Kazakhstan

Putin's Targets

Will eastern Ukraine and northern Kazakhstan be next?

Just a few weeks ago, it was unimaginable that Ukraine’s sovereignty would be under attack from Russia. What might come next?

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In response to demands from Senate Republicans, the think tank led by Chuck Hagel has released a list of its foreign donors, along with assertions about its intellectual independence from all of its funders. But like most other Beltway think tanks, the ties between scholarship and money are a lot closer than meets the eye.

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The sanctimonious former prime minister is being paid millions to pal around with corrupt dictators.

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When the New York Times reported last month that Wal-Mart had brazenly been bribing government officials in Mexico, the public responded with anger. According to the Washington Post, the outcry forced the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to slow its campaign to water down the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the 1977 law that bars payoffs to foreign decision-makers in exchange for business. The agitation also led to a 5 percent drop in the price of Wal-Mart stock. But one group seemed decidedly less bothered by the reports of Wal-Mart’s misdeeds: corporate America.

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Welcome to TNR’s 2011 List Issue. In putting the issue together, we had one major priority: to avoid creating a power list featuring anyone who regularly dominates headlines. Instead, we had a different idea: What if we revealed something about D.C. by documenting who quietly wields power? From there, we began to hatch other ideas for lists, and we realized that—while they can certainly be cheap gimmicks—lists can also convey a lot about a city. Below is the first list from the issue: Washington’s most powerful, least famous people.

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Early Enlightenment

The Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the Pope Who Brought the Light of Science to the Dark Ages By Nancy Marie Brown (Basic Books, 310 pp., $27.95) A study of twenty member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (recently re-named the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC—the international body that represents Ummah al Islam, with a permanent delegation to the United Nations) found that between the years 1996 and 2003 those countries spent 0.34 percent of their GDP on scientific research, one-seventh of the global average.

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The New York Times ran a feature on Wednesday about how cigarette giant Philip Morris is benefiting from the use of child labor on tobacco farms in Kazakhstan. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented how children in the Kazakh fields face routine, dangerous exposure to nicotine and polluted drinking water. When HRW presented its findings to Philip Morris, the company vowed to change its purchasing policies in the Central Asian country and to step up efforts to eliminate all child labor. Philip Morris, however, isn’t the only entity that needs to adjust its policies on child farmworkers.

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It's quite possible that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will put an end to further offshore drilling in the United States—at least for awhile. Florida Senator Bill Nelson is already calling for a stop to all new exploration and drilling in the Gulf; he's called any new energy bill that has support for new offshore drilling "dead on arrival." The Obama administration, meanwhile, is sounding a lot more circumspect about its earlier plans to expand drilling off the coasts.

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Ghosts

In memory of Tomasz Merta (1965–2010) The event known as Katyn began when the Red Army invaded Poland, along with the Wehrmacht, in September 1939. The Soviets took thousands of Polish officers prisoner and held them in the ruins of Orthodox monasteries. When these men were allowed to leave the camps, 70 years ago in April 1940, they expected that they would be returning home. Instead, they were taken to Kharkiv, or Tver, or Katyn. Over the course of a few days, 21,892 of these prisoners were shot in the base of the skull.

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Earlier this week, the small Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan erupted in violence. Days after protests broke out in a few small towns, thousands of people opposed to President Kurmanbek Bakiev's corrupt regime took to the streets of Bishkek, the capital city, and clashed with government forces. At least 75 people have died and hundreds more have been injured. Several government buildings have been set on fire, and countless businesses have been looted.

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