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Revenge of the Ruble Revenge of the Ruble
What the Crisis Means for Putin
By Daniel Cloud

The ruble has already lost almost half its value against the U.S. dollar this year, and its potential collapse has pushed Russian President Vladimir Putin into an increasingly tight corner. In Ukraine, where hostilities have brought sanctions and alienated investors, Putin has only bad options to choose from: He can either make a deal now—one he won’t like, since he holds few cards—or compromise later, once his negotiating position has deteriorated further. No matter what happens, he will end up badly wounded. The question is whether he will drag his country down with him, turning Russia into a full-fledged pariah state.  When Putin first moved on Ukraine, Western leaders confidently predicted that the economic consequences would force him to retreat. But things didn’t play out that way. After Russia annexed Crimea, the ruble actually strengthened, thanks in part to Moscow’s huge foreign exchange reserves (equivalent, on paper, to half a trillion dollars at the end of last year). Putin seemed to be winning, and it looked as if the potential consequences—capital flight, a currency collapse, a replay of the financial crisis of the late-1990s—would never...

Darkness Invisible Darkness Invisible
The Hidden Global Costs of Mental Illness
By Thomas R. Insel, Pamela Y. Collins, and Steven E. Hyman

Four years ago, a team of scholars from the Harvard School of Public Health and the World Economic Forum prepared a report on the current and future global economic burden of disease. Science and medicine have made tremendous progress in combating infectious diseases during the past five decades, and the group noted that noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, now pose a greater risk than contagious illnesses. In 2010, the report’s authors found, noncommunicable diseases caused 63 percent of all deaths around the world, and 80 percent of those fatalities occurred in countries that the World Bank characterizes as low income or middle income. Noncommunicable diseases are partly rooted in lifestyle and diet, and their emergence as a major risk, especially in the developing world, represents the dark side of the economic advances that have also spurred increased longevity, urbanization, and population growth. The scale of the problem is only going to grow: between 2010 and 2030, the report estimated, chronic noncommunicable diseases will reduce global GDP by $46.7...

Guzzling in the Gulf Guzzling in the Gulf
The Monarchies Face a Threat From Within
By Jim Krane

The story of the Persian Gulf monarchies is a Horatio Alger tale writ large. Over the past half-century, oil has transformed the six once-destitute sheikhdoms into some of the wealthiest places on earth. Supergiant oil fields discovered between the 1930s and the 1970s, such as Kuwait’s Burgan and Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar, provided an ideal source of energy for the free world. It was easy oil, pooled in boundless reservoirs that could geyser into action with the prick of a drill bit. Even better, there was virtually no regional demand for that oil. Gulf populations were tiny and their economies undeveloped. Over the years, the monarchies’ steady stewardship kept markets supplied with sufficient energy to fuel the world during a period of unprecedented economic and population growth. Back home, the ruling families harvested the proceeds to improve the lives of their people, who had, until then, lived in nearly primeval deprivation, with little access to electricity, clean water, medicine, or education. Ruling sheikhs made their subjects wealthy and complacent; oil production was a virtuous...

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