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The budget of the insurgents revealed

iraqwar001.jpgNYT reports on the financing of the insurgency in Iraq;

“The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, connivance by corrupt Islamic charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to prevent, a classified United States government report has concluded.

The report, obtained by The New York Times, estimates that groups responsible for many insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising $70 million to $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says $25 million to $100 million of that comes from oil smuggling and other criminal activity involving the state-owned oil industry, aided by “corrupt and complicit” Iraqi officials.

As much as $36 million a year comes from ransoms paid for hundreds of kidnap victims, the report says. It estimates that unnamed foreign governments — previously identified by American officials as including France and Italy — paid $30 million in ransom last year…

The group’s estimate of the financing for the insurgency, even taking the higher figure of $200 million, underscores the David and Goliath nature of the war. American, Iraqi and other coalition forces are fighting an array of shadowy Sunni and Shiite groups that can draw on huge armories left over from Mr. Hussein’s days, and benefit from the willingness of many insurgents to fight with little or no pay. If the $200 million a year estimate is close to the mark, it amounts to less than what it costs the Pentagon, with an $8 billion monthly budget for Iraq, to sustain the American war effort here for a single day.

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Altruism
The term altruism was coined by the 19th century sociologist Auguste Comte and is derived from the Latin “alteri” or "the others”. It describes an unselfish attention to the needs of others. Comte declared that man had a moral duty to “serve humanity, whose we are entirely.” The idea of altruism is central to the main religions: Jesus declared “you shall love your neighbour as yourself” and Mohammed said “none of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself”. Buddhism too advocates “seeking for others the happiness one desires for oneself.”…
If both mankind and the natural world are selfishly seeking to promote their own survival and advancement, how can we explain being kind to others, sometimes at our own expense? How have philosophical ideas about altruism responded to evolutionary theory? And paradoxically, is it possible that altruism can, in fact, be selfish? Contributors include Miranda Fricker, Senior Lecturer in the School of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London, Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University and John Dupré, Professor of Philosophy of Science at Exeter University and director of Egenis, the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society (from BBC’s In Our Time).

Niall Ferguson: The War of the World
The 20th century was a period of unprecedented economic growth and scientific discovery, but equally a century of unparalleled bloodshed and warfare - estimates suggest that 1 in every 22 deaths in the 20th century were the result of violence. Niall Ferguson argues that the intensity of the 'hundred years war' can be explained by the factors of ethnic disintegration, economic volatility, and empires in decline - forces which are to be found behind sites of contemporary conflict, notably the Middle East.

Can chocolate cure hypochondria?
Associate Professor in Latin Humanism Yasmin Haskell from the University of Western Australia talks about the history of hypochondria and benefits of chocolate.

A proposal to make Sunni Arabs happy

Two Princeton professors Shivaji Sondhi and Michael Cook, have a guest column at Econbrowser on a suggestion to improve the stake of the Sunnis in Iraq;

“The problem from the start has been the stake of the Sunni Arabs. This was entirely predictable, as no minority used to a disproportionate share of power gives up this privilege easily-- the relative deprivation simply excites too many fears. One only has to look at nearby Lebanon for an example…

To this end we propose that the United States make a financial commitment to Iraq which takes the form of ensuring that its Sunni provinces get oil revenues proportional to their share of the population over the next decade or possibly more. Initially, it should take the form of simply funneling an amount equal to the Sunni share directly to these provinces. This would at the same time increase the size of the national pie, which would help to appease the Shia and the Kurds, and might also reduce the tension over Kirkuk. In later years the commitment would transition into an insurance policy.

What would be a rough upper bound on such a commitment? To date Iraq has produced a maximum of 3.7 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil. This was back in 1979, and the country hasn't actually produced more than 3.5 million bpd since 1990. It is quite unlikely that either figure will be exceeded anytime soon. Taking the 1979 figure and a profit of $50 per barrel, we are talking about revenues of approximately $67 billion a year. Of this we may estimate the share of the Sunni majority provinces at about 20 per cent, or $14 billion. Today their share of the 2 million bpd production is closer to $7 billion."

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