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Venezuela’s government is sinking in a sea of oil

It has nearly as much crude reserves as the US and Saudi Arabia combined. So how come Venezuela's oil production and exports are slipping and the public is raging in the streets?
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United States' imports from Venezuela of crude oil are declining. (US Energy Information Administration/Courtesy)
NEW YORK — Lurking behind the barricades in Venezuela, where pro- and anti-government forces have battled on and off for more than five weeks, one of the biggest contradictions on the planet helps explain what’s gone wrong with Hugo Chavez's Bolivarian revolution. Sitting atop oil reserves that are larger Venezuela’s oil production and export revenue during the same period have dropped precipitously.

Why the world is worrying about this not-so-precious metal

Trading near historic lows, copper augers more trouble for emerging markets.
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Copper coins from the second and third centuries found in a private garden in Paris. (Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — For those of you not checking how copper's trading on your Bloomberg terminal (and that includes this writer), the fall in price of the red metal has probably left no impression. For most of us, copper is what US pennies are made of. But even that’s not quite right: Since 1982, pennies have been almost all zinc, and a measly 2.5 percent copper.

But economists know better, and their blogs are burning red.


Banking on pain for Russia’s banks

Talk of Western sanctions has Russian oligarchs worried.
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Head of Russia's Sberbank German Gref, right. (Alexey Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK — The circle of Russian bankers and industrialists who’ve carefully protected their interests by keeping on good terms with President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin — the so-called oligarchs — are increasingly nervous that Russia’s moves in Crimea will cost them dearly. So far, the only action has been an executive order signed by President Barack Obama imposing a visa ban against certain Russians and Ukrainians and threatening to freeze any assets they or their companies might have inside the United States. The European Union is moving on a similar track.

Why a Crimean enclave is just saving up trouble

Splitting off non-contiguous territories has been a surefire prescription for violence.
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Sevastopol, Ukraine is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 20 crew member on the International Space Station. The port city of Sevastopol is located in southernmost Ukraine on the Crimean Peninsula. (NASA/Screengrab)
As bad ideas go, the creation of a new ethnic enclave separated from the historical motherland as a means of solving an international problem is about as bad as they get.
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A soldier rides past Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt airplanes, better known as "Warthogs." (Radek Mica/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK — US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has taken his plan to cut billions from the military’s budget on the road. He’s spoken to troops, veterans groups and think tanks about what he considers the need to purge the armed forces once and for all of its Cold War, big weapons mindset, all while integrating vital lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq wars. This is no easy task.

US foreign aid is shrinking and Americans don’t care

With an improving economy and clean debt ceiling hike, will Obama bring world poverty back to the US agenda?
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US aid packages at a relief center in Mogadishu, Somalia in January 2012. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK — Something’s absent from the national conversation on the 2015 budget, and it's not domestic issues.

Forget BRICS. This year is all about SMMSTBLILTEZ

These are not your everyday top economic performers. But behind the garish GDP growth forecasts, the devil lurks in the details.
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Credit cards for sale at a United Nations displaced persons' camp in Juba, South Sudan. (Charles Atiki Lomodong/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — If the BRICS are stumbling, what about “frontier markets” — the super-fast growing nations of Africa and Asia that post garish double-digit annual GDP growth. Surely, there must be opportunity there. Well, maybe.

The return of the rising sun

Japan’s launch of a ‘carrier in disguise’ has East Asia pondering the future.
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Japanese navy ships. (US Navy/Courtesy)
China flexed new naval offensive might, and Japan has responded. Meet Izumo, the largest warship the Japanese navy has built since World War II.

‘Too big to fail’ banks are going back to the casino with your money

Analysis: Don't waste your time on the Davos forum, which kicks off this week. A bigger economic story already happened in another Swiss town, Basel, where the banks just won huge.
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Red light, green light, Basel 1, 2, 3. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)
Whatever lofty pronouncements issue forth from leaders attending Davos this week, nothing’s likely to trump what a little-known bureaucratic agency did in another Swiss town, Basel, just 10 days earlier.

2014 and the hundred years war

Analysis: The events of a century ago continue to define the modern world and drive its bloody conflicts.
In 1916, French soldiers unload trucks near Verdun battlefield, eastern France during World War I. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK — The idea that World War I can be viewed merely between 1914 and 1918 is absurd. It is the war that has never ended.