European public figures are deeply concerned about the chance that China might want to make a big contribution to their rescue fund
A Chinese policeman on duty in front of the European Union delegation to China in Beijing / AP
It's fascinating to watch European public figures freak out over a possible "bailout" from China. Though the president of the European Central Bank, according to the BBC, "has denied that eurozone countries are going 'cap in hand' to China" to raise money for their rescue fund, clearly this is exactly what others think is going on, and they're far from okay with it.
Nicolas Dupont-Aignant, a current candidate for the French presidency, has called potential Chinese assistance "dirty money," saying China "exploits its people" and is "a Communist dictatorship." Granted, Dupont-Aignant isn't quite mainstream, being the leader of the Gaullist, euroskeptic Debout la République party. But the Socialist candidate for president, Francois Hollande, has also come out against the plan. "Can we imagine that China ... were it to come to the aid of the euro zone, would do so without any compensation?" he's asked. The French Le Monde has reported that he sees the proposal as an "admission of weakness."
Meanwhile, the head of Germany's BDI, or Federation of German Industries, has gone on-record in a German-language interview in Der Spiegel to say that "if we in Europe so organize the stabilization of the euro that we allow political influence from outside, then we make a great mistake." Elsewhere, German newspapers worry about China itself having financial troubles ill reflected in the "official figures."
What's so interesting, of course, is that the U.S. is already highly dependent on Chinese money. It's hard to think of the last time American leaders got publicly worked up over this, even though plenty of experts have expressed concern. The standard balm to American worries is the same one currently on offer in Europe: China needs the American and European markets just as the U.S., and now Europe, need ready cash. There's a limit to how much the Chinese, according to this argument, are likely to mess with us. They're not, for example, going to pull all their money out in one go.
Why are Europeans so much more anxious about relying on China? There are a couple of obvious explanations. The first is that, for Europeans, this will be a new form of reliance on China -- the U.S. dependence has been going on for a while, so it would be odd for Americans to be similarly excited. It's also a more clear-cut decision to debate than when, for example, China started buying up American dollars by the tanker.
But that's not the most satisfying explanation, not least because some American experts think China bailing out Europe is kind of a great idea. Fareed Zakaria is for it, saying this is China's "opportunity to become a 'responsible stakeholder.'" While others, as The Atlantic's own Max Fisher has pointed out, are a bit jittery at what looks like an emerging Chinese lending policy consciously geared towards political influence, the overall response trend appears, as Fisher's own considered argument demonstrates, to be one of practical acceptance.
So is the difference a result of something else? Xenophobia, perhaps? A more conscious West-versus-rest attitude, given that Europeans don't have the same sense as we do of American exceptionalism? Or does Europe just have more vibrant public debate about policy issues? Your choice of explanation may well rest on your attitude towards free market issues and China itself. One thing's for sure: there's nothing like this kind of outcry from Europe to highlight what's not being talked about in the States. Sure, there are occasional op-eds or candidate sound bites that broach the issue. But when you see how potential new debtors in Europe approach it, that looks like breezy indifference.
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.
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.
As the vice president edges toward a presidential run, is he banking on further public disclosures to discredit the frontrunner?
As Joe Biden edges closer to a presidential run, there’s no shortage of theories as to what he’s up to. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton has built a commanding lead in the national polls, giving Biden little apparent space to gain traction. Perhaps he’s counting on the early-primary state of South Carolina to provide a critical boost. He might be banking on appearing as a stronger general-election candidate than any of his potential rivals in the primary race. Maybe after spending the past 42 years of his life running for elective office, he just can’t stop.
But there’s one intriguing theory that has so far garnered little attention: What if Biden knows something about Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton that the rest of us don’t?
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.
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?