Even Former Communists Deserve the Occasional Bailout

France, Germany, and much of Western Europe may not want to bail out their eastern neighbors – those prodigal, America-lionizing, Russophobic upstarts. It would be far more gratifying to harrumph about the ills of capitalism, the ineluctable pratfalls of deregulation. Besides, how could the leaping profits of the frothy years not be fraudulent?

But to tut-tut too much, however justified it might be, to quarantine Hungary and Poland, Latvia and Estonia, to smugly deny them much-needed funding and blackball them from EU discussions in order to safeguard the Euro, would all be a mistake. If governments in Lithuania and Bulgaria tumble, populist rulers, noisy, grouchy, emboldened, with even less ability to manage a deep recession, may well come to power.

Stiff-armed by the West, they could cozy up to Russia with energy deals and other sly bilateral agreements, spitefully inked not so much to please the powers that be in Moscow as to stick it to the stingy, hectoring western Europeans.

Not only bad geopolitics, ostracizing Eastern Europe would also be bad for the Eurozone economy. Many western banks – BNP Paribas and Commerzbank come to mind – have major (and once wildly wealthy) subsidiaries in the east. If they go belly-up, their capital bases gutted by dumb loans made in local tender, their parents in Paris and Frankfurt will suffer accordingly.

As these big western European banks then try to cover the losses, they’ll hungrily haul in lending in their home markets, even more than they already have, a febrile tightening that will likely force them back, yet again, to their national governments. In the end, it seems, Western Europe will have to bankroll its eastern comrades one way or another. Better to hop to it now, gamely, than to do it desperately and cack-handedly later.

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to good health and well-being

Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.

Image courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
  • As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
  • If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
  • Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
  • By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
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An ancient structure visible from space isn’t man-made

Long hidden under trees, it's utterly massive

(Roy Funch)
Surprising Science
  • This 4,000-year-old structure can be seen from space and wasn't built by humans
  • It's made up of 200 million mounds of earth
  • It's still under construction today
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How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
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How Christians co-opted the winter solstice

Christmas has many pagan and secular traditions that early Christians incorporated into this new holiday.

Saturnalia by Antoine Callet
Culture & Religion
  • Christmas was heavily influenced by the Roman festival of Saturnalia.
  • The historical Jesus was not born on December 25th as many contemporary Christians believe.
  • Many staple Christmas traditions predated the festival and were tied into ancient pagan worship of the sun and related directly to the winter solstice.
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