Sunday News and Notes

Assad Lays Out New Peace Initiative
Just days after the United Nations released estimates that as many as 60,000 people have been killed in Syria’s civil war, President Bashar al-Assad laid out his new peace initiative. He expressed willingness to convene a national reconciliation conference, formulate a new government and constitution, and hold discussions with those “who haven’t betrayed Syria.”

Assad also stipulated that no initiative would move forward until Western nations stopped funding rebel forces. This elicited a response from the European Union Foreign Affairs Office, which released a statement saying that the EU would “look carefully if there is anything new in the speech but we maintain our position that Assad has to step aside and allow for a political transition.”

Is A Global Solution Needed In The War On Drugs?
Gary Becker and Kevin Murphy have conducted an extensive examination of efforts worldwide to combat the scourge of illicit drugs, their impact on individuals and metropolitan areas as a whole. Their conclusion?

Since the war on drugs was launched in 1971 by President Richard Nixon, the authors claim the “cost has been large in terms of lives, money and the well-being of many Americans, especially the poor and less educated. By most accounts, the gains from the war have been modest at best.”

Looking at initiatives in the US, Mexico, and other nations, including Portugal, Murphy and Becker see a far more complicated picture than a simple “legalize” or “do not legalize” solution.

“Though the decriminalization of drug use would have many benefits, it would not, by itself, reduce many of the costs of the war on drugs, since those involve actions against traffickers,” they write adding that a better course would be to combine the “efforts of leaders in different countries can succeed in making a big enough push toward finally ending this long, enormously destructive policy experiment.”

IMF Says It Was Not Quite Right About Austerity Measures
In a new paper, two IMF economists (who note the paper does not represent the views of the IMF) say the negative impact of austerity policies were underestimated.

As reported by Bloomberg News’ Mark Whitehouse, when the IMF instituted austerity measures in 2010, “IMF “forecasters underestimated the negative impact spending cuts and tax increases would have on the broader economy.”

Quick Hits

Myra Saefong looks at the impact on oil prices after Chavez.

Facebook usage is increasing worldwide.

How the government deals with a terrorist threat in a simple graph.

The Federal Reserve’s transparency initiative.




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