons and engage in negotiations with each other before it is too late. The opportunity is now ripe for these militias and armed factions, and they have to exploit it and save their country. The second option is to confront the international community." - Editorial in Saudi-owned Al-Sharq al-Awsat.‎

Have you found an interesting opinion piece about global issues that we missed? Share it with us via email at echochambers (at)

ESPN suspends analyst for abuse remarks

ESPN on-air analyst Stephen A Smith

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

Cable sports network ESPN has suspended Stephen A Smith for saying on-air that female victims of abuse should be aware of actions they take to provoke their assailants.

Mr Smith's remarks on the show First Take were prompted by a discussion of the National Football League's decision last week to suspend Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice for two games after he was arrested in February for assaulting his wife.

The entire episode has been characterised by a series of outrages, falling like dominoes. First came anger directed toward Rice. Then the NFL was criticised for the relative brevity of the suspension. Smith was next in line following his charged comments.

Now ESPN, and the way it handles its sports commentary and coverage, is taking centre stage.

The network wants to be controversial and to offer attention-grabbing commentary, but then it acts surprised when the people they hire say outrageous things, writes Variety's Brian Lowry.

Baltimore Raven running back Ray Rice. The NFL suspends Ray Rice two games following his February arrest for aggravated assault

He continues:

"The channel can't really have it both ways. If the goal is to be provocative - and those participating in these free-for-alls are, inevitably, encouraged to be colourful and bicker - it only stands to reason people are occasionally going to say questionable or offensive things, especially when tackling hot-button political issues."

Lowry goes on to detail the long list of ESPN employees who have said things that have landed them in hot water - about gay rights, race relations and sexual harassment, to name a few.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution's Steve Hummer agrees that the sports network shouldn't be let off the hook so easily.

"Hey, world sports leader, you court the opinions, don't try to distance yourself now," he writes. "Did Dr Frankenstein ever suspend his monster?"

It's all a product of ESPN trying to create provocative debate no matter the price, writes NBC Sports's Mike Florio.

"When a network demands that a pair of analysts come up with diametrically opposed and yet equally hot takes on multiple topics per day, it's somewhat amazing that the format hasn't claimed more careers," he says.

In the end Smith will be back in a week. Rice will be off the field for two weeks. ESPN will continue to haul in viewers by the millions all the while.

Hummer takes note:

"Apparently, given the length of the two suspensions, it is only half as egregious to do what your employer asks - in Smith's case, be a steaming, noxious word geyser - as for a hulking football player to beat a woman into unconsciousness."


Controlling an epidemic - The Ebola outbreak in Liberia is a result of citizens not following the instructions of healthcare professionals, according to Heritage's John S Morlu.

One of the major factors exacerbating Ebola in Liberia is the continuation of public gatherings in the country, he says.

"The Government should see reason to postpone the upcoming senatorial mid-term elections if there is still evidence of continuing Ebola presence in Liberia by 12 August, 2014," he writes.

The government of Liberia has a responsibility to "provide clear and unambiguous directives" to its people to avoid confusion, rumour and doubt from undermining public safety.

"Perhaps, we can all use this opportunity to unite behind a common agenda: fighting Ebola," he concludes.


Heading down Argentina's default path - If Russia is hit hard by sanctions from the West, it is at risk of ending up teetering on the verge of an Argentina-style default, according to Bloomberg's Mohamed A El-Erian.

Like the Argentine difficulties stemming from a US court decision, he writes, the Russian crisis is the type of "one-off exogenous shock" that global markets have a difficult time predicting.

"Absent a course correction, the conflict is proceeding on a path that limits the flexibility of the parties, along with the control they have on outcomes," writes El-Erian.


A national effort to address aboriginal rights - Gaza conflict excuses continued anti-Semitism - Recent anti-Semitism in Italy is an ongoing issue of domestic origins, according to the Daily Beast's Barbie Latza Nadeau. It has little to do with what's going between Israel and Palestine.

While current anti-Semitism in France has involved young, pro-Palestine Muslims, similar events in Italy have predominantly involved European-Italians, says Nadeau.

"Rome has the oldest Jewish community in all of Europe and one of the oldest continuous settlements in the world, but the country still struggles with its anti-Semitic past," writes Nadeau.

Even though Rome's mayor and police force have been trying to stop anti-Semitism in the country, other politicians are fanning the flames, adds Nadeau.


A national effort to address aboriginal rights - Canada is the first in the world to attempt a revision of its Royal Proclamation regarding the rights of First Nations peoples in the country, according to the Globe and Mail's Jeffrey Simpson.

"The effort involves taking the principles and statements of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 about fair treatment of natives and respect for their rights and updating and giving practical effect to those ideals for the 21st century," Simpson writes.

Many First Nations leaders want self-government for their people, Simpson says, but the federal government isn't sure how to go forward with this because of the diversity within Canada's aboriginal population.

"The model hasn't been tried, or worked, anywhere else," says Simpson. "As such, this is Canada's greatest social experiment."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Middle East commentators offer their views on the ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip.

"The hate rhetoric in Egyptian and social media against the Palestinian people, triggered by hatred of Hamas, must stop immediately... We should support the Palestinians in their ordeal." - Jamal Zaydah in Egypt's Al-Ahram.

"The problem for Israel is that it cannot achieve what it wants except by reoccupying Gaza, which is a nightmare that the Israelis do not want. Besides, there is nothing that makes reoccupation a viable solution to the Israeli dilemma." - Abd-al-Munim in Saudi-owned Al-Sharq al-Awsat.

"Even if we do not manage to destroy all the tunnels, and the rockets continue to be buried underground waiting to be launched, victory is already ours, perhaps not in Gaza, but certainly in the West Bank, in the Greater Land of Israel... The greater the threat Gaza constitutes, so will Israel's control of the West Bank be secured." - Zvi Barel in Israel's Haaretz. ‎

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Much ado about plagiarism

The index page of BuzzFeed.

Last week a scandal in Washington media circles led to the sacking of a prominent writer and has set off a debate about the nature of plagiarism in the internet-driven world of journalism.

Two anonymous Twitter users had gathered and posted evidence that Buzzfeed's viral politics reporter Benny Johnson had been taking lines and information from sources such as Wikipedia,, the National Review and Yahoo Answers without attribution.

Start Quote

There's a difference between crappy, lazy Internet writing and real plagiarism”

End Quote Gene Weingarten The Washington Post

They were prompted to act, they said, when Mr Johnson accused another website of plagiarising his work. If there's one thing that's easy to spot and take offence at, it's hypocrisy.

While Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith defended his employee initially, additional revelations - combined with a growing uproar from commentators - prompted an internal investigation that revealed at least 41 transgressions. The axe came down on Friday night.

"This plagiarism is a breach of our fundamental responsibility to be honest with you - in this case, about who wrote the words on our site," Smith wrote in a message to readers. "Plagiarism, much less copying unchecked facts from Wikipedia or other sources, is an act of disrespect to the reader."

Plagiarism is a four-letter word for most journalists - a capital offence for which the sentence is career execution. But are there different shades of infraction? The Washington Post's Gene Weingarten thinks so.

In a self-described "long and angry" message on, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist writes:

Start Quote

All plagiarism stinks with the same stench”

End Quote Jack Shafer Reuters

"There's a difference between crappy, lazy Internet writing and real plagiarism, and I contend that when you start calling the first thing the second thing, you belittle the seriousness of real plagiarism. It all starts seeming like kindergarten-level failure to footnote. And over time real plagiarism will not outrage the public as it should."

Stealing boilerplate lines about basic facts from the likes of Wikipedia and using them in a Buzzfeed list is entirely different than appropriating a clever turn of phrase or original insight, he concludes.

"To be guilty of theft, one must steal something of some intrinsic value," Weingarten writes.

Others aren't convinced.

"Putting such a high premium on creative, original work prevents Weingarten from appreciating why all plagiarism stinks with the same stench," writes Reuters columnist and veteran media commentator Jack Shafer.

"Plagiarism is not a crime against the journalists whose passages have been stolen. It's a crime against readers, who have every right to believe that journalists vouch for the copy they serve."

By not citing his sources, Shafer continues, readers will never be able to judge their authenticity. Information drawn from a noted expert shouldn't be given the same weight as a Yahoo Answers post.

Pando's David Holmes agrees, saying it's not possible to draw a "line in the sand" between plagiarism and "mere hackery".

"One man's treasure is another man's trash," he writes.

The sad thing, he says, is that in online journalism plagiarism pitfalls are relatively easy to avoid.

"The bad thing about the Web is that it's easy to steal stuff. The great thing about the Web is that it's the easiest thing in the world to link to your primary source. This was Johnson's biggest crime."

Plagiarism scandals have erupted with regularity ever since modern journalism emerged as a professional undertaking with an ethical code, of course. The internet, with its relentless demand for new and engaging content, is bending the rules of the game, however.

On Monday the website FisbowlNY reported that the opening paragraph of a New York Times article by Carol Vogul may have been plagiarised.

The original source of the lines in question shouldn't come as a shock at this point.


Obama's immigration-impeachment gambit

Pro-immigration protestors demonstrate in Washington, DC.

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

The Obama administration could be planning a "very significant", large-scale immigration reform sometime before November's mid-term congressional elections.

According to White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer, President Barack Obama is frustrated with the lack of progress Congress is making toward immigration reform and will take action unilaterally, if necessary.

The Associated Press reports that such measures could include granting work permits "to potentially millions of immigrants who are in this country illegally, allowing them to stay in the United States without threat of deportation".

As word of the possible move has leaked out, Republican politicians expressed outrage.

On Monday Senator Jeff Sessions issued a warning to the president: "It would be an affront to the people of this country which they will never forgive. It would be a permanent stain on your presidency."

Given the near certain right-wing fury were Mr Obama to proceed, the National Review's Rich Lowry wonders whether the president might be intentionally provoking a constitutional crisis. Could he be daring Republicans to impeach him?

He points to Mr Pfeiffer's comments to reporters on Friday in which he seemed to acknowledge that impeachment may be on the table as a result of the administration's actions.

"I would not discount the possibility," Mr Pfeiffer said.

Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa says impeachment would be a done deal.

"From my standpoint, if the president [enacts more executive actions], we need to bring impeachment hearings immediately before the House of Representatives," Mr King told Breitbart News Saturday. "That's my position, and that's my prediction."

Democrats may be thinking that a Republican push to oust the president would rally their political base, Lowry writes. When the House of Representatives successfully pushed articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton in 1998, they were roundly condemned by public opinion and lost seats in Congress in the next election.

Lowry concludes:

"An administration that is fast entering its dotage could consider this one of the few potential positive game-changers that it has direct control over - the Constitution and the rule of law be damned."

In order to remove Mr Obama from office, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has to approve articles of impeachment by a simple majority and two-thirds of the Senate has to vote to convict.

With the Senate currently in the hands of the Democrats, such a development seems unlikely in the extreme.


Chinese worry about a new electronic menace - There is a growing concern about the threat of "internet addiction" in youth across China, according to the New Yorker's Evan Osnos.

"China has already classified Internet addiction as a clinical disorder, which it considers a leading threat to the health of its young people," he writes.

In attempts to address the problem, many parents send their children to one of hundreds of treatment centres in the country, says Osnos.

Some parents are so preoccupied that they would rather blame the internet for their child's issues rather than on the distress their teenagers may be actually facing, he continues.

"The devotion that young Chinese feel to the internet is driven by deep factors ranging from youth unemployment and income inequality to political repression and the demographic imbalance between men and women," he concludes.


Anti-Semitism revives painful memories - The recent eruption of anti-Semitism in France has Jews there "anguished and puzzled", says the French Institute for International Affairs's Dominique Moisi.

The French-Jewish community questions whether or not it is safe in France, says Moisi, and revives memories of the Holocaust.

"Comparisons to Nazi-era Europe do nothing to reassure a community that, despite all of the major historical differences between then and now, cannot quite shake the feeling that it is dancing on the rim of a volcano," says Moisi.


Privatising gone wrong - Mexico's current round of economic liberalisation will fail again because nothing has changed since the last one, says America Economia's Luis Rubio (translated by WorldCrunch).

The country learned no lesso`ns from its economic privitisation failures in the 1980s, he writes, or from the issues of power-hungry politicians from the past.

"Instead of discussing how the energy market would be after the current opening up, all that seems to matter is how much will stay in state hands," he adds.

Other countries, such as the UK and Chile, were successfully able to transition from state-controlled industry to the private sector, he says. If Mexico wants to replicate their successes, the government will have to keep the powerful oligopolies in check.


Backsliding in the Caucasus - The first ex-Soviet republic to embrace democracy is slowly reverting to dictatorship, write the editors of the Wall Street Journal.

Since the 2012 presidential elections, the nation has been beset by political vendettas and sham prosecutions, they write. Former President Mikheil Saakashvili has been forced to flee to the US.

Georgia wants closer ties with the European Union and membership in Nato, which gives the West some bargaining power, they write. This influence must be used to help deter Tblisi's anti-democratic forces.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Israeli commentators made international headlines recently with their sharp words for US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. Now some in the media are pushing back against the criticism.

"A trusting relationship between Israel and the United States is a supreme strategic asset for Israel that dare not be undermined. [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu bears responsibility for protecting this asset, and any damage done to it contravenes the interests of all Israelis." - Editorial in Ha'aretz.

"I will not join the chorus of those who attempt to assassinate the characters of these two men who have done much for Israel. So why is there a perception that their sympathies lie elsewhere? Because they don't seem to get, and do not state definitively, that Israel is in a moral battle of good versus evil. Hamas is evil incarnate." - Shmuley Boteach in the Jerusalem Post.‎

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Study: Religious children believe fantasy

A boy prays in a church.

If you expose your child to Moses, Muhammad or Matthew the Apostle, are they at a disadvantage?

According to new research from Boston University, young children with a religious background are less able to distinguish between fantasy and reality compared with their secular counterparts.

In two studies, 66 kindergarten-age children were presented with three types of stories - realistic, religious and fantastical. The researchers then queried the children on whether they thought the main character in the story was real or fictional.

Start Quote

Religious children would more heavily rely on religion to justify their false categorisations”

End Quote Shadee Ashtari The Huffington Post

While nearly all children found the figures in the realistic narratives to be real, secular and religious children were split on religious stories. Children with a religious upbringing tended to view the protagonists in religious stories as real, whereas children from non-religious households saw them as fictional.

Although this might be unsurprising, secular and religious children also differed in their interpretation of fantasy narratives where there was a supernatural or magical storyline.

"Secular children were more likely than religious children to judge the protagonist in such fantastical stories to be fictional," wrote the researchers.

"The results suggest that exposure to religious ideas has a powerful impact on children's differentiation between reality and fiction, not just for religious stories but also for fantastical stories."

Some commentators believe these findings show that religious children use their specific background to explain the magical elements of fantasy stories.

Three Joseph stories

Religious: "This is Joseph. Joseph was sent to a mean king in a land far away. However, God sent Joseph many dreams warning about terrible storms, and Joseph used those dreams to tell the king how to protect his kingdom from the storms. The king was so amazed by Joseph and they became friends."

Fantastical: "This is Joseph. Joseph was sent to a mean king in a land far away where there were terrible storms. Joseph used his magical powers to see into the future, and told the king how to protect his kingdom from the storms. The king was so amazed by Joseph and they became friends."

Realistic: "This is Joseph. Joseph was sent to a mean king in a land far away where there were terrible storms. The king realised that Joseph was very good at looking at clouds and predicting when there would be rain. The king was so amazed by Joseph and they became friends."

"By relating seemingly impossible religious events achieved through divine intervention (eg, Jesus transforming water into wine) to fictional narratives, religious children would more heavily rely on religion to justify their false categorisations," writes Shadee Ashtari for the Huffington Post.

This blurring of reality and fantasy, even for children, is not always a good thing, says notable atheist blogger Hemant Mehta.

"Religion blurs the lines between fact and fiction. You only hope kids exposed to it figure it out soon enough," he writes for Patheos.

In a provocative fashion, Mehta says that the study could be viewed as "evidence for those who believe religious indoctrination is a form of mental child abuse."

But not all commentators saw this study as critical of a religious rearing.

"This study proves a benefit of religion, not a detriment, because research shows how imaginative and fictional thinking, fantasy play, aid in the cognitive development of children," writes Eliyahu Federman in USA Today. "Raising children with fantastical religious tales is not bad after all."

Start Quote

Secular kids are taught to lose their sense of wonder and imagination at an earlier age”

End Quote Jenny Erikson The Stir

Although Federman believes that religion can sometimes lead to harmful thinking particularly within the world of science, it can hardly be viewed as a hindrance for developmental growth.

"Those claiming that belief in religious stories harms children should be interpreting research and science correctly," he says.

"Not only is there benefit in allowing children to think imaginatively without forcing them into the mindset of perceived reality, but according to at least one study, raising children with religion also increases self-esteem, lowers anxiety, risk of suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, and dangerous sexual behaviour."

But other commentators found that the implications of the research should not be taken so seriously.

"Are we really going to say that kids who are taught to believe the Bible is true are somehow developmentally delayed because they're more likely, at age 5 or 6, to believe fantastical things?" writes Jenny Erikson for the Stir.

"Flip side to this equation could be that secular kids are taught to lose their sense of wonder and imagination at an earlier age than their Bible-believing friends."

Prosblogion's Helen De Cruz says that while there may be some truth to the results, what the study really shows is that the religious children know their Bible stories.

"The Bible characters are presented to them as historical, so of course they would be more likely to judge them as historical than children who didn't hear about these characters," she writes.

She says the subject deserves further study before drawing conclusions. For instance, would children exposed to scientific study at a young age be more inclined to believe pseudoscientific claims? Would Christian children be more likely to believe miracle narratives from other religions?

Only at that point could such inquiries be more than just fuel for a media-hyped religion debate, she contends.

(By Annie Waldman)

Blaming Obama for a messy world

US President Barack Obama

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

The world was a mess long before President Barack Obama first took the oath of office, writes the Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman.

To lay the blame for the crises of varying magnitudes in Ukraine, Israel, Syria, Iran and China at the feet of the current US president, he argues, requires a fairly concerted effort to ignore history.

Recall the so-called halcyon days of the Ronald Reagan presidency, the libertarian columnist writes:

"There was endless strife hither and yon: civil wars in Central America; Americans taken hostage in Lebanon; a US military barracks blown up in Beirut; and Libyan terrorists bombing a Pan Am plane. The Soviets shot down a South Korean passenger jet. South Africa's minority white government tried to suppress a black revolt."

And things didn't get any better after Reagan left office. Once communism collapsed, Iraq invaded Kuwait , a civil war consumed the Balkans and multiple African nations, and conflict sparked between Pakistan and India.

Since the turn of the century, everyone remembers 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Chapman writes. But the world also saw Russia's invasion of Georgia, Islamic militants in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and fighting in Lebanon and Sudan.

"When was this era of harmony that Obama has somehow forfeited?" he asks. "It never happened. And it's not likely to emerge under his successor. Even at the height of our post-Cold War power and influence, nasty events happened all the time, and we couldn't stop them."

The world is often destined for dismal results whether the US intervenes or not, Chapman concludes. "If there are two ways to get a dismal result, maybe we should choose the one that doesn't cost us thousands of lives or billions of dollars."

The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt offers the counter-argument, writing that the current troubles in the world have been exacerbated by Mr Obama's decision to gradually withdraw from Europe and the Middle East.

If the US had stayed engaged, he argues, it could have better shaped the fallout from the Arab Spring and kept Russian ambitions in check. The Syrian civil war could have been resolved and the Islamic militant uprising in Iraq avoided.

"Obama thought he could engineer a cautious, modulated retreat from US leadership," he argues. "What we have gotten is a far more dangerous world."


The schoolgirls left behind - The world is forgetting about the Nigerian girls who were abducted three months ago by Boko Haram, according to Mohammed Adam in the Ottawa Citizen.

"Western governments talked tough, promised big, but in the end did precious little to help save the girls," he writes.

He says that the Nigerian government is also to blame for letting the tragedy fade from the front pages. President Goodluck Jonathan, he says, didn't even meet with the parents of the kidnapped until Pakistani child advocate Malala Yousafzai pressured him.

"What's happening in Nigeria is symptomatic of government in many parts of Africa: self-serving, uncaring and clueless," Adam concludes.


A nation still under the shadow of World War One - A week from today marks the 100-year anniversary of British empire's entrance into World War One. It was a decision that changed Australia forever, says University of Queensland Prof John Quiggin.

World War One represented the real birth of Australia as an independent nation, he writes in the New York Times. It took its place on the world stage, with nearly 40% of the country's fighting-age male population enlisting.

"But what a price," he continues. "Even the smallest Australian country town has, at its centre, a memorial listing those who served in the Great War, and noting the many who did not return." In total, 60,000 Australians died.

Even though Australia recovered since the war, he argues, the country's wartime death toll gave rise to a strong antiwar sentiment and moved the country away from British influence and closer to the US politically.


Court battles over MH17 are looming - Countries like Malaysia may be able to hold those responsible for the downing of MH17 accountable in their domestic courts, says lawyer Roger Tan in the Malaysia Star.

It will be difficult to prosecute those responsible in the International Criminal Court, he writes, so domestic courts may be the only place for justice.

"The biggest hurdle will still be to get the perpetrators deported or extradited to the relevant states," he says.

Another option is to bring charges against Russia in the International Court of Justice. The challenge there, he writes, is that Russia must be proven to have been responsible for the tragedy.

"Indeed, the road ahead in securing justice for MH17 victims is a long and arduous one, but we must never give up at whatever cost," Mr Tan concludes.


Siding with Hamas over Israel - Brazil has a history of sympathising with military dictators and human rights violators, says the Miami Herald's Andres Oppenheimer, and this trend continues as it takes up the Hamas cause on the world stage.

Brazil's government recently expressed its condemnation of Israel for killing civilians in the Gaza Strip and recalled its ambassador to Israel.

"Israel can be blamed for failing to prevent civilian deaths in specific cases during the Gaza conflict, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government can also be blamed for not doing enough to speed up the much-needed creation of a Palestinian state," writes Oppenheimer, "but Israel cannot be blamed for defending itself."

If Brazil continues to side with human rights violators and dictators, he concludes, it will never be taken seriously as a modern democracy.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Russian commentators react to talk of European economic sanctions following the downing of MH17.

"The actions of our now-erstwhile European allies are only making the situation worse, forcing Russia to take countermeasures across all fields of co-operation" - Yevgeny Shestakov in state-owned Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

"I do not think I have ever seen such a dense stream of hatred aimed at our country. Russia is being widely described as a 'rogue state'... I don't believe we can beat the myths any time soon - the myths that are poisoning, killing and dragging Europe into an abyss." - Mikhail Rostovsky Moskovsky Komsomolets.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that the White House is getting public opinion ready for active US participation in the fighting in Ukraine." - Vladimir Skosyrev in Nezavisimaya Gazeta.‎

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Indian or American: Congressman's 'oops'

Representative Curt Clawson speaks during a congressional hearing on US-India relations.

Last Thursday US Representative Curt Clawson mistook two senior US officials testifying at a congressional hearing for representatives of the government of India.

In an awkward exchange that quickly went viral, the Florida Republican boasted of attending school in India and his love of Indian films to Nisha Biswal of the state department and Arun Kumar of the commerce department.

"I am familiar with your country," he told the two assistant secretaries. "I love your country."

Start Quote

Sadly, it's becoming extremely uncommon for members of Congress to actually know what they're talking about”

End Quote Jonathan Capehart The Washington Post

He then went on to request that India open itself to increased US investment.

"I ask co-operation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing," he said. "Can I have that?"

A confused Ms Biswal responded, "I think your question is to the Indian government, and we certainly share your sentiments, and we certainly will advocate that on behalf of the US government."

Foreign Policy's John Hudson first covered the howler in his magazine's the Cable blog.

"It's extremely uncommon for foreign officials to testify before Congress under oath," he writes. "Even so, it's unclear if at any point Clawson realised his mistake, despite the existence of a witness list distributed to the various members detailing Biswal and Kumar's positions."

The story made the rounds on Twitter and the liberal blogosphere, with many commentators taking shots at the recently elected conservative Tea Party-backed candidate's error.

"Note to the rookie (and, naturally, Tea Party) member of Congress: The name does not define the person, let alone the nationality," writes the Los Angeles Times's Scott Martelle.

US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal. Nisha Biswal serves as US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs

"Mr Clawson won a special election to replace fellow Republican Trey Radel, who quit after getting caught buying cocaine," he continues. "Clawson ran as 'the outsider for Congress.' Voters should have asked him, 'outside of what?'"

The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart says that Mr Clawson provided a "cringe-worthy moment in race that was gobsmackingly bad - even for Congress."

"Sadly, it's becoming extremely uncommon for members of Congress to actually know what they're talking about," he concludes.

The story also got play in the Indian media, as the Times of India called it "a really awkward 'oops' moment".

Start Quote

I'm a quick study, but in this case I shot an air ball”

End Quote Curt Clawson US Representative

"The joke goes that many Americans know little about their own country and its growing diversity, let alone their own neighbours - not to even mention countries far away," Chidanand Rajghatta writes.

The Atlantic's Peter Beinart contends that the incident isn't just a reflection of the US's lack of foreign awareness, however. He says it has more to do with acknowledging the American-ness of non-whites:

"It's worth noting how unlikely it is that he would have mistaken an Irish-American for a representative of the government of Ireland or a German-American for a representative of the government of Germany."

Mr Clawson, a former college basketball player, issued a sport-themed apology on Friday evening:

"I made a mistake in speaking before being fully briefed, and I apologise," he wrote in a statement to Gannett's Ledyard King. "I'm a quick study, but in this case I shot an air ball."

Given Mr Clawson's professed love of all things Indian, perhaps he should have said he was caught playing on a sticky wicket.

Ivy League miseducation

Harvard graduates celebrate at the 2013 commencement ceremonies.

Mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be Ivy League students.

In a lengthy article in the latest issue of the New Republic, former Yale associate professor (and Columbia graduate) William Deresiewicz says that the prestigious private colleges dotting the US, particularly in the Northeast, are creating a class of entitled "zombies".

The author of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to Meaningful Life, writes:

"Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they're doing but with no idea why they're doing it."

Start Quote

The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them”

End Quote William Deresiewicz The New Republic

Ivy League colleges and their ilk, says Deresiewicz, have created an education-industrial complex that processes the children of privilege from cradle to diploma and beyond.

Private and affluent public primary education, test-prep courses, "enrichment" programmes, volunteer service projects, international travel, music lessons, sports activities - all the high-cost building blocks of the perfect college application - put crushing pressure on the upper middle class and their offspring.

The ones who successfully navigate the college winnowing process are near perfect - or at least think they are. He says he observed the results in the students he taught.

"The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them," he writes. "The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential. The result is a violent aversion to risk."

College shouldn't be this way, Deresiewicz writes. Instead of four years of career training, it should be preparation for a thoughtful, well-examined life.

The door to the Harvard Office of Admissions and Financial Aid Few elite university students have had to deal with failure or real adversity, William Deresiewicz writes

What of attempts by admissions officials to achieve classroom diversity? While some colleges may give preference to minority applicants, Deresiewicz says, ethnic diversity only covers up socio-economic homogeneity.

"Visit any elite campus across our great nation, and you can thrill to the heart-warming spectacle of the children of white businesspeople and professionals studying and playing alongside the children of black, Asian and Latino businesspeople and professionals," he says.

His solution is to democratise higher education, freeing it from the stranglehold of elite colleges and the crushing debt that such degrees often bring.

Start Quote

To believe that a college - Ivy or otherwise - can confer intellectual benefits in four years that you won't be able to attain at some point over the course of the next 60 is to believe in magic”

End Quote Osita Nwanevu Slate

"High-quality public education, financed with public money, for the benefit of all: the exact commitment that drove the growth of public higher education in the postwar years," he writes.

In the meantime, he says, parents should consider sending their kids to public universities or small religious or liberal arts colleges where they can be challenged by a more authentic diversity of experiences.

Deresiewicz's article has provoked a fair amount of discussion and debate, even within the pages of the New Republic (which, many commentators have enjoyed pointing out, is staffed predominantly by Ivy League graduates).

In an article on the New Republic's website, JD Chapman, an academic director of a Roanoke, Virginia high school, says that most admissions offices he deals with are keen on identifying and admitting the unconventional students Deresiewicz says they ignore.

In addition, he says, Deresiewicz relies too much on his own anecdotal evidence for taking the pulse of today's youth.

"My own experience suggests that thoughtful, curious people in this age group are widely prone to confused self-loathing no matter where they are."

The website IvyGate solicited comments from current Columbia students and, needless to say, they weren't particularly thrilled with the article.

"Deresiewicz does a fantastic job of ignoring the reason why security (not wealth, not fame, SECURITY) has displaced cultivating the mind as the number one takeaway Kids These Days want from college," Alison Herman says. "The Great Recession ripped away the mental, and often material, safety net that's necessary to prioritise Learning to Think over, say, learning C++."

Start Quote

Deresiewicz is unable to wean himself from the care and feeding of our self-anointed intellectual elite”

End Quote Chris Lehmann In These Times

Osita Nwanevu, a University of Chicago senior interning at Slate, writes that Deresiewicz places too much emphasis on the transformative power of higher education.

"To believe that a college - Ivy or otherwise - can confer intellectual benefits in four years that you won't be able to attain at some point over the course of the next 60 is to believe in magic," he writes.

The problem, writes Chris Lehmann in In These Times, is that Deresiewicz doesn't go far enough in his recommendations.

"Deresiewicz is unable to wean himself from the care and feeding of our self-anointed intellectual elite, nor from the bedrock conviction that all schemes of social improvement must be about them," he writes.

Lehmann advocates nationalising higher education and slashing tuition. He admits it's a long-shot, but so is Deresiewicz's "expectation that better-trained meritocrats somehow will rescue the rest of us".

This don't-send-your-kids-to-Ivies plan only works if everyone buys into it, writes the Washington Post's Alexandra Petri. In a tongue-in-cheek column, she notes the conundrum facing well-meaning parents:

"If some people don't get the memo about Massive Structural Shifts in How We Are Educated, their kids will get into Ivy League schools in your kids' place, and all the employers who did not read the article will keep assuming that going to an Ivy League school is a mark of quality and hire them instead."

And that, as they say in the hallowed halls of Yale, would stink.

'Eight suspensions for my children'

Children play in a preschool classroom.

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

While black children are 18% of the US preschool population, they account for 48% of the preschool children who have been suspended from school more than once.

That was one of the headlines from a March report from the US education department's Office of Civil Rights, which found that black children were suspended at a rate three times higher than their white counterparts.

In Friday's Washington Post, Tunette Powell writes that these statistics are more than just abstract numbers - they've been an everyday reality in her life.

Ms Powell - the founder the Truth Heals, a non-profit support group for families affected by absent fathers - says her two preschool-age sons have received full-day suspensions a total of eight times so far this year.

She says her four-year-old had to stay home twice for chair-throwing incidents and once for spitting on a classmate. One of the five times her three-year-old was suspended was for hitting a teacher in the arm.

At home Ms Powell disciplined her children and blamed herself for their behaviour.

"What was I doing wrong?" she asks. "My children are living a comfortable life. My husband is an amazing father to JJ and Joah. At home, they have given us very few problems; the same goes for time with babysitters."

It was only later, when she began talking to other parents, that she says a different, more disturbing explanation emerged.

"One after another, white mothers confessed the trouble their children had gotten into. Some of the behaviour was similar to JJ's; some was much worse.

"Most startling: None of their children had been suspended."

There are different standards for disciplining white and black children, Ms Powell asserts, and it's causing problems that stay with the affected children for the rest of their lives.

The solution, she says, is diversity training for early education teachers.

"Authority figures strip black boys of their innocence at younger ages than white children," she says.

"Diversity training for teachers and administrators would raise their awareness of how subconscious prejudices can drive racial discrepancies in disciplinary action."

Ms Powell recalls her own experiences being suspended as a child, and the shame and doubt it caused her.

"I cannot go back and undo what was done to me, but I refuse to let it be done to my children," she concludes.


New risks in the wake of Kenya's tech boom - The recent hacking of the Twitter accounts of Kenya's defence forces and its military spokesman have illuminated the need for greater technological security, writes Matunda Nyanchama for the Daily Nation.

With the rise of social media, mobile phones and mobile banking in Kenya, the country needs to realise that an increased reliance on technology comes with new risks, he says.

"Unmitigated risks obviously lead to losses, which can be material as in the cases of banks," writes Nyanchama. "It could also be harmful to the reputation, leading to loss of confidence and trust."

In order to face the new risks, Nyanchama says that Kenya should invest in local talent and challenge them to improve security.

South Korea

From secretary general to president? - With the UN secretary general's second term ending in 2016, commentators are wondering whether Ban Ki-moon will throw his hat into the South Korean presidential race in 2017.

"True, it's not rare for former heads of international organisations to emerge as powerful figures in domestic politics thanks to his or her enhanced recognition while serving for the organisations," writes Sah Dong-seok for the Korea Times.

Mr Ban could face electoral obstacles, however, such as his lack of a domestic political base and his age - in 2017, he will be 73 years old, says Sah.

"Ban has never talked about his running for presidency, and it's generally said that that's not what he wants, especially in light of the fact that he is not a politician but a diplomat," Sah concludes. "But it's also true nothing is impossible in the subtle political world."


The impact of Scottish independence on Nato - If Scotland achieves independence with their upcoming referendum vote, their new statehood could have significant implications for Nato, writes Leo Michel for the Los Angeles Times.

Notably, the pro-independence leaders driving the referendum have pledged to end arrangements that allow the British to base their ballistic missile submarines and nuclear warheads on Scotland's west coast.

"That would be a tough blow for Britain's two nuclear allies and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as a whole," Michel writes.


John Oliver, a threat to monarchy and juntas - Television host John Oliver's viral comedic rants have landed him on the Thai junta's threat list, writes Andrew MacGregor Marshall for Vice News.

An official document leaked to the media organisation shows that the Thai junta that took over the government in May felt threatened by Mr Oliver's sarcastic diatribes, particularly his derision of the Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.

"While comical, the paranoia of Thailand's military dictators about seemingly innocuous satire is well founded," writes Marshall. When people start laughing at their dictators, he notes, revolution is often not far behind the laughter, he says,

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Middle East commentators address the chances that a Gaza ceasefire talks will achieve a lasting peace.

"Hamas and Islamic Jihad … are fighting a life-or-death battle in which there is no room for retreat until their main objective is achieved - lifting the siege on Gaza. Anything short of that is defeat." - Randa Haydar in Lebanon's al-Nahar.

"The unrelenting Kerry has devised a ceasefire proposal that totters between the Egyptian proposal, which humiliated Hamas, and the Qatari proposal, which gave Hamas a victory feeling… This is bitter pill for Israel." - Nahum Barnea in Israel's Yedioth Aharonot.

"The battle in Gaza will not liberate Palestine, but it will liberate our minds from misconceptions and delusions… It will remind the Jews of something they often forget - that the Palestinians have not surrendered and will not raise the white flag." - Hilmi al-Asmar in Jordan's al-Dustur.‎

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The perils of sexy Facebook pictures

A woman in a bikini poses during Spring Break in Cancun, Mexico.

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

Maybe you should think twice before uploading your beach vacation pictures to Facebook. A new study found that people with sexy photos on their social media profiles are often judged as less competent than those who post more conservative snapshots of themselves.

Oregon State University researchers asked 118 young women to judge two nearly identical Facebook pages that hosted different profile pictures - and unsurprisingly, the page with a sexy profile picture was condemned.

"The message here is that to be on social media, you must present yourself for objectification, but you can't objectify yourself - or go too far with your social media persona," writes SE Smith for the Daily Dot.

Of course, the online sphere is only reflecting what has been omnipresent in our non-digital society for years, Smith says:

"Women can't get ahead no matter what they do, and this is a society where women who are sexual (or present themselves sexually) are judged. But on the flip side, women who don't take enough care in their appearance, who dress sloppily, who don't fit the required metric of how women should look, are also criticized".

Although this study may be unsurprising, it does show that simple social media choices can have consequences.

"The study authors suggest that women and girls should select images that speak to their identities, such as pictures of them engaged in activities they like doing," Smith writes. "But is that really the answer?"

There's a larger issue at play here that goes beyond bullying and unkind judgements, she contends. "Women and girls are being judged on how they look, not who they are."

In the long run, having more conversations with young women about judgemental attitudes might be the way to go, writes Claire Hannum for the Frisky.

"Double standards aren't fun to talk about, but it may help girls to better understand why the world seems so hung up on their appearance," she says.

Young women should be taught to be aware of the implications of posting sexy photos on social media, but at the same time they should be wary of enforcing the double standard, writes Jihan Forbes for the Fashion Spot.

"Yes, it is important for girls to present themselves in ways that don't spotlight their sexuality, but from a feminist perspective, it is equally important for young ladies to not see overt displays of sexuality as a sign of a deviant personality," says Forbes.


Nigerian schoolgirls still missing, amidst fears of sexual abuse - One hundred days have passed since Boko Haram kidnapped the Chibok schoolgirls, and now some fear that they may have been raped while under the custody of the northern Nigerian militants.

"They carted them off to unknown forest locations where they are still being held," writes Evelyn Leopold for the Huffington Post. "Some who escaped told of gang rapes. So much for religion."

Although religion is at the core of Boko Haram's ideology, Leopold says that the militant group continues to commit human rights violations.

"Whether you call the girl a 'wife' or an 'infidel', abducting and molesting her is still rape with religion used as a cover to justify carnal assault," she writes.


Focus on solving the humanitarian crisis, not only the political one - With the intensity of conflict in the Middle East rising in recent weeks, "the humanitarian crisis in Syria threatens to become a sideshow", write former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and President of International Rescue Committee David Miliband in Foreign Policy magazine.

The political complexity of the Syrian crisis should not be the excuse for inaction, they say.

"For too long, a focus on the humanitarian situation was seen as a diversion from the political track," Ms Albright and Mr Miliband write. "In fact, progress on the humanitarian front needs to be the first step toward political progress."

Focusing on the humanitarian crisis, they conclude, could create a foundation for political negotiations.


Election success about more than religion - The results of Indonesia's election are reason to celebrate, but they should not be seen as a lesson for Muslim democracy, says Quartz's Bobby Ghosh.

"That view is highly patronising, of Indonesians, of Arabs and of Muslims in general. It is also just plain wrong," he writes.

The country's democratic success has little to do with what its dominant religion is, Ghosh continues. The democratic victory is more a reflection of the determination the nation's citizens, he adds.

Muslims don't need evidence that Islam and democracy can coexist because they already do in the Koran, the Hadith and in the words of the Prophet Muhammad, he concludes.


Carbon tax is a victim of thin wallets - Australia rescinded its carbon tax last week because voters are more worried about finances than the environment right now, says the Globe and Mail's Margaret Wente.

"During the 2007 election, both major parties promised tough action on the climate. Then came the recession, and people's worries shifted elsewhere," she writes.

Despite environmentalists' worries about the consequences of the repeal, it all comes down to the present voter priorities, Wente adds.

"In the ideal world of economic models, carbon taxes might be great," she concludes. "But in the real world, they're a loser."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Palestinian and Israeli commentators do not see the current hostilities in Gaza coming to an end anytime soon.

"Israel has blocked all roads leading to a political breakthrough in the West Bank, and it has breached all moral values in Gaza." - Editorial in Palestinian Al-Quds.

"Israel's strategy of prolonging the war by another 17 days or more... in order to put pressure on the Palestinian public to move against the resistance and erode its power will end in failure." - Munir Shafiq in Palestinian Al-Risalah.

"The Israeli demand to demilitarise the Gaza Strip of offensive weapons on and under the ground, which is backed by EU foreign ministers, is justified. On the other hand, Israel must free its long, punishing grip and set the strip free." - Amnon Abramovitch in Israeli Yedioth Aharonot.

"Have we already reached the point when Hamas is so damaged that the organisation will be willing to preserve the calm for a significant period of time?" - Yoav Limor in Israel's Israel Hayom.‎

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Plagiarism charge rocks US Senate race

US Senator John Walsh of Montana walks through the US Capitol building.

On Wednesday the New York Times reported that Senator John Walsh of Montana plagiarised significant portions of a paper written in 2007 while completing a master's programme at the US Army War College.

The Times investigation compared the former adjutant general of the Montana National Guard's 14-page thesis with several previously published scholarly works. One 800-word section of Mr Walsh's paper appears to have been taken directly from a 2002 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report on Middle East democracy and US foreign policy.

Start Quote

I don't want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor”

End Quote John Walsh US Senator

(The paper provides a line-by-line interactive analysis here).

These allegations created particularly keen interest in the US political world - and not just because it appears that 14 pages is an acceptable length for a War College master's degree thesis.

Mr Walsh, a Democrat appointed to the Senate in February to replace now-US Ambassador to China Max Baucus, is running for election in November, and his seat is very much at risk.

Republicans need a net change of six Senate seats in this fall's balloting to take control of Congress's upper chamber, so any scandal that hurts a Democratic incumbent is bad news for the party.

Although polls show Mr Walsh behind his Republican opponent, Representative Steve Daines, he had appeared to have been closing the gap recently. According to a July 21 Public Policy Polling survey, the Democrat trails Mr Daines by seven points, down from 17 last November.

US Senator Rand Paul. US Senator Rand Paul faced plagiarism accusations last November

Mr Walsh initially told the Times he did not believe he plagiarised, but later said he committed an unintentional mistake. He said he was taking anti-depressant medications at the time due in part to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from a year-long tour of duty in Iraq in 2005 and a fellow veteran's recent suicide.

"I don't want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor," Mr Walsh told the Associated Press. "My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment."

Start Quote

Running as an ex-military candidate means running on a military tradition of honour”

End Quote Chris Weigant The Huffington Post

Plagiarism scandals are nothing new in the media-political world of Washington, DC, of course, and they're not always career-threatening.

Last November Buzzfeed reported that portions of Republican Senator Rand Paul's 2012 book appeared to be lifted from previously published sources.

The Kentucky senator's office told the website it "will implement a new 'approval process' to ensure proper citation in the future," and the Kentucky Senator continues to be considered a top-tier contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

In 1987 then-Senator Joseph Biden's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination was derailed by the revelation that he had been disciplined for academic fraud while in law school and had incorporated lines by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock into his speeches without attribution.

Mr Biden, of course, is now the US vice-president - something conservative wags on Twitter enjoyed joking about on Wednesday.

Many commentators have been quick to write off Mr Walsh's chances to hold onto his Senate seat, however.

The senator, writes the Huffington Post's Chris Weigant, is "toast". While some politicians can overcome plagiarism scandals, he says, this one is electorally fatal.

"Running as an ex-military candidate means running on a military tradition of honour," he says, "but when that honour is tarnished it can cut even deeper than with non-military politicians, in the eyes of the public."

Don Pogreba of Intelligent Discontent, a Montana-based progressive website, isn't willing to give up quite yet, though.

He says Mr Walsh's plagiarism is "the work of someone who probably didn't entirely understand the conventions of attribution in an academic paper."

One episode shouldn't overshadow Mr Walsh's career of service and heroism, he continues.

"I think most Montana voters will see the ethics of a man who put his life at risk in Iraq during a lifetime of military service and give little credence to a matter of appropriate footnotes," he writes.

Conservatives reacted to the Times report with optimism that a Senate pickup was all but assured - although Breitbart's John Nolte took opportunity to take a swipe the New York paper for what he says is continued liberal bias.

"You think if Walsh was ahead or close, NYT woulda' run this now with control of the Senate on the line?" he tweets. "Please."

Others objected to Mr Walsh's mention of PTSD in his defence.

"Not only is it a factually inaccurate statement since PTSD does not cause lying or cheating," writes "Uncle Jimbo" on his Blackfive military blog, "but now you have smeared all the people fighting their PTSD who do not use it as an excuse to cover up some sad character flaws."

If anything, this story should serve as a cautionary tale to politicians and those who aspire to office. Ethical lapses, no matter the reason, can have a long shelf life. What's buried in the past, particularly in the modern digital world, doesn't always stay there.

Study: Uninformed consumers waste money on name brands

A man stares at shelves in a grocery store.

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Today's must-read

A new study, writes Harvard behavioral economics Prof Cass Sunstein, shows that "the more informed you are, the more likely you are to choose store brands".

Tilburg University Prof Bart Bronnenberg analysed data from more than 77 million shopping trips from 2004-2011, matching the items purchased with the consumers' occupations.

For example, pharmacists were more likely to choose store brands of headache meds over national brands, and chefs often selected non-name-brands of salt and sugar compared with non-chefs.

Consumers without a college degree were more likely to purchase national brands.

"If all consumers were better-informed, then, consumer markets would look very different," says Sunstein, who co-wrote a 2008 book arguing that poor choices are often the product of unaddressed biases.

The report found that by sticking to generic products instead of national brands, consumers could save as much as $44b (£26b).

"It is the least informed consumers who are the most likely to waste their money. Unfortunately, many of them have little money to waste," says Sunstein, who served as administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs from 2009 to 2012. "One implication is clear - stores ought to be doing a lot more to help people recognise their potential savings."

Notably, younger generations also have an appreciation for non-name brands. Recent research shows that few millennials will spend the large sums of money needed to sport high-end brands.

"The millennial definition of cool does not correlate with high-end," writes Jeff Fromm for Forbes. "This is a wildly important distinction that many marketers miss."


Billboards featuring women spark cultural debate - In Istanbul billboards showing women's bodies have been spray-painted to make them appear more conservatively dressed, raising questions about the public display of the female form.

"Men of all political persuasions feel free to lecture women on how to dress and how to live," writes Elif Shafak for the New York Times.

With Turkey's past headscarf bans overturned, many women are increasingly feeling social pressure to cover up their bodies, she says.

"Those who once felt pushed to the edges of society have now created an environment where modern women like the shop clerk and many others feel more and more squeezed," she writes. "An atmosphere of social inequality and intolerance persists. In cultural battles, women suffer more than men."

Central America

US border crisis is the bitter fruit of gang deportations - As waves of children continue to cross the US-Mexico border, American politicians and journalists are grappling with the regional violence behind the crisis. Americans should realise that this violence stems from their own country's foreign policy, writes Georgetown University PhD candidate Michael Paarlberg for the Guardian's website.

"The current wave is neither new nor terribly mystifying," he writes. "The factors that push and pull them - extreme violence, extortion, forced gang recruitment and a desire to reunite with family - are rooted in the US's heavy hand in the region."

The US exported the gang epidemic to the region with its deportations of criminals and "undesirable" immigrants, Paarlberg contends.

"With each planeload of deportees, the gangs grew stronger, expanding their activities and recruiting younger members by force," he writes. "And it is precisely those children they target who await processing in our border detention facilities today."


The unraveling of a fragile state - In the past week nearly 50 people have been killed at Tripoli's airport as rival political parties and militias wrestle for control of the Libyan capital. It may be connected to the nation's recent parliamentary election, writes Mohamed Eljarh for Foreign Policy.

"The Islamist forces faced a devastating loss at the ballot box and now face a genuine existential threat," writes Eljarh.

Following the announcement of the election results, Islamist militias attacked the airport in hopes of stopping the new parliament from meeting, he says.

"Islamists have now opted for more extreme and unorthodox tactics in an attempt to reach some sort of bargain that would guarantee them a role in Libya's future."


Employment is the answer to the refugee crisis - The real crisis in Jordan is not the threat of Islamic extremists, writes the Atlantic's Alice Su. It's the country's increasing refugee population.

"From a humanitarian perspective, the refugee crisis is one of survival. From a human perspective, it's one of purpose," she says. "But what happens when immediate relief morphs into long-term sustenance, spilling out of the camps and into the cities?"

Providing refugees with employment would help them support themselves and their families, Su writes, rather than relying on resources from refugee camps. Jordan is unlikely to do that, she contends, "largely because the kingdom survives off international funding it receives for hosting refugees."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Regional commentators react to reports that forces allied with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) have expelled Christians from the Iraqi city of Mosul.

"This is painful not just for the Christians of Mosul but for anyone appreciating the value of this deep-rooted and major component." - Batir Mohammad Ali Wurdum in Jordan's Al-Dustur.

"The kind of Islam that now exists in Mosul will be used by the West against us. The expulsion of Christians allows the West to verify that we marginalise the 'other', love bloodshed and crave violence." - Abdul-Hadi Raji al-Mijali in Jordan's Al-Ra'y.‎

Have you found an interesting opinion piece about global issues that we missed? Share it with us via email at echochambers (at)

A life-saving cure with an $84,000 price tag

A photo of a form in Chinese with the positive results of a child's hepatitis C test A Chinese child is diagnosed with hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is one of the deadliest virus infections in the world, affecting more than 150 million people. The good news is a recently developed cure could save thousands of lives.

There's a catch, however. In the US, patients will be required to pay $84,000 (£49,000) for a 12-week treatment, which may limit the cure to only those who can afford it.

Without treatment, hepatitis C can induce chronic fatigue and fever, and eventually lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer or even death.

In the past, a patient with advanced hepatitis C would have had to endure long-term treatments with intense side effects. In some cases, a liver transplant would be necessary, costing nearly $600,000.

Sovaldi, the new oral hepatitis C cure produced by pharma giant Gilead, is much simpler and easier to administer than previous treatments, leading many to call it a "wonder drug".

Start Quote

It's remarkable that some large insurers have the chutzpah to complain that curing 3 million Americans of hepatitis C will bankrupt healthcare systems”

End Quote Peter J Pitts The New York Post

Many critics question why a drug as important as Sovaldi should have such a high price, however, raising questions on the ethics of pharmaceutical pricing. If Sovaldi can easily save lives, should its price remain low in order to have the greatest reach?

"This pricing, which Gilead attempts to justify as the cost of medical advancement, will have a tsunami effect across our entire healthcare system," writes Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, for CNN.

She calculates that if everyone with hepatitis C were treated with the new drug, at the current price the total cost would exceed $268b - more than what Americans spent on all prescription drugs in 2012.

"We cannot have sustainable medical innovation in America without prices that the health care system can sustain," says Ms Ignagni.

"Just think, could we have eradicated polio or smallpox if the treatments were priced like hepatitis C?" she asks.

Many, including the new drug's manufacturer, argue that the high cost of research and development justifies the high price tag. Critics counter that Gilead appears to be making enough to maybe reconsider its pricing strategy.

"Gilead, which had $2.3b (£1.35b) in sales for Sovaldi in its first full quarter alone, and the rest of the industry can well afford to show a little restraint," write the editors of USA Today.

"If they don't, they should expect more clamour for restraint to be imposed upon them."

Not all commentators agree that the treatment should be less expensive, however.

Start Quote

At the end of the day, insurers and Medicaid agencies have the final trump card here”

End Quote Sarah Kliff Vox

"It's remarkable that some large insurers have the chutzpah to complain that curing three million Americans of hepatitis C will bankrupt healthcare systems," writes Peter J Pitts for the New York Post.

"New treatments are a bargain. Disease is always much more costly," he says, citing the high price of a liver transplant.

In the long run, Pitts says that unburdened innovation will lead to lower total costs.

"Breakthrough drugs could generate huge new savings in the US economy - but only if federal regulators don't smother them in the womb with expensive and unnecessary legal hurdles," he writes.

Pitts argues that permitting pharmaceutical companies to charge a hefty price for breakthrough treatments encourages them to tackle complex (and expensive) medical quandaries.

Following a surge of criticism of the drug's high price, the US Senate Finance Committee initiated an investigation into Sovaldi in early July.

In a letter to Gilead chief executive John Martin, the committee questioned why the drug's price "appears to be higher than expected given the costs of development and production and the steep discounts offered in other countries". For example, in Egypt, the cost of the new treatment is only $900.

Ultimately Sovaldi's price may only shift if pressure mounts within the insurance industry, who will have to bear most of the weight of the high price.

"At the end of the day, insurers and Medicaid agencies have the final trump card here," writes Sarah Kliff for Vox.

"They could put their foot down, deny coverage for the drug and let massive protests from patients' ensue. But they haven't done that. While many publicly oppose the high price, they have also decided it's something they need to offer patients. And, even though they don't like the high price for Sovaldi, at the end of the day, they're willing to pay for the value it provides."

(By Annie Waldman)

Partisan primaries must go

US Senator Charles Schumer of New York. Charles Schumer thinks the way the US chooses political candidates is broken

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

US Senator Charles Schumer is known as a bare-knuckle political brawler. The third-ranking Democrat in the Senate and former chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, whose job it was to help his party win Senate seats, he has never been known to shy away from a partisan fight.

So the senator from New York turned heads when he took to the pages of the New York Times on Wednesday to endorse a major overhauling of the way US political parties choose their candidates.

Instead of the current primary system used in most states, in which each party holds separate elections to pick their nominees, Mr Schumer says candidates should be chosen in an open primary process.

In such a setup, candidates compete on one ballot, and the top two vote-getters - irrespective of their political affiliation - face off in a general election.

It's a system Louisiana has used for decades and has been implemented recently in Washington and California. Mr Schumer says it is a way to keep the extreme elements within political parties from dominating the candidate-selection process.

"While there are no guarantees, it seems likely that a top-two primary system would encourage more participation in primaries and undo tendencies toward default extremism," he writes. "It would remove the incentive that pushes our politicians to kowtow to the factions of their party that are most driven by fear and anger."

Voters in Colorado and Oregon will have the opportunity to heed Mr Schumer's call this fall, as proposals to implement open primaries in those states are on the November ballot.


Smart money knows no Chinese home - North American cities are working to create thriving offshore trading relations with China, as leaders on both sides of the Pacific talk up the strength of the Chinese currency.

At the same time, Jason Kirby of MacLean's Magazine writes, some wealthy Chinese are looking for the exit. While they may just want a greater return on investments or a means of hiding income from corrupt sources, there's a more disturbing possibility, he says.

These Chinese insiders might "know a swath of the country's stellar economic growth has been a mirage, fuelled by debt and wasteful investment," he says.

A debt crisis could be looming, Kirby writes - one that will "shake China's economy and seriously undermine faith in its currency".


European anti-Semitism hiding in plain sight - Pro-Gaza protests are revealing the presence of anti-Semitism and the tolerance of it in Germany and other European nations, according to Die Welt's Filipp Piatov (translated by WorldCrunch).

"It's absolutely fine to support the people of Gaza," he writes. "It's also OK to lay massive criticism on Israel. Freedom of speech and opinion takes precedence over objectivity. But when criticism of Israel turns into anti-Semitic heckling, that's stepping over the line."

Many pro-Gaza protests in Germany have escalated into violence, and there has been little mediation from police, Piatov continues.

"You think that anti-Semitism is a disease of the past, adequately dealt with in history class? That hostility to Jews is still very widespread and indeed even quite open in other countries but not in Germany?" he asks. "Then attend the next pro-Gaza demonstration, and head for the people yelling 'Jews to the Gas Chamber'."


Echoes of Sarajevo in 1914 - To understand the implications of the downing of MH17, writes the National Interest's Robert W Merry, one must look 100 years back.

The assassination of Austria's Archduke Ferdinand was a localised occurrence that set in motion a chain of events that led to World War One. Merry contends that a similar out-of-control spiral, in which Russian President Vladimir Putin is faced with few good options, could be unfolding now.

World opinion is turning against Moscow, he says, pushing Ukraine toward closer ties with the West. Although the crisis centres on just one part of the globe, it will have implications for the entire international order.

"There will be hardly any prospect at all of US diplomacy enlisting Russia's help in the pursuit of American goals in Iran, in the rest of the Middle East, in US efforts to deal with a rising China, in our efforts to maintain stability in the Caucasus or in global energy," he says.


Democracy on the brink - If the right person is elected in Indonesia's presidential elections, the nation's democracy will improve greatly, says Desi Anwar of Indonesia's Metro TV.

"For the first time each and every one of us realises the importance of taking part in the election, that every vote counts and everybody's involvement makes a difference," she writes in the Jakarta Globe.

True democracy requires balance, however, and this is not a simple task in Indonesia, she says. The country's new president must serve all Indonesians, not just those who voted for him.

"The pain of politics is never permanent," Anwar writes. "Soon we, too, will wake up to the fact that this has been nothing but one hairy roller coaster ride."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Pakistani commentators react to the US decision to resume drone strikes on militants in the North Waziristan tribal region.

"A military operation against terrorists in North Waziristan is playing out successfully. In this situation, the resumption of US drone strikes is totally unjustified… it makes the USA's [stated] intentions about peace in the region doubtful." - Editorial in Jang.

"It would be best if the US handed over the list of wanted people to the Pakistan army, if they have information about them." - Editorial in Daily Express.

"The US wants to create confrontation between the Pakistan army and the people. Chaos is being created through drone attacks. The government should take effective steps beyond mere words to stop the US strikes." - Editorial in Islam.‎

Have you found an interesting opinion piece about global issues that we missed? Share it with us via email at echochambers (at)

Waiting in the (West) Wing

Vice-President Joe Biden.

Vice-President Joe Biden, a man who has already run for the presidency twice, may have one more campaign left in him.

That's the near-inescapable conclusion one draws from the wide-ranging profile of the 71-year-old vice-president by the New Yorker's Evan Osnos.

According to friends and colleagues, Mr Biden wants to run - and he himself references a possible campaign to Osnos multiple times. There's just one problem - Hillary Clinton.

"Joe happens to be standing in the way of history," former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell tells Osnos, referencing the possibility of the first female US president.

If Ms Clinton were to bow out, however, Mr Biden would join the race "in a New York minute", Senator John McCain, a Biden friend, says.

In his 13,000-word portrait of the vice-president, Osnos describes the life of the son of a Pennsylvania car salesman.

Start Quote

He has seen the job up close, he knows what the job entails”

End Quote Barack Obama US President

He recounts Mr Biden's battle with a childhood stutter, his 1972 election to the US Senate at the age of 30 and the tragedy of losing his wife and daughter in an auto accident shortly before he took office.

Then there's Mr Biden's legacy in the Senate, including his chairing of Clarence Thomas's controversial 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings and the instrumental role he played in passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994.

As vice-president, Mr Biden has generated a reputation as a blue-collar, garrulous counterweight to US President Barack Obama's cool leadership style - an image that has teetered between cultivated average-guy folksiness and outright parody.

Osnos recalls the "shirtless Joe washing his Trans Am" headline from the Onion, a spoof website:

"The full package - the Ray-Ban aviators, the shameless schmalz, the echoes of the Fonz - has never endeared him to the establishment, but it lends him an air of authenticity that is rare in his profession."

Vice-President Joe Biden stands behind President Barack Obama. Over the last 50 years, every sitting vice-president who has sought his party's nomination has won

A former British official who has met with Mr Biden tells Osnos that the vice-president is "a bit like a spigot that you can turn on and can't turn off".

He says: "For all of the genuine charm, it is frustrating that you do feel as if he doesn't leave enough oxygen in the room to get your points across, particularly for those who are polite and don't interrupt."

But the jokes and the back-slapping persona belie a prominent role the vice-president has taken in the Obama White House. He was tasked with important domestic and foreign administration priorities, such as monitoring spending of the $787b (£461b) domestic stimulus bill and overseeing the US military drawdown in Iraq.

The vice-president took part in discussions over the war in Afghanistan, often conflicting with more hawkish administration officials who wanted to increase US military involvement. He has also taken a leading role in dealings with Ukraine.

Start Quote

Even if Biden cannot yet see a viable candidacy, leaving that prospect on the table keeps him in the deal”

End Quote Evan Osnos The New Yorker

President Obama tells Osnos he thinks Mr Biden would make a "superb president".

"He has seen the job up close, he knows what the job entails," the president says. "He understands how to separate what's really important from what's less important. I think he's got great people skills. He enjoys politics, and he's got important relationships up on [Capitol] Hill that would serve him well."

This kind of inside experience and connections are why vice-presidents make formidable candidates for their party's presidential nominations. Al Gore, George HW Bush, Walter Mondale, Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon all prevailed.

None of those past candidates have had anything like the looming spectre of a Hillary Clinton campaign before them, however.

According to a recent NBC News/Marist survey of early primary states, Ms Clinton leads Mr Biden 70% to 20% in Iowa, and 74% to 18% in New Hampshire.

Mr Biden's age could also be a factor. If he won, he would be 74 - the oldest first-term president in US history.

"I think it's totally legitimate for people to raise it," he tells Osnos. "And I'll just say, 'Look at me. Decide.'"

He adds: "How I measure somebody, whether it's playing sports, running a company or in public life, is how much passion they still have, How much they tackle the job."

Vice-president Joe Biden puts on sunglasses. Evan Osnos says that Joe Biden's "shameless schmalz" has earned him an air of authenticity

Bill Scher of Real Clear Politics even pens what he imagines could be Mr Biden's opening speech in a campaign against the former first lady:

"After working with nearly every major world leader, helping shape the Supreme Court and spearheading the implementation of the Recovery Act that prevented a 21st century Great Depression, I have a knowledge, expertise, and vision shaped by experience that almost no one has. I feel an obligation to share that hard-earned wisdom with you, and let you decide if I belong in the Oval Office, and not just tuck all I have learned in between the covers of a memoir."

There is, of course, the possibility, that all the presidential talk may just be Mr Biden's way of staying relevant in US politics.

"Even if Biden cannot yet see a viable candidacy, leaving that prospect on the table keeps him in the deal," Osnos writes.

As Vox's Ezra Klein notes, at this point in the run-up to the 2008 presidential contest, Ms Clinton was the prohibitive favourite and Mr Obama wasn't even on the radar.

The first presidential primaries are still more than a year and a half away, a lifetime in politics.

Joe Biden must know this. He has been in politics a very long time.

Driverless cars could change everything

The rear bumper of a Google self-driving car.

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

For now, it seems like a novelty - cars that can operate independently of human control, safely cruising down streets thanks to an array of sensors and pinpoint GPS navigation.

But if the technology avoids getting crushed by government regulators and product liability lawsuits, writes the Federalist's Dan McLaughlin, it could prompt a cultural shift similar to the early 20th century move away from horses as the primary means of transportation.

First and foremost, he writes, the spread of driverless cars will likely greatly reduce the number of traffic accidents - which currently cost Americans $871b (£510b) a year.

"A truly driverless road would not be accident-free, given the number of accidents that would still be caused by mechanical and computer errors, weather conditions, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and sheer random chance," he says. "But it would make the now-routine loss of life and limb on the roads far rarer."

Computer-operated cars would eventually reshape car design, he says, as things like windshields - "a large and vulnerable piece of glass" - become less necessary. Drivers will be able to sit wherever they'd like in their cars, which could make car interiors more like mobile lounges than like cockpits.

The age required to operate a driverless car is likely to drop, he says. There could be an impact on the legal drinking age, as well, as preventing drunk driving was one of the prime justifications for the US-wide setting minimum age to purchase alcohol at 21 years old.

There's other possible economic fallout, McLaughlin contends, such as a restructuring of the auto insurance industry, the obsolescence of taxi drivers and lower ratings for drive-time radio programmes.

The high-tech security state will also get boost, he writes, as GPS-tagged cars will be easier to track, making life difficult for fugitives and car thieves. Police will also be able to move resources away from operations like traffic enforcement.

Of course, he writes, the towns that rely on speed traps to fund their government services will be facing budget shortfalls. Privacy advocates could also get an unexpected boost, he notes, since traffic stops are one of the main justifications for police vehicle searches.

Finally, there's the prospect of the as-yet-unrealised futurist dream of flying cars. With computer-controlled vehicles that strictly follow traffic rules, McLaughlin says, "the potential for three-dimensional roads becomes a lot less scary and more a matter of simply solving the technological challenge".

Where we're going, we may not need roads after all.


Canadian government buries prostitution poll - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government is withholding results from a $175,000 poll that reveals the true attitude that Canadians have towards prostitution, says Liberal MP Sean Casey.

"[Minister of Justice] Peter MacKay has steadfastly opposed releasing the contents of that poll, despite the fact that the information contained might have been helpful to the Justice Committee's deliberations" on legislation that would make prostitution illegal, he writes in the Huffington Post.

The poll was leaked last week, however, and it reveals that Canadians are actually split on the prostitution issue. This runs counter to what Casey calls an "amazingly unscientific an online survey" on which Conservatives had relied.

"Deliberately, almost gleefully, withholding key evidence from the Committee should trouble Canadians who value honesty and integrity - regardless of what side of the prostitution debate they may fall on," writes Casey.


A national political sickness - The unlawful incarceration of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is a sign that the country is unwell and that world leaders need to take action, says Lopez's wife, Lilian Tintori.

"No one should doubt why Leopoldo is in prison: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is afraid of him, and he has great reason to be," she writes in the Washington Post. "[Former President Hugo] Chavez did not deliver and Maduro has not delivered on their promises, and they have systematically dismantled our fundamental freedoms - free speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press and freedom to vote for candidates of our choosing."

If world leaders do not intervene, she warns, Venezuelan economic, political and social suffering will persist.

"Government officials may have locked up his body, but they can't lock up his mind, nor can it silence the millions of Venezuelans who yearn to be free," she concludes.


A sharp divide over women's rights - Sexual violence in Egypt has been exacerbated by the influence of Wahhabi strictures on men's view of women in the country, says writes Alaa Al Aswany in the New York Times.

"At the end of the '70s, millions of Egyptians started migrating to the Gulf states for work," he says. "They returned heavily influenced by the Wahhabi reading of Islam, which forbids the wearing of swimsuits and obliges women to wear the hijab and keep their bodies covered."

Since then, he says, politically charged sexual violence has been intensified in Egypt.

Egyptian men's opinions on women are divided, Asmany continues. Some believe women should be regarded as nothing more than bodies, while others think women deserve the same civil rights as men.


The truth behind the Israel-Palestine debate in the US - The "not-so-secret subtext" beneath the US political debate over the current conflict in Gaza is that it is really a debate over the US role in the world, writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir.

"The current invasion of Gaza involves American guns, American money and the unswerving support of the American political elite and the mainstream media," he writes. Support for the Israeli invasion of Gaza is support for an activist, aggressive US foreign policy. Opposition, he says, is an assertion that the US, itself, is "sliding toward fascism".

He concludes by saying that Israel is the US's "Frankenstein's monster" - "a morally dubious and arguably unnatural creation that was stitched together with the noblest of intentions but not much foresight, and that produced a painful litany of unintended consequences".

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

The Russian media commentators continue to react to the downing of MH17.

"Americans always keep everybody under surveillance. And here, they've seen the launch of the rocket and do not know who launched it and from where. It is strange. Had they had evidence against the rebels, they would have already presented it." - Vitaliy Tretyakov in state-owned daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

"There is practically no doubt that the airliner was shot down by the separatists. First of all, they themselves announced it proudly, and the Ukrainian side has already released a transcript of their intercepted conversations… What happened was a consequence of the sense of utter impunity provided by the PR war." - Yuliya Latynina in Novaya Gazeta.

"After some 300 European citizens died, Western leaders will have to react to questions of their voters, and their attitude towards Russia could turn from complicated (political differences on the one hand, economic partnership on another) into a simple negative." - Nikolay Epple in Vedomosti.

"The plane was downed by the Ukrainian military on US orders. Americans had no other choice but to commit a crime. And because this disgusting act was done so carelessly, the naked eye can see who did it." - Anatoliy Vasserman in Komsomolskaya Pravda.‎

Have you found an interesting opinion piece about global issues that we missed? Share it with us via email at echochambers (at)

About this Blog:

Echo Chambers unscrambles the noise of the global debate, from social media to scholarly journals, Kansas City to Kathmandu.

About the Editor:

Anthony Zurcher is a senior writer with the BBC and editor of Echo Chambers, where he gathers and analyses the best in US and world opinion. He previously edited political columnists of all stripes – left and right, right and wrong.


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