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Weekend Roundup

Weekend Roundup: The WorldPost Hosts Fareed Zakaria

Nathan Gardels | Posted 05.01.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

This week, The WorldPost hosted a book party in Los Angeles for CNN's Fareed Zakaria as part of the launch of his new treatise, "In Defense of a Liberal Education." He is also a member of the Berggruen Institute's 21st Century Council. Attendees included, among many others, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, former Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, financiers Steve Schwarzman, David Bonderman and Mohamed el-Erian, California State Senator Bob Hertzberg, former California Governor Gray Davis and Hollywood producers Brian Grazer, Lawrence Bender and Mike Medavoy. Economist Nouriel Roubini, essayist Pico Iyer and Harvard historian Niall Ferguson also attended. Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban sparred with Zakaria over the rights of Palestinians and the future of Israel as a democratic state. Jack Miles, editor of the "Norton Anthology of World Religions," writes in The WorldPost this week that America is losing in the Mideast because its foreign policy has been technology-focused (drones, etc.) instead of humanities-focused (history, religion, etc.). (continued)

Weekend Roundup: 'The Wretched of the Earth' Are on the Move as Migrants

Nathan Gardels | Posted 04.24.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

"The wretched of the earth," in Frantz Fanon's famous phrase, are on the move as migrants. Mostly, they have headed north across scorching deserts and menacing seas to follow their dreams of escaping poverty and finding a better life. As the writer Carlos Monsivais once quipped, "Los Angeles is the heart of the Mexican Dream." Now, as we see at both the U.S. border and European shores, migrants are also fleeing north in the rusty holds of doomed ships from Libya or the "La Bestia" death train from Central America to evade the nightmares of civil war, brutal Salvadoran street gangs or merciless Mexican drug cartels. (continued)

Weekend Roundup: Work With Nature, Not Against It

Nathan Gardels | Posted 04.17.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

Since Earth Day, which will be marked on April 22, was first commemorated 45 years ago, we have learned a lot about the planet's ecology. Above all, we have begun to understand the biological intelligence of nature itself that, for millennia, has managed to continually regenerate and stabilize that narrow band of a livable climate that has enabled our species and others to thrive. Working with nature, not against it, to combat climate change is the message of the Leo DiCaprio-narrated short video documentary, "Restoration," we publish this week. As senior Chinese diplomat Wu Jianmin writes from Beijing, we are also learning to work together as nations through geo-environmental cooperation, as exemplified by the recent U.S.-China agreement to jointly reduce carbon gases. (continued)

Weekend Roundup: As Mideast War Levels Ancient Cities, Asia Invests in the Future

Nathan Gardels | Posted 04.11.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

While the Middle East is consumed by an orgy of destruction that has devastated ancient cities like Aleppo and Tikrit, Asia, led by China, is building out the infrastructure of the future. While past wounds drive the tribal and religious rivalries in the Middle East, in Asia the contest -- and the cooperation -- is about shaping the future. The most recent scuffle in the contest over the future has been the slew of American allies -- Great Britain, Italy, France, Australia and others -- who have defied U.S. admonitions not to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which it sees as a rival to the World Bank and IMF system. In the "cooperation" column, Zbigniew Brzezinski observes in a WorldPost interview that China signed on as a guarantor of the Lausanne agreement on Iran's nuclear program. This, along with the fact it has also joined with the U.S. to curb North Korean nuclear proliferation and fight climate change, shows China is stepping up to the plate as a responsible global power. Former MI6 agent Alastair Crooke writes from Beirut that the U.S. has been "immobilized" in the Sunni-Shia proxy wars and must settle for "an equilibrium of antagonisms." (continued)

Weekend Roundup: Yemen Ignites New Mideast War Within Islam

Nathan Gardels | Posted 04.03.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

If reading the next sentence about the bewildering tangle of so many bloody crossed swords in the Middle East makes your head hurt, just be thankful you live somewhere else where decapitation is not a regular occurrence. The intensifying Saudi-led Sunni coalition assault on Iranian-linked Shiite tribes in Yemen this week -- at the very moment when Shiite militia allied with the U.S.-backed Iraqi government were ousting Saudi Wahhabist-inspired Islamic State jihadis from Tikrit -- signaled the onset of a generalized sectarian religious war across the region. And if the current bright spot of the interim agreement with Western powers that curbs Iran's capacity to weaponize its uranium enrichment program should unravel over the coming months, the entire conflict threatens to go nuclear. Graham Fuller, former vice-chair of the CIA's National Intelligence Council and a former station chief in several Mideast countries, deciphers the perplexing labyrinth of the Yemeni conflict, where "the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy." (continued)

Weekend Roundup: Death of the First Global Statesman

Nathan Gardels | Posted 03.27.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

This week, Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, died at 91. Though the last remaining of the great figures of post-WWII decolonization, Lee was also the first global statesman. As he himself put it, "when we were pushed out of Malaysia we had no hinterland. So we had to do or die, and the globalization of the world helped us. So we made the world our hinterland." By thinking global, but acting local, Lee was able to vault his small city-state from the Third World to the First World. The WorldPost remembers Lee through his own words from interviews I have done with him over the years. Writing from Singapore, Pranay Gupte focuses on Lee's unique accomplishment of "clean governance." Writing from Beijing, philosopher Daniel A. Bell emphasizes Singapore's meritocratic government as the core of its success with lessons for China. (continued)

Weekend Roundup: The Politics of Polarization Always Ends Badly

Nathan Gardels | Posted 03.21.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

Whether in Russia, Venezuela or Israel, the ugly politics of polarization may work in winning elections -- but it always ends badly. Netanyahu's scaremongering against Arab voters and dashing of a two-state solution (his bad faith post-election backtrack notwithstanding) dispels two long-held illusions at once: that Israeli democracy would be inclusive or that Palestinians would have their own state. If there is no room for Palestinians anywhere, then what? In an exclusive interview with the Huffington Post, (full interview to be released Saturday), U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the Israeli election, Iran and other issues. Writing from Amman, prominent Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab draws the logical conclusion from Israel's election results that Palestinians must now pursue their own unilateral path and that the world community should no longer feel bound to defend Israel in international institutions. (continued)

Weekend Roundup: How Japan's Past Shadows Asia's Future

Nathan Gardels | Posted 03.13.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

TOKYO -- Looking out onto Tokyo's towering neon cityscape, it is difficult to imagine the utter devastation of Japan's capital 70 years ago this week in one of the world's greatest overlooked atrocities -- the unsparing American firebombing that incinerated more people than either of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima or Nagasaki. In this respect, Japan is a long way from its past. But a visit to Tokyo this week by German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- during which she noted how her country had accepted culpability for its WWII fascist aggression in a way that Japan has not -- also highlights how the past still shadows the present -- and the future -- in Asia. (In Europe also the past has returned from another angle as Greece is demanding reparations from Germany). (continued)

Weekend Roundup: Preparing to Be Disrupted

Nathan Gardels | Posted 03.07.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

This week, The WorldPost conference on "The Future of Work" took place at Lancaster House in London. Discussion around the theme "prepare to be disrupted" ranged from how the emergent sharing economy, along with 3D desktop manufacturing, would take work back into the home to worries that automation could eliminate as much as 47 percent of current jobs in the United States.

Weekend Roundup: A Sigh of Relief in Europe

Nathan Gardels | Posted 04.29.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

Though nothing is finally settled, Europe this week breathed a sigh of relief. Greece's Syriza-led government backed down in its confrontation with its EU partners over austerity policies and, after bloody skirmishes in the early days of a new cease-fire agreement, the combatants in Ukraine backed off. Not everyone was happy in Greece, though. Manolis Glezos, a 92-year-old WWII Greek resistance hero and prominent member of Syriza, writes that "I apologize to the Greek people for collaborating in this illusion" that the new government would break free of the crushing bailout constraints. Greek journalist Thanos Dimadis argues that standing up to Germany on Greek terms was itself a victory despite compromises. Writing from Kyiv, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko hopes that "Minsk 2.0" will bring peace, but worries that there is no enforcement mechanism.

Weekend Roundup: From Kalashnikovs to God and Computers -- And Back Again

Nathan Gardels | Posted 04.22.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

Near the end of the Cold War 30 years ago, Régis Debray, the French philosopher and pal of Che Guevara, predicted that the Third World was "bidding its farewell to arms" as the geopolitical conflicts associated with the famous Russian-made Kalashnikov rifle were fading into history. He thought the quest for God, particularly in relation to Islam, would fill the ideological void, and computers would provide a way out of underdevelopment. Debray was both more right and wrong than he knew. As he did not foresee, YouTube and Twitter would become effective propaganda tools for crusading Islamist jihadis and Kalashnikovs would come back in a big way not only as a weapon of choice for theCharlie Hebdo murderers in Paris and the Islamic State in Syria -- but for the separatists in Ukraine as well. History reminds us often enough that what we bid farewell to can return with a vengeance. In a moving tribute to the Christian men beheaded by ISIS in Libya this week, WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones shines a light on their lives through a visit with the families of their Coptic community in Al Aour, Egypt. See her interviews on CNNand MSNBC. (continued)

Weekend Roundup: Merkel in the Middle as Post-Cold War Europe Falters

Nathan Gardels | Posted 04.15.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

The whole idea of European integration was to anchor Germany in Europe to avoid another world war and to spread prosperity across the continent with a single market and common currency. Russia agreed to German unification after the Cold War in exchange for the West not absorbing Europe's eastern frontier into its sphere of influence. Now democratically elected governments in Athens and Kiev -- and the responses in Berlin and Moscow -- are challenging both post-Cold War arrangements. Angela Merkel, as chancellor of Europe's unrivaled power, has become, for better and worse, the crisis manager in the middle. (continued)

Weekend Roundup: ISIS Savagery Taunts the World

Nathan Gardels | Posted 04.08.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

The savagery of the Islamic State taunted the world once again this week, striking out at both geopolitically toothless Japan and the tribal kingdom of Jordan. Islamic State fighters beheaded the journalist Kenji Goto and revealed that, in an act of unfathomable cruelty, they had burned alive a captured Jordanian pilot. Last week Japan's former defense chief Yuriko Koike wrote from Tokyo that Japan's constitutional restrictions on using force have prevented it from taking action against ISIS, and argues that that must change. Writing from Beirut, Jordanian analyst Rami Khouri has political misgivings about official support across the Arab world for the anti-ISIS coalition when the public is not consulted. From Amman, WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones reports both on the massive protests against ISIS and on the undercurrent of opposition in Jordan that believes the fight against ISIS "is not our war." (continued)

Weekend Roundup: Greece Revolts!

Nathan Gardels | Posted 04.01.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

No sooner did the global elites leave their annual talking shop high in the Alps at Davos last week than the people spoke in Greece. In a mutiny against an untenable status quo, those who are run over have revolted against those who run things. Now righteous populism must face economic, financial and political realities if other European states don't bend Greece's way. To keep up with the drama as it evolves over the coming weeks, we've connected WorldPost readers directly to the daily blog of Yanis Varoufakis, the self-described "erratic Marxist" who is now Greece's finance minister. Writing from Athens, HuffPost Greece Editorial Director Sophia Papaioannou says Alexis Tsipras' electoral victory will give suffering Greeks "space and time" to address their predicament. Former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou argues that the path forward after the election is for a national referendum on a "Greek plan" for reform that will bind a now polarized nation. Rena Dourou, a deputy of the victorious Syriza party, notes that the vote was as much against the corruption of the formerly ruling political parties in Greece as it was against austerity. (continued)

Weekend Roundup: One Year On, The WorldPost Has 28 Million Monthly Views

Nathan Gardels | Posted 03.25.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

The WorldPost was launched one year ago in Davos. It was born out of a contradiction and a paradox. The contradiction is that while the world is growing more interdependent, the media is fragmenting -- re-nationalizing, re-localizing and even tribalizing. The resulting paradox is that the information age is becoming the age of non-communication across boundaries -- political, cultural and ideological. The aim of The WorldPost is to help bridge this growing chasm by becoming a platform where the whole world meets; a common zone where cross-pollination of ideas and perspectives from all corners of the planet can take place. To achieve this aim, The WorldPost strives for a global viewpoint looking around, not a national perspective looking out. Along with intelligent curation of the global news and original reportage, what distinguishes us, above all, are the first person global voices of our contributors. Every week, they weigh in as events break from Havana to Beijing, from Moscow to Mexico City, Paris, New Delhi and Abuja among so many other places. The WorldPost seems to have met an outstanding need. Thanks to you, one year later we have reached 28 million monthly views. We've shown that the message can catch up to the medium if we put our minds to it. (continued)

Weekend Roundup: Laughing at God

Nathan Gardels | Posted 03.18.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

The first principle of an open society is not to let the intolerant define "the territory of insult" -- those areas off limits to criticism or ridicule. But how does one define "territory" when media now crosses the boundaries of nations, cultures and civilizations? In the end, free societies must defend the right of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists against murder by fanatics, the Sony filmmakers against the North Korean regime and novelists like Salman Rushdie against a fatwa from the ayatollahs. But isn't Pope Francis also right that, in today's diverse and connected world, we must exercise the civil restraint of "respect" for the non-fanatic faithful (see the other depiction of the Prophet acceptable among some Muslims on left above), even if we insist on irreverence toward political authority? Finding an equilibrium amid the frictions and fusions that abound in this global public space will determine whether or not we can forge a new cosmopolitan commons of the 21st century. This week, The WorldPost engages this conundrum. Writing from Denmark, Flemming Rose, the Jyllands-Posten editor who commissioned cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad a decade ago that set off riots across the Muslim world, argues against "the tyranny of silence" fanatics would impose. Mehdi Hasan says he is "fed up with free speech fundamentalists" who feel they have a "duty to offend." (continued)

Weekend Roundup: Is Europe Imploding?

Nathan Gardels | Posted 03.11.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

Europe is facing divisive challenges on all fronts. It is being torn within by hardening attitudes toward the growing presence not only of Muslim immigrants, but also of citizens. On Monday, demonstrators thronged the streets of Dresden in support of "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident." On Wednesday in Paris, 12 people were killed, including cartoonists who lampooned the Prophet Muhammad, in the horrific Charlie Hebdo attack. While the euro tumbles, northern and southern Europe are bitterly at odds over austerity policies and continuing high unemployment. And a newly aggressive Russia is challenging European values on its eastern frontier. (continued) Writing from Berlin, Alexander Gorlach analyzes what is behind rising Islamphobia in Europe. From Paris, Le Huffington Post editorial director Anne Sinclair pays homage to the slain journalists. "Infidel" author Ayaan Hirsi Ali warns that we can't let political Islamists define the territory of insult. Akbar Ahmed looks at the long history, and present social conditions, of Muslims in Europe.

Year-End Roundup: Best Blogs of 2014

Nathan Gardels | Posted 02.22.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

Historians may look back and see 2014 as the tipping point when the world started falling apart instead of coming together. Visionary scientists remain enthusiastic that, thanks to converging new technologies from artificial intelligence to regenerative medicine, genetic synthesis and green energy, our civilization is on the threshold of a new and harmonious singularity. Yet, all around us the signs of splintering abound in revived nationalisms, ardent religious wars and the reappearance of geopolitical blocs. Even the global connectivity of the Internet once thought to embody a world spirit is balkanizing.

Weekend Roundup: New Code War Is Not Funny

Nathan Gardels | Posted 02.18.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

It took an insolent Hollywood comedy mocking the surreal character of North Korea's Kim Jong Un to awaken us to the dangers of a new code war, a war in which geopolitical and geo-cultural battles will be duked out in cyberspace. As Alec Ross, America's top digital diplomat when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, writes this week in The WorldPost, "the weaponization of code is the most significant development in warfare since the weaponization of fissile material." Other battles are also shaping up to determine the contours of our digital future. Lu Wei, China's Internet czar, makes his case for sovereign rule over cyberspace. Amy Chang examines how the Chinese campaign for "Internet sovereignty" will rupture the World Wide Web. (continued)

Weekend Roundup: Coming Clean on Torture Makes America Stronger, Not Weaker

Nathan Gardels | Posted 02.11.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

The soft power of America's open society has once again come to the rescue of its hard power misadventures, this time by coming clean on the post-9/11 practice of torture. As China and several other countries intensify their crackdown on the Internet and open expression in general, the U.S. offers a lesson: honest criticism fortifies the legitimacy of government, not weakens it, because it assures an avenue for self-correction. In The WorldPost this week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who led the charge as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee that released the controversial torture report, writes that "torture goes against the very soul of our country." Howard Fineman reports why Sen. John McCain, a leading Republican and POW during the Vietnam War, also believes torture is a "stain" on America's national honor -- and ineffective to boot. (continued)

Weekend Roundup: One Country, Two Dreams

Nathan Gardels | Posted 02.04.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

If the sharply contrasting views of students in Xian or Beijing and Hong Kong are any indication, Deng Xiaoping's ideal formulation of "one country, two systems" has morphed into another reality: one country, two dreams. George Chen writes that President Xi Jinping's "Chinese Dream" competes with other narratives in today's China: the "get rich is glorious" story of Alibaba's Jack Ma and the democratic aspirations of the Hong Kong students. In a conversation with students after a lecture in Beijing, Amitai Etzioni detected a surprisingly aggressive patriotism, and even anti-Americanism, in college students he spoke with. WorldPost Senior Editor Kathleen Miles found similar sentiments when she talked with other students in Beijing as well as Xian. In contrast, WorldPost China Correspondent Matt Sheehan observes that the student-led umbrella protests in Hong Kong have become a "defining generational moment," not unlike the burst of freedom against authority in the 1960s in the West, that will trouble Beijing for a long time to come. (continued)

Weekend Roundup: Can an ‘Elderly and Haggard' Europe Defend a ‘World of Rules' Against Russia?

Nathan Gardels | Posted 01.26.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

As Pope Francis slammed Europe as "elderly and haggard" in an address this week in Strasbourg, the speaker of the Polish parliament, Radek Sikorski, warned in the WorldPost that Europe's starkest challenge is defending "a world of rules" against an aggressive Russia. Writing from the Vatican for our "Following Francis" series, Sébastien Maillard looks at the "holy ghostwriters" behind the pontiff's tweets and encyclicals. WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones reports from Istanbul on yet another retrograde move in Turkey's modern history taken by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who declared this week that men and women can't be equal. Though Erdogan still considers the Kurdish Democratic Union Party a terrorist organization, Nazand Begikhani writes from Iraqi Kurdistan about how women from that party who have taken up arms to defend their fellow Kurds from the radically misogynist Islamic State are also advancing equal rights in their own society. This week, as the Israeli cabinet moved to define Israel as a "Jewish state," the French parliament, like other European parliaments of late, is voting on whether to recognize a Palestinian state. Writing from Paris, Bernard-Henri Lévy argues passionately that such a move, intended to enhance peace, will perpetuate war. (continued)

Weekend Roundup: Is China Outpacing Mexico on the Rule of Law?

Nathan Gardels | Posted 01.21.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

On the same day this week that President Obama announced a measure that could give legal protection to 5 million undocumented immigrants, massive protests raged across Mexico against the impunity and corruption that led to the horrific massacre of 43 students. From Mexico City, Sergio Sarmiento, Elena Poniatowska and Homero Aridjis chronicle the events and ponder what's next. Anthropologist Claudio Lomnitz examines the causes behind Mexico's corrosive impunity. Meanwhile, as Xin Chunying writes from Beijing, China is also seeking to establish the rule of law through steadily boosting the role of the National People's Congress. While stifling dissent, China's President Xi is taking on both "tigers and flies" in his no-holds-barred assault from the top down on corruption. Can China's effort succeed without active public engagement? Can Mexico learn from China and move from angry protest to systemic change? (continued)

Weekend Roundup: The Inconvenient Truth About the Xi-Obama Deal -- It Takes a Strong State to Fight Climate Change

Nathan Gardels | Posted 01.14.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

It takes a strong state, not (to paraphrase Hillary Clinton) a democratic village, to aggressively fight climate change. This is the inconvenient message emerging in the wake of the Xi-Obama deal on global warming announced in Beijing this week. Both leaders will pursue executive action to fulfill their pledges. As Kerry Brown writes, Xi's decision is binding within China because a long process of consultation and consensus building within the Communist Party stands behind it. What Obama can do is up for grabs. No sooner did the pledge escape his lips than the incoming Republican majority leaders in the U.S. Congress make their own pledge to block Obama by any means necessary. In The WorldPost this week, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim writes that the landmark Xi-Obama agreement is not only good for the environment, but also for the economy. Environmentalist Bill McKibben parses out "what the deal is, and what it isn't." (continued)

Weekend Roundup: 25 Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Is the World Dividing into Blocs Again?

Nathan Gardels | Posted 01.07.2015 | World
Nathan Gardels

The world is at a tipping point. Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ensuing rise of China and other emerging economies, fragile institutions -- the Asia Pacific Economic Community summit taking place in Beijing and the G-20 in a few days in Brisbane -- are trying to hold the links of peace and prosperity together.