As the United States heads into a crucial presidential election in November, it must keep a wary eye beyond its borders. Will there be a conflagration - of either an economic or military kind - that might consume the world?
China, the United States’ chief rival as a superpower in the coming decades, is also facing a potential leadership change this year. Though the U.S. has pulled out of Iraq, embers of conflict continue to burn brightly in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And the Middle East, withIran’s unceasing bellicose posturing and the Arab Spring’s unsettled affairs, will continue to be a flashpoint. (Read more)
We are pleased to report that as we enter a new year, American research continues to dominate the world of science.
In 2012, the United States is projected to spend $436 billion on research and development. No other country on Earth comes close. Combined, the nations of Europe will spend $338 billion. China will spend $199 billion. If all the research money in the world were put in a giant pot, about a third would be filled with money from the United States. (Read more)
Is America entering a new post-religious era? That's what some skeptics keep arguing.
Last year, researcher Greg Paul wrote in theWashington Post that atheism in western countries "has evolved" -- "evolved," get it? -- "into a forward-looking movement that has the wind at its back." He acknowledged that the U.S. had been something of a "religious anomaly in the Western world" in the past, but insisted atheists are now making "major gains while Christianity withers." (Read more)
Tech pundits love to use -- and abuse -- the term "disruptive." Usually, it's a form of praise. If a technology is disruptive it's usually overturning stale business models to the benefit of consumers (think what Apple's iTunes did to the music industry). Today, though, disruptions are not just coming from the technology industry but from legislators and hackers as well.
Indeed, 2012 is shaping up to be a significant year for the future of the Internet. On the one hand, Congress is debating a pair of bills -- the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) -- aimed at curbing Internet piracy but which critics claim could fundamentally disrupt how the Internet operates. On the other hand, hackers and computer viruses have made online life (both at home and on mobile devices) less secure, with the theft of user information from the e-commerce site Zappos serving as only the most recent example. (Read more)
On so many levels, most sports fans are happy to see 2011 in the rearview mirror. Both the NFL and NBA had prolonged work stoppages that threatened their seasons. Two major college programs - Ohio State and Miami - were exposed for rampant cheating involving criminal elements. And on top of all that, the alleged child rape scandal at Penn State not only obliterated its football coaching staff, but shook the entire university to its core.
So 2012 should be a stroll in the park then, with a restoration of the usual fun and games, right? While things can’t possibly be as bleak as they were last year, there are some dark clouds looming. Here’s a look ahead: (Read more)
Rarely has it felt so awkward, so nostalgic, or so generally beside the point to speak of such a thing as the American literary scene, let alone to render some fixed assessment of its "state." In our post-meltdown new millennium, literary expression seems to have embraced a self-conscious role as lifestyle ornament, offering imaginary retreats from the historical present in lieu of any sustained reckoning with the way we live now. (Read more)
Over the Christmas holiday I took my family to Pearl Harbor, shortly after the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack that plunged the United States into World War II. I figured that my daughter, now 6 and in first grade, should be old enough to get an up-close and personal experience with this key chapter in world history.
But I was soon consumed by a horrifying event. (Read more)
"The federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back to life." - President Barack Obama, Confidence Men, p. 186
It's often been said in various ways by economic thinkers of the classical school that booms and bull markets don't die of old age, rather they succumb to policy failure. Economies, and by extension stock markets, in this certain sense do best when policy barriers to productive economic activity are light.
But with policy from fallible politicians ever present irrespective of political party affiliation, mistakes are inevitable. And because they are, the stock markets thankfully exist so that investors can cast ballots on decisions emanating from Washington. (Read more)
One year ago, after the shooting and wounding of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, many members of Congress put aside their petty animosities -- as well as deeply held philosophical differences -- and sat together for the president’s State of the Union address. Democrats with Republicans, liberals with conservatives.
For the plurality of Americans with independent leanings and moderate impulses, it was a nice gesture. It was also temporal, as was the bipartisan singing of “America the Beautiful” on the steps of the U.S. Capitol steps after the attacks of 9/11. (Read more)