German sociologist and political economist Max Weber once defined a state as an institution that “successfully upholds a claim on the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence in the enforcement of its order.” States, of course, prefer not to be thought of in such terms, so they generally couch their employment of force in less threatening phrases, such as “helping the poor” rather than “robbing the rich,” creating “collateral damage” rather than “murdering innocents,” or even (as Bill Clinton would have it) “accepting contributions” rather than “collecting taxes.” Let someone get in the state’s way, however, and the velvet glove comes off, revealing the iron fist underneath.
New year, new crisis. For the beleaguered, once-independent nations of Europe now entangled in the eurozone, the economic drama unfolding in Portugal this week looks woefully familiar. According to the latest speculations in the financial press, the Portuguese government is now under pressure from other European governments to accept a bailout from the EU, much like what happened with Ireland last fall. As with Ireland, Portugal is now denying the need for any bailout, insisting that she can solve her own problems with spending cuts, tax hikes, and other budgetary modifications.
In 1998, a study conducted by Andrew Wakefield, a former British surgeon and researcher, and his colleagues was published in The Lancet. According to the conclusions of the study, there was a direct connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. However, a new examination of the data reveals that Wakefield may have altered some of the information used in his study to reach his conclusion.
As if news of the restoration of the Soviet Union through the new Customs Union was not alarming enough on its own, Britain's Telegraph recently reported that Russia’s “domestic FSB security service is trying to subsume the SVR foreign intelligence service in order to recreate a latter day KGB in all but name.”