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.

“Beware, my dear Zilkov. The virus of capitalism is highly infectious. Soon, you'll be lending money out at interest,” commented Dr. Yen Lo, the Chinese Communist handler of Raymond Shaw in the 1962 classic The Manchurian Candidate. Now it would appear that the “virus of capitalism” has infected Laos — the Lao Democratic People’s Republic — with the country’s first stock market set to open today. Laotians have high hopes that the Lao Securities Exchange will bring in much-needed foreign investment to the landlocked and impoverished Southeast Asian Communist state. 

The assassination of outspoken Pakistani Governor Salman Taseer has started a new debate in different sections of Pakistani society, and it has clearly drawn a line between the religious elements and the liberal class. The history of Pakistan since 1947 has observed such divisions, which widen when faced with such incidents.

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 a gesture of goodwill to Moscow, the government of Kyrgyzstan decided to name a 14,587-foot mountain, located in the Tian-Shan range in northern Kyrgyzstan, the Putin Mountain in honor of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The announcement was made by Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev, “who signed the bill to rename the peak,” according to the Telegraph