Longitude #41

August, 2014



The messy business of borders
by Lanfranco Vaccari­­

Idealists believe a borderless world is a better world. Pragmatists recognize that there are no good or bad boundaries, they are just conventions that allow for more civil relations between different peoples. Over time, it seems the more we wish to get rid of borders, the more they crop up.

The end of the Sykes-Picot line
by Lorenzo Vidino, Andrea Plebani, Stefano M. Torelli

The borders drawn up at the end of World War I in what was left of the Ottoman Empire have often been accused of being arbitrary. Islamists, however, see them as a colonial imposition that must be rectified.

A snapshot of ISIS in the Middle East
Map by Marie Joveneau
by Stash Luczkiw

European nations have relatively homogenous populations within their borders, and this has been a source of stability. But homogeneity often came at a horrific price. And not all nations have managed to complete the process.

A visual history of borders in Europe
Map by Marie Joveneau
Creeping encroachment, China’s western surge
by Raffaello Pantucci, Sarah Lain

While many are concerned with territorial disputes in Southeast Asia, the fact that China is quietly expanding its presence westward often goes unnoticed. Beijing has now become a huge player in Central Asia’s Great Game.

China’s alluring neighbors
Map by Marie Joveneau
Bordering on Utopia
by Frank Jacobs

War is stupid and treaties are boring. Unfortunately, that’s how borders are usually drawn. Throughout history, a handful of visionaries have refused this tyranny of blood and ink, and dreamed of borders
that would make the world a better place.

A new world disorder
by Stefano Stefanini

The upcoming NATO Summit must deal with a growing constellation of global disarray, from Ukraine on its eastern edge to Syria and Iraq on the southern border. Otherwise NATO will fade into irrelevance.


­­­­­­­­Sovereign debt in turbulent times
by Domenico Lombardi

In recent years sovereign debt crises have posed a number of dilemmas. As a result, the IMF and various central banks have come up with an array of approaches to governing them.

Spurring venture capital
by Fernando Napolitano

Competitiveness is essential for Italian businesses to overcome the current stagnation in the economy. Encouraging venture capital into the markets is one of the most effective methods.


­Europe’s financial fringe
by Moreno Zani

The EU countries on the periphery of the eurozone might be as rewarding as they are risky. With their economies adapting to required standards, they can benefit from both access to the world’s biggest market and independent monetary policy.

Jeff Bezos tracing new directions

The Grand Disruptor
by Stefano Cingolani

Amazon started by selling books. Now the publishing industry will never be the same. As the company pursues its founder’s vision and expands in various directions, look for innovations and attendant disruptions to increase.

Playing with Fire
by Christopher Caldwell

Rather than “reach out and touch someone,” the new Amazon Fire Phone is urging its potential owners to reach out and buy something – cheaper. Retail may never be same again.

The Empire of Flying Pizzas
by Francesco Galietti

Much as the postal service combined with new means of transportation, Amazon’s foray into same-day delivery may mark the beginning of an era that will set our skies abuzz. 


Banking minus the interest, or so it seems
by Maurizio Stefanini

The history of banking has long dealt with the issue of usury. In Islamic banking the general rule is that all parties concerned in the transaction must share some of the risk. Over time, many ingenious ways of circumventing the proscription against interest have been devised.

Sharia-compliant Europe
by Enrico Verga

Islamic finance is blossoming in Western countries. Since the economic crisis, sharia-compliant strategies have come to be seen as ethical and less risky approaches that in many respects go back to the fundamentals.

The Orientalist

Lines in the sand
by Maurizio Molinari

The Middle East is not unfamiliar with territorial disputes. For the past 60 years the borders between Jews and Arabs have been the cause of wars. Now the entire region seems to be redrawing its boundaries.

Warming bloopers

China’s clean technology
by Carlo Clini

The next frontier of Chinese economic growth could come in part from a much needed effort to curtail the pollution in its major cities and make residential buildings on the whole greener.