Perhaps French President Sarkozy was just the first to go, and the remaining two corners of northern Europe's austerity triangle -- Germany's Merkel and the UK's Cameron -- could soon follow.
British Prime Minister David Cameron walks past German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Reuters)
Austerity seems to doing worse than ever in European politics, and the leaders who championed it are slipping down public opinion polls. German chancellor Angela Merkel, the top austerity figurehead, remains personally popular, but the blame-Germany/blame-Merkel trend has been gaining momentum across Europe for months. Nicolas Sarkozy lost the French presidency to Francois Hollande, who campaigned in part on reordering the French-German relationship to involve more resistance to Germany's austerity leadership. Now, northern Europe's scapegoating championship (Greece and Italy retaliated against their leaders much earlier) appears to have spread to the United Kingdom.
In a different political climate, British Prime Minister David Cameron's discussion of the euro situation on Monday probably wouldn't have raised too many eyebrows. What Cameron said -- hinting at a Greek exit from the euro should anti-austerity parties prevail in Greece's elections next month -- is nothing the vast majority of both Britons and continental Europeans don't already know. In fact, a Guardian/ICM poll released Monday showed that 72 percent of Britons believe Greece will leave the euro.
Yet Cameron, whose country isn't even a part of the eurozone, was promptly treated to a scathing round of criticism from opposition leaders within the UK, with Labour politician and shadow chancellor Ed Balls calling him "all over the place" on the euro topic, and accusing him of causing market panic.
Theoretically, Cameron's common sense pronouncement of what people already know shouldn't be all that dangerous. But, of course, political posturing off of leaders' statements isn't exclusive to Britain. It's common enough, especially when the electorate is getting frustrated and the leader in question is looking weak. And there's no doubt that Cameron is looking weak. The same poll from this week showed Cameron at his lowest-ever approval ratings. His party stands only at 36 percent approval, the opposing Labour party ahead at 41 percent. The only good news about this for Cameron is that at least Labour's five-point lead isn't the eight-point lead it was last month.
There's blood in the water, and the sharks are gathering. "I'm afraid the problem," The Guardian quotes Labour's Ed Balls as saying, "is that David Cameron for the last two years has been supporting the German position which is now an increasingly isolated position, a very different position from the Obama-Hollande view that we need a more balanced plan on austerity, medium-term, tough decisions, but a plan now on jobs and growth."
It's a remarkable shift from only two summers ago, barely European austerity plans were far less controversial. Germany, with its quick economic recovery (as it seemed at the time) was the model even for deficit hawks in the U.S., and Cameron was painting himself as a combined financial and social savior.
It doesn't take too much reading between the lines, looking at Balls's statement, to see what he's really saying: In France, Sarkozy's party is out and the Socialists are in; in Britain, perhaps the Conservatives should be put out and Labour should take the reins. Even in the UK, it seems standing too close to Angela Merkel can be toxic.
Perhaps Sarkozy was just the first to go, and the remaining two corners of northern Europe's austerity triangle -- Merkel and Cameron -- will soon follow. If that's fated to happen, one wonders whether perhaps it would be better it happen soon, so that the new spend-happy replacements can bond and form a new coalition. Europeans newspapers said a lot of goofy stuff about the frosty meeting between Merkel and new French president Hollande last week, but their central point is well taken: European Union cohesion, shaky as it is, may be easier to maintain if the key players aren't pulling in radically different directions.
In the meantime, political opportunism is political opportunism: expect Cameron to draw fire for almost anything he says, whether or not it's something everyone already knows.
The winners of the 27th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest have just been announced.
The winners of the 27th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest have just been announced. Winning first prize, Anuar Patjane Floriuk of Tehuacán, Mexico, will receive an eight-day photo expedition for two to Costa Rica and the Panama Canal for a photograph of divers swimming near a humpback whale off the western coast of Mexico. Here, National Geographic has shared all of this year’s winners, gathered from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments. Captions by the photographers.
What would the American culture wars look like if they were less about “values” and more about Jesus?
Evangelical Christianity has long had a stranglehold on how Americans imagine public faith. Vague invocations of “religion”—whether it’s “religion vs. science” or “religious freedom”—usually really mean “conservative, Protestant, evangelical Christianity,” and this assumption inevitably frames debates about American belief. For the other three-quarters of the population—Catholics, Jews, other Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, secular Americans, Buddhists, Wiccans, etc.—this can be infuriating. For some evangelicals, it’s a sign of success, a linguistic triumph of the culture wars.
But not for Russell Moore. In 2013, the 43-year-old theologian became the head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the political nerve center of the Southern Baptist Convention. His predecessor, Richard Land, prayed with George W. Bush, played hardball with Democrats, and helped make evangelicals a quintessentially Republican voting bloc.
Many psychiatrists believe that a new approach to diagnosing and treating depression—linking individual symptoms to their underlying mechanisms—is needed for research to move forward.
In his Aphorisms, Hippocrates defined melancholia, an early understanding of depression, as a state of “fears and despondencies, if they last a long time.” It was caused, he believed, by an excess of bile in the body (the word “melancholia” is ancient Greek for “black bile”).
Ever since then, doctors have struggled to create a more precise and accurate definition of the illness that still isn’t well understood. In the 1920s, the German psychiatrist Kurt Schneider argued that depression could be divided into two separate conditions, each requiring a different form of treatment: depression that resulted from changes in mood, which he called “endogenous depression,” and depression resulting from reactions to outside events, or “reactive depression.” His theory was challenged in 1926, when the British psychologist Edward Mapother argued in the British Medical Journal that there was no evidence for two distinct types of depression, and that the apparent differences between depression patients were just differences in the severity of the condition.
Why the obsession with our kids’ happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods. A therapist and mother reports.
If there’s one thing I learned in graduate school, it’s that the poet Philip Larkin was right. (“They fuck you up, your mum and dad, / They may not mean to, but they do.”) At the time, I was a new mom with an infant son, and I’d decided to go back to school for a degree in clinical psychology. With baby on the brain and term papers to write, I couldn’t ignore the barrage of research showing how easy it is to screw up your kids. Of course, everyone knows that growing up with “Mommy Dearest” produces a very different child from one raised by, say, a loving PTA president who has milk and homemade cookies waiting after school. But in that space between Joan Crawford and June Cleaver, where most of us fall, it seemed like a lot could go wrong in the kid-raising department.
The jobs that are least vulnerable to automation tend to be held by women.
Many economists and technologists believe the world is on the brink of a new industrial revolution, in which advances in the field of artificial intelligence will obsolete human labor at an unforgiving pace. Two Oxford researchers recently analyzed the skills required for more than 700 different occupations to determine how many of them would be susceptible to automation in the near future, and the news was not good: They concluded that machines are likely to take over 47 percent of today’s jobs within a few decades.
This is a dire prediction, but one whose consequences will not fall upon society evenly. A close look at the data reveals a surprising pattern: The jobs performed primarily by women are relatively safe, while those typically performed by men are at risk.
Ecuador tried to rewrite the rules of human migration—only to recoil at the results.
LAGO AGRIO, Ecuador—Hitler was behind the wheel, racing through a blur of jungle toward Ecuador’s border with Colombia. Only when an immigration officer in green fatigues hurried out from a checkpoint, yelling, did Hitler pump the brakes. The policeman asked if we wanted our passports stamped, and all four of us in the truck—an American, a Dane, a Colombian, and an Ecuadorian—declined. With that, the official waved goodbye and we lurched onward to Colombia.
The river that marks the border between the countries is anything but an impassable boundary. Along its length are dozens of illicit crossings, and the movement of people—and problems—from one bank to the other is a fact of daily life. From a bridge, I could see, on the Colombian side, a black plume of smoke rising from an oil pipeline that FARC rebels had reportedly bombed the previous day. On the Ecuadorian side was a ghost town of ramshackle sheds that those same guerrillas were known to rent for a few hours of partying.
Exceptional nonfiction stories from 2014 that are still worth encountering today
Each year, I keep a running list of exceptional nonfiction that I encounter as I publish The Best ofJournalism, an email newsletter that I send out once or twice a week. This is my annual attempt to bring some of those stories to a wider audience. I could not read or note every worthy article that was published last calendar year and I haven't included any paywalled articles or anything published at The Atlantic. But everything that follows is worthy of wider attention and engagement.
Paul faced danger, Ani and Ray faced each other, and Frank faced some career decisions.
This is what happens when you devote two-thirds of a season to scene after scene after scene of Frank and Jordan’s Baby Problems, and Frank Shaking Guys Down, and Look How Fucked Up Ray and Ani Are, and Melancholy Singer in the Dive Bar Yet Again—and then you suddenly realize that with only a couple episodes left you haven’t offered even a rudimentary outline of the central plot.
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.
It’s impossible to “solve” the Iranian nuclear threat. This agreement is the next best thing.
Having carefully reviewed the lengthy and complex agreement negotiated by the United States and its international partners with Iran, I have reached the following conclusion: If I were a member of Congress, I would vote yes on the deal. Here are nine reasons why.
1. No one has identified a better feasible alternative. Before negotiations halted its nuclear advance, Iran had marched relentlessly down the field from 10 years away from a bomb to two months from that goal line. In response, the United States and its partners imposed a series of sanctions that have had a significant impact on Iran’s economy, driving it to negotiate. That strategy worked, and resulted in a deal. In the absence of this agreement, the most likely outcome would be that the parties resume doing what they were doing before the freeze began: Iran installing more centrifuges, accumulating a larger stockpile of bomb-usable material, shrinking the time required to build a bomb; the U.S. resuming an effort to impose more severe sanctions on Iran. Alternatively, Israel or the United States could conduct military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities, setting back the Iranian program by two years, or perhaps even three. But that option risks wider war in the Middle East, an Iran even more determined to acquire a bomb, and the collapse of consensus among American allies.