Commentary

Escaping the Middle East’s Violence Trap

OXFORD – The Arab world and its neighbors are stuck in a violence trap. The fighting in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, together with the predations of groups like the Islamic State, is destroying the economic links needed to ensure long-term political stability.

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The Health Benefits of Fighting Climate Change

LIMA – Governments often see climate change as too costly to address. In fact, it is too costly to ignore. That is why the World Health Organization (WHO), for example, has linked the prevention of disastrous climate change to “immediate health benefits and health cost savings” from the reduction of air pollution.

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The Case for Peace With Iran

NEW YORK – The nuclear framework agreement between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia) plus Germany is an important achievement in global diplomacy.

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Smokeless China

BEIJING – In a few weeks, Beijing will implement a city-wide ban on smoking in all indoor public spaces, such as restaurants and offices, as well as on tobacco advertising outdoors, on public transportation, and in most forms of media.

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Western Politics’ Locust Years

NEW YORK – Since my teenage years, I have been fascinated by the permutations and machinations of national politics. Today, I find myself focusing on broader political trends that also help to explain global economic issues.

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Money for Nothing

BRUSSELS – The developed world seems to be moving toward a long-term zero-interest-rate environment. Though the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the eurozone have kept central-bank policy rates at zero for several years already, the perception that this was a temporary aberration meant that medium- to long-term rates remained substantial. But this may be changing, especially in the eurozone.

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Reversing Africa’s Medical Brain Drain

OXFORD – There is understandable consternation over Uganda’s plan to send almost 300 health workers to Trinidad and Tobago. The plan reportedly includes four of Uganda’s 11 registered psychiatrists, 20 of its 28 radiologists, and 15 of its 92 pediatricians. In return, the Caribbean country (which has a doctor-to-patient ratio 12 times higher than Uganda’s) will help Uganda exploit its recently discovered oil fields.

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ExxonMobil’s Dangerous Business Strategy

NEW YORK – ExxonMobil’s current business strategy is a danger to its shareholders and the world. We were reminded of this once again in a report of the National Petroleum Council’s Arctic Committee, chaired by ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. The report calls on the US government to proceed with Arctic drilling for oil and gas – without mentioning the consequences for climate change.

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Inequality, Immigration, and Hypocrisy

CAMBRIDGE – Europe’s migration crisis exposes a fundamental flaw, if not towering hypocrisy, in the ongoing debate about economic inequality. Wouldn’t a true progressive support equal opportunity for all people on the planet, rather than just for those of us lucky enough to have been born and raised in rich countries?

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Reengineering Government

PARIS – Since the financial crisis erupted in 2008, governments in advanced countries have been under significant pressure. In many countries, tax receipts abruptly collapsed when the economy contracted, income dwindled, and real-estate transactions came to a halt. The fall in tax revenues was in most cases sudden, deep, and lasting. Governments had no choice but to raise taxes or to adjust to leaner times.

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