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This Week’s Foreign Policy Must-Reads

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A roundup of the most intelligent takes on global affairs this week

Vladimir Putin’s Bonfire of the Delicacies – Foreign Policy

[The 1940’s Leningrad famine] is the most legendary of all the famines in the Russian history books, and its lore of hunger and cannibalism haunts most Russians, but especially Leningraders…So how could Putin and Medvedev—these two famous Leningraders—rid themselves of this inherited neurosis and sanction the calm destruction of food?

Russian defiance often takes self-destructive forms, but Putin’s popularity is holding steady, and the perception gap between urban and rural citizens continues to widen.

Corn Wars – The New Republic

The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI now contend, in effect, that the theft of genetically modified corn technology is as credible a threat to national security as the spread to nation-states of the technology necessary to deliver and detonate nuclear warheads. Disturbingly, they may be right. …The world’s next superpower will be determined not just by which country has the most military might but also, and more importantly, by its mastery of the technology required to produce large quantities of food.

Even in a high-tech world, security of food and water is crucial.

How Google Could Rig the 2016 Elections – Politico EU

Google’s search algorithm can easily shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more—up to 80 percent in some demographic groups—with virtually no one knowing they are being manipulated…This gives Google the power, right now, to flip upwards of 25 percent of the national elections worldwide. In the United States, half of our presidential elections have been won by margins under 7.6 percent, and the 2012 election was won by a margin of only 3.9 percent—well within Google’s control.

A less flashy, more interesting idea for remaking The Manchurian Candidate for a 21st century audience.

Is Donald Trump an American Putin? – Washington Post

He promises to restore his country’s greatness, without offering a specific plan. He uses crude, vulgar expressions that make him sound like an ordinary guy, even though he’s a billionaire. He’s a narcissist who craves media attention. And for all his obvious shortcomings, he’s very popular…Donald Trump is in some respects an American version of Putin. Like the Russian leader, he seeks to reverse his country’s losses and return its former glory. He promises a restoration of power and prestige without trifling about the details.

It’s an interesting comparison. People are naturally attracted to leaders who project extraordinary self-confidence and who don’t back down the way ordinary politicians would. It remains to be seen, however, whether the Trump phenomenon can continue when a broader segment of U.S. voters begins to really pay attention.

Jihad and Girl Power: How ISIS Lured 3 London Teenagers – New York Times

They were smart, popular girls from a world in which teenage rebellion is expressed through a radical religiosity that questions everything around them. In this world, the counterculture is conservative. Islam is punk rock. The head scarf is liberating. Beards are sexy. Ask young Muslim women in their neighborhood what kind of guys are popular at school these days and they start raving about “the brothers who pray.”… The Islamic State is making a determined play for these girls, tailoring its siren calls to their vulnerabilities, frustrations and dreams, and filling a void the West has so far failed to address.

Islam is punk rock? For how long? “Girl power” and jihadi culture won’t mix well over time. Yet another reminder that it will be easier to recruit people than to keep them.

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