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Showing posts from April 2, 2014

The Threat to the Food Supply

By Scott Stewart

There has been some media speculation recently about the possibility of terrorist groups targeting the food supply. This is a topic that has come up repeatedly in the years since 9/11. From time to time, the possibility of such an attack creates a bit of concern among the public and especially among organizations focused on food issues, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or agricultural trade groups.

However, despite the potentially grave consequences of an attack against the food supply -- and concerns raised by these consequences -- such attacks are in fact quite rare. There are good reasons for this lack of attacks against the food supply.
Types of Attacks Targeting Food Supplies

At the most basic level, threats to a country's food supply can come in two general forms: attacks designed to create famine and attacks designed to directly poison people.

Attacks designed to create famine are the types of attacks most frequently discussed in the press. This sor…

Russia and the United States Negotiate the Future of Ukraine

By George Friedman

During the Cold War, U.S. secretaries of state and Soviet foreign ministers routinely negotiated the outcome of crises and the fate of countries. It has been a long time since such talks have occurred, but last week a feeling of deja vu overcame me. Americans and Russians negotiated over everyone's head to find a way to defuse the crisis in Ukraine and, in the course of that, shape its fate.

During the talks, U.S. President Barack Obama made it clear that Washington has no intention of expanding NATO into either Ukraine or Georgia. The Russians have stated that they have no intention of any further military operations in Ukraine. Conversations between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have been extensive and ongoing. For different reasons, neither side wants the crisis to continue, and each has a different read on the situation.
The Russian Perspective

The Russians are convinced that the uprising in Kiev was fomented by We…

Japan Enacts a Long-Discussed Tax Hike

Today, Japan saw its first national consumption tax hike since 1997, with the rate rising from 5 percent to 8 percent. For more than a decade, Japan's relatively low consumer taxes have been seen as a likely target for raising rates to increase tax revenue and begin dealing with Japan's high levels of national debt. But raising the tax rate has not entirely gone without controversy or criticism. Some have feared a drop in consumer spending and a heavier burden on Japan's expanding aging population, pointing to how the 1997 tax hike contributed to the country's return to recession.

The short-term effect is estimated to be about 6 trillion yen ($58 billion), or 1.2 percent of gross domestic product, according to Morgan Stanley. Tokyo hopes that stimulus measures designed to blunt the impact on select groups will help lessen the sting of the increase. Though Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe feared the tax hike would harm his economic agenda, often referred to as Abenomic…

Ukraine's Government Holds a Tenuous but Important Position

(From L-R) Ukrainian United Democratic Alliance for Reform leader Vitali Klitschko and Ukrainian parliament members Andriy Shevchenko and Petro Poroshenko in London on March 26. (CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)


At Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on March 30 in Paris, the Russian delegation demanded that Ukraine institute a federal system to empower its regions and remain neutral in its alliance systems. A day earlier, Vitali Klitschko, a boxer-turned-politician and frontrunner in Ukraine's presidential race, withdrew his candidacy and endorsed Petro Poroshenko, a pro-Western oligarch. While high-level negotiations between the United States and Russia are shaping a possible compromise in Ukraine, and Klitschko's endorsement of Poroshenko has redefined the country's presidential race, Ukraine's future hinges largely on the unity and stability of its interim government.


Despite its interim status, Uk…