Lunes, 23 de diciembre de 2013

This weekend the president of Bulgaria, in the midst of an increasingly heated debate about the imminent lifting of restrictions on migration from his country to the UK, said: “Politicians should be ready to say the inconvenient truth.” They should endure short-term unpopularity, Rosen Plevneliev suggests, “preserve our values” and “keep the history of our proud tolerant nations as they are”. Given that his words were aimed at a Conservative party now zooming into pre-election mode under the supervision of Lynton Crosby, they read like subtle satire.

And on the same theme, Nick Clegg asked: “What would happen if tonight every European living in the UK boarded a ship or plane and went home?…  Seguir leyendo »

One might think that America’s policy toward Syria couldn’t get any worse, but the rise of extremists there is generating dangerous thinking in Western capitals. High-level advisers and former officials have recently started to talk about Bashar al-Assad as a lesser evil than whatever comes next; some even see him as a potential partner in fighting jihadi terrorists.

Rebuilding bridges with Mr. Assad, the reasoning goes, would allow Western intelligence agencies to penetrate and disrupt the activities of extremist groups and help identify the many hundreds of Western jihadis who are flocking there.

Such simplistic analysis whitewashes the Assad regime’s record.…  Seguir leyendo »

El Gobierno de China está adoptando medidas severas contra los periodistas occidentales y amenazando con no renovar los visados a los reporteros del New York Times y de Bloomberg como represalia por sus informaciones sobre la corrupción de funcionarios superiores chinos. El articulista del Times Thomas Friedman escribió recientemente una carta abierta al Gobierno de China en la que le decía que, como la “causa [principal] de la muerte de los regímenes chinos en la Historia ha sido la codicia y la corrupción”, es probable que una prensa libre ayude más que perjudicar.

Quienquiera que considere derechos humanos universales la libertad de prensa y la libertad de expresión convendrá con la posición de Friedman, pero en China la política –incluida la de los derechos– está siempre entrelazada con la economía.…  Seguir leyendo »

Durante la Guerra Fría, el término “Kremlinología” se refería a los esfuerzos por comprender lo que estaba ocurriendo en los puestos de mando de la Unión Soviética – en sí, lo que ocurría detrás de toda la Cortina de Hierro. Los Kremlinólogos monitorizaban (de cualquier manera posible) quiénes de los principales líderes soviéticos estaban arriba y quiénes estaban abajo. Se otorgaba gran importancia al hecho de quién había firmado un documento oficial, o quién pasaba revista en los desfiles militares desde la parte superior de la tumba de Lenin en la Plaza Roja.

Todo eso se puede considerar como juego de niños en comparación con los esfuerzos para descifrar al régimen de Corea del Norte, donde la verdad es mucho más opaca.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hace medio siglo, John F. Kennedy observó que “el hombre tiene en sus manos mortales el poder de abolir todas las formas de pobreza humana y todas las formas de vida humana”. Esas palabras hoy nos hablan con especial urgencia.

Nuestra generación efectivamente puede poner fin al antiguo flagelo de la pobreza extrema. Sin embargo, también puede destruir el sistema de soporte vital de la Tierra a través de una devastación ambiental inducida por el hombre.

Por necesidad, entonces, hemos ingresado en La Era del Desarrollo Sustentable. De modo que estoy inmensamente emocionado de estar lanzando un curso online gratuito y global bajo ese mismo nombre en enero de 2014.…  Seguir leyendo »

So who will be the Jesse Owens of the Sochi Winter Olympics? Who will be the brave athlete who shines in rebuttal to Russia’s crackdown on anything determined to be “gay propaganda.” Welcome to the new Cold War.

For Owens, the nemesis was Hitler’s ideology of racial superiority that placed Nordic “Aryans” at the pinnacle of humanity.

As a black man in segregated times, Owens identified with being targeted and subjected to second class citizenship. But instead of boycotting the 1936 games, as he initially intended, Owens stepped up to prove that Hitler’s white dominance doctrine was a bunch of bull.…  Seguir leyendo »

If you want to work against peace between Israelis and Palestinians, if your aim is to ensure the two sides never work out their differences, then it’s a really good idea to support the boycott of Israel.

The movement to boycott the Jewish state, known as BDS — boycotts, divestment and sanctions — produces exactly the opposite of reconciliation. It singles out one conflict in the world, and it targets one side in that conflict, exerting pressure in a way that defies logic and morality.

The recent decision by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli scholars and Israeli universities is a clear example of the perversion of the idea.…  Seguir leyendo »

Switzerland has not always had a good press. In Carol Reed’s 1949 classic The Third Man, the villainous Harry Lime derides the country as a dreary irrelevance: “500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

But we should not be so quick to dismiss the track record of the Alpine fortress.

In the modern era, Switzerland has emerged as the one of the richest countries in the world in terms of wealth per head of population: its average wage of around £60,000 a year is more than twice that of the UK.

Despite its small size – just 8 million people – Switzerland is the 20th largest exporter on earth and the EU’s third largest trading partner; independent experts say its economy surpasses all others in terms of competitiveness and innovation.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Nov. 26, the U.N. secretary general made another call for a Geneva peace conference on Syria, to be held Jan. 22. These calls have been issued since June 2011, but no belligerents have shown up because each has been allowed to define the preconditions for negotiations. The only way to break this stalemate is for the United Nations and major powers to set the conditions for participation and enforce them.

During the past 2½ years, 100,000 more Syrians have died, more than 2 million Syrians have fled the country as refugees and 6 million Syrians have been internally displaced. The war among Syria’s many sectarian groups has become more brutal, and some neighboring countries are even more deeply involved in trying to help one side or the other prevail.…  Seguir leyendo »

The the night-time release and swift transfer to Germany of Russia’s best-known political prisoner, former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky are being compared by some to the ex-Soviet Union’s treatment of dissidents such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Vladimir Bukovsky.

After 10 years behind bars, Khodorkovsky’s further activities will probably be similar to theirs too: less than earth-shaking for the ruling regime. He says he doesn’t plan to enter politics, go back to business or even live in Russia.

At the time of his arrest in 2003, Forbes magazine ranked Khodorkovsky as the world’s 26th richest man, with an $8 billion fortune. He served an 8-year sentence for tax evasion, grand larceny and embezzlement and had 10 months left to serve of a second prison term, which was imposed for the preposterous charge of stealing oil from the subsidiaries of his holding company, Yukos.…  Seguir leyendo »

The recent interim nuclear agreement between Iran and the so-called P5-plus-1 countries, led by the United States, has provoked unprecedented criticism of U.S. policy from two of its strongest Mideast allies: Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on his ministers and his supporters in the U.S. to lobby Congress to oppose the agreement. Meanwhile, Saudi officials have accused the U.S. of selling out its allies for little security in return.

The apparent coincidence of Israeli and Saudi interests over Iran has fueled media reports that the two countries are coordinating strategies to confront the Islamic Republic.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sixty-nine years ago this month, Nazi Germany mounted its last, horrific offensive in the dead of winter in what came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge. Perhaps taking a page from the playbook of their fellow totalitarians, the Muslim Brotherhood seems to have its own audacious winter offensive underway — only this one is being waged inside America, a country they have declared they seek “to destroy from within.”

At the moment, the object of this exercise appears to be to prevail on the U.S. government to do what it did once before: help install a Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt.…  Seguir leyendo »

The downfall of the Soviet empire was an American achievement on par with victory against Japan and Germany. It liberated tens of millions of Europeans and Americans from the constant threat of annihilation or enslavement. Sadly and dangerously, however, the Obama administration’s passivity toward Russian advances throughout Eastern Europe and recent events in Ukraine are allowing Russia to reconstitute its old empire.

Luckily, Ukrainians are not taking lightly Russian President Vladimir Putin’s designs on their vast country. Still, the world needs American leadership at this moment. President Obama, having thrown away George W. Bush’s gains in the Middle East, should not now also waste Ronald Reagan’s success in Europe.…  Seguir leyendo »

If you think things are bad, you might be consoled in knowing that most things for most people on the globe were never better than in 2013.

The good news is that most people are living longer with more real income and more security than they did a year ago, a decade ago, or at any time in history. Global personal safety is at a record high. The number of people killed in wars last year was at most a few thousand — a tragedy, but only for a minuscule portion of the world’s population — unlike the tens of millions killed per year during the world wars of the last century.…  Seguir leyendo »

The mother, an animal herder in the western Indian state of Gujarat, watched in horror as her 3-year-old daughter was snatched from her. The kidnapper, an upper-caste woman from a nearby village who was unable to conceive, had been encouraged by her in-laws to help herself to a low-caste child. The mother pleaded with the village council and police for her daughter’s return. But both were dismissive. So she approached the unofficial Nari Adalat, or Women’s Court.

Five members of the court walked to the village where the girl was being held, and confronted her abductors. They refused to budge until the family let them search their house, where they found the girl hidden beneath a pile of mattresses in a musty storage room.…  Seguir leyendo »

Me cuesta confesarlo. Ojalá no fuera así. Me sería más grato comunicar un mensaje optimista y poder recomendar medidas para respaldar nuestro sistema de vivir y prolongar la vida de nuestra civilización. Pero debo decir la verdad: los problemas del planeta son insolubles. Tenemos que ajustarnos a la perspectiva de un medio ambiente cada vez menos habitable, y enfrentar un mundo ineludiblemente hostil. La política no puede salvarnos, ni los tratados internacionales, ni los reglamentos estatales, ni los esfuerzos de organizaciones cívicas bien intencionadas pero carentes de influencia social.

El motivo que me provoca a compartir estas reflexiones poco alentadoras es el éxito que va acumulando, poco a poco, la tal llamada Declaración consensual de científicos globales (Formato PDF).…  Seguir leyendo »

Decepcionante ha sido oír en las últimas semanas las declaraciones de algunos de los antiguos padres de la patria que hace años nos gobernaron y redactaron la Constitución. Uno recuerda cómo los admirábamos en aquella época en la que parecía que la dictadura era el único mal que nos afligía, el único problema —y en parte lo era— para construir un país unido, solidario y democrático que caminara hacia el progreso económico y social, eliminando los fantasmas del pasado y aminorando las desigualdades entre las personas y las regiones.

Mal sabor nos dejaron las ambiguas declaraciones de Miguel Roca, tratando de justificar lo injustificable y acusando al Tribunal Constitucional de destruir el Estado de las Autonomías.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los ucranios ya llevan semanas de protestas. Lo que se inició en Kiev y otras ciudades del mundo con varios cientos de personas ha llegado a concentrar a medio millón en la plaza de la Independencia (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) de la capital. Algunos maidan (así llaman las redes sociales a los manifestantes) han levantado una tienda en el centro de Kiev, con servicios de cocina y sanitarios, y otros bloquean los principales edificios gubernamentales con barricadas y patrullas. Durante las protestas ha habido varias detenciones y se cree que 200 heridos. Mientras el presidente ucranio Yanukóvich decide ir contracorriente y firmar un nuevo acuerdo con Rusia que posponga la quiebra ucrania y garantice su propia pervivencia política, una oposición dividida no ha logrado arrancar concesiones al Gobierno.…  Seguir leyendo »

Desde la plaza Roja de Moscú, al otro lado del río que atraviesa la ciudad, se podía ver hace años una pequeña central eléctrica de la época de la revolución bolchevique. Sobre ella figuraba un gran letrero que transmitía un mensaje inquietante: “Socialismo es el poder de los sóviets y la electrificación”. La frase era de Lenin y aludía al inextricable vínculo existente entre aquella forma de socialismo y su dependencia del tipo de energía imprescindible para emprender la industrialización. Al final, como todos sabemos, el instrumento que se predicaba para hacer posible el paraíso en la tierra acabó por engullir la promesa de la emancipación marxista.…  Seguir leyendo »

La noticia se extendió por todo el mundo, copó portadas, abrió informativos y protagonizó debates y comentarios televisivos. Y la historia lo merece. Tiene todos los elementos de misterio y fascinación, poder, lujo, arte, dinero y dolor para un premio Pulitzer, para un bestseller de novela, para guión propio de un Oscar. En Múnich, en la vivienda de un anciano, se había encontrado un inmenso tesoro. Un tesoro nazi, se dijo. No, un tesoro judío, se anunció después. Ni lo uno ni lo otro y ambas cosas a la vez. Cierto era el tesoro en sí, el hallazgo de un inmenso depósito de obras de arte escondido desde la II Guerra Mundial.…  Seguir leyendo »