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Good Reads: From writer’s block, to edible insects, to an unexpected nuclear leader

This week's roundup of Good Reads includes a remedy for writer's block, a call to eat insects, a growing culture of sharing, countering the false perception of Europe's decline, and a nuclear Kazakhstan.

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Added to that is an increased concern for the environment “that’s giving rise to a new social and commercial landscape in this country, and even a new way of life,” Ms. Nanos writes. What does that new way of life look like? From Airbnb, the website that allows you to rent rooms in private homes for less than what hotels or B&Bs charge, to Zipcar alternative RelayRides (a national peer-to-peer car sharing service), peer-to-peer exchanges of goods and services are now hailed as a more economical, ecological, and social form of ownership. Of course, for a culture that’s not used to sharing, there’s still getting over what Nanos calls the “Ick Factor,” the fear of strangers and awkward social encounters.

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Jenna Fisher is the Monitor's former Asia editor, overseeing regional coverage for and the weekly magazine from 2010 through 2013.

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Europe is faring better than it seems

Despite the ongoing euro crisis and the rapid economic rise of countries such as Brazil and China, Europe has not faded into utter irrelevance, argue Mark Leonard and Hans Kundnani in Foreign Policy magazine. 

Sure, Europe is in decline in one sense – for centuries Europe was pushing the lists of firsts: first in international relations, first to colonize, first to go through a world-changing Renaissance. 

But the game of catch-up that other rising players have been playing since World War II isn’t a bad thing and it isn’t making Europe obsolete. In fact, it’s helped spur another first for Europe: “[a] new model that pools resources and sovereignty with a continent-sized market and common legislation and budgets to address transnational threats from organized crime to climate change.”

The other nuclear Asian country   

We’ve heard the nuclear concerns about Pakistan and North Korea and Iran. But there’s another country in Asia to watch. Of course, unlike North Korea and Iran, Kazakhstan is positioning itself as a global nuclear leader, and is now in talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency to host a global nuclear fuel bank.

Kazakhstan is uniquely positioned for this leadership role, writes Jillian Keenan in The Atlantic Monthly. Home to Semipalatinsk, once the world’s second largest nuclear testing site, the former Soviet state has seen firsthand what happens when nuclear testing goes wrong.

“A ninth of Kazakhstan’s territory, comparable with the territory of Germany, was turned into a nuclear wasteland” when the Soviet Union tested its nuclear bombs there, said Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in a speech at the 20th anniversary of the Semipalatinsk closure in 2009. (And here it might be worth mentioning that Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world.)

Those tests resulted in the first Soviet antinuclear movement, which succeeded in pressuring the Kazakh government to close all its nuclear facilities.


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