July 30, 2014
By Brian M. Downing

Denied their own state at the end of World War I as 
European powers divided up the Ottoman Empire, Kurds today are using the chaos of a dissolving Iraq to move toward greater autonomy, if not outright independence. A referendum on independence for the Kurdish region of Iraq is planned, and public enthusiasm for a complete break with Baghdad is high.
Emerging Kurdistan is New Player in Fractious Middle East
A rug made in the image of Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani is viewed in a market in Erbil on July 3, 2014. Barzani asked members of Parliament this month to start making plans for an independence referendum. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Kremlin Cries Crocodile Tears Over Fracking in Europe
July 16, 2014
As the conflict between Ukraine and Russia creates uncertainty over Europe’s energy supply, Russia is waging a behind-the-scenes campaign to keep Europe dependent on Russian natural gas. Despite Russia’s execrable environmental record, since 2011, the Kremlin has been leading a scheme to trumpet fracking’s potential to harm European ecosystems while maneuvering to stop cheap natural gas from reaching Europe from pipelines beyond Russian control.
NSA Uncovers Threats That Make Its Worst Critics Worry
July 16, 2014
Heavily criticized for occasionally tapping into the electronic lives of U.S. citizens, NSA data collection is proving to be a worthwhile investment. While media critics have been quick to condemn the effort as nothing more than a virtual dragnet, a clutch of new reports includes counterterrorism revelations so worrisome that the Washington Post declined to print them.
Gaza Braces for More Violence as Hamas Rejects Truce
July 15, 2014
SITUATION REPORT
Updated: July 15, 2014, 0700


Hamas rejected a cease-fire proposal presented by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry Monday night, further escalating violence in the Gaza Strip. Israel’s Security Cabinet accepted the plan, but Hamas militants said the proposal “wasn’t worth the ink it was written with” while another arm of the terrorist group called it “an initiative of kneeling and submission.” Israel warned it will “intensify” its military campaign as a result of the Hamas rejection, and Hamas countered that “our battle with the enemy continues, and will increase in ferocity and intensity.”


US-German Tensions Highlight Merkel’s Rising Global Profile
July 15, 2014
Spy scandals and Obama administration miscues have dragged U.S.-German relations to their lowest point in decades, tensions that are exacerbated by Germany’s growing importance in trade, diplomacy, and even sport following a dominating World Cup performance this month. Small misunderstandings between Berlin and the White House, left untended, have grown to affect specific security issues, undermining the interests of both nations.
Latin America’s Leftist Flagships Listing Dangerously
July 15, 2014
The stridently radical bloc of Latin American nations known for vocal anti-Americanism and hard-left populism — led by flagships Argentina and Venezuela — is in rough economic seas and taking on water. Calling itself as “Bolivarian” after 19th century independence figure Simon Bolivar, the political and trade bloc lately has been characterized by the kind of domestic discord and economic disruption that has led to government collapse in the past.
Can Japan’s Economy Survive Another Massive Tax Increase?
July 15, 2014
Special Economic Analysis
By Peter Warburton, PhD

The last time Japan raised its consumption tax, back in 1997, its economic recovery was aborted and it took years to undo the damage. Understandably, many feared that the national sales tax increase from 5 percent to 8 percent that took effect April 1 would have similarly dire consequences. However, three months later, retail and auto sales are rebounding sharply from the inevitable shock. It looks as though the original policy error has not been repeated.

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