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In 2016, let's hope for better trade agreements and the death of TPP Joseph Stiglitz

January 10, 2016

Last year was a memorable one for the global economy. Not only was overall performance disappointing, but profound changes – both for better and for worse – occurred in the global economic system.

Most notable was the Paris climate agreement reached last month. By itself, the agreement is far from enough to limit the increase in global warming to the target of 2ºC above the pre-industrial level. But it did put everyone on notice: the world is moving, inexorably, toward a green economy. One day not too far off, fossil fuels will be largely a thing of the past. So anyone who invests in coal now does so at his or her peril. With more green investments coming to the fore, those financing them will, we should hope, counterbalance powerful lobbying by the coal industry, which is willing to put the world at risk to advance its shortsighted interests.

Indeed, the move away from a high-carbon economy, where coal, gas, and oil interests often dominate, is just one of several major changes in the global geo-economic order. Many others are inevitable, given China’s soaring share of global output and demand. The New Development Bank, established by the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), was launched during the year, becoming the first major international financial institution led by emerging countries. And, despite Barack Obama’s resistance, the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was established as well, and is to start operation this month.

The US did act with greater wisdom where China’s currency was concerned. It did not obstruct the renminbi’s admission to the basket of currencies that constitute the International Monetary Fund’s reserve asset, Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). In addition, a half-decade after the Obama administration agreed to modest changes in the voting rights of China and other emerging markets at the IMF – a small nod to the new economic realities – the US Congress finally approved the reforms.


Why stoking sectarian fires in the Middle East could be Saudi Arabia's biggest mistake

The Saudis are plunging into political snake pits without much idea of how they are going to get out of them

Patrick Cockburn

15 hours ago

Saudi Arabia will be pleased that the furore over its execution of the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr is taking the form of a heightened confrontation with Iran and the Shia world as a whole. Insults and threats are exchanged and diplomatic missions closed. Sunni mosques are blown up in Shia-dominated areas of Iraq. The Saudi rulers are able to strengthen their leadership of a broad Sunni coalition against an Iranian-led Shia axis at home and abroad.

The motive for the mass execution of Sheikh Nimr and 46 others, many Sunni jihadists, was primarily domestic. The threat to the al-Saud family within Saudi Arabia comes from Sunni extremists in al-Qaeda and Isis and not from the Shia, who are only a majority in two provinces in the eastern region of the country. Furious denunciations by Shia communities and countries will do nothing but good to the reputation of the ruling family among the majority of Saudis.

Saudi Arabia and its fundamentalist Wahhabi variant of Sunni Islam has been blamed by many outside the kingdom as the ideological forbearer of Isis, but the real danger for the monarchy is that it should be seen at home as insufficiently zealous as defender of the faith.


2016: The Year of the Billionaire

This presidential election could show how private capital and secrecy conspired to take the political process away from the American people.

By Adele M. Stan / The American Prospect
January 1, 2016

In general, it can be said that billionaires in America almost always have pretty good years, by at least one important measure: They have more than a billion dollars. They’ve made it into a club composed of 536 people, in a nation with a population of 321 million.

Over the past 40 years, their fortunes have soared, and according to new report in The New York Times, they pay precious little tax on them. That’s because they’ve bought the Congress that writes the tax code, paid the lobbyists who strong-arm the legislators, and funded the think tanks that crafted the policy strong-armed on the bought-and-paid-for legislators.

OK; that may be a bit of an oversimplification—not every member of Congress is in the pocket of the 0.01 percent—but not by much.

More and more, the billionaires’ influence is conducted out of public view, thanks to a Supreme Court with a billionaire-boosting majority, and a tax code designed by the billionaires’ lackeys to hurt the brain of any normal human who deigned to apply her intelligence to it.


Remembering Syria's heroes of 2015

Amid all of the hatred and horror of Syria's civil war, there have also been stories of compassion and bravery

Abdul Halim Attar, a Palestinian Syrian refugee living in Jordan, with his daughter

For Syrians, 2015 has been a year of violence, famine, siege and brutality, but amid the inhumanity and barbarism of war there have also been acts of heroism, generosity and love.

Here are just a few examples of heroism and compassion that grabbed the world's attention in 2015.

Hope for the unborn

In September, doctors in Aleppo performed an emergency caesarian section on a woman injured in a missile strike. Shrapnel had penetrated her torso and she feared for the life of her unborn baby.

A video from the Aleppo City Medical Council, a non-profit medical service, shows doctors working to save the baby, clearing her airways and rubbing her lifeless body until she finally takes a deep breath and starts to cry.

- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/remembering-heroes-2015-1335481736#sthash.4ZDFjcs5.dpuf
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