North Korea is making news again. For weeks there have been growing signs that the country is struggling to cope with the covid-19 pandemic. And now we’re hearing rumors that supreme leader Kim Jong Un has undergone heart surgery.
Needless to say, it’s always hard to know how seriously to take any accounts coming from the world’s most isolated country. Yet this time there is one striking bit of information that we do know: Kim didn’t show up for the ceremonies marking the birthday of his grandfather and regime founder Kim Il Sung on April 15 — a major absence, since that’s the most important day in the national calendar.… Seguir leyendo »
The coronavirus has unleashed so many problems around the world that it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all. Even so, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the situation facing one of the planet’s most vulnerable groups. They’ve been persecuted, maligned and terrorized — and now they’re preparing to confront the virus with minimal protection.
In the summer and fall of 2017, the Myanmar military launched a campaign of terror against the ethnic group known as the Rohingya, driving some 700,000 of them across the border into neighboring Bangladesh. Myanmar’s predominantly Buddhist ruling elite has long discriminated against the Muslim Rohingya, treating them as a nefarious alien presence in the country’s midst even though most have lived there for generations.… Seguir leyendo »
International leaders have already started marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Soviet troops captured the camp and freed its prisoners on Jan. 27, 1945. The Nazis had founded Auschwitz on the soil of occupied Poland in May 1940, not long after invading the country. It’s estimated that around 1 million Jews (many of them Polish citizens) were murdered there. Soviet prisoners of war as well as Polish priests and intellectuals died in the camp, too.
You would think that remembering the horrors of the Holocaust would offer an opportunity to bring the world together in a sense of shared mourning and hope.… Seguir leyendo »
Finally, a good news story from Russia: Vladimir Putin has recognized the error of his ways.
The Russian president used a big speech on Wednesday to broach some major changes in how the country is run. After spending 20 years concentrating all the power of the state in his person, he’s realized that that approach just isn’t working. As he put it, “Our society is clearly calling for change.” So he’s decided to shift power away from the presidency to the parliament and some other institutions. Hooray! Looks like the end of dictatorship is finally dawning.
Not so fast. Putin’s plans — which apparently include major changes to the constitution — are no triumph for democracy.… Seguir leyendo »
An extraordinary event took place in the Netherlands this week: a hearing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that is a first small step toward justice for one of the world’s longest-suffering minority groups.
On Thursday, an ICJ panel wound up the first phase of a legal process aimed at determining whether Myanmar committed an act of genocide against the Rohingya ethnic minority. In August 2017, using a counterterrorism operation as a pretext, the Buddhist-dominated Myanmar military launched an ethnic-cleansing campaign that killed thousands of Muslim Rohingya and drove nearly 1 million of them into neighboring Bangladesh.
The ICJ investigation is likely to continue for years.… Seguir leyendo »
The Berlin Wall crumbled. Regimes toppled. But 30 years later, how much have things changed?
Thirty years ago, the citizens of Soviet-dominated Central Europe achieved something extraordinary: a wave of peaceful revolution that swept away the system that had exerted near-seamless control over their lives for the previous four decades.
The enormous impact of those events was obvious to everyone who witnessed them. Since then, a generation has passed. The Berlin Wall — and everything it symbolized — is just a memory, and it is tempting to view the events of 1989 as mere history.
That would be a mistake. In fact, that remarkable year has left an enduring imprint on Europe — and the rest of the world.… Seguir leyendo »
President Trump is lashing out against the media and his opposition as he faces impeachment for turning U.S. foreign policy into an extension of his reelection campaign. The British Parliament is poised to vote down Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s legislative program next week, raising the prospect of a “zombie government” crippled by a deepening split over Brexit. And a Polish election has delivered a resounding win for the authoritarian Law and Justice party — effectively rewarding it for a systematic assault on press freedom and other democratic institutions.
This is not a happy time for advocates of liberal democracy.
And yet there was one dazzling bolt of good news that emerged from the darkness this weekend: Tunisia just held the second round of its presidential vote — and the people won.… Seguir leyendo »
We have a regrettable tendency to take authoritarian regimes at their word. Just think of that word “strongman” (which I’m sure even I have used far too many times). We almost always deploy it uncritically, and in doing so we play into the hands of the dictators. Strength is what they love to project. They spend huge amounts of time and energy assuring their citizens of their toughness and their machismo.
And yet, as you can see in many a schoolyard, the preening bully is almost always trying to hide an underlying weakness. He doesn’t get his power through respect or love or hard work — he gets it through fear.… Seguir leyendo »
Today, on World Press Freedom Day, I recall the vivid experience of walking down a street in Rangoon, Burma’s largest city, and watching freedom of expression flower before my eyes. At that time, in November 2015, the country was gradually emerging from decades under one of the world’s harshest and most insular dictatorships. Burma’s long-suffering reporters were happy to seize the opportunity, and I was seeing the results: Street vendors were offering a dizzying array of newspapers and magazines where once only the gray prose of the state-run propaganda outlets had reigned.
I was visiting Burma, which is also known as Myanmar, to report on its first free election in a generation — one that predictably yielded a victory for Aung San Suu Kyi, the revered leader of the opposition to military rule.… Seguir leyendo »
A big reckoning is coming for Facebook. The revelation that political consultancy Cambridge Analytica covertly accessed data from 50 million Facebook accounts to help the Trump campaign in 2016 is just the latest in a series of damaging stories about the platform. Now U.S. regulators and lawmakers are sharpening their knives. Two Democratic senators, Mark R. Warner (Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), have said that it’s time for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress.
It’s understandable that Washington politicians should be concerned primarily about the possible damage inflicted upon U.S. citizens by Facebook policies (or its laxness in enforcing them, which may well be the issue in the Cambridge Analytica case).… Seguir leyendo »
Iranians are taking to the streets on a scale that hasn’t been seen in nearly a decade. Over the past six days, demonstrations have taken place in more than two dozen towns and cities, from the Shiite seminary town of Mashhad (Iran’s second-largest) to remote provincial centers and the working-class neighborhoods of Tehran. So far at least 20 people have been killed.
We have no way of knowing how this is going to end. The new generation of protesters – some of whom have torn down posters of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and staged attacks on police stations — appears to be fiercely determined.… Seguir leyendo »
The Weinstein Effect is rippling out across the globe. It’s no longer just women in the United States who are speaking up about sexual harassment — their counterparts in many other countries are, too. And we’re once again seeing confirmation of a truth that is often overlooked in discussions of sexual misconduct or assault: These stories are often more about power than they are about sex. Specifically, for men in positions of power, it’s often about demonstrating the extent of their control over the vulnerable.
The same principle applies — albeit in more extreme form — when sexual violence is used as a weapon of war.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week, the Russian Defense Ministry released video footage proving that American forces in Syria have been allowing Islamic State fighters to escape from besieged cities.
Or that, at least, is what the Russians claimed. It took a few days for fact-checkers at Conflict Intelligence Team and Bellingcat, private organizations devoted to debunking disinformation, to figure out that the alleged evidence was completely fake. Among their findings: Some of the images had been lifted from a two-year-old video game trailer. Others came from 2015 footage issued by the Iraqi Defense Ministry.
Caught in the act, the Russian ministry has since admitted that it used fake evidence — and then repeated the allegations using new video material.… Seguir leyendo »
South Korea is in an uproar. Crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands have been surging through the streets of Seoul, the capital city. Some of the marchers are celebrating a ruling Friday by the Constitutional Court, which has upheld the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. Others who support the president have been angrily denouncing the court, leading to clashes with police that have resulted in the deaths of two protesters.
All of this turmoil is taking place against the backdrop of ominous gestures from North Korea, which fired off a salvo of four medium-range missiles in a test Monday. The distance traveled by the missiles would have enabled them to hit a U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
Men are beating their wives. All over the world. In rich countries and poor ones. In democracies and dictatorships.
You’d have to be astonishingly clueless to think that this is an entirely new phenomenon. For years we’ve been hearing about the individual tragedies, the studies, the surveys. Yet something does seem to be changing. Domestic violence is now working its way into the global headlines in ways that seem entirely unprecedented — if not always for the reasons one would hope.
In India, a women’s advocacy group reports that calls to its abuse hotline soared in the wake of a chaotic government currency reform last fall.… Seguir leyendo »
What does it mean when the man chosen to run the State Department has no experience in government but ample experience doing business with dictators of every stripe? Ever since ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson was picked by Donald Trump to be the country’s top diplomat, critics have focused on his work in Russia—and his close relationship to members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, including Rosneft chief Igor Sechin, at times in open defiance of sanctions. These ties also took up much of the questioning during Tillerson’s confirmation hearing Wednesday.
As it happens, though, Putin and Sechin are far from the only strongmen that Tillerson has dealt with in the course of his career.… Seguir leyendo »