TradeBriefs Editorial

From the Editor's Desk

3 Months Of Hell: U.S. Economy Drops 32.9%, In Worst GDP Report Ever

The coronavirus pandemic triggered the sharpest economic contraction in modern American history, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Gross domestic product - the broadest measure of economic activity - shrank at an annual rate of 32.9% in the second quarter, as restaurants and retailers closed their doors in a desperate effort to slow the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 150,000 people in the U.S.

The economic shock in April, May and June was more than three times as sharp as the previous record - 10% in 1958 - and nearly four times the worst quarter during the Great Recession.

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TradeBriefs Editorial

From the Editor's Desk

Obesity can't be tackled until we address the trauma that causes it

Burn fat to reduce your Covid-19 risk, we’re told. But how to dispel the shame and distress that so often lie behind weight gain?

I never used to have strong views about obesity. That changed during a work placement for my psychology MSc with a clinical psychologist working with prospective weight-loss (bariatric) surgery patients. Her job was to assess whether individuals were emotionally equipped to deal with such a major transition and whether they would need more intensive psychological support.

I observed many assessments with patients whose BMI put them in the "morbidly obese" category. For many, being in that room with the psychologist was the first time they had disclosed historic trauma. I heard descriptions of childhoods spent in care, sexual abuse within family settings, emotional neglect and violence that will stay with me forever. Many patients had mental health issues that they'd only received patchy care for. I had never previously considered that there would be such a clear connection between historic trauma and unhealthy eating habits, but of course it makes sense.

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TradeBriefs Editorial

From the Editor's Desk

Most Dictators Self Destruct. Why?

In most cases, democratization has followed an authoritarian ruler's mistake.

With authoritarian rulers ascendant in many parts of the world, one wonders what must happen for their countries to liberalize. The likes of Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey or Xi Jinping in China are entrenched, experienced and not unpopular -- so should their opponents simply resign themselves to an open-ended period of illiberal rule?

According to Daniel Treisman, a UCLA political scientist, that's not necessarily the case. For a recent paper, he analyzed 218 episodes of democratization between 1800 and 2015 and found they were, with some exceptions (such as Danish King Frederick VII's voluntary acceptance of a constitution in 1848), the result of authoritarian rulers' mistakes in seeking to hold on to power. The list of these errors is both a useful handbook.

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