Some problems travel well. Sometimes too well. Financial crashes have taught us that in some cases what starts as a very local economic problem quickly escalates and becomes a global crisis. Think Greece—or more recently Cyprus. And we know that terrorism also has a way of going global in unpredictable and dangerous ways.
But what about regions? Which continents are more prone to infect the rest of the world with their problems? Africa and Latin America’s woes, for example, remain mostly insulated. Of course, the mass emigration of Africans to Europe and Latin Americans to the United States is an example of how one continent’s problems spill over into another, but this contagion has had much less of an impact than the economic crisis in the U.S. or Europe, for example. Millions of people all over the world, and especially in Europe, are still paying the consequences for that financial earthquake.
The point is that the problems of some continents are more ‘systemic’ than others. This is to say that the agonies of some regions affect the entire world, no matter how far away they are. The question, then, is: Which of the five continents is bound to spread more unhappiness in the future?
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The rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi last year, and the subsequent death sentence handed out to the four perpetrators, has prompted a great deal of soul-searching in India. Women’s rights have – finally – come to the forefront in a country where the concept remains curiously alien to many of its inhabitants.
In Europe, the incident has also prompted all manner of debate over the role of culture in sexual violence. While Europeans have made small but significant progress in strengthening women’s rights, other parts of the world appear to be lagging behind. To the Delhi case we might add genital mutilation, the punishment of rape victims, and female driving restrictions in Saudi Arabia. Women might have it tough in western society, but women in the developing world seemingly have it much tougher.
Last week’s verdict in India also coincided with the release of a major UN study on sexual violence against women in Asia and the Pacific. The fact the survey does not include India in its sample has nevertheless failed to dissuade commentators from drawing a parallel between its findings and the Delhi case. The shocking headline figure that “25% of the men surveyed admit to raping a partner or a stranger in their lifetime” appears to offer unequivocal confirmation that all Asian women are the victims of a deep-rooted, cultural problem.
When the figures of the UN study are broken down, however, a different picture emerges. For a start, the survey only covers a small, but diverse number of Asian countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea.
Of these, the only territories in which responses to the “rape questions” were 25 percent or higher were Papua New Guinea and part of the western Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea (Papua). In both cases the number of “yes” responses from men were staggering: 43.8 percent for Papua, and an incredible 59.1 percent in Papua New Guinea.
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Zara stores cozy up to the most famous brands in the world to sing their luxury ambitions even as they profit off a brilliant, cheap, short supply chain that delivers similar fashion at a much lower price.
Supply chains sounds boring. But they’re the secret to Zara’s success. Rather than ship skirts and dresses from Chinese plants where they arrive in-store after the style has peaked, Inditex (the parent company) makes the bulk of its clothes in Spain and Morocco. A hemline suggestion goes from a customer’s lips to a sales rack at record speed. The company, now the largest fashion retailer on earth, has grown overall sales by about 50% in five years to $17.5 billion. Its employees have gone from 80,000 to 110,000 in that time, despite being headquartered in a depressed Spanish economy, and selling predominantly to a very sick European continent.
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For the last few decades, we’ve been importing our new population from Mexico, but that too looks to be at an end.Net immigration from Mexico has fallen to zero, thanks in large part to a healthy Mexican economy (good), lower Mexican fertility (good), the housing bust (bad), and nativist sentiment against “illegal” immigrants in states like Arizona (very, very bad).
America’s birth rate is not as low as Europe, but we still need immigrants to ensure a healthily expanding labor pool. Where are we going to get our new Americans? Asia and Africa. Asia is especially important, and encouraging large-scale immigration from Asia will have benefits far beyond the simple economics of immigration. The United States’ geopolitical strategy for the emerging Asian Century must be to position ourselves as the Alternative Asia, the way we were once the Alternative Europe.
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This summer, many government officials and private investors finally seemed to realize that the crisis in the euro zone was not some passing aberration, but rather a result of deep-seated political, economic, and financial problems that will take many years to resolve. The on-again, off-again euro turmoil has already proved immensely damaging to nearly all Europeans, and its negative impact is now being felt around the world. Most likely there is worse to come—and soon.
But the economic disasters of our time—which involve big banks in rich countries, call into question the viability of government debt, and seriously threaten the reach of even the most self-confident nations—will not end with the euro debacle. The euro zone is well down the path to severe crisis, but other industrialized democracies are hot on its heels. Do not let the euro zone’s troubles distract you from the bigger picture: we are all in a mess.
Who could be next in line for a gut-wrenching loss of confidence in its growth prospects, its sovereign debt, and its banking system? Think about Japan.
Read more. [Image: Koji Sasahara/AP]
It could be nothing more than a rumor, but word on China’s Twitter equivalent, Weibo, is that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has died in a possible coup.
The news, which would be a huge game-changer if true, has started to seep into Twitter, with MIT journalism instructor Seth Mnookin tweeting, “Rumor of assassination also floating around; no confirmation RT @KSHartnett Hearing word of #NorthKorea coup. Kim Jong Un on the run.” The news apparently spreading among traders, as journalist Harry Cole reports. But everybody with half a brain is treating the rumor with a good deal of suspicion. Read more.