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Weekly Roundup
Saudi Reforms, Big Brand Trouble, and the Resurrection of Malthus

Good afternoon, TAI readers! We trust you’re enjoying you’ve had a relaxing and productive weekend so far. Take the time this Sunday to look back on what you may have missed on the site over the past week:

The once and future NATO. Some are calling for an expansion of NATO in response to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. These pleas are reckless and dangerous, according to Raphael Cohen and Gabriel Scheinmann, who argue that adding new members would weaken the treaty organization and potentially hand Putin another easy victory against the West.

Quiet reforms are underway in Saudi Arabia. The country’s move against the Muslim Brotherhood is having an important ancillary benefit: a rebuke to religious extremism. Internal forces may be the country’s best hope for meaningful reforms.

Releasing Jonathan Pollard would be a mistake. So says former ambassador to Israel and Egypt Daniel Kurtzer, who argues that the release of the convicted spy—a move Secretary of State John Kerry may be considering to restart the sputtering Mideast peace process—would “demean American diplomacy.”

US net energy imports hit 20+ year low, thanks to shale. Our country’s trade balance has been fundamentally transformed by fracking. America’s energy landscape is completely different today than it was even 8 years ago, and our energy security looks to get even better in the years to come.

Erdogan leaves the frying pan for the fire. In the wake of recent municipal elections, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is sitting in a somewhat stronger position, after his AKP party managed to hold on to crucially important Istanbul. But August’s presidential elections will be the real test of the Prime Minister’s damaged brand.

Facing Europe’s far right. Nigel Farage is the leader of the far-right UK Independence Party, and he trounced Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg in a televised debate on the UK’s position in the EU. If the pro-EU forces don’t get their act together, Europe could be headed for some dark days.

Winter is coming already here for big brands. Reflecting the changing face of the American economy, sales of packaged consumer goods—traditionally a mainstay of the US economy—are down. The big brands of the blue era are facing some tough times ahead.

China hit a big green milestone, starting production on its first deepwater natural gas rig this week. This isn’t just good for China’s energy security, though it is that, too: it’s a boon towards the world’s effort to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. To the extent that Chinese natural gas displaces coal, it could be one of the world’s best bets towards averting climate change.

The Gray Lady falls for the Malthus trap. Working off some dire predictions in a recently released IPCC report, the New York Times wondered “Might Thomas Malthus be vindicated in the end?” Malthusian thinking is as persistent as it is misguided, and its recent return in this newspaper of record illustrates how easy it is to forget how creative human beings really are.

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