Newsletter – March 2013

Dear readers,
This month, Alessandra Quattrocchi takes an in-depth look at the scandals and mysteries of the Vatican Bank; Marino Xanthos, Professor of Chemical, Biological, and Pharmaceutical Engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.examines the dangers of the world's dependance on plastics; Ian Christie, Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck College, University of London looks back at the life of the great Soviet film-maker Alexei German. The stalemate in the Italian elections are deciphered by Carlo Ungaro, the former diplomat; experts in the field try to shed some light on wine terroir and cast doubt on whether it even exists; Issandr El Amrani, the respected commentator on Middle Eastern affairs and founder of 'The Arabist' blog asks whether Egypt may be heading out of control; Olivier Blanchard, the IMF’s Chief Economist outlines the economic challenges ahead; Ben Judah from the European Council on Foreign Relations on Russian fears that Siberia will be colonised by the Chinese and Giorgio Cafiero explores China's relationship with the two Sudans as well as the possibility that the Kurds might take advantage of the dissolution of the once great Arab states, Iraq and Syria.
See you next month.

The Dirt on Plastic Waste
By Marino Xanthos

Roughly half of plastic products, such as packaging, are intended for one-time, short-lifespan (less than six months) applications prior to disposal. Given that most of these items are not biodegradable, and are not recycled, plastics waste is building up – with serious environmental consequences.

The Alexei German I knew
By Ian Christie

Russians recently bade farewell to a man many considered to be the country’s greatest living filmmaker. 'My Friend Ivan Lapshin', Alexei German's signature piece, was praised as the 'best Soviet film ever made' by fellow director Andrei Tarkovsky

Banking in the Vatican
By Alessandra Quattrocchi

The scandals and mysteries of the Vatican Bank may well have been behind the Pope's decision to resign. The new Pope who is currently being chosen will face considerable pressure to reform and offer greater transparency in both the Church's financial and ethical dealings.

And the winner is…
By Carlo Ungaro

Reflections on post-electoral politics in Italy. With no clear winner emerging out of the election, a new era of uncertainty opens for Italian politics. How can the country get out of the post-electoral impasse? Italy is facing a period of turbulence without parallel in its post-war history writes Carlo Ungaro the former Italian diplomat.

Wine tasting: Is ‘terroir’ a joke?
By Orley Ashenfelter - Olivier Gergaud, Victor Ginsburgh - Karl Storchmann

Does terroir really affect a wine’s quality? Are wine experts incompetent? Like many cultural commodities, it seems that the quality of wine is not an objective trait. Rather, these commodities become whatever we want them to become.

Egypt: out of control?
By Issandr El Amrani

Egypt appears to be spinning out of control. The current crisis is a prolongation of the crisis that emerged late last year over a decree by President Morsi suspending some judicial decisions and giving himself additional powers, followed by the rush to approve a new constitution.

China’s Sudan Challenge
By Giorgio Cafiero

Can China manage an effective partnership with both Sudans? Sudan’s 2011 partition has presented China with a new set of challenges. Beijing will be challenged to advance its interests in the Sudans while upholding its foreign policy principle of non-intervention in other states’ affairs.

Cliffs avoided, mountains ahead
By Olivier Blanchard

Olivier Blanchard, the IMF's Chief Economist, argues that important progress has been made by putting the crisis behind us but that recovery continues to be hampered by the need for fiscal consolidation and a weak financial system.

Why Russia is not Losing Siberia
By Ben Judah

The Yellow Peril was a feature of life in Soviet times and the demographics on either side of the Russia-China border do little to convince the fearful that Siberia will not be colonised by the Chinese.

Dreams and Dilemmas of Iraqi Kurdistan
By Giorgio Cafiero

The Kurds are perfectly placed to take advantage of the dissolution of the once great Arab states, Iraq and Syria and the dream of a Kurdish state looks closer to becoming a reality.

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