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.
People look to Amy Schumer and her fellow jokers not just to make fun of the world, but to make sense of it. And maybe even to help fix it.
This week, in a much-anticipated sketch on her Comedy Central show, Amy Schumer staged a trial of Bill Cosby in “the court of public opinion.” Schumer—her character, at any rate—played the role of the defense. “Let’s remind ourselves what’s at stake here,” she argued to the jury. “If convicted, the next time you put on a rerun of The Cosby Show you may wince a little. Might feel a little pang. And none of us deserve that. We don’t deserve to feel that pang.”
Her conclusion? “We deserve to dance like no one’s watching, and watch like no one’s raping.”
Ooof. This is the kind of thing that gets Inside Amy Schumer referred to as “the most feminist show on television,” and her act in general called, in a phrase that reveals as much about her craft as about Schumer herself, “comedy with a message.” But while Schumer’s work is operating at the vanguard of popular comedy, it’s also in line with the work being done by her fellow performers: jokes that tend to treat humor not just as an end in itself, but as a vehicle for making a point. Watch like no one’s raping.
We're all going to die and we all know it. This can be both a burden and a blessing.
In the heart of every parent lives the tightly coiled nightmare that his child will die. It might spring at logical times—when a toddler runs into the street, say—or it might sneak up in quieter moments. The fear is a helpful evolutionary motivation for parents to protect their children, but it's haunting nonetheless.
The ancient Stoic philosopher Epictetus advised parents to indulge that fear. “What harm is it, just when you are kissing your little child, to say: Tomorrow you will die?”he wrote in his Discourses.
Some might say Epictetus was an asshole. William Irvine thinks he was on to something.
“The Stoics had the insight that the prospect of death can actually make our lives much happier than they would otherwise be,” he says. “You’re supposed to allow yourself to have a flickering thought that someday you’re going to die, and someday the people you love are going to die. I’ve tried it, and it’s incredibly powerful. Well, I am a 21st-century practicing Stoic.”
The former speaker of the House is charged with lying to federal agents and evading financial reporting requirements in what appears to be a case of blackmail.
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been indicted on charges of lying to FBI agents and evading federal financial-reporting requirements.
Hastert, an Illinois Republican, was speaker from 1999 to 2007. BuzzFeed’s John Stanton, who first reported on the indictment, notes that there were several high-profile congressional scandals in those years. Illinois is also a notorious hotbed for political corruption, as Roland Burris, Rod Blagojevich, George Ryan, and Jesse Jackson Jr. can attest.
But reading between the lines of the indictment against Hastert suggests a darker story than political corruption. In or about 2010, according to the indictment, Hastert—a former high-school teacher and coach—met with an unnamed individual from Yorkville, Hastert’s hometown. They “discussed past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.” In effect, Hastert fell victim to blackmail, the indictment alleges: He “agreed to provide Individual A $3.5 million in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A.” (Since leaving the House, Hastert has become a highly paid lobbyist.)
A challenge based on four words of the law amounts to little more than politics dressed up as a legal argument.
The Supreme Court is about to decide another blockbuster case arising under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The specific issue is whether federal-tax subsidies are available to people who purchase health insurance from exchanges operated by the federal government or instead whether such subsidies are available only from exchanges established by the states. A decision in favor of the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell would most likely cripple the ACA in over thirty states and deprive millions of people of health insurance.
That the Supreme Court even agreed to hear the case is the result of an improbable conjunction of events. Two committed opponents of the ACA seized upon four words of the law out of almost 1000 pages, and through their persistent and energetic work, created a powerful soundbite that appealed to die-hard opponents of the ACA. They then took that sound bite and dressed it up in highly technical arguments about statutory interpretation that might well change how healthcare is paid for in the United States. But the soundbite is inaccurate, and the technical window dressing shouldn’t obscure the fact that the argument is based on a faulty reading of the text of the entire law as well as a misleading account of how and why the law was passed. At bottom, King v. Burwell is a political challenge to the ACA dressed up in legal garb.
Caves and tunnels have always been part of human life.
Caves and tunnels have always been part of human life. We've grown more adept at shaping these underground shelters and passages over the millennia, and today we dig for hundreds of reasons. We excavate to find both literal and cultural treasures, digging mines and unearthing archaeological discoveries. We use caverns for stable storage, for entertainment, and for an effective shelter from natural and man-made disasters. And as the planet's surface becomes ever more crowded, and national borders are closed, tunnels provide pathways for our vehicles and for smugglers of every kind. Collected below are more recent subterranean scenes from around the world.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Our roundtable on "Mhysa," the 10th episode in the HBO show's third season.
Every week for the third season of HBO's fantasy series Game of Thrones, our roundtable of Ross Douthat (columnist, The New York Times), Spencer Kornhaber (entertainment editor, TheAtlantic.com), and Christopher Orr (senior editor and film critic, The Atlantic) will discuss the latest happenings in Westeros.
Orr: It seems only fair. After Arya's brutally aborted reunion with her family last week, tonight we were offered a few literal and metaphorical homecomings. In descending order of satisfaction: Sam and Jon find each other once again at Castle Black; Daenerys adopts a city's worth of new dependents; Davos is accepted back into Stannis's embrace about five minutes after the latter sentenced him to death; Jaime (or most of him) reunites with a less-than-entirely-ecstatic Cersei; and Theon (or at least his self-described "best part") is delivered to his dad in a box. Oh, and Tywin Lannister is restored to his rightful place as the man in Westeros on whose bad side you least want to be, king or no king. (Paying attention, Joffrey?)
We've been here before, of course, in both Seasons One and Two: The penultimate episode overturns the Game of Thrones playing board—Ned loses his head, the Lannisters turn the tide on the Blackwater—and the season finale picks up the remaining pieces.
New research confirms what they say about nice guys.
Smile at the customer. Bake cookies for your colleagues. Sing your subordinates’ praises. Share credit. Listen. Empathize. Don’t drive the last dollar out of a deal. Leave the last doughnut for someone else.
Sneer at the customer. Keep your colleagues on edge. Claim credit. Speak first. Put your feet on the table. Withhold approval. Instill fear. Interrupt. Ask for more. And by all means, take that last doughnut. You deserve it.
Follow one of those paths, the success literature tells us, and you’ll go far. Follow the other, and you’ll die powerless and broke. The only question is, which is which?
Of all the issues that preoccupy the modern mind—Nature or nurture? Is there life in outer space? Why can’t America field a decent soccer team?—it’s hard to think of one that has attracted so much water-cooler philosophizing yet so little scientific inquiry. Does it pay to be nice? Or is there an advantage to being a jerk?
The danger of uploading one’s consciousness to a computer without a suicide switch
Imagine a supercomputer so advanced that it could hold the contents of a human brain. The Google engineer Ray Kurzweil famously believes that this will be possible by 2045. Organized technologists are seeking to transfer human personalities to non-biological carriers, “extending life, including to the point of immortality.” My gut says that they’ll never get there. But say I’m wrong. Were it possible, would you upload the contents of your brain to a computer before death, extending your conscious moments on this earth indefinitely? Or would you die as your ancestors did, passing into nothingness or an unknown beyond human comprehension?
The promise of a radically extended lifespan, or even immortality, would tempt many. But it seems to me that they’d be risking something very much like hell on earth.
There are two types of people in the world: those with hundreds of unread messages, and those who can’t relax until their inboxes are cleared out.
For some, it’s a spider. For others, it’s an unexpected run-in with an ex. But for me, discomfort is a dot with a number in it: 1,328 unread-message notifications? I just can’t fathom how anyone lives like that.
How is it that some people remain calm as unread messages trickle into their inboxes and then roost there unattended, while others can’t sit still knowing that there are bolded-black emails and red-dotted Slack messages? I may operate toward the extreme end of compulsive notification-eliminators, but surveys suggest I’m not alone: One 2012 study found that 70 percent of work emails were attended to within six seconds of their arrival.
This has led me to a theory that there are two types of emailers in the world: Those who can comfortably ignore unread notifications, and those who feel the need to take action immediately.