• Don’t believe the Brexit prophecies of economic doom

    The shock and horror at the Brexit vote has been loud and vociferous. Some seem to be reveling in the uncertainty that the referendum result has provoked. But there are plenty of reasons to reject the consensus that Brexit will be costly to the U.K.’s economy. Even though markets appear stormy in the immediate aftermath of the vote, the financial market reaction to date has more characteristics of a seasonal storm than of a major catastrophe. There will undoubtedly be winners and losers from the U.K.’s decision to leave the EU. But indexes for volatility are already lower than they were in February this year, suggesting that markets are not abnormally worried about the outlook, and U.K. government borrowing costs are at an all-time low. This is further reason to reject the pre-referendum consensus that Brexit would bring economic doom.

  • Brexit: Europe’s new nationalism is here to stay

    The British referendum that has delivered a vote for “Brexit” is the latest, dramatic indication that the atavistic nationalistic impulses of the twentieth century – impulses which the construction of the EU was supposed to lay to rest — are here to stay. This nationalism has brewed largely in reaction to how the EU has evolved over the past few decades. What started as a common market grew to embrace a single currency, the Schengen area, and integration in justice and home affairs. What we have witnessed with the rise of Euroscepticism is the recrudescence of a robust form of populist nationalism. It is sincerely anti-intellectual, offers facile solutions to complex problems, prefers what it calls “plain-speaking” over a well-articulated elocution, and is utterly unapologetic in its disdain for the establishment. Unless the EU can infuse its institutions with greater democratic legitimacy — voters need to be able to identify with the people who make decisions on their behalf — this populist nationalism will persist for the foreseeable future. The United Kingdom may be the first country to leave the EU but it may not be the last. Europe’s new nationalism is here to stay.

  • Brexit will not weaken European security: Expert

    On Thursday U.K. citizens will vote in a referendum on whether Britain should remain a member of the European Union or exit the EU (“Brexit”). The most recent polls show a slight advantage for the “Remain” campaign, but pollsters say the vote is too close to call. Some security experts have argued that British exit from the EU would weaken Britain’s – and Europe’s – capabilities in the fight against terrorism, but Thorsten Benner, the director of the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) in Berlin, disagrees. He argues that it is unlikely we will see a fundamental weakening of European security should U.K. voters choose to leave the European Union.

  • Trump’s "America First": Echoes from 1940s

    In his June 7 primary night victory speech, Donald Trump surprised pundits by reading from a teleprompter. He also spent a good few minutes talking about his signature slogan, “America First.” In July 1940 America First was chosen as a name by leading isolationists for an organization they created to lobby against American entry into the Second World War. What are we to make of Donald Trump’s decision, seventy-five years later, to revive such a controversial slogan as “America First”? One possibility is simply that Trump doesn’t know much about the history of the phrase and doesn’t intend for it to mean anything like what it did in 1940-41. But the fact is that whatever Trump’s intentions, the phrase “America First” has connotations that cannot be ignored. As in 1940, the upcoming presidential election seems likely to decide the fate of “America First.” If Trump wins, that phrase will likely acquire a new lease on life. If Hillary Clinton prevails, Trump’s “America First 2.0” seems likely to wind up as discredited as the first version ultimately was.

  • New urgency in preparing for solar storm Big One

    The specter of a geomagnetic solar storm with the ferocity to disrupt communications satellites, knock out GPS systems, shut down air travel and quench lights, computers and telephones in millions of homes for days, months, or even years has yet to grip the public as a panic-inducing possibility. But it is a scenario that space scientists, global insurance corporations and government agencies from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to NASA to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) take seriously, calling it a “low probability but high-impact event” that merits a substantial push on several fronts: research, forecasting, and mitigation strategy.

  • U.K. could lose access to terrorism, crime databases if it leaves the EU: Europol

    Rob Wainwright, the director of the EU’s police agency Europol, said that if Britain left the EU, it could lose access to important databases of terror and criminal suspects needed to fight ISIS. Wainwright said databases provided “daily” benefit to UK police in protecting borders. Leaving the EU would put intelligence cooperation in danger, he said.

  • John Kerry to meet leaders of Colombia’s FARC guerillas in Cuba today

    Secretary of State John Kerry will meet today (Monday) in Havana with the leaders of the Colombian Marxist guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). FARC has been fighting successive Colombian governments since the early 1960s, and is in control of an area the size of Switzerland in the mountainous jungles of central Colombia. In 1997 FARC has been designated a terrorist group by the State Department. Since last fall, the Colombian government and FARC, with the support of the UN, have been negotiating a peace pact.

  • Saudi Arabia leads effort to create a Muslim NATO-like alliance

    Saudi Arabia has approached thirty-four Muslim-majority countries with a proposal to create a NATO-like military alliance of Islamic countries to combat terrorism. The proposed alliance would not be formed to confront any country in particular, but rather would be put together for the purpose of combatting terrorism. It is unclear whether Iran will be invited to join the new alliance.

  • Aussie stationery chain pulls world globe which names Palestine, omits Israel

    The Australian stationery chain Typo has stumbled into one of the world’s most contentious issues – and had to pull a line of globes which named Palestine but omitted the label “Israel.” Israel’s name was not omitted altogether: The globe was designed so that Israel and twelve other small countries were represented by a number on the map, corresponding to a number in a legend at the base of the globe. The globe sparked charges of anti-Semitism, but the company’s decision to halt production of the globes has led to boycott threats by Palestine advocates.

  • Canada’s intelligence agency halts intelligence sharing with international partners

    Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the country electronic signals intelligence agency, said it has stopped sharing intelligence with several close international partners after disclosing it had illegally collected the communication metadata of Canadian citizens in the process of eavesdropping on foreign communications. In a report to parliament last Thursday, CSE said the breach was unintentional, and that it had been discovered internally in 2013.

  • Adelson offered to pay for Iron Dome’s development

    In 2013, shortly after Congress had passed a funding bill for the joint Pentagon-Israel Iron Dome missile defense system, Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada), then the Senate’s majority leader, received a call from one of his constituents, the gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Adelson asked Reid to convey to the White House a most unusual offer: He, Adelson, was willing personally to contribute $1 billion of his own money toward the development costs of Iron Dome.

  • It’s too late for a two-state solution in Israel-Palestine

    Many obstacles stand in the way of a two-state solution to the conflict in Israel and Palestine. The current wave of violence has cemented additional layers of distrust of Palestinians to the ones Jewish Israelis already harbor. The hatred is calcifying. Reaching a two-state solution is essential: Within a few years there will be more Palestinians than Jews “between the River and the Sea,” and without a Palestinian state, Israel will either have to give the right to vote to Palestinians or become an apartheid state like South Africa once was. Demographic changes taking place within Israel’s Jewish population, however, may make the implementation of a two-state solution, if it is miraculously agreed to by the two sides, impossible to implement. The most important structural change is that Israel is steadily becoming more religious, which is leading to a decline in the overall level of education and economic productivity of the Israeli population. Allied to the increasing propensity to religiosity among Israeli Jews are trends in the composition of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), a change that raises questions about the reliability of the army. The IDF is increasingly a religious army, recruited from the settler community in the West Bank. Best estimates are that if a two-state agreement is somehow reached, about 100,000 settlers would have to be evacuated from the West Bank under any such agreement. Could the IDF be relied upon to evacuate Jerusalem and West Bank settlements — as they did in Gaza in 2005 — with battalion commanders who are increasingly religious, and with religious soldiers who, in any event, are more likely to obey their rabbis’ instructions than their commanders’ orders? With every passing year, using the IDF to evacuate settlers from the West Bank will become more problematic, and evacuation less likely — which means that reaching, and implementing, a two-state solution is becoming less likely as well.

  • Could an end to Syria’s civil war be in sight?

    None of the previous attempts to resolve the conflict among the warring parties in Syria through negotiations, such as the Geneva II talks in the beginning of 2014, has had a happy ending. And, in retrospect most observers would go so far as to say that they were doomed to failure. But if, until now, there was zero chance for all principals, both external and internal, to work out a settlement, there currently exists a slender — a very slender — chance for success. A word of caution: Just because most of the parameters are in place does not mean an agreement will be reached. The “Clinton Parameters” — so-called because they were put forward in a last-ditch attempt at a solution by Bill Clinton in 2000, the last year of his presidency — are widely acknowledged to be the basis for any Israeli-Palestinian peace. They have been on the table for a decade and a half, and a resolution to that conflict is nowhere in sight.

  • Merkel: Germany will “drastically reduce” number of refugees arriving in Germany

    German chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday that she wanted to “drastically decrease” the number of refugees coming to Germany, indicating she would willing to compromise with critics within her own conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). These critics have charged that her open-door policy posed security risks to Germany and would expand the government welfare rolls.

  • French backlash, Egypt: no terrorism in plane crash, Libyan unity government

    The French right-wing Front National failed to translate its gains in the first round of France’s regional elections a week ago into any victories in the election’s second round on Sunday; Angela Merkel, facing growing opposition from within her party to her open-door refugee policy, said she would limit number of refugees arriving in German; Turkish prime minister Erdogan says the Middle East “would benefit greatly from normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations; the two rival Libyan governments are set to sigh a historic peace accord in Morocco on Wednesday.