Viernes, 6 de diciembre de 2013

Kim Jong Un has further solidified his control over North Korea by reportedly purging his uncle Jang Sung-taek, Vice Chairman of the important Nation Defense Commission.

Although Jang was often referred to as the "second most powerful man in North Korea", he may now been ousted from the leadership elite for the third time. He has twice returned to the inner circle of power, but this cat may now have run out of lives.

What does the move say about the stability of North Korea? Some experts perceive a weak, embattled Kim feeling forced to fend off challengers. But it is more likely that Kim's purge of Jang -- as well as hundreds of other officials since 2011 -- shows that the North Korean ruler is firmly in control and confident enough to target even the most senior strata of power.…  Seguir leyendo »

Much has been said about the defeat the European Union suffered with Ukraine’s sudden refusal to sign a trade and association agreement. The contrary is true: The EU has had a lucky escape and so have the Ukrainian people.

Ukraine has a dysfunctional economy that faces imminent default. It cannot afford another destabilizing revolution. Rather than make a grand geostrategic choice between East and West, the country needs round-table talks similar to the ones that helped bring about a peaceful end to communism in Poland in 1989. These negotiations should resolve Ukraine’s political logjam and reach agreement on reforms to resuscitate the economy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Science has brought us incredible gifts: life-saving vaccines and clean water, air travel and instant communication.

Modern life is built upon the knowledge that the scientific community has gathered and that society -- markets, governments, workers -- put to use. We have our ancestors to thank.

But will our descendants thank us? Have we put to good use the knowledge we are gaining today to help those who will come after us?

That question is now before one of the highest courts of the United States. As a scientist who has spent the past half-century documenting how mankind is fundamentally altering our climate, I fear that unless the courts understand the threat and require the government to produce a plan of action, the answer of history could be damning.…  Seguir leyendo »

Politicians in Honduras have been cementing the Central American country's reputation for dysfunction. Four and half years ago, the Honduran military -- with a nod from Congress and the Supreme Court -- staged a coup against leftist President Manuel Zelaya in order to halt his plans for populist constitutional reform. The repercussions of that decision have made a mess of the country’s recent presidential election.

Xiomara Castro, a leftist presidential candidate who also happens to be Zelaya’s wife, has so far refused to accept defeat in the Nov. 24 election, despite having apparently received about 28.8 percent of the vote, 8 percentage points fewer than the winner, Juan Hernandez of the conservative National Party.…  Seguir leyendo »

For years, it seemed as though only one photograph of Nelson Mandela existed. It showed him with bushy hair, plump cheeks, and a look of serious determination. But it was a black-and-white shot, so grainy it looked ancient — a visual documentation of an era and an individual whose time had long passed.

In the early 1960s, fed up with the systematic oppression and inhumane treatment of indigenous Africans, Mandela successfully proposed a plan of violent tactics and guerrilla warfare, essentially forming the military wing of the African National Congress. Within a few years, this martial division, aptly named Umkhonto we Sizwe or Spear of the Nation, was discovered and its leadership detained.…  Seguir leyendo »

I remember Nelson Mandela. No, not the universally adored elder statesman who successfully resisted the megalomania that comes with deification, and who died Thursday at age 95, but the young lawyer who used to sit in my parents’ living room until the early hours of the morning, debating African nationalism with my father, Ashby Peter Mda.

In 1944, they were among the leaders who had founded the African National Congress Youth League. These young men considered the African National Congress, which had by then existed for more than three decades, moribund and outmoded. They felt there was a need to take the liberation struggle from protest to armed struggle, and were known to shout down those they felt were “selling out” by participating in apartheid-created structures through which black people were supposed to express their political aspirations.…  Seguir leyendo »

The young woman walking down the steps of the Niavaran Palace in Tehran glares angrily into the sun. She has just finished a tour through the splendor and Versailles-like pomp of the last shah’s residence, today a museum. Is she angry at the arrogance and remoteness that Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, toppled in 1979, showed toward his people?

“No,” she replies, somewhat baffled. “I’m angry at him because he let the revolution happen. This country would be better off today if it had been spared the Islamists.”

Traveling through Iran these days, you notice the agitation of the young. Defusing the conflict with the West over Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, it appears, is just one challenge for the new president, Hassan Rouhani.…  Seguir leyendo »

I thought we had accomplished something bold. Twenty minutes earlier, we had finished screening several short films against violence on a makeshift stage set up beside the Maidan Al-Jazair Mosque. But as we packed up our equipment, I could not believe what I saw: A play was being performed on the very steps of the mosque. In front of an enraptured crowd of several hundred, an actor playing an old sailor was reminiscing about the time before Muammar el-Qaddafi’s regime when police officers did their jobs and protected the people.

It is a measure of their despair at the worsening security situation that the ordinary people of this city, who were removed and forlorn even during the 2011 revolution, are now gathering at a venerated public site to criticize the government in the open.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Black Sea resort of Sochi, with its breathtaking views of the nearby Caucasus Mountains, was once a favorite holiday destination of Communist Party bosses in the Soviet era. Now reincarnated in gleaming glass, steel and concrete, Sochi is getting ready to welcome the 2014 Winter Olympics, opening on Feb. 7.

When, in 2007, President Vladimir V. Putin argued on behalf of Russia’s bid to hold the 2014 Games, he assured the International Olympic Committee that it would be a “safe, enjoyable and memorable experience.” The Sochi Games are his personal project and a very ambitious one — not least because the Games will take place in the immediate neighborhood of the North Caucasus, site of Europe’s deadliest ongoing conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »

What Jimmy Carter began, Barack Obama is ending. Washington is bringing down the curtain on its 30-plus-year military effort to pull the Islamic world into conformity with American interests and expectations. It’s about time.

Back in 1980, when his promulgation of the Carter Doctrine launched that effort, Carter acted with only a vague understanding of what might follow. Yet circumstance — the overthrow of the shah in Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — compelled him to act. Or more accurately, the domestic political uproar triggered by those events compelled the president, facing a tough reelection campaign, to make a show of doing something.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cuando yo era profesor en la Universidad de Stanford en el decenio de 1970, estaba siempre buscando formas como la tecnología podía ayudar a mejorar el aprendizaje. La gran innovación de aquella época fue la de que se transmitieran mis clases en la zona de la bahía de San Francisco. Incluso enviábamos cintas de vídeo a lugares más lejanos.

En la actualidad, los profesores graban y cuelgan sus clases en la red Internet, gracias a la cual estudiantes de todo el mundo pueden verlas y escucharlas todas las veces que quieran. La educación –uno de los últimos grandes sectores económicos que se han transformado por la era digital– está a punto de experimentar una revolución.…  Seguir leyendo »

A medida que la crisis de la deuda en la zona del euro continúa ampliando sin cesar la división entre las economías más sólidas del norte de Europa y las más débiles y endeudadas del sur (Francia podría considerarse una suerte de tierra económica de nadie entre ellas), todos se hacen una pregunta: ¿Puede sobrevivir la unión monetaria europea?, de hecho, ¿puede sobrevivir la propia Unión Europea?

Mientras los miembros septentrionales de la zona del euro disfrutan un bajo costo de endeudamiento y un crecimiento estable, los meridionales chocan contra elevados costos de endeudamiento, recesión, y profundos recortes en el ingreso y el gasto social.…  Seguir leyendo »

Las interpretaciones que se hicieron de las elecciones generales de 2008 por personas e instituciones de las que parece razonable decir que no deseaban la victoria del Partido Popular, indican que el PP sorprendió a la izquierda por su capacidad para avanzar y consolidarse como la opción preferida por los electores del centro. Suceso que llenó de estupor a algunos analistas, que creyeron que no era difícil que el PP ganara las siguientes elecciones -como efectivamente sucedió en 2011- porque no era sencillo que el PSOE reconquistara el voto de centro que había perdido ni lo era que conservara el voto radical que había obtenido en aquella ocasión.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cuando Antonio Tejero irrumpió en el Congreso de los Diputados gritando “¡al suelo!” y disparando al techo, yo, venezolano nacido en democracia, pensé con dolor: “¡Pobre España!”. Arrellanado en un cómodo sillón, imaginaba que la libertad había llegado a mi país para quedarse y que el bienestar generalizado era cuestión de una o dos décadas. No podía estar más equivocado: hoy el asedio a la libertad en Venezuela es brutal y campea la pobreza en todos los ámbitos. Pero este asalto a la democracia ha sido más sutil que el de Tejero. También, claro, requiere ponernos a nivel del suelo, pero no del físico, sino del cognitivo: viene de la mano de la quiebra de la lengua.…  Seguir leyendo »

Con indudable lucidez, el filósofo burgués y posmaterialista del 68 francés, luego convertido en paladín de la causa sarkozysta, André Glucksmann, señaló que si el combate en el siglo XX había sido entre democracia y totalitarismo, en el siglo XXI el antagonismo es entre democracia y corrupción. Algo hay de exageración en esta aseveración, sobre todo en el actual contexto de aguda crisis económica, donde la jerarquía de inquietudes sociales pasa ante todo por llegar a fin de mes u obtener un empleo. Sin embargo, también algo hay de razón en todo ello, además de que corrupción y crisis económica van de la mano.…  Seguir leyendo »

Viajeros recién llegados de la comunidad me cuentan que son no pocos quienes allí han encontrado un nuevo argumento a favor de la independencia de Cataluña: que fuera de ella es asidua la pronunciación como palabra llana (Ártur), cuando de hecho es aguda, del nombre de pila del presidente Mas. Llana, digo, paroxítona, o más bien grave, si en efecto se tratara de un ejemplo de la agresión que desde hace seis siglos se dice ejercida contra la antigua lengua propia de la región. Lo entiendo. El acento es la pequeña diferencia de intensidad espiratoria que distingue una sílaba de las restantes de la palabra.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hoy se cumplen treinta y cinco años desde que el pueblo español aprobara en referéndum, por amplísima mayoría, la Constitución española de 1978. Que podamos celebrar el trigésimo quinto aniversario de la Constitución es, en sí mismo, un hito en nuestra atormentada historia constitucional, pues, como es sabido, ninguna otra constitución española –y resulta oportuno recordarlo– ha tenido una vigencia real tan prolongada.

Esta ya larga vigencia de la Constitución del 78 no ha sido fruto del azar. Antes bien, ha sido el resultado de la inteligencia política y jurídica con la que los constituyentes abordaron el proceso constituyente y redactaron el texto constitucional.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s not only most Israelis, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the policy-community hawks in Washington and acolytes of AIPAC in the Congress who hate the interim nuclear agreement signed by Iran in November with the United Nations Security Council “P5-plus-one.”

So do the leaders of the paramilitary Basij force in Iran and other Iranians who support a hard and hostile line toward the Great Satan and the U.N. diplomats who collaborated in setting up what many in the West, and no doubt in Iran, hope will prove a first step in reconciliation between the Iranians and the Western community.…  Seguir leyendo »

En tiempos de crisis los protagonistas que, en Europa, están institucionalizados o marcan tendencia, ¿pueden proponer respuestas constructivas, proyectarse hacia el futuro presentando un contraproyecto, incluso una utopía? ¿La tendencia espontánea no consiste mayoritariamente en ver cómo se desarrollan respuestas destructivas, tendentes hacia un pasado también más o menos mítico, sin más proyectos que los que permiten considerar una restauración, un retorno al pasado?

De hecho, estos dos tipos de respuesta coexisten y dibujan, de mil y una maneras, paisajes complejos polarizados alrededor de dos figuras principales de la acción colectiva: los movimientos sociales y los antimovimientos sociales.

Los movimientos sociales buscan construir relaciones conflictivas con otros actores e institucionalizar estas relaciones para que permitan la negociación.…  Seguir leyendo »

It has gone quiet in Bangkok, as the people who have been trying to overthrow the government tidy up the debris that litters the city after the last two weeks of demonstrations. It’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s 86th birthday this week, and nobody wants to disrupt it with unseemly scenes of conflict.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is taking an equally low-key approach. The Thai Army has removed the barbed wire that surrounded government offices, and protesters are wandering through the prime minister’s offices and picnicking on the lawns while she runs the affairs of state from some other location in the capital.…  Seguir leyendo »