Category Archives: Other Issues

Posts on many other important geopolitical issues.

Stratfor: Those Who Are (and Are Not) Sheltered From the Panama Papers

Summary: Here is Stratfor’s analysis of the Panama Papers, the biggest revelations since Snowden’s in 2013. And what we have is probably just the “tip of the iceberg.”

Stratfor

Those Who Are (and Are Not) Sheltered From the Panama Papers

Stratfor, 8 April 2016

Summary

On April 3, the Panama Papers hit media outlets around the world, and the fallout was swift. A prime minister lost his job, and other global leaders are under mounting pressure to account for their actions. But the effects of the leaks are not evenly spread; the documents contained far more information about the offshore activities of individuals in the developing world than in the developed world. Whatever the reasons for the imbalance, it will likely limit the papers’ impact. In the developing world, long histories of corruption have dulled the public’s sensitivity to scandal, and repressive governments leave little room for popular backlash.

So although less information was released on Western leaders, it is already doing more damage. Iceland’s leader has left his post, and relatively minor revelations have had a disporportionately large impact in the United Kingdom and France. Meanwhile, in the developing world, the Panama Papers’ effects have been most strongly felt in the former Soviet Union, a region in which political tensions were already high. The leaks’ results have been more mixed in China, where they have provided new targets for the anti-corruption drive already underway but have also implicated figures close to the administration’s upper ranks.

This is only the beginning. The Panama Papers are the largest information dump of their kind, and the information that has been released so far appears to be just the tip of the iceberg. They are also the latest in a string of public leaks that seem to be happening more and more frequently. As revelations continue to surface, calls for greater global transparency will only get louder.

Stratfor’s analysis by region

  • Former Soviet Union
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Asia-Pacific
  • Middle East and North Africa
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • South Asia

See the full report at Stratfor.

Professor Hugh Pennington: The story so far of the Zika epidemic

Summary: A new year, another epidemic (they’re all “pandemics” in our fearful world) – Zika. In a world of seven billion people linked by rapid transportation, epidemics will become increasingly common. That does not mean that hysteria need accompany each and every one. As with Avian Flue and Ebola, the FM website provides you with reliable information as an antidote to the fear-mongers, starting with this essay by the eminent Professor Hugh Pennington.

A mosquito stops for lunch

An Aedes aegypti mosquito stops for lunch

Zika Virus, the Story So Far

By Hugh Pennington
London Review of Books, 27 January 2016
Posted with his generous permission. Red emphasis added.

On 18 April 1947 in a cage on a tree platform in the Zika Forest in Uganda, rhesus monkey number 766 developed a fever. Its serum was inoculated into the brains of mice. They fell ill. Zika virus had been discovered. The sentinel monkey researchers were the virologist George Dick and the entomologist Alexander Haddow, based at the Rockefeller Foundation Yellow Fever Laboratories in Entebbe. Haddow went on to build a 120-foot steel tower in the forest to study high-flying mosquitoes and their viruses. The best time and place to find Zika virus was in the evening, 80 to 100 feet above the forest floor.

The first human case to be described was in 1964 in another Entebbe virologist, David Simpson; he had a 36-hour fever, some back pain, a headache and a rash. He was better by day three. Antibody studies in Nigeria in the early 1970s found that 40 per cent of people had been infected at some time in the past.

For many years Zika virus resided quietly in the textbooks as a member of the Flavivirus family, a distant and unimportant relative of yellow fever, dengue and West Nile viruses. The books said that it caused only mild symptoms (or none at all), that it was spread by the bite of Aedes mosquitoes, that monkeys were an animal reservoir, and that it occurred in Africa, India and South East Asia.

An alarm bell rang in 2007 when an outbreak occurred on Yap Island in the southwestern Pacific. The infection was mild, with a rash, conjunctivitis and joint pains. But not only was the outbreak the biggest so far recorded – it was estimated that well over half the residents had been infected – the virus had travelled a long way to get to Yap. Perhaps it could spread to the Americas.

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Stratfor: Cracks appear in Putin’s Kremlin as the stress on Russia grows

Summary: We tend to see the complex politics of America but assume Putin rules a simple autocracy. Here Stratfor describes the fragile Russian state, under incredible pressure from the collapse of oil prices — while a struggle appears to have begun to control its future.

Stratfor

The Kremlin’s Cracks Are All-Too Familiar

Stratfor, 27 February 2016

Summary

February 27 marks the anniversary of the assassination of Russian opposition heavyweight Boris Nemtsov. His killing sparked two weeks of intrigue in Russia’s top political circles, laying bare previously obscured Kremlin infighting and putting President Vladimir Putin’s continued control in question. The dispute, which went far beyond the death of one opposition leader or even broad factional competition, was in fact a struggle over who controls Russia’s future. In this it mirrored a three-year period of division in the early 1920s that ended in a leadership transition and set the trajectory of the Soviet Union.

Analysis

Struggles among the Kremlin elite are as old as the fortified stone citadel itself. The name Kremlin literally means “fortress inside a city,” a potent metaphor for the murky elite power struggles at the heart of Russia’s bustling government system. For the past decade, the Putin government has been divided into four camps: the powerful Federal Security Services (FSB), the so-called liberal reformists, the hawkish non-FSB security circles and a circle of those who are loyal to Putin alone.

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