A police officer conducts a security sweep in a conference room where G-20 heads of state will gather / AP
Leaders of the Group of Twenty (G20) meet on the
French Riviera this week, but their stay on the Cote d'Azur will be
anything but relaxed. The world economy is in deep trouble again,
plagued by sovereign debt crises in Europe and the United States,
persistent global imbalances and currency misalignments, low growth and
stubborn unemployment in developed countries, and inflationary pressures
in emerging economies. A year ago at Seoul, the G20 seemed finally
poised to transition from an emergency crisis committee to a global
economic steering group. The Cannes summit finds the G20 once again at
the heart of the maelstrom, in full crisis-management mode.
The narrowed Cannes agenda reflects this reality.
When France assumed the G20's rotating presidency a year ago, President
Nicolas Sarkozy proposed a sweeping summit agenda. Paris' ambitions
included an overhaul of the international monetary system and
comprehensive "global governance reform"--including enlargement of the
UN Security Council.
But ambition has yielded to sobriety. The Cannes
action plan will focus on two main goals: bolstering the recent eurozone
agreement, to ensure that the continental crisis does not spread
worldwide; and restoring momentum behind global growth.
The Cannes summit is the sixth since November 2008,
when George W. Bush first convened a meeting of G20 leaders in the wake
of the global credit crisis. The G20's record since then has been
checkered. Its zenith was the London Summit of April 2009, which averted
a 1930s-style depression by injecting $5 trillion (AFP)
into the global economy, including a trillion dollars in new IMF
resources. But subsequent summits in Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Seoul saw
this diverse coalition of mature and emerging economies begin to fray.
With the world economy once more in crisis, the
conditions may be ripe for greater G20 solidarity. But to be considered a
success, the summit must achieve six objectives:
Dampen--and Contain--the Crisis in the Eurozone.
After months of dithering, the seventeen eurozone governments have
sought to calm global financial markets by ratifying the terms of
the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the dimensions
of the Greek bailout. These actions are likely to have only a
temporary effect, however. The EFSF remains too small to cope with
sovereign debt crises in larger EU nations. It also does nothing to
correct a fundamental structural flaw: The eurozone is a monetary
union that leaves fiscal policy in national hands. The Cannes
summit provides U.S. President Barack Obama and other G20 leaders
an opportunity to escalate pressure (PDF)
on eurozone leaders. It also gives major surplus economies like
China and Brazil the chance to help contain a spillover of the
eurozone crisis, by using their massive capital resources to
bolster the International Monetary Fund's crisis-fighting resources.
Offer a Credible Plan for Macroeconomic Policy Coordination.
One of the biggest barriers to global growth is uncertainty about
the direction of economic policy in the world's most powerful
nations. To counter this impression of drift and disarray, summit
leaders must present a clear message on the steps they intend to
take (both individually and collectively) to advance the Framework for Strong, Sustainable, and Balanced Growth
(or Framework), which their governments endorsed in September
2009. That framework remains sound, but
follow-through--particularly on currency imbalances and sovereign
debt problems--has fallen far short. The G20 communiqué should provide
a menu of dramatic and credible policy options, based on the
reality that not all countries can export their way to growth.
Give the Mutual Assessment Process "Teeth."
At the 2009 Pittsburgh summit, G20 member states endorsed a mutual
assessment process (MAP), to evaluate the impact of member-state
policies in advancing the goals of the "Framework." Earlier this
year, G20 members agreed on indicators to assess macroeconomic
imbalances, as well as benchmarks against which such imbalances
could be measured. In theory, this marks a huge concession from
major countries like China and the United States, which have opened
themselves to external scrutiny, including by the IMF. In reality, as
former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo observes,
G20 members have weakened the MAP by "deliberately" undercutting
the fund's watchdog function. Leaders can correct this flaw in
Cannes by endorsing the IMF's ability to "name and shame" G20
members, consistent with the surveillance mandate set out in
Article 4 of the Fund's Articles of Agreement
Deliver on Promised IMF Governance Reforms. The emergence of the G20
as the premier forum for global economic coordination reflects a
tremendous and ongoing shift in global economic power from
established to emerging countries. In 1990, the advanced market members
of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
accounted for some 60 percent of world GDP. By 2025, that figure
will be 30 percent--roughly equal to the shares of China, India,
Brazil, and Russia. Most international institutions, however, have
failed to adjust their voting and governance structures
accordingly. G20 members agreed to modest shifts in IMF quota
shares and executive board seats to benefit emerging-market
economies, but implementation has lagged. At Cannes, the G20 should
provide explicit details of these adjustments and endorse a firm
timetable for implementation.
Show Commitment to Financial Regulation.
Three-and-a-half years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers nearly
brought the global financial system to its knees, G20 nations have not
kept promises to create common prudential standards for major
cross-border financial institutions. Obvious dangers include both a
reprise of the Lehman fiasco and a "race to the bottom," as
inconsistent national rules encourage regulatory arbitrage. The
G20's major institutional innovation to address such risks, the
Financial Stability Board (FSB), remains under-resourced and wildly
understaffed (with about twenty employees)--mocking U.S. Treasury
Secretary Timothy Geithner's description of the FSB--alongside the WTO, IMF, and World Bank--as the "fourth pillar" of the Bretton Woods system. At Cannes, G20 leaders should commit
to giving the FSB the tools it needs--and to expanding FSB
membership well beyond G20 countries. The G20 must also take steps to
police the world's "shadow banking system" and strengthen global
supervision of risky derivatives markets.
Revive the Global Trade Agenda.
The failure of G20 leaders to throw their collective weight behind
multilateral trade liberalization has been a huge disappointment.
To be sure, G20 nations have held the line against
beggar-thy-neighbor protectionism. But international trade remains
in crisis, with a proliferation of trade-diverting bilateral,
regional, and "mini-lateral" agreements threatening to fragment the
global economy. Over five summits, G20 leaders have repeated their
intent to complete the moribund Doha development round of trade
negotiations--and done nothing to follow up. Rather than breed
cynicism with another ritual incantation of Doha, the Cannes
communiqué should focus on two immediate concrete steps: extend
duty-free access for exports from the least developed countries,
and redouble support for trade facilitation. The G20 leaders should
also signal their determination to revitalize multilateral trade
negotiations at the upcoming WTO ministerial meeting in December.
As with all G20 (and G8) summits, the final communiqué in Cannes will
touch on a variety of other worthy issues--from promoting food security
to adopting anti-corruption measures. But its success or failure will
be judged by whether the assembled leaders take the bold steps needed to
contain financial risks, revive global growth, and adapt old
institutions to new realities.
This article originally appeared at CFR.org, an Atlantic partner site.
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
The drug modafinil was recently found to enhance cognition in healthy people. Should you take it to get a raise?
If you could take a pill that will make you better at your job, with few or no negative consequences, would you do it?
In a meta-analysis recently published in European Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers from the University of Oxford and Harvard Medical School concluded that a drug called modafinil, which is typically used to treat sleep disorders, is a cognitive enhancer. Essentially, it can help normal people think better.
Out of all cognitive processes, modafinil was found to improve decision-making and planning the most in the 24 studies the authors reviewed. Some of the studies also showed gains in flexible thinking, combining information, or coping with novelty. The drug didn’t seem to influence creativity either way.
Four and a half years of violent conflict have destroyed entire regions of Syria. Caught in the middle of all this horror are the children of Syria, relying on parents who have lost control of their own lives and are now being forced to make difficult choices in desperate circumstances.
Four and a half years of violent conflict have destroyed entire regions of Syria. Neighborhoods have been smashed by shelling and government barrel bombs, and towns have been seized by rebels and ISIS militants, then retaken by government troops, killing hundreds of thousands and injuring even more. The United Nations now estimates that more than 4 million Syrians have become refugees, forced to flee to neighboring countries or Europe. Caught in the middle of all this horror are the children of Syria, relying on parents who have lost control of their own lives and are now being forced to make difficult choices in desperate circumstances. Though many families remain in Syria’s war zones, thousands of others are taking dangerous measures to escape, evading militias, government forces, border guards, predatory traffickers, and more, as they struggle to reach safety far from home.
All of the downsides of being a subordinate, combined with all of the downsides of having to tell people to do things they don't want to do.
When researchers try to determine the types of workers who are most prone to depression, the focus is usually on the misery of those at the bottomof a company’s hierarchy—the presumed stressors being the menial duties they're tasked with and their lack of say in defining the scope of their jobs.
But it turns out that middle managers have it worse. In a new study from researchers at Columbia University, of nearly 22,000 full-time workers (from a dataset from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions), they saw that 18 percent of supervisors and managers reported symptoms of depression. For blue-collar workers, that figure was 12 percent, and for owners and executives, it was only 11 percent.
It is not too late to strengthen the Iran deal, a prominent critic says.
It appears likely, as of this writing, that Barack Obama will be victorious in his fight to implement the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by his secretary of state, John Kerry. Republicans in Congress don’t appear to have the votes necessary to void the agreement, and Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign to subvert Obama may be remembered as one of the more counterproductive and shortsighted acts of an Israeli prime minister since the rebirth of the Jewish state 67 years ago.
Things could change, of course, and the Iranian regime, which is populated in good part by extremists, fundamentalist theocrats, and supporters of terrorism, could do something monumentally stupid in the coming weeks that could force on-the-fence Democrats to side with their Republican adversaries (remember the Café Milano fiasco, anyone?). But, generally speaking, the Obama administration, and its European allies, seem to have a clearer path to implementation than they had at the beginning of the month.
A new study finds an algorithmic word analysis is flawless at determining whether a person will have a psychotic episode.
Although the language of thinking is deliberate—let me think, I have to do some thinking—the actual experience of having thoughts is often passive. Ideas pop up like dandelions; thoughts occur suddenly and escape without warning. People swim in and out of pools of thought in a way that can feel, paradoxically, mindless.
Most of the time, people don’t actively track the way one thought flows into the next. But in psychiatry, much attention is paid to such intricacies of thinking. For instance, disorganized thought, evidenced by disjointed patterns in speech, is considered a hallmark characteristic of schizophrenia. Several studies of at-risk youths have found that doctors are able to guess with impressive accuracy—the best predictive models hover around 79 percent—whether a person will develop psychosis based on tracking that person’s speech patterns in interviews.
But no tale of posthumous success is quite as spectacular as that of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the “cosmic horror” writer who died in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1937 at the age of 46. The circumstances of Lovecraft’s final years were as bleak as anyone’s. He ate expired canned food and wrote to a friend, “I was never closer to the bread-line.” He never saw his stories collectively published in book form, and, before succumbing to intestinal cancer, he wrote, “I have no illusions concerning the precarious status of my tales, and do not expect to become a serious competitor of my favorite weird authors.” Among the last words the author uttered were, “Sometimes the pain is unbearable.” His obituary in the Providence Evening Bulletin was “full of errors large and small,” according to his biographer.
Every time you shrug, you don’t need to Google, then copy, then paste.
Updated, 2:20 p.m.
All hail ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
In its 11 strokes, the symbol encapsulates what it’s like to be an individual on the Internet. With raised arms and a half-turned smile, it exudes the melancholia, the malaise, the acceptance, and (finally) the embrace of knowing that something’s wrong on the Internet and you can’t do anything about it.
As Kyle Chayka writes in a new history of the symbol at The Awl, the meaning of the “the shruggie” is always two, if not three- or four-, fold. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ represents nihilism, “bemused resignation,” and “a Zen-like tool to accept the chaos of universe.” It is Sisyphus in unicode. I use it at least 10 times a day.
For a long time, however, I used it with some difficulty. Unlike better-known emoticons like :) or ;), ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ borrows characters from the Japanese syllabary called katakana. That makes it a kaomoji, a Japanese emoticon; it also makes it, on Western alphabetical keyboards at least, very hard to type. But then I found a solution, and it saves me having to google “smiley sideways shrug” every time I want to quickly rail at the world’s inherent lack of meaning.
Yanis Varoufakis on Grexit, the media, and economics
When Yanis Varoufakis was elected to parliament and then named as Greek finance minister in January, he embarked on an extraordinary seven months of negotiations with the country’s creditors and its European partners.
On July 6, Greek voters backed his hardline stance in a referendum, with a resounding 62 percent voting No to the European Union’s ultimatum. On that night, he resigned, after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, fearful of an ugly exit from the euro zone, decided to go against the popular verdict. Since then, the governing party, Syriza, has splintered and a snap election has been called. Varoufakis remains a member of parliament and a prominent voice in Greek and European politics.
A new study shows that the field suffers from a reproducibility problem, but the extent of the issue is still hard to nail down.
No one is entirely clear on how Brian Nosek pulled it off, including Nosek himself. Over the last three years, the psychologist from the University of Virginia persuaded some 270 of his peers to channel their free time into repeating 100 published psychological experiments to see if they could get the same results a second time around. There would be no glory, no empirical eurekas, no breaking of fresh ground. Instead, this initiative—the Reproducibility Project—would be the first big systematic attempt to answer questions that have been vexing psychologists for years, if not decades. What proportion of results in their field are reliable?