TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 17

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Bill Gates has some notes for Thomas Piketty: Tackle income inequality by taxing consumption, not capital.

By Bill Gates in Gates Notes

2. Thousands have died as Central African Republic slides toward civil war, but media coverage is scant. Is there an empathy gap?

By Jared Malsin in the Columbia Journalism Review

3. Europe’s apprentice model isn’t a perfect fit for U.S. manufacturing, but it could change the way we train a new generation of blue-collar workers.

By Tamar Jacoby in the New America Foundation Weekly Wonk

4. Ebola may be gruesome but it’s not the biggest threat to Africa.

By Fraser Nelson in the Guardian

5. In dry California, regulators are using an innovative pricing scheme to push conservation.

By Sarah Gardner at Marketplace

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY The Economy

Why the Fed Should Stop Talking About Raising Interest Rates

Some central bankers have called for raising rates sooner rather than later. Recent economic data — and the huge stock market sell-off — should dampen those calls.

There have been two presidential inaugurations and six Super Bowl champions since interest rates were effectively lowered to 0%. Recently, some Federal Reserve officials have said they expect to raise rates by the middle of next year thanks to a decently expanding economy and stronger job growth.

Some central bankers, though, think the middle of 2015 is too late and have been pushing to increase borrowing costs sooner. Esther George, President of the Kansas City Fed, said as much in a speech earlier this month, and two members of the Federal Open Market Committee voted bristled against easy monetary policy in their most recent meeting.

But with developed economies around the world showing dismal growth and less-than-stellar economic metrics here at home — punctuated by a rapidly declining stock prices (the stock market is, after all, a reflection of the market’s forecast for the economy six to nine months down the road) — it might be time for these inflation hawks to quiet down.

“Until we see wages expanding faster than the rate of inflation, and significantly so, we won’t see much in the way of inflation pressure,” says Mike Schenk, Vice President of Economics & Statistics for the Credit Union National Association. “Why raise rates if you don’t have inflation?”

Inflation Hawks

Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher voted against the most recent monetary action policy, according to minutes of the meeting, due to, among other factors, the “continued strength of the real economy” and “the improved outlook for labor utilization.”

Earlier this month, Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser said that he’s “not too concerned” about inflation growth below the Fed’s 2% target and joined Fisher in voting against the Fed policy because he disagreed with the guidance that said rates will stay at zero for “a considerable time after” the Fed ends its unconventional bond-buying program later this month.

George, meanwhile in a speech earlier this month, said Fed officials should begin talking seriously about raising rates since “starting this process sooner rather than later is important. If we continue to wait — if we continue to wait to see full employment, to see inflation running beyond the 2% target — then we risk having to move faster and steeper with interest rates in a way that is destabilizing to the economy in the long term,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Jobs

The jobs environment has been improving in recent months. The economy added almost 250,000 jobs in September and the unemployment number fell to a post-recession low of 5.9%. But the unemployment number doesn’t tell the whole story.

If you look at another metric that takes into account workers who only recently gave up looking for a job and part-time employees who want to work 40 hours a week, the situation is much worse. Before the recession, this broader unemployment rate sat at around 8%. It’s now at almost 12%. There are still about three million workers who’ve been unemployed for longer than 27 weeks, up from around 1.3 million at the end of 2007.

Inflation

Right now, and for some time, there has been very little inflation. Prices grew 1.7% over the past year in August, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s Consumer Price Index. Even the Fed’s preferred inflation tracker, the PCE deflator, showed prices gain 1.5% compared to 12 months ago.

Wage growth is likewise stalled. Taking into account wages and benefits, workers have only seen a 1.8% raise. It’s just difficult to have inflation in a low interest rate environment without wage growth.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard recently said that the Fed should consider postponing the end of its bond-buying program. “Inflation expectations are declining in the U.S.,” he said in an interview yesterday with Bloomberg News. “That’s an important consideration for a central bank. And for that reason I think that a logical policy response at this juncture may be to delay the end of the QE.”

Europe

European economic woes aren’t helping. Germany, Europe’s largest economy, recently cut it’s growth forecast, now only expects to grow by 1.2% in 2014 and 2015. Sweden and Spain saw prices actually decline in August, and now there’s fear that the euro zone will endure a so-called triple-dip recession. The relative prowess of the American economy compared to Europe’s has strengthened the U.S. dollar, thus making our exports less competitive.

Look, the U.S. economy isn’t about to go off a cliff. Not only did we see growth of 4.6% last quarter, but employers are adding jobs at a decent clip and the number of workers filing first-time jobless claims fell to the lowest level since 2000, per the Labor Department.

But with low inflation and European struggles to achieve anything close to robust growth, raising interest rates anytime soon doesn’t appear likely.

TIME Markets

Stock Markets Are Waking Up to Economic Reality

An investor holds a child in front of an electronic screen showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shenyang
An investor holds a child in front of an electronic screen showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shenyang, Liaoning province, Oct. 16, 2014. Sheng Li—Reuters

Misguided policy is undermining growth and creating new risks

Stock markets are supposed to be indicators of where economies are headed. The recent sell-off in global equities, however, shows investors are just catching up with the headlines. Wall Street had powered through the gloomy news emanating from much of the global economy for most of the year, with indices scoring one record after the next. But now investors seem to have finally woken up to the world’s woes, causing the bulls to stampede. On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by as much as 2.8%, and even though it later recovered, it has still fallen by 5% in five days. That followed a terrible day on European bourses, with the German and French markets suffering large losses. The trouble continued Thursday in Asia, with losses in Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Financial markets are reacting to what should have been obvious to investors for some time — growth is stumbling in just about every corner of the planet. And we can blame some pretty gutless policymaking for it. From Beijing to Brussels to Brasilia, governments are failing to implement the reforms we need to finally lift the global economy out of the protracted slump tipped off by the 2008 financial crisis.

The situation is most infuriating in Europe. The International Monetary Fund recently cut its forecast for euro zone GDP growth to a mere 0.8% this year. Germany, the largest and supposedly strongest economy in the zone, is projected to expand only 1.4%, while Italy, the zone’s third-largest economy, will likely contract again in 2014. Unemployment remains stubbornly high at 11.5%. Meanwhile, the leaders of Europe seem unconcerned and have done little to encourage growth or job creation. At a European level, the process of forging greater integration and bringing down remaining barriers to cross-border business has stalled, while the record of individual governments in liberalizing markets and fixing broken labor systems is at best mixed. Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, has fallen behind the curve in preventing prices from falling to dangerously low levels, raising fears of deflation, which would suppress consumption and investment even further. No wonder more analysts are worried Europe is facing “Japanification” — a potentially destructive, long-term malaise similar to what has been experienced in Japan.

Speaking of Japan, the program of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — dubbed “Abenomics” — is being exposed as a failure. Massive monetary stimulus from the Bank of Japan has not jumpstarted growth, while Abe, with government finances increasingly under strain, has had to hike taxes, dampening consumption and denting growth even further. The promised structural reforms that could raise the economy’s potential, from loosening up labor markets to opening protected sectors, have barely gotten off the ground. The IMF sees Japan’s GDP expanding a meager 0.9% in 2014.

The story in emerging markets isn’t much better. Once high fliers have crashed down to earth. Brazil’s economy will likely grow a pathetic 0.3% this year, while Russia, plagued by sanctions, will be lucky to avoid a recession. Even China is struggling. Though growth remains above 7% — at least officially — economists are just now starting to realize such rates are probably the country’s “new normal.” Facing a property slump and excessive debt, the economy will continue to slow down in coming years. Beijing’s policymakers have promised a lot of the liberalizing reforms that could fix China’s growth model, but they have implemented almost none of that program. A free-trade zone that was to be a critical experiment in more open capital flows, launched with great fanfare in Shanghai a year ago, has languished as policymakers drag their feet on implementation.

There are occasional bright spots, though. It looks like India is rebounding, while growth in some other developing nations, such as the Philippines, remains healthy. But that won’t be enough to stir prospects globally. And while the U.S. is better off than most other advanced economies, the inability of Washington to confront problems like income inequality or sagging infrastructure is holding the economy back.

What we are witnessing around the world is a slowdown created to a large degree by bad policymaking and political inaction. In fact, you could make the argument that what steps have been taken have only made matters worse. The long-running easy money policies of the Federal Reserve probably helped to propel the prices of stocks and other assets upward, detaching them from the underlying fundamentals of the global economy and making them vulnerable to sudden shocks and shifts in sentiment.

Perhaps what we’re seeing in global stock markets is a temporary correction or short-term adjustment. Or perhaps markets are telling us things will be much worse than we expect in coming quarters. Either way, it seems like investors are finally swallowing a dose of economic reality.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Why Health Officials Are Concerned About Energy Drinks

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WendellandCarolyn—Getty Images

New report advocates for more regulation

The energy drink market is booming, but that’s not necessarily a good thing when it comes to public health, says the World Health Organization’s regional office for Europe.

In a new report in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, João Breda, who works in the division of noncommunicable diseases at WHO Europe, and his colleagues reviewed data on the health risks of energy drinks and the current policies that regulate them. They concluded that health concerns from the scientific and medical community are valid, and that consuming high levels of caffeine very quickly can cause negative health effects or “caffeine intoxication.” Those effects can include nausea, high blood pressure and heart palpitations. Some deaths have even been linked to energy drink consumption, like that of a 16-year-old girl who went into cardiac arrest after drinking the beverages, but none have been definitively proven.

MORE: What’s In Your Energy Drink?

WHO is especially concerned about what happens when people mix energy drinks and alcohol. “The consumption of high amounts of caffeine contained within energy drinks reduces drowsiness without diminishing the effects of alcohol resulting in a state of ‘wide-awake- drunkenness,’ keeping the individual awake longer with the opportunity to continue drinking,” the authors write in the journal. (A small study in July suggests the same thing: people who drank spirits mixed with energy drinks had a greater desire to keep drinking than those sipping regular mixed drinks.)

Sleep-starved college students aren’t the only ones guzzling energy drinks. The WHO report cites estimates that energy drinks make up 43% of caffeine exposure in children.

In Europe, some countries are taking energy drink regulation very seriously: Sweden has banned the sale of energy drinks to kids. In the U.S., energy drink regulation is incredibly weak, and depending on how an energy drink makes it to market, it may not even have to disclose how much caffeine it contains. The WHO report recommends that policymakers adopt more measures to get a tighter grip on the industry, including establishing an upper limit for caffeine content, enforcing labeling and marketing standards, regulating the sale of energy drinks to kids, training healthcare workers about the risks and even screening patients with a history of diet issues and substance abuse for dangerous energy drink consumption. They also call for more research on how energy drinks affect us. “From a review of the literature, it would appear that concerns in the scientific community and among the public regarding the potential adverse health effects of the increased consumption of energy drinks are broadly valid,” they write—a finding that warrants further research, policy and caution.

MONEY Autos

Traffic Costs You Even More Than You Think—and It’s Getting Worse

141015_EM_TRAFFIC_1
JAMIE RECTOR/GETTY

Congestion on the roads costs us a fortune, and a new study forecasts that the price we pay for traffic will rise 50% by 2030.

A new study from the London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research aims to put a price on traffic—now, and in the near future. After crunching the numbers and factoring in projected population growth and rising living standards, as well as costs associated with road congestion such as wasted fuel, decreased productivity, and higher prices for goods as a result of higher transportation costs, the researchers estimate that the combined annual price of traffic in the U.S. and Europe will soar to $293 billion by 2030, a rise of nearly 50% from 2013.

For what it’s worth, drivers in the U.S. get off easy compared with motorists in Europe. By 2030, the average American household is expected to incur traffic-related costs of $2,301 per year. That’s a 33% increase compared with 2013, but it’s still much lower than annual congestion costs for drivers in Germany ($2,927), France ($3,163), and the U.K. ($3,217).

At the same time, however, the U.S. has bragging rights for being home to the city where the costs of traffic are highest. No surprise which city has that dubious distinction: It’s Los Angeles, which of all the cities in the study has the most autos (4.5 million) and the highest percentage of workers who commute by car (67%), and where the annual costs of road congestion per household are projected to reach $8,555 by 2030, a 49% increase from 2013. (London is a distant #2 in the category, with traffic costs per household forecast to be $6,259 by 2030.)

A separate line of research estimates how much traffic costs not merely individual households, but the nation as a whole. The U.K. is facing the sharpest spike, with a 66% increase by 2030, but even then the total would come to only $33 billion, a pittance compared with the much larger, more car-crazed U.S. In this category, the USA is #1, with the economic impact of road congestion forecast to reach $186 billion for the nation as a whole by 2030, a 50% increase over 2013.

What can we do about any of this information—besides saying, “That sucks,” and perhaps moving out of L.A. as soon as possible? Among other things, researchers call for improved public transportation options and more of them, to help ease traffic by getting more drivers off the roads.

TIME U.K.

Anti-Immigration Party’s Win in U.K. Rings Alarm Bells in Europe

Newly-elected UK Independence Party MP Douglas Carswell poses for photographers with a copy of the local paper in Clacton-on-Sea, in eastern England, on Oct. 10, 2014.
Newly-elected UK Independence Party MP Douglas Carswell poses for photographers with a copy of the local paper in Clacton-on-Sea, in eastern England, on Oct. 10, 2014. Leon Neal—AFP/Getty Images

The first British parliamentary seat for the U.K. Independence Party intensifies—and reflects—the crisis of mainstream politics in Europe

Many forces are at work in British politics, but nominative determinism may not be one of them. When last month a member of parliament named Mark Reckless defected from the Conservative Party, Britain’s largest mainstream political party and senior partner in the country’s coalition government, the move looked, well, reckless.

Reckless resigned his parliamentary seat to join the right-wing, anti-Europe, anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which had not yet succeeded in getting any MPs elected to Westminster. UKIP did well in some local and European elections, but conventional wisdom suggested the party benefited from protest votes against the big established parties and would struggle gain a foothold in the U.K. legislature.

On Thursday, those predictions proved wrong as another Conservative Party defector, Douglas Carswell, won back his parliamentary seat for UKIP with a thumping majority. In another by-election held the same day in a district that had previously been a solid Labour Party area, UKIP came within 617 votes of defeating the Labour candidate, overturning another piece of conventional wisdom that misconstrued UKIP as a threat only to the right-leaning Conservatives.

Reckless, who is preparing for a Nov. 6 by-election to try to capture his old seat for his new party, no longer looks reckless and conventional wisdoms appear anything but orthodox. Alarms are ringing not only among members of Britain’s mainstream parties but across Europe. An obvious focus of fear is what the rise of UKIP means for Britain; not only its attitude to Europe, but also towards its own diverse population.

In his victory speech, Carswell called for UKIP to be “a party for all Britain and all Britons, first and second generation [immigrants] as much as every other.” But UKIP’s party leader Nigel Farage was already busily undermining this message of tolerance, responding to criticism of an interview in which he called for HIV-positive migrants to be turned away at British borders by going still further, proposing a ban on any migrants with “life threatening diseases” getting treatment within Britain’s National Health Service.

The characterization of UKIP as a protest party fails to acknowledge the way such rhetoric resonates in communities that feel they are losing jobs and opportunity to immigrants. The mainstream parties have a shamefully thin record of speaking up for the necessity of immigration and an even more shameful record of harnessing anti-immigration sentiment while chasing short-term electoral gain. At other times, they find it more comfortable not to broach the subject at all—one reason Labour came so close to gifting UKIP a by-election victory.

Britain’s rumbling debate about its membership of the European Union may appear on the surface to be about bossy Brussels regulators and distorting subsidies and laws, but it is more often a proxy for the immigration debate that isn’t happening. Mainstream politicians don’t want to be tarred as Little Englanders, but increasing numbers of them, mostly Conservatives but also Labour members, are attracted to the idea of an exit from the E.U., which would instantly restrict the flow of immigrants from other, poorer E.U. countries currently entitled to live and work in Britain.

Continental Europe worries—with justification—that the U.K. is edging closer to ditching its E.U. membership. Yet the shudders attending UKIP’s latest win are not merely caused by the prospect of a so-called “Brexit“. In the flounderings and failings of Britain’s big political parties and the upsurge in support for populist alternatives sounding anti-immigration, anti-Europe rallying cries, E.U. leaders outside Britain see reflections of the turbulence in their own countries. Even in Germany, the crucible of pro-E.U. sentiment where memories run deep of its disastrous experiment with the narrowest possible vision of national identity, a euroskeptic party is gaining ground.

UKIP’s win is, with a certain irony, part of a pan-European phenomenon. Such parties grow because the political mainstream gives them the space to do so.

 

 

 

TIME europe

France Revolts Against German Austerity With New Budget

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin listens during the presentation of France's 2015 draft budget on October 1, 2014 at the Economy Ministry in Paris.
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin listens during the presentation of France's 2015 draft budget on October 1, 2014 at the Economy Ministry in Paris. Eric Piermont—AFP/Getty Images

New figures put deficit sinner Paris on crash course with Berlin, Brussels

It’s a showdown that has been coming for a while.

The French government Wednesday set out new budget plans for the next three years, baldly stating that its deficit will be a lot wider over the period than it promised its Eurozone partners.

At a news conference in Paris, Finance Minister Michel Sapin said the gap between public revenue and spending would widen to 4.4% of gross domestic product this year from 4.3% last year due to an unexpected slowdown in growth. It will fall back to 4.3% of GDP next year, but only fall under the E.U.’s cap of 3% in 2017–two years later than currently planned.

The figures set the scene for heated discussions in Brussels with the rest of the Eurozone, as the currency bloc’s second-largest economy once again relies on its political clout to defy rules on borrowing that are supposed to be binding on all. (Incoming Eurocrat-in-chief Jean-Claude Juncker is already trying to limit the ability of the Pierre Moscovici, the new economic and financial affairs commissioner, to police those rules, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.)

But specifically, it sets up a fresh clash with Germany, whose insistence on sustainable public finances has stamped Eurozone policy since the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis exploded in Greece in 2010. France has already had to negotiate two extensions to an original agreement to bring the deficit down to 3% of GDP by 2014. Under the new plans, it will have a larger budget shortfall next year than either Greece or Portugal.

“We are committed to being serious about the budget, but we refuse austerity,” Sapin told a news conference in Paris Wednesday.

Sapin has attempted to mollify Berlin and Brussels by committing to €21 billion ($26.5 billion) of government spending cuts next year, and a total of €50 billion over the next three years. Government spending accounts for over 56% of GDP, the highest in the E.U., while its public debt, at over €2 trillion, is now expected to peak at over 96% of GDP. That’s up from only 64% in 2007.

But Sapin said it would be wrong to cut spending by more because it would weaken the economy further. Any further cuts would also be hugely unpopular with the disaffected left wing of President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party, risking a revolt by backbench lawmakers. The Socialists already lost control of the upper house, or Senate, to the center-right opposition at elections last weekend, and Hollande’s current approval ratings, at 13%, are the lowest for any serving French president since World War II.

The French economy hasn’t grown since the end of last year, and survey data suggest it contracted in the third quarter as the fall-out from the Ukraine crisis hit business and consumer confidence across Europe.

The research firm Markit said elsewhere Wednesday thatthe Eurozone economy pretty much stagnated in September, revising down its purchasing managers’ index to 50.3 from an initial reading of 50.5.

However, the economy may get some support in the last three months of the year from one corner that has been a major bugbear for Paris in recent years–the foreign exchange markets. French officials have railed all year that the euro was too strong for the health of the Eurozone, but it has slid sharply against the dollar in the last month and hit another new two-year low of $1.26 Wednesday in response to the Markit survey.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME U.K.

U.K. Edges Toward Departure from European Union

Prime Minister David Cameron walks with Mayor of London and Parliamentary candidate Boris Johnson at the Conservative party conference on Sept. 29, 2014 in Birmingham, England.
Prime Minister David Cameron walks with Mayor of London and Parliamentary candidate Boris Johnson at the Conservative party conference on Sept. 29, 2014 in Birmingham, England. Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images

As Britain's Conservative Party holds its last party conference ahead of May's general elections, the Euroskeptic message looks like a winning one

It’s hard to imagine anything more insular than a British party political conference—except, perhaps, for an island.

The ruling Conservative Party is currently meeting in the U.K.’s second largest city, Birmingham, but delegates tightly ringed by security and focused on the narrow issue of how to win the next election may as well be on a coral atoll for all the connection they have with the wider world.

Events in Hong Kong go unremarked. U.K. participation in the military campaign against ISIS barely merits a mention. A lone protestor standing beyond the crowd barriers bellowed rage against Britain’s fresh involvement in Iraq for hours Monday, but his words whispered in the convention center like distant waves. Even so, events on this artificial island may yet carry global significance. Britain is getting ever closer to the brink of leaving the European Union.

That is the probable outcome if the Conservatives win the U.K. general election next May, as they have pledged to allow Britain’s increasingly Euroskeptic population a referendum on whether to stay or go. Polls suggest a sizeable majority would vote to leave the E.U. under the current terms of membership.

Admittedly a Conservative victory is far from a sure thing in 2015. The Labour Party enjoys a lead of several points in most opinion polls and the Conservatives, in coalition with the Liberal Democrats since 2010, should expect to be punished by voters for implementing painful austerity policies that have reduced the budget deficit (but not by as much as they promised). But even though Labour may look like the likelier winner, it doesn’t act like it. Neither party members nor the wider public have faith in the current Labour leader Ed Miliband, who capped a lackluster conference last week by forgetting key chunks of the speech that should have energized his troops and instead demoralized them.

In truth all three mainstream parties are suffering from a loss of connection with the public — voters feel they’re untrustworthy, and incapable of championing Britain, whatever form that might take. This disenchantment is fostering the rise across Britain of populist parties that promise a new, more honest mode of politics and more localism. In Scotland this means the Scottish National Party strengthening largely at the expense of Labour, which will struggle to retain its 41 Westminster seats there at the coming election.

But in England, it is the anti-immigration, Euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) that has been attracting support on the back of its strident views, which it calls “unashamedly patriotic”. The party’s manifesto not only calls for departure from the European Union, but also restrictions on the numbers of immigrants entering the country, less foreign aid, and priority in the allocation of social housing given to “people whose parents and grandparents were born locally”.

It’s a message that appeals to many who might otherwise be inclined to vote for the Conservative party. The eastwards expansion of the E.U. was enthusiastically supported by past Conservative governments, because they thought a larger union might be less inclined to move towards federalism and consequent impingements on British sovereignty. But enlargement has increased the pool of E.U. citizens entitled to work in the U.K, and fostered resentment among conservative voters, as the British economy struggles to recover from the economic slump. UKIP has capitalized on that resentment; two Conservative MPs have recently defected to UKIP and more are rumored to be considering jumping ship.

“The biggest issue on the doorstep is immigration,” says Phillip Lee, the Conservative MP for Bracknell, west of London, “but this is also related to Europe.” His constituents would like to see an Australian-style points system applied to jobseekers from abroad, he says. That’s a policy UKIP already proposes for all immigrants, whether they come from the E.U. or further afield.

Even so, the Conservatives are better positioned than Labour—which opposes giving Britons a vote on E.U. membership—to fight UKIP on its own turf. Prime Minister David Cameron’s post-Scottish referendum promise of “English Votes for English Laws” plays to demands for more local control, while his party is ramming the message home at every opportunity during its conference that only a Conservative government will deliver an in-out referendum on the E.U. It will doubtless be a pivotal passage in Cameron’s keynote address to delegates tomorrow.

Cameron first made the offer partly in an effort to hold together a fractious party that has a long history of falling out over Europe. But his official position—that he wants Britain to remain in the E.U., but on renegotiated better terms—also happens to be his real preference, not least because many British businesses worry that an E.U. exit will load costs and obstacles on to their European operations. His ideal is to retain the advantages of E.U. membership while shielding Britain against moves to closer E.U. integration precipitated by the euro zone crisis. But in a BBC interview this morning, Cameron made clear that he wouldn’t be too upset if Britain left the E.U. entirely. The sales pitch being rolled out in Birmingham is clear: vote UKIP, get Labour, lose the chance of a referendum.

Despite what the polls say, many Conservatives believe this is a winning formula, and they could well be right. But the same urges the Conservatives would be tapping to win election victory would inevitably still be in play if and when Britons voted on their relationship with Europe. An exit would mean a period of extended turbulence for Britain and for the E.U., used to British intransigence but also used to Britain as a counterbalance to German muscle and French protectionism. The rest of the E.U. hopes Britain stays put, and so does Washington, which still often looks to the U.K. as a bridge to Europe.

British politicians hear these voices but their message, like the shouts of the man outside the Conservative Party conference, are muffled. This island nation with its parochial politics could well be headed for greater insularity.

TIME Scotland

POLL: Should Scotland Be an Independent Country?

Cast your vote

The Scottish people will vote Thursday on whether or not to declare independence from the United Kingdom.

If the “No” vote is successful, England’s northern cousin will remain a part of the family; should the “Yes” vote prevail, Scotland will strike out on its own and leave Great Britain significantly less Great.

Polling forecasts a close race, with the nationalist movement gaining steam over the past few weeks. But while Thursday’s referendum is open only to residents of Scotland, many other people around the world feel invested in the future of the Highlands. Not just Hibernophiles and other Celtic advocates, for whom the keening whine of the bagpipe represents a cry for freedom, but also devotees of the sovereign state who would rather the Union remain intact.

So we’d like to give readers a chance to register their own opinions on Scottish independence, answering the same question the voters themselves will face. We’ll publish the results on Thursday morning, as the Scots themselves go to the polls.

TIME Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Vows to Fight Growing Anti-Semitism

"It pains me when I hear that young Jewish parents ask whether they should raise their children in Germany"

With attacks against Jews on the increase in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged on Sunday to step up the battle against anti-Semitism.

Speaking at a rally in the capital Berlin, she said Germany would do all it could to stop the growth of anti-Semitism, which has risen since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza, reports the BBC.

“It pains me when I hear that young Jewish parents ask whether they should raise their children in Germany, or elderly Jews who ask if it was right to stay. With this rally, we are making it unmistakably clear: Jewish life belongs to us. It is part of our identity and culture,” she said to a crowd of about 5,000 people.

Germany is home to about 200,000 Jews.

The rally, organized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, comes 75 years after the beginning of World War II, says the BBC. Six million Jews were killed during the conflict.

“The legitimate criticism of the political actions of a government — be it ours or of the state of Israel’s — is fine,” Merkel said. “But if it is only used as a cloak for one’s hatred against other people, hatred for Jewish people, then it is a misuse of our basic rights of freedom of opinion and assembly.”

Since the start of the recent conflict in Gaza, tensions between Muslim and Jewish communities have flared up across Europe. There were 131 anti-Semitic incidents reported in Germany in July, up from 53 in June, Reuters reports the German government as saying.

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