Pop Politics
November 24, 2011

This past May, Azerbaijan attained a fundamental symbol of national progress: It won its first ever Eurovision Song Contest, the wildly popular annual televised event in which European nations compete to produce the catchiest (or kitschiest) pop tune. Its entry was a saccharine, synthesizer-heavy number called “Running Scared,” sung by Ell & Nikki, a photogenic duo clothed in billowy white garb who share a fondness for gazing earnestly into the camera. On the night of the victory, Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, erupted in celebration.

Truths in Tehran
December 16, 2010

Most of the talk about Iran and the Wikileaks documents has centered around the revelation—hardly a surprise—that Arab states are wary of Iran’s nuclear program. This is indeed an important story: The depth of the fear from Egypt, Oman, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia is striking (in one document we learn that, in 2009, Saudi Arabia promised Morocco discounted oil if it joined in the effort to contain Iran).

The Georgia Crisis: What You Need To Know
August 11, 2008

On August 8, Russia sent troops into Georgia, spurring violence that has spread beyond two disputed breakaway regions and resulted in the deaths of thousands. The conflict was not unexpected; relations between the two countries have been seething for years. Here is a summary of the conflict's history, major actors, core issues, and consequences. WHAT HAPPENED -- Georgia, a small state that sits just north of Turkey, wedged between the Black and Caspian Seas, became independent in 1991 with the fall of the USSR.

The End of Big Oil
February 27, 2008

When historians one day dissect the long arc of humankind's use of fossil fuels, they may very well zero in on October 9, 2006, as a turning point for Big Oil. That's when it became clear that the major oil companies--the giants that had survived numerous predicted extinctions and gone on to ever-greater profit and influence--were undergoing a tectonic shift and would either reinvent themselves or die.

Warren Beatty's Triumph
December 16, 1981

Reds is both an accurate and a possibly misleading title. It's accurate because the two leading characters devote much of what we see of their lives to Communist activities. It's possibly misleading because the focus is on the people, not the activities. This is not, in essence or intent, a political work; it is biographical. Solanas's Hour of the Furnaces, Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers, Wajda's Man of Marble are political films, which posit and explore political questions, then strongly support particular action about them: Reds is a patently different order of work.

Soviet Industrial Organization
July 20, 1921

Fantasy could hardly devise a situation less auspicious for nationalization of industries than that of Russia in 1918.