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Experience life as a refugee in Davos

On his brand new blog, Bill Easterly posts the following totally absurd invitation he received to a "refugee run" for participants at the World Economic Forum in Davos, sponsored by the UN High Comission for Refugees:

Here's what the VIPs are in for:

Just five minutes' walk from the Congress Centre, you can enter a simulated environment that will thrust you into a war zone. You will meet a rebel attack, navigate a mine field and battle life in a refugee camp. (Spoiler alert: No harm will come to you!)

As good as UNHCR's intentions may be, the idea of the Davos elite playing refugee between a talk by Larry Summers and an afternoon roquefort reception seems like something out of a Monty Python sketch. Easterly asks:

Can Davos man empathize with refugees when he or she is not in danger and is going back to a luxury banquet and hotel room afterwards? Isn’t this just a tad different from the life of an actual refugee, at risk of all too real rape, murder, hunger, and disease?

Perhaps Ian Bremmer could let us know.

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Israeli settlements in the West Bank expand

In the last issue of FP, Gershom Gorenberg worried that Israeli settlements in the West Bank were endangering the two-state solution. "No one knows exactly where the point of no return is — when so many Israelis will have moved into so many homes beyond the pre-1967 border that there is no going back," he wrote. Wherever that point may be, a new report reveals that Israel raced toward it at a breakneck pace in 2008.

The number of structures in West Bank settlements and new outposts increased 69% in 2008 compared to 2007, according to a new study released by Peace Now. The Israeli government has allowed new construction in larger settlements, which Israel would likely keep in any final status agreement. But of the 1,518 new settler structures, Peace Now found that 39% of the structures were built in outposts outside these areas.

This explosion of settlement growth, it is important to note, happened under a Kadima and Labor government. If you believe that Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud Party is leading election polls, is going to bring a halt to the settler movement -- well, I've got a bridge to sell you in Beitar Illit.

Photo: AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images