The Great Debate

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Here’s why oil companies should be a lot more profitable than they are

By Anatole Kaletsky
December 5, 2014

Shaybah oilfield complex is seen at night in the Rub' al-Khali desert, Saudi Arabia

The 40 percent plunge in oil prices since July, when Brent crude peaked at $115 a barrel, is almost certainly good news for the world economy; but it is surely a crippling blow for oil producers. Oil prices below $70 certainly spell trouble for U.S. and Canadian shale and tar-sand producers and also for oil-exporting countries such as Venezuela, Nigeria, Mexico and Russia that depend on inflated oil revenues to finance government spending or pay foreign debts. On the other hand, the implications of lower oil prices for the biggest U.S. and European oil companies are more ambiguous and could even be positive.

Vladimir Putin’s religious, ethnic rhetoric gets a little scary in Russian state-of-the-union address

By Lucian Kim
December 4, 2014

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Vladimir Putin lives in a scary world, where enemies plot tirelessly to undermine, trick, and destroy Russia. Containment wasn’t just a Cold War policy but a practice of Russia’s rivals for centuries. Even without a conflict in Ukraine, the United States and European Union would have come up with another pretext for imposing economic sanctions; they were an inevitable response to a rising Russia.

Old boys, new world: Britain’s upper crust looking more and more crusty

By John Lloyd
December 4, 2014

Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell leaves his home in London

England, wrote George Orwell in 1941, “is the most class-ridden country under the sun. It is a land of snobbery and privilege, ruled largely by the old and silly.”

An unexpected place for lessons to fight Mexico’s mafia: Italy

By Roberto Saviano
December 4, 2014

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At this moment, the fiercest, most powerful criminal organizations in the world are located in Mexico. Recent events should leave no one with any doubts.

Will change come from the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown?

By Alan Chin
December 3, 2014

People pick up signs with images of Eric Garner and Michael Brown as protesters begin to rally in New York

Everyone expected protests would flare up after a grand jury refused to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9. But some may be surprised that the protests continue not just in Ferguson, but also in dozens of cities and universities around the country. Demonstrations have ranged from the St. Louis Rams NFL football team entering the field with the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” gesture before last Sunday’s game, to major highways and bridges getting blocked for short periods by marchers in San Diego, Oakland, Washington, DC, and other locales.

Ferguson fallout: Violent protests can bring change – if it’s the authorities who are violent

By Alan Chin
December 3, 2014

Police officer holds a line in the rain against a group of protesters during a demonstration against the grand jury's decision in the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown, in San Francisco

Everyone expected protests would flare up after a grand jury refused to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9. But some may be surprised that the protests continue not just in Ferguson, but also in dozens of cities and universities around the country. Demonstrations have ranged from the St. Louis Rams NFL football team entering the field with the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” gesture before last Sunday’s game, to major highways and bridges getting blocked for short periods by marchers in San Diego, Oakland, Washington, DC, and other locales.

Orion, Dragons and Dream Chasers: What’s behind modern spaceship design?

By Irene Klotz
December 2, 2014

The Orion capsule is moved at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

As NASA prepares for the debut test flight of the first spaceship in more than 40 years to carry astronauts beyond Earth, a fleet of privately owned vehicles is in development to take over transportation services to and from orbits closer to home.

What’s behind the effort to make Israel, the ‘Jewish State,’ more ‘Jewish’

By Matt Duss
December 2, 2014

Israel's PM Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media in Jerusalem

With the myriad challenges the Israeli government currently faces – regional turmoil, unrest in Jerusalem, and opposition to a highly contentious budget — this might seem like an interesting time for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to promulgate a new law defining Israel’s identity as “the nation state of the Jewish people.” The bill, which was supposed to have been voted on this Wednesday but has now been delayed, would recognize Jewish religious law as an inspiration for legislation, and affirm that, “The right to the fulfillment of national self-determination within the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

How Ukraine’s arsenal matches up against the Russian-backed separatists’

By Robert Beckhusen
December 2, 2014

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On Nov. 18, several rockets fired from a separatist Grad launcher slammed into an apartment building in the eastern Ukrainian town of Toshkovka. It was another shelling in what’s become an almost daily event — as both sides in Ukraine’s civil war turn to heavier weaponry to shift the battle in their favor.

Want a helping hand? Try wearing high heels.

By Chloe Angyal
December 1, 2014

A participant runs during a high heels race in Tbilisi

A new study out of France’s Université de Bretagne-Sud in finds that men are more likely to lend a helping hand to a woman wearing high heels.