Wednesday Night #1728

Written by  //  April 15, 2015  //  Wednesday Nights  //  Comments Off on Wednesday Night #1728

April 14 is the anniversary of the Boko Haram kidnapping. Exactly a year ago, 276 girls were abducted from Chibok in Nigeria and 219 are still missing. The abduction created a huge outcry around the world -“Bring back our girls” – and then, like so many other tragic stories, it was overtaken by others deemed more important or timely. It is good that President-elect Buhari acknowledges that he cannot promise they will be found – facing up to the unpleasant truth is far better than continuing with the empty promises of his predecessor. And there is still no relief for the 800,000 children who have been forced from their homes by the Boko Haram violence
“Children have become weapons [for Boko Haram], made to fight alongside armed groups and at times used as human bombs.” Children and youth, especially those who seek an education, are easy targets, and obvious ones for the terrorists who will only flourish among a cowed, impoverished and uneducated population that has not the resources to organize against them. Why else the slaughter in Garissa University and the Peshawar school?
219 is a small figure when measured against the more than 4,000 civilians killed in Nigeria in 2014, according to a study from the Project for the Study of the 21st Century and the latter pales in comparison to the staggering figures of what we might term the World Misery Index. The death toll of the past 4 years in Syria alone is estimated at somewhere between 125 and 251 000, with 9.5 million displaced. And there is the pitiful on-going story of migrants dying as they flee war, natural disaster (yes, including climate change) and oppression. The International Organization of Migration (IMO) estimates that over 22,000 migrants have lost their lives trying to reach Europe.

Random thoughts as Spring finally arrives.

Hillary's logo New Yorker reactionHillary is now officially running for the Democratic nomination! Wow, this is news? What is, perhaps, newsworthy is the low-key announcement and kick-off to the campaign. Our good friend Jim Heffernan thinks that this could bode well for the saving of millions of dollars in campaign expenditures (Why Does Hillary Need $2.5 Billion for Her Campaign?), but we suspect that would not be seen as in the best interests of her campaign entourage. Not everyone is impressed by the first moments of the campaign. Perhaps the New Yorker cartoon says it best.
And to add to our collective excitement — Marco Rubio has taken the plunge and here’s the transcript. We like the Washington Post take “‘Wait your turn’ is not in Marco Rubio’s DNA.” Another brief WaPost profile looks at Ted Cruz (isn’t it interesting that there could be two Latino Republican contenders) Principled or know-it-all?

A serious development that may have passed unnoticed in the excitement over the new entrants in the presidential sweepstakes: Reuters reports that In setback, Obama concedes Congress role on Iran deal
“U.S. President Barack Obama conceded on Tuesday that Congress will have the power to review a nuclear deal with Iran, reluctantly giving in to pressure from Republicans and some in his own party after they crafted a rare compromise demanding a say.
The role for the Republican-controlled Congress injects a new element of uncertainty into the delicate final stages of negotiations between major powers and Iran aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. … The bill that passed cut to 30 days from 60 the time in which Congress can review any final nuclear agreement and eliminated the requirement that Obama certify that Iran is not supporting acts of terrorism against the United States. Instead, it requires the administration to send Congress regular, detailed reports on a range of issues including Iran’s support for terrorism, ballistic missiles and nuclear program.” – we hope that means a report to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee – we would not be happy about reporting to all of Congress.

At the same time, Russia is wasting no time in stirring the pot, announcing that its ban on supplying Iran with a sophisticated air defence missile system has been lifted and it’s all set to deliver the S-300s. The conservative website Breitbart comments:  “Currently, Iran has weak air defenses and would not be able to do much to stop an airstrike. However, the Russian missiles will advance its defensive capabilities. Effectively, then, Putin is calling the world’s bluff. He is setting a deadline for Israel to make a fateful choice, and daring the Obama administration to intervene. More broadly, he is unraveling the P5+1 process that the U.S. has dominated recently–chiefly by leading the way in offering concessions to Iran. The “framework” of Lausanne is still murky, and a final deal is a long way from done, but Putin is already challenging the U.S. leverage that brought about the conditions for negotiations.” One Wednesday Nighter suggests: “If the Israelis do not react, Putin can interpret that as US reassurances to Israel that they will be given countermeasures to the Russian anti-aircraft system.”
If you are looking for reassurance on the Russian question, don’t read Joseph S. Nye: The Challenge of Russia’s Decline
As Europe debates whether to maintain its sanctions regime against Russia, the Kremlin’s policy of aggression toward Ukraine continues unabated. Russia is in long-term decline, but it still poses a very real threat to the international order in Europe and beyond. Indeed, Russia’s decline may make it even more dangerous.

For our economists, Quartz offers these points for debate: Governments should force people to spend more Interest rates and growth are low because there is way too much money and not enough to do with it. or abolish cash altogether. Citi’s Willem Buiter says paper currencies hurt the ability of central banks to spur growth.
From Project Syndicate (one of our favorite sources of think pieces) come two pieces on the AIIB.  In Asia’s Multilateralism, Joseph Stiglitz wonders why the U.S. is so opposed to membership of other economically advanced  nations, pointing out that “we should welcome China’s initiative to multilateralize the flow of funds. Indeed, it replicates American policy in the period following World War II, when the World Bank was founded to multilaterize development funds that were overwhelmingly coming from the US.” In an earlier essay, Kenneth Rogoff asks Will China’s Infrastructure Bank Work? He addresses the question by reminding us that “Far too little attention has been devoted to understanding why multilateral development lending has so often failed, and what might be done to make it work better. Multilateral development institutions have probably had their most consistent success when they serve as “knowledge” banks, helping to share experience, best practices, and technical knowledge across regions. By contrast, their greatest failures have come from funding grandiose projects that benefit the current elite, but do not properly balance environmental, social, and development priorities.” And concludes, “We should evaluate the AIIB by how it chooses and fosters projects, not just by how much financing it provides.”
Brett House is speaking in Geneva on Friday at the highly relevant IMF/CFD Conference: Financing for Development in Geneva. He is on the closing Policy Panel and advises that live stream is available.

Is the Mike Duffy Trial really going to consume the Canadian news cycle for the next two months with headlines like Mike Duffy covered Parliament for decades but never knew how it worked? Of course, next week we can enjoy an ever-so-brief respite when Minister of Finance Joe Oliver entertains us with his budget performance tap dance, followed by the theatrics in the House. A real variety show.

On the other hand, Pope Francis continues to be a true newsmaker, and more importantly, leader. First by calling the Armenian genocide what it was – a genocide – which riled the Turks. Speaking truth to power doesn’t win popularity contests. More unusually, we cannot think of another occasion when papal advice on leadership was promoted/published by any prestigious business school, but here it is, noted approvingly by the Harvard Business Review: The 15 Diseases of Leadership, According to Pope Francis.

Everyone who uses a computer has come across those annoying ads promoting “One Weird Trick” that will cure just about anything that might ail you. Presumably most of us are cautious and avoid clicking for all the obvious reasons. Slate has done us all (or those of us whose curiosity has been piqued at some point) a favor and assigned economist (!) Alex Kaufman to investigate on our behalf. Prepare to Be Shocked!

Thank you, Stephen Kinsman, for bringing to our attention this story from the BBC with the comment “the story sounds like something out of the spoofs The Dukes of Hazard television series or The Bandit movies with Burt Reynolds, Sally Fields and Jackie Gleason (who played the hapless sheriff), which most of us watched in the 1960’s.” Woman wounded in US armadillo shooting Authorities in the US state of Georgia say a woman was accidentally shot by her son-in-law as he was trying to kill an armadillo with a handgun. Police say the bullet ricocheted off the animal’s hard armour, entered the woman’s mobile home, and hit her in the back as she sat in a reclining chair.
No word on the fate of the armadillo.

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