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Week in Review


This week, we took a look at how mass immigration in Europe is posing a serious threat to the welfare states that most of the continent has been building for the past half-century:

Europe’s social engineers of the last generation seem to have assumed that the “dark forces” of nationalism and chauvinism had been left behind. That was partly true; the horrors of the two world wars have made many (though far from all) Europeans unwilling to fight anymore on ethnic grounds. But the subsidence of ethnic nationalism in European politics was also a function of the mass ethnic cleansings and genocidal killings that left most European nation states fairly homogenous. There was no “German Question” in Polish or Czech politics because there were no more Germans in these countries. The “Jewish Question” largely faded in postwar Europe, in part because of revulsion against Nazism, but also because the Jews were gone. Europe’s architects liked to believe that Europeans had transcended ethnic hatred, but much of Europe’s postwar peace came from the success of ethnic hatred in creating homogenous countries.

What we now see in Europe as the Great Immigration Experiment continues is a steady drift toward a new politics of ethnicity. Nationalist sentiments and movements are gaining force throughout the region. (In this respect, Putin’s Russia is moving in the same direction as its neighbors, though in an even rougher way.) Europe’s remaining multiethnic unions (especially the UK, Belgium, Russia, and Spain) face strong secessionist movements. Throughout Europe, the new nationalism is in revolt against the cosmopolitan projects of the European Union, and it is also in revolt against mass immigration and the threatened loss of ethnic cohesion and homogeneity. We don’t know how effective the European mainstream parties will be at suppressing the growing power of the neo-nationalists, but it looks as if so far the trend over time is for the center, left and right, to decline and for the nationalists to rise.

Tensions between China and Japan continued to escalate this week, as China unveiled its first generation of nuclear subs while Japanese President Shinzo Abe announced plans to take a more assertive role against China. Meanwhile, South Koreans are becoming warier of Japan’s military power, and Chinese officials are considering unprecedented political reforms. In India, construction has just begun on a controversial statue that will become the world’s tallest, while politics across the country continues to be wild and wooly. Pakistan, meanwhile, is loading up on nukes just as the conflict with India escalates, while the government has sharply reduced the number of estimated civilian casualties from American drone strikes.

The big news from Europe this week concerned Ukraine, which is preparing to ignore Russian bullying and sign a free trade agreement with the EU. Meanwhile, Germany is leading the way on EU reform even amid signs that household debt could derail the continent’s slow recovery. Elsewhere, French and Spanish complaints about NSA wiretapping are looking less credible amid revelations that their own intelligence services supplied much of the information to the US.

In the Middle East, the Muslim Brotherhood is becoming more radical even as the Egyptian Military works to bring back pre-Arab Spring governance. Meanwhile, Benghazigate is reemerging as an issue that could haunt Hilary Clinton throughout her career.

On the domestic front, Springfield, Illinois, Providence, Rhode Island, and Fresno, California are all running out of money and grappling with the fallout from the pension crisis and the breakdown of the blue model. In NYC, Bill de Blasio appears poised to continue the city’s longstanding war on the middle class. Yet despite these problems with blue governance, there are still signs that the GOP still needs to work on expanding its base.

This week was a big one for MOOCs, as Georgia Tech’s innovative online Master’s program received thousands of applicants while Coursera teamed up with the State Department to bring MOOCs to developing countries. Charter schools and homeschooling also received boosts this week, as a new study found that charter students do better than their peers outside the classroom, and the military became more receptive to homeschooling. The news for traditional schools was less positive: many schools are selling off their assets to make ends meet, while students have begun abandoning the humanities for other subjects.

Healthcare news was big this week as the Obamacare rollout continues to disappoint. As many Americans confront the possibility of losing their current insurance, the media is beginning to debate whether Obama misled the public about the law when he pitched it. Meanwhile, the Administration’s attempts to defend the law with comparisons to Romneycare have fallen flat. Yet despite the catastrophic rollout, the law’s failures have yet to lead to a drop in the law’s overall popularity. Elsewhere, the rise of unnecessary spinal fusion surgery points to a serious overtreatment problem in our health system, while 3D printing technology promises to give more power to patients.

In Energy news, the French are in open revolt against a new “ecotax” on large vehicles, America is building a convoy of vehicles designed to run on natural gas, and Greenland has entered a competition with China on rare earths production. Speaking of China, the country continues to throw money at failing solar companies, while both China and Europe stand to benefit from increased shale production. Meanwhile, yet another study has given fracking a clean bill of health.

[Photo courtesy of Getty Images]

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