Monday Headlines

One day after 17 people were killed in a suicide bombing, another 14 died when a trolleybus in the Russian city of Volgograd was bombed. While no group has claimed credit for the bombings, the strongest suspect is Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, who has called for attacks against civilian targets in Russia, reports USA Today.

Simon Jenkins of the left-leaning The Guardian sees the two bombings as a rejection of Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the glorification of athleticism – even calling for a boycott.

“Sensible countries should de-escalate these events or boycott them. They are staged by corrupt international sporting bodies who feast on them and have no care for the cities and peoples they impoverish. The Olympics should either return to their origins in sport, using existing facilities and more limited range of disciplines, or leave each sport to organise its own world championships. The Sochi way is madness,” he writes.

Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg News takes a less abstract approach to the bombings, asking why Putin has been so slow to respond to the two bombings.

“Putin may be hesitating to speak out because any alarmist statements from him might indeed cast doubt on the security of the Olympics at Sochi, which is much closer than Volgograd to the terrorist hotbeds of the North Caucasus. Security is already extra tight at the Olympic venue, and law enforcement chiefs know Putin won’t forgive them for allowing anyone to mess with an Olympic showcase that has cost $48 billion to stage.

“Putin has allowed the U.S. State Department to overtake him in condemning the Volgograd attacks and sending condolences to the victims’ families. Apart from the president’s customary lack of empathy, this may hide a slow fuse burning. As soon as the mourning period for the victims ends, the hapless governor and the local security chiefs are likely to be replaced. Sochi will be turned into a veritable fortress,” he suggests.

Russia is not the only country confronting violence committed by domestic terror groups. In China, government police killed eight people who launched an attack on a police station. The violence has increased in recent months as Islamic minority in the region has grown more radicalized.

“The official Xinhua news agency referred to the incident in Yarkand county as a “terrorist attack,” and the incident comes just two weeks after 16 people were reported killed in a clash between police and ethnic Uighurs near the city of Kashgar, in the same vicinity,” reports The Los Angeles Times.

The violence is part of continued unrest in Xinjiang, the home of the native Muslim Uighur population who want more autonomy from Beijing.

2014: The Year The Recovery Finally Arrives?
Robert Samuelson takes a positive approach to 2014, arguing that a strengthening job market, declines in household debt, a revival in the housing sector, and the fact businesses may be ready to finally unload the cash reserves on which they have been sitting may herald a good year for American taxpayers.

However, he does add a cautionary note.

“A better recovery presumes that consumers and companies respond to good news as in the past. But they may not. The Great Recession changed attitudes and behavior because it was both unexpected and devastating. Though jobs are up, they remain about 1.3 million below the record. Millions of would-be workers (almost 5.7 million, estimates the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank) have left the labor force. Americans have been sobered. The resulting wariness may be self-fulfilling. Initial reports of holiday shopping were mixed.”

Global Retirement Crisis Looms
The Associated Press offers a detailed look at the challenges that will confront economies across the globe as populations age.

“Spawned years before the Great Recession and the financial meltdown in 2008, the crisis was significantly worsened by those twin traumas. It will play out for decades, and its consequences will be far-reaching. Many people will be forced to work well past the traditional retirement age of 65 — to 70 or even longer. Living standards will fall, and poverty rates will rise for the elderly in wealthy countries that built safety nets for seniors after World War II. In developing countries, people’s rising expectations will be frustrated if governments can’t afford retirement systems to replace the tradition of children caring for aging parents,” the wire service reports.


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