Nicaragua

This past Monday The New York Times ran a front-page story by Javier C. Hernández called "Possible Mayor Now, But Then a Young Leftist," about your activist years in the 1980s and early '90s. The story does seem to have caused a stir, and this is partly because of the dread word "socialist."

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The news yesterday that Nicaraguan lawmakers had given a Hong Kong company the right to build a $40 billion shipping canal was reported, at least by the nation's leading papers, with open skepticism.

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The persecution of a prophetic novel and a pompous novelist.

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The modern idea of human rights was only created after World War II. In the next half-century, it became a global movement.

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As the revolt that started this past winter in Tunisia spread to Egypt, Libya, and beyond, dissidents the world over were looking to the Middle East for inspiration. In China, online activists inspired by the Arab Spring called for a “jasmine revolution.” In Singapore, one of the quietest countries in the world, opposition members called for an “orchid evolution” in the run-up to this month’s national elections. Perhaps as a result, those watching from the West have been positively triumphalist in their predictions.

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Matthew Yglesias dreams of turning Detroit into a mecca for refugees: There are clearly insurmountable logistical, legal, practical, constitutional, and political obstacles to doing this but I can’t help but think that with 165 million people around the world telling Gallup they’d like to permanently relocate to the United States that it would be possible to find 1.3 million people who’d be interested in permanently relocating to Detroit and bringing the city back up to its peak population level.

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One afternoon in October, a blue and white jumbo jet flew high above the Pacific Ocean, approaching the international dateline. On board was the secretary of defense, Robert Gates, who was on an around-the-world trip that would end with a summit of NATO defense ministers, where the topic of the day would be Afghanistan. Gates was flying on what is often called “the Doomsday Plane,” a specially outfitted 747 that looks like a bulkier Air Force One and was built to wage retaliatory nuclear war from the skies.

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Contra Expectations

On his first day in office, President Barack Obama will head to the situation room for a video conference with his most important commander, General David Petraeus. If the conversation is chilly, it is not just the awkwardness of virtual chatting. Obama and Petraeus have a history. While Obama has called for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq, Petraeus oversaw the deployment of more than 30,000 additional troops. To win support from the left, Obama postured as a skeptic of the general's Iraq strategy during congressional hearings.

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"When the elephants fight, the grass suffers." Or so went a variation of the Third World lament during the cold war. The lament clearly applies today in Lebanon. But it also applies in Washington, where the administration views the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah as a classic case of great-power brinkmanship--in this case, pitting the United States against Iran. The paradigm that the Bush team has drawn on in its response to the Lebanon crisis isn't the war on terrorism.

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