World News Digest – Issue 9

With the fast pace of today’s news cycle it can be hard to know what to pay attention to, and information overload is often the inevitable result. Listed under the categories of Economy, Energy, Environment, Geopolitics and Culture, our selected news highlights bypass celebrity gossip and partisan politics, cutting through the crap to shine the spotlight on the world affairs that affect us most strongly.

The SHIFT team has trawled through hundreds of news sources and stories, turning up our bullshit filter to maximum volume, to bring you April and May’s global affairs highlights…

Economy

Radical plans afoot in Iceland to end the boom and bust cycle

The Icelandic government has suggested handing over the power of money creation from commercial banks to the state owned central bank in a bid to stabilise the boom and bust cycle.

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Modelling global financial instability

The Bank of England has imposed a series of tests on large UK banks to establish whether they are able to withstand a dramatic slowdown in China, a contraction in the Eurozone, the worst deflation since the 1930s or a fall in UK interest rates to zero. Meanwhile the slump in global oil prices continues to fuel financial instability and standard approaches to fuel economic growth may fail to work in unstable debt markets.

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The lucky country is running out of luck

The Australian economy seems to be coming to the end of its latest boom cycle, and heading into uncertain times. Unemployment is on the rise, the economic slowdown in China is taking its toll, and demand for Australian iron ore and coal is plummeting. There is no plan in place to mitigate the effects of the boom and bust cycle.

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Energy

Price swings expected as oil enters an age of uncertainty

High prices and low demand signal the end of affordable oil, according to some analysts, while others point to sharp fluctuations in oil prices. The only thing that seems certain is that we are entering an age of uncertainty.

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Fossil fuel faux pas dents oil giants’ credibility

BP’s early investments in clean, low-carbon energy research in the 80s and 90s have been mothballed. Not only has the oil firm halted the flow of billions of dollars into fossil fuel alternatives, but they have also locked away the research. Adding further embarrassment to the industry, Shell has been caught promoting the view that the world still needs fossil fuels despite climate change. Shell’s internal documents acknowledge an average global temperature rise twice that of the UN Copenhagen target.

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US coal in decline

The US coal industry is reported to be in structural decline as the industry loses 76% of its value in five years, shutting down over 200 mines.

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Environment

Climate update

It’s never good news on the climate front, and this month doesn’t disappoint. Further evidence emerges of the expected impacts of climate change, while Antarctic ice thinning speeds up and ocean circulation slows down. Meanwhile, methane is giving carbon a run for its money with fears over thawing permafrost and unexplained methane hotspots. Scientists have called for coal projects threatening the Great Barrier Reef to be scrapped.

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Wildlife in decline

Biodiversity loss reaches critical proportions with scientists predicting an ‘empty landscape’. 60% of large herbivores at now at risk of extinction, and a third of Europe’s birds may be set to follow suit, according to recent research. Australia’s rate of mammal extinctions – the world’s worst – has triggered a group of concerned scientists to devise a comprehensive plan.

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Natural wonders threatened by economic development

As the machine of economic progress rolls on, large regions of the world’s wilderness are under threat. Massive infrastructure and road-building programmes financed by aggressive development banks are the latest scourge on the environment. Meanwhile our insatiable lust for technological gadgetry has been exposed as far more ecologically damaging than previously believed. A glimmer of hope may be seen in the establishment of Australia’s biggest national park, as mining companies ditch plans to mine the Mitchell Plateau in the Kimberley, Western Australia.

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Sixty more years of crops, and then what?

Landowners worldwide are engaged in a level of soil destruction that the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says leaves the world with an average of just 60 viable years of growing crops.

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Geopolitics

Muddling through what’s going on in the Middle East

If you’re unclear on what’s going down in the Middle East you’re not alone – experts are struggling to make sense of it all as well. Amidst the chaos, a few things are becoming clearer: exactly who ISIS are, how they operate, and what their agenda is.

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Big Brother is most definitely watching you!

Few people are aware of an NSA surveillance program known as TREASUREMAP, which is being developed in order to continuously map every internet connection of every person on the planet. The surveillance covers mobile digital devices including cellphones, laptops and tablets.

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Disclaimer: SHIFT magazine does not take responsibility for the content of any of the articles linked to in our World News Digest. Selection for the Digest does not imply endorsement of any of the positions expressed in any given article.

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