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The Future of Driving in Developing Countries

July 17, 2014 Comments off

The Future of Driving in Developing Countries
Source: RAND Corporation

The level of automobility, defined as travel in personal vehicles, is often seen as a function of income: The higher a country’s per capita income, the greater the amount of driving. However, levels of automobility vary quite substantially between countries even at similar levels of economic development. This suggests that countries follow different mobility paths. The research detailed in this report sought to answer three questions: What are the factors besides economic development that affect automobility? What is their influence on automobility? What will happen to automobility in developing countries if they progress along similar paths as developed countries? To answer these questions, the authors developed a methodology to identify these factors, model their impact on developed countries, and forecast automobility (as defined by per capita vehicle-kilometers traveled [VKT]) in four developing countries. This methodology draws on quantitative analysis of historical automobility development in four country case studies (the United States, Australia, Germany, and Japan) that represent very different levels of per capita automobility, in combination with data derived from an expert-based qualitative approach. The authors used the latter to assess how these experiences may affect the future of automobility in the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India, and China. According to this analysis, automobility levels in the four BRIC countries will fall between those of the United States (which has the highest per capita VKT level of the four case studies) and Japan (which has the lowest). Brazil is forecasted to have the highest per capita VKT and India the lowest.

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Leveraging Private Capital and Political Action in the Fight Against Corruption

June 11, 2014 Comments off

Leveraging Private Capital and Political Action in the Fight Against Corruption
Source: Brookings Institution

The collapse of a corruption-ridden government in Ukraine, Russia and Turkey’s attempts to curb social media drives to expose alleged bribery, and ongoing public sector reform initiatives in Central and Eastern Europe all serve to highlight the salience of the World Forum on Governance (WFG) in today’s geopolitical landscape. In April 2014, anti-corruption experts from around the globe convened for the third WFG in Prague to share experiences and exchange best practices for leveraging private capital and political action in the fight against corruption. Delegates represented a diverse blend of investors, scholars, government officials, civil society actors, private sector representatives, and members of traditional and new media.

The 2014 WFG built upon the Ten Principles established in the Prague Declaration on Governance and Anti-Corruption, revisited policy areas detailed in the 2012 Conference Report, and developed new initiatives to advance integrity in the public and private sectors.

Breakout sessions explored a broad scope of governance issues within three streams—public policy, capital, and media and civil society—and reviewed action items from previous convenings…

Global Economic Outlook Q2 2014

May 20, 2014 Comments off

Global Economic Outlook Q2 2014
Source: Deloitte

The second quarter edition of the Global Economic Outlook offers timely insights from Deloitte Research economists about the Eurozone, China, the United States, Japan, India, Russia, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. In addition, this issue’s special topic considers the revival in international trade and the resurgence of bilateralism.

CRS — Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy (updated)

May 12, 2014 Comments off

Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

After a failed effort to violently disperse pro-European Union protests, the government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych collapsed on February 21, 2014. The Ukrainian parliament approved a new pro-reform, pro-Western government on February 27. New presidential elections are scheduled for May 25. Russia has condemned the new government in Kyiv as illegitimate and responded by sending troops to seize Ukraine’s Crimea region. Ignoring international condemnation, Russian annexed Crimea on March 18. In April and May 2014, armed men seized government buildings in several cities in eastern Ukraine, mainly in the Donbas region. U.S. and Ukrainian officials charge that Russian intelligence officers in Ukraine are coordinating the unrest. U.S. officials have expressed concern that Russia’s efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine may be the prelude to an invasion by an estimated 40,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders.

CRS — NATO: Response to the Crisis in Ukraine and Security Concerns in Central and Eastern Europe

May 1, 2014 Comments off

NATO: Response to the Crisis in Ukraine and Security Concerns in Central and Eastern Europe (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Russia’s recent military incursions into Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea have caused observers and policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic, including Members of Congress, to reassess the security situation in Europe and the role of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in upholding European security. The security concerns of NATO’s Central and Eastern European member states and non-NATO member states such as Moldova and Ukraine are of particular concern.

Russia: Education Sector Report 2014

April 30, 2014 Comments off

Russia: Education Sector Report 2014 (PDF)
Source: U.S. Commercial Service

Over the past several years, the U.S. has clearly underperformed in the Russian market as schools attempt to recruit students to study in the U.S., but we believe there is significant opportunity for growth. Demand for international secondary, university, and English-language educational services is growing in Russia due to a variety of factors, including general economic growth, the rise of a more affluent middle and upper class, interest in establishing educational and professional ties in the U.S. economy, and a general increase in travel between Russia and the U.S. U.S. educational institutions are in a good position to take advantage of this market due to the excellent reputation of U.S. education in Russia, and an established infrastructure for promoting U.S. education. These trends have advantages for secondary schools, colleges and universities, and English-language schools.

The market does pose challenges for U.S. educational institutions, including the high relative cost of a U.S. education compared to European and Australian competitors. A major advantage for UK schools, a leading provider of international education services to Russians, is its relative geographic proximity to Russia. Some parents are reluctant to send their children to study in the U.S., which may be considered very far. A growing number of direct flights between Russian and U.S. cities are helping to alleviate this problem, but it will always be a challenge that needs to be overcome. An additional challenge, but one that has been reduced in significance lately due to educational efforts by the Commercial Service and Consular Section, is the perception among some Russians, especially those living outside Moscow, that the U.S. visa application process is complicated with a very low approval rate.

Offshore Oil and Gas Governance in the Arctic: A Leadership Role for the U.S.

April 15, 2014 Comments off

Offshore Oil and Gas Governance in the Arctic: A Leadership Role for the U.S.
Source: Brookings Institution

The Arctic is changing and increasingly drawing the world’s interest, with the potential for vast reserves of offshore oil and gas constituting arguably the most attractive, yet challenging prospect in the region.

As the U.S. prepares to assume chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015, this policy brief is designed to inform the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. Government of the current state of oil and gas governance in the Arctic, and to address the following questions:

  • How can the U.S. elevate the Arctic region as a priority national interest?
  • How can the U.S. lead in strengthening offshore oil and gas governance in the Arctic?

Emerging Arctic Explored in New CFR InfoGuide

April 14, 2014 Comments off

Emerging Arctic Explored in New CFR InfoGuide
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has released a new interactive guide examining the economic opportunities and environmental risks emerging in the Arctic. Climate change, technological advances, and a growing demand for natural resources are driving a new era of development in the Arctic region. Many experts assert that Arctic summers could be free of sea ice in a matter of decades, opening the region up to hundreds of billions of dollars in investment, most notably in energy production and shipping.

CRS — Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress (updated)

April 8, 2014 Comments off

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. On May 10, 2013, the Obama Administration released a national strategy document for the Arctic region. On January 30, 2014, the Obama Administration released an implementation plan for this strategy.

Record low extents of Arctic sea ice over the past decade have focused scientific and policy attention on links to global climate change and projected ice-free seasons in the Arctic within decades. These changes have potential consequences for weather in the United States, access to mineral and biological resources in the Arctic, the economies and cultures of peoples in the region, and national security.

AU — The G20: a quick guide

March 26, 2014 Comments off

The G20: a quick guide
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

This is a quick guide to basic information about the G20, as well as links to useful summary resources. The G20 background section includes the G20’s history, its members, the hosting system and G20 meeting processes, as well as a brief discussion of selected policy areas. Material on Australia and the G20 includes Australia’s involvement in the G20, Australia’s G20 goals for 2014 and speeches and press releases on the G20. A short list of links provides access to more resources on the G20.

CRS — Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests (updated)

March 12, 2014 Comments off

Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Russia made uneven progress in democratization during the 1990s, but this limited progress was reversed after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999-2000, according to many observers. During this period, the State Duma (lower legislative chamber) became dominated by governmentapproved parties, gubernatorial elections were abolished, and the government consolidated ownership or control over major media and industries, including the energy sector. The Putin government showed low regard for the rule of law and human rights in suppressing insurgency in the North Caucasus, according to critics. Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s longtime protégé, was elected president in 2008; President Medvedev immediately designated Putin as prime minister and continued Putin’s policies. In August 2008, the Medvedev-Putin “tandem” directed military operations against Georgia and recognized the independence of Georgia’s separatist South Ossetia and Abkhazia, actions condemned by most of the international community. In late 2011, Putin announced that he would return to the presidency and Medvedev would become prime minister. This announcement, and flawed Duma elections at the end of the year, spurred popular protests, which the government addressed by launching a few reforms and holding pro-Putin rallies. In March 2012, Putin was (re)elected president by a wide margin. The day after Putin’s inauguration in May 2012, the legislature confirmed Medvedev as prime minister. Since then, Putin has tightened restrictions on freedom of assembly and other human rights.

Backgrounder: Ukraine in Crisis

March 10, 2014 Comments off

Backgrounder: >Ukraine in Crisis
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

Ukraine’s most prolonged and deadly crisis since its post-Soviet independence began as a protest against the government dropping plans to forge closer trade ties with the European Union and has since spurred a global standoff between Russia and Western powers. The crisis stems from more than twenty years of weak governance, a lopsided economy dominated by oligarchs, heavy reliance on Russia, and sharp differences between Ukraine’s linguistically, religiously, and ethnically distinct eastern and western halves. After the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich in Feburary 2014, Russian moves to take control of the Crimean Peninsula signaled Moscow’s intent to retain its sphere of influence and raised serious questions about the ability of the state’s new leaders to provide stability and a path to meaningful reforms.

CRS — Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests

March 7, 2014 Comments off

Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Russia made uneven progress in democratization during the 1990s, but this limited progress was reversed after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999-2000, according to many observers. During this period, the State Duma (lower legislative chamber) became dominated by governmentapproved parties, gubernatorial elections were abolished, and the government consolidated ownership or control over major media and industries, including the energy sector. The Putin government showed low regard for the rule of law and human rights in suppressing insurgency in the North Caucasus, according to critics. Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s longtime protégé, was elected president in 2008; President Medvedev immediately designated Putin as prime minister and continued Putin’s policies. In August 2008, the Medvedev-Putin “tandem” directed military operations against Georgia and recognized the independence of Georgia’s separatist South Ossetia and Abkhazia, actions condemned by most of the international community. In late 2011, Putin announced that he would return to the presidency and Medvedev would become prime minister. This announcement, and flawed Duma elections at the end of the year, spurred popular protests, which the government addressed by launching a few reforms and holding pro-Putin rallies. In March 2012, Putin was (re)elected president by a wide margin. The day after Putin’s inauguration in May 2012, the legislature confirmed Medvedev as prime minister. Since then, Putin has tightened restrictions on freedom of assembly and other human rights.\

Global gas markets: The North American factor

February 28, 2014 Comments off

Global gas markets: The North American factor
Source: McKinsey & Companies

Cost curves, which array blocks of supply according to their expense, can clarify the dynamics of supply in commodity industries. They are particularly useful when multiple new sources compete to serve a finite market. Such a situation exists today for liquefied natural gas (LNG). Exporters from North America—now among the world’s low-cost gas producers, given recent advances in recovering shale gas—aim to export LNG in competition mostly with projects in Africa, Australia, and Russia.

Security Tip (ST14-001) — Sochi 2014 Olympic Games

February 14, 2014 Comments off

Security Tip (ST14-001) — Sochi 2014 Olympic Games
Source: U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team

Whether traveling to Sochi, Russia for the XXII Olympic Winter Games, or viewing the games from locations abroad, there are several cyber-related risks to consider. As with many international level media events, hacktivists may attempt to take advantage of the large audience to spread their own message. Additionally, cyber criminals may use the games as a lure in spam, phishing or drive-by-download campaigns to gain personally identifiable information or harvest credentials for financial gain. Lastly, those physically attending the games should be cognizant that their communications will likely be monitored.

CRS — The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics: Security and Human Rights Issues

February 10, 2014 Comments off

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics: Security and Human Rights Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on July 4, 2007, that Sochi, Russia, had been selected as the host city for the Olympic Winter Games and Paralympics. The Olympic Games, which will be held February 7-23, 2014, are the first to be hosted by Russia as a successor state to the former Soviet Union. Reportedly, some 230 U.S. athletes out of approximately 2,900 from some 88 countries, and about 10,000 U.S. visitors, are expected in Sochi. Olympic events will take place at two main locations: a coastal cluster along the Black Sea and a mountain cluster in the Krasnaya Polyana mountains.

Since the 2007 selection of Sochi as the site of Olympic Games, many observers, including some in Congress, have raised concerns about security and human rights conditions in Sochi and elsewhere in Russia. Sochi is in Russia’s North Caucasus area, which has experienced ongoing terrorist incidents, including several bombings in recent weeks. Through hearings, legislation, oversight, and other action, some Members of Congress have expressed concerns over Russia’s hosting of the Sochi Olympic Games and Paralympics, particularly the risks that terrorism and human rights violations might pose to U.S. athletes and visitors. Other broader congressional concerns have included whether the United States should participate in the Games in the face of increasing tensions in U.S.-Russia relations and the Russian government’s growing restrictions on the civil and human rights of its citizens. Some Members of Congress have called for boycotting the Games. Others have cautioned that U.S. citizens should carefully weigh the security risks of attending, and have urged greater U.S.-Russia counter-terrorism cooperation to ameliorate threats to the Games. In the period during and after the Games, Congress may continue to exercise oversight and otherwise raise concerns about the safety and human rights treatment of U.S. athletes and visitors and the impact of the Games and other developments in Russia on the future of U.S.-Russia relations.

The XXII Olympic Winter Games, 2014 in Sochi — Official Spectator Guide

February 7, 2014 Comments off

The XXII Olympic Winter Games, 2014 in Sochi — Official Spectator Guide (PDF)
Source: Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee
Includes events calendar, maps, spectator tips, transit info, etc.

Alcohol and mortality in Russia: prospective observational study of 151 000 adults

February 5, 2014 Comments off

Alcohol and mortality in Russia: prospective observational study of 151 000 adults
Source: The Lancet

Background
Russian adults have extraordinarily high rates of premature death. Retrospective enquiries to the families of about 50 000 deceased Russians had found excess vodka use among those dying from external causes (accident, suicide, violence) and eight particular disease groupings. We now seek prospective evidence of these associations.

Methods
In three Russian cities (Barnaul, Byisk, and Tomsk), we interviewed 200 000 adults during 1999—2008 (with 12 000 re-interviewed some years later) and followed them until 2010 for cause-specific mortality. In 151 000 with no previous disease and some follow-up at ages 35—74 years, Poisson regression (adjusted for age at risk, amount smoked, education, and city) was used to calculate the relative risks associating vodka consumption with mortality. We have combined these relative risks with age-specific death rates to get 20-year absolute risks.

Findings
Among 57 361 male smokers with no previous disease, the estimated 20-year risks of death at ages 35—54 years were 16% (95% CI 15—17) for those who reported consuming less than a bottle of vodka per week at baseline, 20% (18—22) for those consuming 1—2·9 bottles per week, and 35% (31—39) for those consuming three or more bottles per week; trend p<0·0001. The corresponding risks of death at ages 55—74 years were 50% (48—52) for those who reported consuming less than a bottle of vodka per week at baseline, 54% (51—57) for those consuming 1—2·9 bottles per week, and 64% (59—69) for those consuming three or more bottles per week; trend p<0·0001. In both age ranges most of the excess mortality in heavier drinkers was from external causes or the eight disease groupings strongly associated with alcohol in the retrospective enquiries. Self-reported drinking fluctuated; of the men who reported drinking three or more bottles of vodka per week who were reinterviewed a few years later, about half (185 of 321) then reported drinking less than one bottle per week. Such fluctuations must have substantially attenuated the apparent hazards of heavy drinking in this study, yet self-reported vodka use at baseline still strongly predicted risk. Among male non-smokers and among females, self-reported heavy drinking was uncommon, but seemed to involve similar absolute excess risks.

Interpretation
This large prospective study strongly reinforces other evidence that vodka is a major cause of the high risk of premature death in Russian adults.

Free registration required for full text.

CDC Traveler’s Health: Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics

February 4, 2014 Comments off

Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

CDC wants you and your travel team to enjoy the Winter Games and bring home a suitcase full of gold, silver, and bronze memories. Plan ahead for safe and healthy travel!

  • Get vaccinated. Make sure you are up to date on your routine vaccines, including measles. You may also need hepatitis vaccines.
  • Pack Smart. Be sure to pack a travel health kit and plenty of warm and waterproof clothing and shoes.
  • Check your insurance. Travelers need proof of medical insurance that is valid in the Russian Federation to get a visa. Most domestic insurance plans won’t cover you if you need medical care overseas, so check with your provider to see if you have coverage outside the United States.
  • Stay Safe. When at crowded events, plan where to meet your group if you get separated. Always scout out emergency exits when at large indoor events.
  • Healthy Habits. Always wear seatbelts. Wash your hands well and often. Drink alcohol in moderation and use latex condoms if you have sex.

See also: Russian Federation Travel Alert (U.S. Department of State)

CRS — Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests

January 24, 2014 Comments off

Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Russia made uneven progress in democratization during the 1990s, but this limited progress was reversed after Vladimir Putin rose to power in 1999-2000, according to many observers. During this period, the State Duma (lower legislative chamber) became dominated by governmentapproved parties, gubernatorial elections were abolished, and the government consolidated ownership or control over major media and industries, including the energy sector. The Putin government showed low regard for the rule of law and human rights in suppressing insurgency in the North Caucasus, according to critics. Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s longtime protégé, was elected president in 2008; President Medvedev immediately designated Putin as prime minister and continued Putin’s policies. In August 2008, the Medvedev-Putin “tandem” directed military operations against Georgia and recognized the independence of Georgia’s separatist South Ossetia and Abkhazia, actions condemned by most of the international community. In late 2011, Putin announced that he would return to the presidency and Medvedev would become prime minister. This announcement, and flawed Duma elections at the end of the year, spurred popular protests, which the government addressed by launching a few reforms and holding pro-Putin rallies. In March 2012, Putin was (re)elected president by a wide margin. The day after Putin’s inauguration in May 2012, the legislature confirmed Medvedev as prime minister. Since then, Putin has tightened restrictions on freedom of assembly and other human rights.

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