World

South Korea's Northern Stories

No one understands North Korea’s current nuclear moves better than those who live in the country next door, and who lived through the darkest moments of the 20th century.

E. Tammy Kim
E. Tammy Kim I arrived in Seoul from New York on January 30, having lost half a day somewhere over the Pacific. On the airport shuttle bus, a flat-screen TV played and replayed the Naro satellite launch: South Korea's encore attempt to put its first in orbit. The news spliced in footage of a cheering crowd, gaze heavenward, waving small Taegeugki flags outside the space center. It was like watching a dated Space Race reel. Two weeks later, as I was leaving Seoul, I again rode the airport shuttle. This time, the dashboard broadcast was much more grave. A red-backed news ticker announced North Korea's suspected nuclear test, nearly confirmed by seismic measurements. The images were again of mid-century intensity: mushroom clouds and infrared surveillance, menacing portraits of a Mao-suited dictator. This news, I gathered from cuts to president Obama, had gone international. My trip was thus bookended by hot actions on a Cold War peninsula—a divided nation still technically at war...

Return of the Ratzinger

With Benedict around for the selection of his successor, a new Pope might not mean new hope for progressive Catholicism.

AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano
Conclave is coming, and by hook or by crosier, we’ll have a new Pope before Passover. Papal elections can spell change for the congregations of the world’s largest church , so we talked to a priest to get a handle on things. Joseph Palacios is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and the founder of pro-gay-marriage group Catholics for Equality . He is on leave from his diocese in Los Angeles. You founded Catholics for Equality in 2010—did the timing have anything to do with the way Pop Benedict's tenure was going? It’s a ‘both and’ answer. Because the energy coming from the Vatican under Benedict’s rein was to quash any pro LGBT quality legislation around the world. And the bishops were given the charge to put their resources into stopping marriage bills, adoption bills. But also they have fought fair employment, housing, and other access/accommodation issues around the world. When he was running the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith , [Benedict crafted] the “...

Senate Tested, Iran Approved?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File
It’s become difficult to keep track of the all the ridiculous charges that have been thrown at Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel over the past few months, but surely one of the most absurd is the idea that the government of Iran “ endorsed ” his nomination. That this had become the latest claim to make the journey from goofy right-wing bleat to conservative political “fact” became evident during the Senate Armed Services Committee debate over Hagel’s nomination last week. Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, doing his best impersonation of what he thinks a very serious person sounds like, gravely intoned that, with Hagel’s nomination came “something that was truly extraordinary, which is the government of Iran formally and publicly praising the nomination of a defense secretary. I would suggest to you that to my knowledge, that is unprecedented to see a foreign nation like Iran publicly celebrating a nomination.” When Senator Bill Nelson responded that Cruz had “gone over the...

It’s Time for Some Israel Real Talk.

I’ll start.

flickr/jason_harman
Last week, the storied New York LGBT Center refused award-winning queer writer and activist Sarah Schulman a chance to read from her new book, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International . In doing so, the organization cited the Center’s “moratorium” on using the center to "organize around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” in place since early 2011 purportedly to maintain the Center as a "safe space" for both Jews and Arabs. On Monday, they relaxed the moratorium, though it remains unclear whether Schulman will be allowed to read. Quasi-reversals notwithstanding, the existence of the moratorium in the first place is the height of hypocrisy—one would think that a queer organization of all places would understand, as the ACT UP slogan goes, that silence equals death. Is there any hotter third rail in U.S. politics than an unflattering opinion of Israel’s policy on Palestine? Defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel is still being haunted by one he let slip years ago, and last fall’s...

The Australian Connection

Why did Israel keep a prisoner's arrest, name and death secret, and will we ever know for sure?

Flickr/opk
H ave you heard about Israel's Prisoner X affair? I can't tell you about it, because it's secret. Actually, I will tell part of the story in a few moments, because secrets do get out, or at least pieces of secrets. First, I'll mention that the official mechanism for keeping the media in the dark was once more blatant. In my early days in Israeli journalism, in the mid-1980s, I was a night news editor at the Jerusalem Post . Every night we had to send anything related to defense and security to the military censor's office. We'd get it back either approved or with some sections blue-penciled or, on rare occasions, with the whole article censored. The process turned nerve-wracking when U.S. intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard was arrested as an Israeli spy in 1985. Because of the seven-hour time difference with Israel, the Post 's Washington correspondent, Wolf Blitzer, filed every night at the last moment. We would design one front page with his story at the top, and another without...

Game of Drones

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Murray Brewster
AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File T he recent release of White House memos outlining the legal justifications the Obama administration believes it has to use drone strikes— against both foreign nationals and American citizens— reminds us that while the American public was otherwise occupied, a revolution in warfare was beginning. This revolution has some ways to go—we're not quite at the point where our next war is going to be fought by nothing but robots on land, sea, and air. But drones become more important not just to our military but to militaries all over the world with each passing year. Unmanned aerial vehicles, and their use in war, have a history nearly as long as aviation itself. During a siege of Venice in 1849, Austria launched balloons carrying explosives over the city—the first recorded use of aerial bombing. In 1863, a New York inventor named Charles Perley patented an unmanned aerial bombing balloon for use in the Civil War (it proved less than reliable, so it had no...

Crowdsourcing Sexual-Assault Prevention

Egypt's HarassMap and its efforts to end sexual violence

AP Images
Two years after Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself on fire in an act of protest that sparked revolutions across the Middle East, the Arab Spring smolders with grief and a lingering sense of lost purpose. For Egyptians, their revolution’s anniversary is both a joyful remembrance and a haunting torment, a reminder that while one Pharaoh was toppled another still reigns. For Egypt's women, the lack of political freedom is especially acute. The 2011 uprising featured a kaleidoscope of head scarves in Tahrir Square and the winding city avenues rumbled not just with furious men but with daring, defiant women. But since then, the revolution has exposed and aggravated Egypt’s gender inequality; harassment of women—especially politically active ones—has become a troublingly regular feature of the country’s day to day existence. Charged with heightened symbolism and exposed to the harsh light of international press, several episodes mark the disarray and discord of revolutionary Egypt. After being...

Austerity's Unintended Consequences

AP Photo/Mauro Scrobogna, LaPresse
AP Photo/Mauro Scrobogna, LaPresse Italian media mogul and former ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi during a television appearance last week. The latest political polls suggest he is gaining ground on center-left candidate Pier Luigi Bersani ahead of Italy's elections. I s the worst of the Eurozone crisis over? The optimists—out of conviction or calculation—say “yes.” The European Central Bank’s promise to purchase an unlimited amount of government bonds from member-states who find their credibility questioned by the capital markets has brought the borrowing rates of the European periphery down to manageable levels without spending a single euro. Ireland, the second Eurozone country to require an international bailout in November 2010, has already made a partial return to the markets for long-term borrowing, while Portugal, which was bailed out in May 2011, hopes to do so later this year. Even Greece seems to be making headway with reforms and fiscal consolidation, the result of which has...

Checks and Balances on the Western Front

Wikimedia commons
AP Photo/Brennan Linsley T he release of the white paper justifying the Obama administration's targeted killings program—as well as the confirmation hearings for President Obama's CIA nominee John Brennan —has brought attention back to the role the executive branch plays in the abuses and overreaching that have come to define the "War on Terror." This is how it should be. While the president's power over domestic policy tends to be overrated, the president is the dominant force in military affairs. It's also true that Congress shouldn't be left off the hook. The legislative branch has substantial constitutional authority over military affairs. In the case of the War on Terror, Congress has repeatedly deferred to the White House, starting with the extremely broad Authorization for Use of Military Force against al-Qaeda in 2001. While the targeted killings memo did cite the president's Article II powers to defend the country, the most commonly cited authority for the administration's...

Tinkering with the Obama Doctrine

As his second term kicks off, what are the roads the president is likely to pursue abroad?

Flickr/Island-Life
During the 2008 presidential campaign, no candidate offered a clearer break with George W. Bush's foreign policy than Barack Obama. With America in the middle of two prolonged wars in the Middle East, the Illinois senator pledged to use "soft power" and engagement to pursue American interests rather than military action. Obama's argument was that the standing of the United States had been heavily damaged by Bush's policies of invasion, torture, and indefinite detention, and in order to repair this damage, the United States needed to pursue policies that directly reached out to the residents of the world. These goals have only been partially realized, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East. Obama pledged a “new beginning” at Cairo University in 2009, and has tried to engage the world without plunging into drawn-out conflicts during his first term. But the approach has hit some of its limitations. President Obama has effectively drawn down from Iraq and Afghanistan,...

Labor Wins—in China

Flickr/notebookaktuell
Is China moving ahead of the United States on worker rights? According to a report on Monday’s Financial Times , it may be doing just that. The FT reports that Foxconn, which employs 1.2 million Chinese workers who make the bulk of Apple’s products, along with those of Nokia, Dell, and other tech companies, has decided to allow its workers to hold elections to select their union leaders. This is a radical departure from past practice in China, where unions are run by the government—that is, the Communist Party—which customarily selects the union leaders. Often, the leaders selected under this system are actually the plant managers. Under Foxconn’s new plan, workers will cast secret ballots for their union leaders, and no managers will be eligible to run. The company’s proposal, writes the FT , is viewed as a “response to frequent worker protests, riots and strikes and soaring labor costs.” In other words, just as employers in Western Europe and the U.S. once came to prefer dealing...

Libya's Spheres of Bad Influence

Time is running short for the U.S. and NATO to help Libya restore order and security—and to keep jihadi groups in check.

The tragic events unfolding in North Africa have brought to the attention of the West a reality that has been long underestimated and neglected: the rapid collapse of law and order in the countries that went through the revolts of the so-called Arab spring. Western countries have relied on the hope that new governments across the region could maintain stability and peace largely on their own, and therefore neglected to support these governments in their struggles. This is clearly not a strategy that has succeeded, and the United States will be forced to make hard choices in the next few weeks regarding the security situation in the Maghreb and Sahelian regions of North Africa. The American strategy of “leading from behind” that seemed, at first, a successful one in the Libyan intervention and the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi has been thrown into question by the unfolding of the events in Mali, Algeria, and Egypt. Intervention in Libya unfolded in the following way: the French, British...

The Senate-Hearing Circus Is in Session

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senator Ted Cruz uses a poster while questioning Chuck Hagel, a former two-term GOP senator and President Obama's choice for defense secretary, during his confirmation hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, January 31, 2013. Hagel faced strong GOP resistance and was forced to explain past remarks and votes even as he appeared on a path to confirmation as Obama second-term defense secretary and the nation's 24th Pentagon chief. T hat really could’ve gone better. Appearing before yesterday’s marathon session of the Senate Armed Services Committee, former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, seemed apologetic, hesitant, and adrift. To the extent Hagel seemed to have prepared at all, it was for a set of serious questions on serious issues from a completely different set of Senators who weren’t out to score petty partisan points. Looking to make sense of the spectacle...

A More Perfect European Union

David Cameron's speech has its fair share of detractors, but it should be embraced as an impetus to take Europe's governance to the next level.

Flickr/vsaid
As President Barack Obama embarks on his second term, he and many other global leaders hoping for economic recovery paid close attention to the recent speech given by British Prime Minister David Cameron about whether he would lead the UK out of the European Union. Europe is the largest trading partner with both the United States and China, so the continent’s recession and the restructuring of its basic institutions is no academic matter. What happens there affects the rest of the world. Cameron's speech was disappointing for most, including no doubt the White House which had lobbied Cameron to maintain Britain's place at Europe's center. The pugnaciousness at the core of Cameron's position—"The UK should stay in the European Union, but we want to cherry pick the conditions"—poses an obvious problem. No union can survive if its members agree to terms in such an à la carte manner, and the speech resulted in negative reactions from most quarters, including many of Cameron's allies...

David Cameron's Malaise Speech

Europe is not impressed with the British P.M.'s plan to loosen the country from the E.U.'s grip.

Rex Features via AP Images
Rex Features via AP Images) Prime Minister David Cameron giving the keynote speech on Britain's future in Europe, Bloomberg head office, London, Britain. I f there is one word that defined the EU in 2012, it was “Grexit.” The prospect of Greece crashing out of the Eurozone hovered over Europe like a dark cloud, threatening a thunderstorm but never delivering. With Greece’s continued membership in the euro looking more secure than it has in a while in these early days of 2013, a new word has captured the imagination of Europe-watchers: “Brexit”, or the possibility of a British departure from the European Union. Prime Minister David Cameron gave a big speech on Britain and Europe in London on Wednesday morning. In it, he expressed his country’s dissatisfaction at the evolution of the European Union, in particular in the age of the euro crisis. Lamenting the slipping competitiveness of European economies and the mounting democratic deficit of the EU, he vowed to renegotiate the United...

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