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It's not just Greece, Puerto Rico and China. Debt is piling up around the world — stifling global economic growth and heightening the risk of more defaults and market turmoil.

World leaders are caught in a trap: More debt in the form of government and private spending is needed to stimulate today's sluggish economies. Yet the higher the debt, the greater the danger that a pullback by creditors will trigger another financial crisis like the one in 2008.

"The post-crisis world is a world of high debt, and it doesn't take much. It just takes a bad shock for the debt dynamics...

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