Digest: 7 October 2014




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In ISIS Ammunition is Shown to Have Origins in U.S. and China, CJ Chivers (for The New York Times) discusses the results of a private field survey by Conflict Armament Research, a private organisation with funding from the European Union.  Analysis of ammunition captured from ISIS show that almost a fifth of it was manufactured by two US companies, and most likely taken by ISIS from Iraqi forces. Far from stabilizing the region, the influx of arms and cartridges is now fueling ISIS’s military ability. China, meanwhile, manufactured one quarter of the ammunition in the sample.


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In Five Charts that Show Why the Global Economic Recovery Is So Very Disappointing, Ylan Q. Mui (for The Washington Post) discusses five points from the IMF’s downgraded forecast for global growth. The charts show that growth is slowing down in emerging markets, that advanced economies are achieving only middling growth and are thus not making up for the emerging markets. They show that inflation is too low, and that there is a real risk of deflation. Finally they show that another recession is increasingly likely.


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In Complex Organic Molecule Found In Interstellar Space, Michael Eyre (for BBC News) discusses the discovery of iso-propyl cyanide at the center of the Milky Way. The molecule was recognized by its particular spectral fingerprint of frequencies. As a complex branched molecule, it is the closest we’ve come to seeing molecules of the type necessary to support life, such as amino acids. Its presence suggests an increased possibility of life in other places in the galaxy.

In Climate Change and the California Drought, Noah Diffenbaugh and Daniel Swain (for The Brookings Institution) discuss how it is probable that human emissions of greenhouse gases have contributed to if not caused the California drought. While tracking influences in a highly complex environment to establish attribution remains a challenge, the authors argue that human emissions have increased atmospheric pressure, that increased pressure in turn deflects winter storms away from the state, and that this created the driest conditions seen in the history of California precipitation measurement.

In Selfishness for All?, Simon Zadek (for Project Syndicate) discusses how action on climate change is a huge opportunity for growth in the short and long terms. While some obstinate companies hold out against change to a lower carbon model, they do so at their own risk as public opinion shifts markets away. Zadek considers two current initiatives and argues for the importance of governments in the spearheading of progress.


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In What Difference Would a Republican Senate Make?, Anthony Zurcher discusses the implications of the Republicans taking a majority in the Senate in the upcoming midterm elections.  On several fronts, even if they lose the majority in 2016, they can make a significant difference. Zurcher considers the opportunity for policy changes to be included in large bills that the President may be pressured to sign in the absence of the Senate running interference. He considers the possibility of presidential nominations being held up, and the possibility for the emboldenment of the far right in the House.


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In ‘Living Wage’ Law Is Unconstitutional – If You Ask Lobbyists, Ron Fein (for Reuters) discusses efforts by industry trade groups to have Seattle’s minimum wage increase found to be unconstitutional for violating the 14th Amendment. Fein argues the 14th Amendment was passed to ensure equal rights and a fair living wage for freed slaves, but nowadays it is often used by large companies to protect their interests.

In Is ‘Civil Society’ Imperialistic? Putin Says Yes, And He’s Not Alone, John Lloyd discusses current efforts to undermine civil society in favor of a more authoritarian model. China’s Xi Jingping admires Vladimir Putin and has made doing business in China as a civil-society body increasingly difficult. In India similar concerns have been raised in regards to Narendra Modi. Fareed Zakharia refers to illiberal democracies, but of course democracies require civil society or they are not democracies.