Shutdown Upshot

Dear Americans, as you read this week about the particulars of the latest US government shutdown and stopgap funding deal, spare a thought for the confused citizens of other countries. Yes, there’s plenty of instability, unrest, and vitriol in their political lives too, but the shutdown seems to be a uniquely American phenomenon. Two quick points:

First, why does this seem to happen only in the US? In parliamentary systems, budget deadlocks often result in a vote of no confidence, and then a new government. But in the US, the presidential veto and the Senate filibuster enable one person or a small group of people to hold political rivals hostage over a political issue (in the current case, immigration reform) by preventing government from funding its own operations. Since the US doesn’t do early elections, the result is a bitter stalemate and, from time to time, a shutdown.

Second, more broadly: how does it look to the rest of the world? Well, it sure doesn’t help the already tarnished image of liberal democracy globally. “What’s happening in the United States today will make more people worldwide reflect on the viability and legitimacy of such a chaotic political system,” claimed an editorial by China’s state-owned Xinhua news agency on January 21. Like it or not, Xinhua is right — and a majority of Americans seem to agree.

Earlier this year, two powerful cyclones struck the northern coast of Mozambique and were followed by months of torrential rain. Mozambique faced an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. "The coast road from Pemba airport to the city center and its harbor was totally destroyed," said Franco Picciani, operations manager at Eni Rovuma Basin. The damage brought the city's economy to a standstill.

Eni answered the call, providing its equipment and expertise. "We rebuilt the coast road in less than two months," Picciani said. "We work in the area. We have a logistics base here. It's home to us. When the area needed help, we didn't stop to think about it for a minute. It goes without saying that we should look after the community we work in."

Learn more at Eniday: Energy Is A Good Story

Six months after pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters began marching against an extradition law that would have allowed suspects to be tried in mainland courts, things in the semi-autonomous territory feel on the brink. The question is, the brink of what?

Rather than a sudden break that resolves the crisis one way or another – either a government capitulation or crackdown by Beijing – Hong Kong may instead be facing a prolonged, violent, and costly stalemate. Here's why:

More Show less

Why do journalists keep sources anonymous?

So, anonymity can be granted for a number of reasons. The main one is a risk of retaliation against the person, against their job, against their personal safety. For instance, if you report in a war zone or on a crime victim. It can also be to protect vulnerable people such as children, or if it's just the only way to get the information out.

More Show less

Latin America's longest-serving head of state is now out. Bolivia's fiery leftwing President Evo Morales resigned on Sunday, after weeks of increasingly violent protests over his apparent bid to rig last month's presidential elections.

Although he agreed under international pressure to hold a fresh ballot, he and his vice president were ousted by the military after a number of local police units sided with demonstrators.

His supporters say this is an illegal coup that undermines democracy. His opponents say Morales' attempt to rig the election was the real assault on democracy and that the army has merely stepped in to restore order so that elections can be held.

More Show less