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Matt Warren

Matt Warren's Public Library

Jan 05, 15

"'Tis the season to make lists, and a list shall be made. We tend to see each year as extraordinary, and in some senses, each year is. But in a broader sense, 2014 was merely another year in a long chain of human triumph and misery. Wars have been waged, marvelous things have been invented, disease has broken out, and people have fallen in love. Nonetheless, lists are called for, and this is my list of the five most important events of 2014."

Dec 11, 14

"Nuclear talks with Iran have failed to yield an agreement, but the deadline for a deal has been extended without a hitch. What would have been a significant crisis a year ago, replete with threats and anxiety, has been handled without drama or difficulty. This new response to yet another failure to reach an accord marks a shift in the relationship between the United States and Iran, a shift that can’t be understood without first considering the massive geopolitical shifts that have taken place in the Middle East, redefining the urgency of the nuclear issue."

Dec 11, 14

"The first winter took many of the English at Plymouth. By fall 1621, only 53 remained of the 132 who had arrived on the Mayflower. But those who had survived brought in a harvest. And so, in keeping with tradition, the governor called the living 53 together for a three-day harvest feast, joined by more than 90 locals from the Wampanoag tribe. The meal was a moment to recognize the English plantation's small step toward stability and, hopefully, profit. This was no small thing. A first, deadly year was common. Getting through it was an accomplishment. England's successful colony of Virginia had had a massive death toll — of the 8,000 arrivals between 1607 and 1625, only 15 percent lived."

Dec 11, 14

"A bargain, forged in the fires of 2012's economic emergency, has defined the European Union for the past two years. It was an agreement made between two sides that can be defined in several terms — the center and the periphery, the north and the south, the producers and the consumers — but essentially one side, led by Germany, provided finance, while the other, fronted by Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece, promised change. In order to gauge this arrangement's chances of ultimately succeeding, it is important to understand what Germany was hoping to achieve with its conditional financing. The answer to that question lies in Germany's own history. "

Nov 23, 14

"People make immediate judgments about images they are shown, which could impact on their decisions, even before their brains have had time to consciously process the information, a study of brainwaves led by The University Of Melbourne has found."

Nov 13, 14

"Use this Take-Home-Pay Calculator to estimate how much you bring home after taxes and deductions from your salary. This calculator uses the tax brackets for 2014 and the tax rates based on the "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" (fiscal cliff relief) signed by President Obama on January 2, 2013. It also gives out the estimated take home payment amount before the "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" for comparison purpose."

Nov 11, 14

"Twenty-five years ago, a crowd filled with an uneasy mixture of joy and rage tore down the Berlin Wall. There was joy for the end of Germany's partition and the end of tyranny. There was rage against generations of fear. One fear was of communist oppression. The other fear was of the threat of a war, which had loomed over Europe and Germany since 1945. One fear was moral and ideological, while the other was prudential and geopolitical. As in all defining political moments, fear and rage, ideology and geopolitics, blended together in an intoxicating mix."

Nov 06, 14

"Europe is overcrowded with people and with nations. Six decades ago, the need to suppress the dangerous forces of nationalism led to the unprecedented political, economic and social experiment now known as the European Union."

  • The crisis is having an uneven effect on EU member states because the eurozone locks countries with different levels of economic development into the same currency union.
  • Europe's geography helps explain these differences: Countries in the south have traditionally dealt with high capital costs and low capital-generation capacity, while countries in the north have seen the opposite.
  • Merely moving people and goods from point to point on the Iberian Peninsula has always posed formidable challenges for governments and traders.

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Oct 21, 14

"Nobody would mistake sugary soda for a health food, but a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health just found that a daily soda habit can age your immune cells almost two years."

Oct 13, 14

""Here begins our tale: The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been." This opening adage of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, China's classic novel of war and strategy, best captures the essential dynamism of Chinese geopolitics. At its heart is the millennia-long struggle by China's would-be rulers to unite and govern the all-but-ungovernable geographic mass of China. It is a story of centrifugal forces and of insurmountable divisions rooted in geography and history -- but also, and perhaps more fundamentally, of centripetal forces toward eventual unity."

  • This dynamism is not limited to China. The Scottish referendum and waves of secession movements -- from Spain's Catalonia to Turkey and Iraq's ethnic Kurds -- are working in different directions.
  • in China, one of the most intractable issues in the struggle for unity -- the status of Tibet -- is poised for a possible reversal, or at least a major adjustment.
  • More important, a settlement between Beijing and the Dalai Lama could be a major step in lessening the physical and psychological estrangement between the Chinese heartland and the Tibetan Plateau.

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Sep 25, 14

"As the United States begins its full assault against the Islamic State in Syria, backed by Arab allies, the absence of NATO ally Turkey is drawing attention and comment. Just days before the Sept. 22 beginning of U.S. airstrikes, Turkey managed to broker a deal with the Islamic State to return 49 diplomats held in Iraq for 101 days. Contrary to diplomatic and media speculation, however, Turkey is not supporting the transnational, Syria- and Iraq-based jihadist movement known as the Islamic State."

  • Rumors have long circulated that Turkey has been aiding Islamic State fighters.
  • Turkey's dealings with the Islamic State are much more nuanced than has generally been understood. Last year in July, Stratfor shed light on this dynamic, analyzing how the Turks were caught between two very threatening realities — both demanding simultaneous management — on their southern flank: jihadists of various stripes and Syrian Kurdish separatists.
  • Turkey is all too aware of how Pakistan even today, nearly two generations after it agreed to serve as the staging ground for the U.S.-led effort to counter Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, continues to deal with the fallout of that war, which has not yet ended.

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Sep 19, 14

"It is a crisis of the elites. Scotland’s push for independence is driven by a conviction — one not ungrounded in reality — that the British ruling class has blundered through the last couple of decades. The same discontent applies to varying degrees in the United States and, especially, the eurozone. It is, in many ways, a defining feature of our time."

Sep 16, 14

"The idea of Scottish independence has moved from the implausible to the very possible. Whether or not it actually happens, the idea that the union of England and Scotland, which has existed for more than 300 years, could be dissolved has enormous implications in its own right, and significant implications for Europe and even for global stability."

  • the idea that the union of England and Scotland, which has existed for more than 300 years, could be dissolved has enormous implications in its own right, and significant implications for Europe and even for global stability.
  • In many ways, this union was a pivot of world history. To realize it might be dissolved is startling and reveals important things about the direction of the world.
  • Scotland and England are historical enemies. Their sense of competing nationhoods stretches back centuries, and their occupation of the same island has caused them to fight many wars. Historically they have distrusted each other, and each has given the other good reason for the distrust.

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Sep 09, 14

"U.S. President Barack Obama said recently that he had no strategy as yet toward the Islamic State but that he would present a plan on Wednesday. It is important for a president to know when he has no strategy. It is not necessarily wise to announce it, as friends will be frightened and enemies delighted. A president must know what it is he does not know, and he should remain calm in pursuit of it, but there is no obligation to be honest about it."

  • It is important for a president to know when he has no strategy. It is not necessarily wise to announce it, as friends will be frightened and enemies delighted.
  • A president must know what it is he does not know, and he should remain calm in pursuit of it, but there is no obligation to be honest about it.
  • Strategy is something that emerges from reality, while tactics might be chosen.

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Sep 05, 14

"China's urban population may grow by as many as 230 million people in the next 15 years. But most growth will take place not in metropolises like Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing but in the myriad small- and medium-sized satellite cities around them. And as residents flock to these cities, China's working-age population will begin to decline, and its elderly population will grow dramatically."

  • The added burdens facing small- and medium-sized cities, especially those located deep inside China that are sequestered from mainstream global trade, will be substantial and perhaps socially and politically destabilizing. 
  • In July, the Chinese government announced that a revision to the one-child policy had been implemented throughout the country's provinces and regions. The announcement of the revision, which allows couples in which either partner is an only child to have up to two children, heralded the end of the controversial policy.
  • Two decades ago, China's fertility rate fell below 2.1, the generally accepted population replacement rate. Since then, it has dropped to roughly 1.5 or, by some measures, as low as 1.4. These are comparable to fertility rates in Russia and Italy but well below those of the United States, Australia, the Netherlands and many other more advanced economies.

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  • When you judge someone for taking nude pictures on their phone — and you suggest that what they got was, if not deserved then at least expected — you’re a sexist shit-ferret. You’re not really making a point about security or the porousness of the Internet. You’re making a judgment based on that person’s choices. You’re judging the act of taking naked photos rather than the theft of the photos. You’re putting the onus of the crime on the victim and not the criminal because — really, this is why, I swear! – you don’t agree with their choices. Prurience must be punished. Sex is a sin. Where is their shame, you ask? Such shamelessness is provocative. It provokes a criminal response which basically makes the sinner culpable for their own victimization.
Aug 26, 14

"Lebanon was created out of the Sykes-Picot Agreement. This agreement between Britain and France reshaped the collapsed Ottoman Empire south of Turkey into the states we know today -- Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and to some extent the Arabian Peninsula as well. For nearly 100 years, Sykes-Picot defined the region. A strong case can be made that the nation-states Sykes-Picot created are now defunct, and that what is occurring in Syria and Iraq represents the emergence of those post-British/French maps that the United States has been trying to maintain since the collapse of Franco-British power."

  • For nearly 100 years, Sykes-Picot defined the region. A strong case can be made that the nation-states Sykes-Picot created are now defunct, and that what is occurring in Syria and Iraq represents the emergence of those post-British/French maps that the United States has been trying to maintain since the collapse of Franco-British power.
  • Sykes-Picot, named for French diplomat Francois Georges-Picot and his British counterpart, Sir Mark Sykes, did two things.
  • Second, it divided the Ottoman province of Syria on a line from the Mediterranean Sea east through Mount Hermon.

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Aug 12, 14

"At a time when Europe and other parts of the world are governed by forgettable mediocrities, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister for a decade now, seethes with ambition. Perhaps the only other leader of a major world nation who emanates such a dynamic force field around him is Russia's Vladimir Putin, with whom the West is also supremely uncomfortable."

  • Erdogan knows that Turkey must become a substantial power in the Near East in order to give him leverage in Europe. Erdogan's problem is that Turkey's geography between East and West contains as many vulnerabilities as it does benefits. This makes Erdogan at times overreach. But there is a historical and geographical logic to his excesses.
  • Because Ottoman Turkey was on the losing side of that war (along with Wilhelmine Germany and Hapsburg Austria), the victorious allies in the Treaty of Sevres of 1920 carved up Turkey and its environs, giving territory and zones of influence to Greece, Armenia, Italy, Britain and France.
  • Turkey's reaction to this humiliation was Kemalism, the philosophy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the surname "Ataturk" means "Father of the Turks"), the only undefeated Ottoman general, who would lead a military revolt against the new occupying powers and thus create a sovereign Turkish state throughout the Anatolian heartland.

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