World

Shanghai Surprise
January 30, 2008

Shanghai, from which I have just returned after a first visit to China, has a specially built modern museum to house exhibits on the planning for the future Shanghai, and it includes an enormous model of Shanghai today. It is of a scale and detail that matches the huge model of New York City built for the 1964 World's Fair and now housed in the Queens Museum—which is itself located in a fragment of the 1939 World's Fair in New York City. But the contrasts are striking and reveal much that distinguishes China's largest city from our own largest city.

Burma Blues
September 24, 2007

For days, thousands of average Burmese and respected Buddhist monks parade through the streets of Burmese cities, calling for democracy and picking up supporters as they march. The protests have a kind of festive atmosphere. Crowds of young men in baseball caps and elderly Burmese in traditional sarongs cheer the monks from the rooftops and wave hand-lettered banners in Burmese and English.

Growth Spurt
July 02, 2007

Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, doesn't come up in the news very often. And why would it? There's no war or ethnic strife. The city is poor, but not outlandishly so--in fact, thanks to a stable government and a lucrative mining industry, Botswana is one of Africa's rare economic success stories.

Killing Fields
February 19, 2007

ON NOVEMBER 11, two men in green uniforms arrived at the home of Abakar Yussuf, then ordered his wife outside. “When she came out, they shot her in the back and she fell to the ground and died,” Yussuf told Amnesty International. “They then took her by her feet and pulled her back into the house and set fire to it. … When I returned to find my wife’s body, all that was left were her bones.” Four days later, in the same Chadian village, attackers threw Abdoulaye Khamis’s 80-year-old brother into a hut they had set on fire. “I ran back … and tried to save my brother,” Khamis explained.

The St. Paul Warlord: Hmong Friends
February 05, 2007

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Beirut Dispatch: Eau No
January 29, 2007

Last summer, during the war with Israel, Hezbollah's Al Manarsatellite TV channel ran an advertisement featuring Reem Haidar, anattractive Lebanese woman with a special request for Hezbollahleader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah. "I want his cloak that he sweatedin while he was defending me, my children, my sisters, and myland," said Haidar, with a toss of her highlighted hair, as martialmusic played in the background. "I want it so that I can rub someof its sweat on myself and my children.

Binge and Surge
January 22, 2007

IN IRAQ, SADLY, the troop surge planned by George W. Bush probably won't make much difference. After all, the United States has already surged—the military sent several thousand more troops to Baghdadlast summer—and the violence only got worse. Moreover, theintellectual architects of a new surge—retired General Jack Keane and the American Enterprise Institute's Frederick Kagan—say itwill require 30,000 more troops over 18 months to have a chance of success.

Damascus rising.; Syriana
December 11, 2006

Yes, I admit it. This is a theme I've been harping on for almost aquarter of a century: Syria sees Lebanon as an illegitimate break away from a great empire ruled from and by Damascus. Parts ofIraq and Turkey, and Cyprus in its entirety, are also duchies in this imagined imperium. And, of course, Israel. In the struggle against the Jewish restoration, many Arabs of Palestine called themselves southern Syrians. That provided a rationale for Damascusto fight in every Arab war against the Jews. Lebanon itself is a contrivance of the French, hewn from thedisintegrated Ottoman Empire.

Fast Times
October 30, 2006

Sitting among Madonna’s tassel-tipped corset, a jumpsuit worn by a member of ZZ Top, and other framed memorabilia, Egyptian families wait at their empty tables in silence. A 50-inch flat-screen television overhead plays music videos of the Killers and Nine Inch Nails, while waiters weave aimlessly around the booths. As the sun dips below the Nile, a Red Hot Chili Peppers video is unceremoniously interrupted—the guitar solo replaced by a solemn, baritone voice. “In the name of Allah, the most merciful,” it begins in Arabic.

Paleologus and Us
October 09, 2006

"Faith, Reason, and the University: Memories and Reflections"--the title seems an unlikely one for a papal speech that has triggered protests, even violence, across large parts of the Muslim world. Benedict XVI's remarks, made on September 12 at the University of Regensburg, where he was once a professor, have been denounced by the parliament of Pakistan, protesters in India, Iraq's Sunni leadership, the top Shiite cleric of Lebanon, the prime minister of Malaysia, and the president of Indonesia, among many others.

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