Samantha And Fern
May 01, 2010

My old friend Samantha Power, a member of the president’s National Security Council staff, came to dinner last Sunday night after a showing of the movie Sergio, drawn from her book of the same title and directed by Greg Barton. The film is an HBO production which will air on May 6. Sergio was Sergio Vieira de Mello, the Brazilian head of the United Nations mission to Iraq who was killed in a terrorist explosion at the U.N.’s headquarters in August 2003, months after the American invasion and months before Saddam Hussein was snared in his cave of hiding.

Chop, Chop, Chop
April 27, 2010

Here's a surprising factoid: Between 2000 and 2005, deforestation rates in the United States and Canada were actually higher than those in Brazil and Indonesia, the two countries everyone thinks of when they think of deforestation. (Granted, Brazil lost more total trees because it had more forest to start with, but in raw percentage terms, we're tops.) The big drivers in the United States were "large-scale logging in the southeast, along the western coast, and in the Midwest."

Taking out My Eraser
March 05, 2010

  The Root has an interesting list of people they say black history could do without. It got me thinking about who I would include on a top-ten list of that kind. I’m going to take a different tack than they did. My interest is not in people it’s just fun to dump on, but in people who have had a decisive impact on black lives and thought in general—and so no Dennis Rodman or Wesley Snipes. I am also thinking about true uniqueness, i.e.

How Copenhagen Just Might End Up Working
February 09, 2010

So how is that informal climate "accord" that came out of Copenhagen last December actually working out? A lot of outside observers seem to assume the summit was a huge flop—after all, it didn't even end with a tangible treaty. I still think the best way to look at Copenhagen is as a work-in-progress that could, with a lot of strengthening, have a positive impact. And here's a new paper from Trevor Houser at the Peterson Institute for International Economics that suggests something similar. It's a keen analysis of the current state of play. First, some background: On February 1, the U.N.

Copenhagen Deadline Comes And Goes. Now What?
February 01, 2010

It didn't get a lot of fanfare, but January 31 was the deadline under the Copenhagen accord for the world's countries to formally submit their plans for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and helping to address climate change. So what happened? Well, the deadline came and went, and the vast majority of nations (roughly 130) didn't submit anything at all. On the upside, though, the handful of countries that actually pump out most of the world's carbon-dioxide did submit plans.

A Little Skepticism About Algae Fuels
January 25, 2010

Making biofuels out of algae has always sounded like a promising idea. In theory, at least, you could create a green alternative to gasoline without any of the drawbacks of corn- or soy-based ethanol (spikes in food prices, increased deforestation, etc.). ExxonMobil's already sinking $600 million into R&D, and a lot of the $80 million that the Energy Department just handed out for biofuels research went toward algae-related projects. Trouble is, there are still kinks to work out.

Metropolitan War in an Imagined NHL?
January 05, 2010

As part of a great-as-usual exchange between ESPN’s Bill Simmons and noted writer Malcolm Gladwell, the two sports-niks hypothesized about the NHL’s future.  Simmons pondered why Canada, the unquestioned home of hockey, doesn’t have more NHL teams.  In response he proposed a new, two conference league split evenly between Canadian and American teams.  Gladwell replied with: I'm with you on the 24-team, Canadian-American conference idea, particularly since it turns the Stanley Cup finals into a border war every year.

The Desperation Of American Universities In Araby
December 30, 2009

I last wrote in this space about American universities in the Arab oil orbit on April 23, 2008. That Spine was called “The New Colonialism, Education Division,” and it focused on the exploits of New York University in Abu Dhabi. Now, in matters like these, N.Y.U. is really in the business of whoring. This is made clear in an intriguing article by Tamar Lewin in the New York Times.  The report actually headlines: “University Branches in Dubai Are Struggling.” But it also covers Abu Dhabi, sort of harking back to its slightly breathless dispatch of nearly two years ago. N.Y.U.

Adios, Monroe Doctrine
December 28, 2009

The ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has provided Latin America with a revelatory moment. Beginning with the Monroe Doctrine--and extending through countless invasions, occupations, and covert operations--Washington has considered the region its backyard. So where was this superpower these past few months, as Honduras hung in the balance? More or less sitting on its hands. The fact is that the United States is no longer willing, or perhaps even able, to select who governs from Tegucigalpa, or anywhere else in the region for that matter.

Against the Green
December 23, 2009

As President Obama arrives empty-handed at the end of his year-long attempt to persuade Iran to address the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program, a curious paradox has emerged. Even if intensified--and highly costly--sanctions were to force the regime to comply with Western demands, an agreement between Tehran and Washington would benefit one party above all: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the illegitimate government that he now leads.