Thursday, June 27, 2013


This Sunday, I attended a protest for change in Brazil with a few friends, most of them Brazilian themselves. Hundreds of people gathered in Cambridge, a number helped by the fact that Boston itself is a major destination for Brazilian emigrants. The signs they held up got the message across: Brazilians are angry, and rightfully so, that their government seems to care more about soccer standings than education, that their natural resource wealth is being squandered on stadiums while their people starve, that the government has been becoming more of an oligarchy, and that the benefits of economic development have yet to make a difference in ordinary Brazilians’ lives. The protests across the world were sparked by an increase in bus fares, but have expanded to encompass the multitudes of grievances Brazilians share against their government.

All photos courtesy of yours truly

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Two-State Dissolution

The last round of negotiations in 2010. State Department Photo by Michael Gross
An entrenched stalemate persists between Israelis and Palestinians concerning a just and comprehensive two-state solution. The Intifadas, Oslo Accords and their shortfalls, Jewish and Palestinian terrorism, and domestic exhaustion place a potential agreement in uncertain waters. Recent developments in Israel and Palestine* suggest that the parties are not even close to reaching conditions for meaningful negotiations. Yet although the prospects of a two-state solution are slim at the moment, the case for a settlement is stronger than ever. Precarious as the situation is, both sides need to take bold steps to find middle ground before the floor disappears beneath their feet.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Protests Are Apparently Super "In" Right Now (and Spreading Like Wildfire!)

In 2011, the world was stunned as protests spread from Tunisia to Egypt to eventually nearly every country in the Middle East. In the most severe cases, such as Tunisia and Egypt, those protests quickly morphed into violent battles between citizens disillusioned with their government and the military desperately propping that government up. Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya have all undergone a transition to a new government after the old ones fell - in Syria, the final outcome of the "Arab Spring" remains to be seen. However, it was a transformational period not just for the region, but for the entire world.

Now, in two countries on two different continents are undergoing some of the biggest and potentially most violent protests the world has seen since 2011 (not including the ongoing crisis in Syria). Turkey is in the midst of its third week of dealing with outraged citizens. The tensions appear to be escalating, with the Turkish deputy Prime Minister announcing this week that the Turkish army may have to step in to end the riots for good. The gravity of the situation, as I wrote last week, is severe. Turkey may be losing out for good on their bid to join the E.U., and Prime Minister Erdogan's reputation as being a beacon of hope for the possibility of secularism across the Middle East is waning rapidly.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Does the G8 Still Matter?

The G8 summit, taking place this week in Northern Ireland, represents a yearly gathering of 8 of the world’s 11 most wealthy countries. Every year, world leaders from the Group of 8 meet to discuss primarily the global economy, but also pressing topics such as terrorism, world food supply, and this year, the Syrian conflict. Representing 50.1 percent of the world’s total GDP, there is no question that these eight countries hold more sway than most. Yet in the face of deep divisions between members such as Russia and the US, as well as the absence of China, India, and Brazil, does the G8 truly still have relevance in today’s world?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Our Human Right to Freedom of Expression and Privacy

The main chambers of the United Nations Human Rights Council
We’ve all been there: you’re immersed in another culture—either physically or conversationally—and you find yourself putting more thought into your words than usual. You don’t want to offend anyone, and you hope no one says anything that you yourself would find offensive. For the most part, this kind of cross-cultural communication can serve to build mutual understanding and trust, but oftentimes there’s that awkward feeling of self-censorship we impose because of who’s in our company. As awkward as that may feel, it’s a good kind of awkward, one that makes you more reflective about word choice, mannerisms and idiosyncrasies that might put off others who grew up with vastly different cultural practices and guided by diverse value systems. Feel free to break free from the social and cultural norms, or to utter a phrase you know your counterpart will revile, but don’t be surprised if you get more than a few dirty looks.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Piercing the Veneer in Turkey

The past two weeks or so have seen an interesting shift in the perception of Turkey as a country, and Prime Minister Erdogan as a leader. As I wrote back in March, Turkey seemed on the brink of major success, what with the unprecedented peace negotiations with the infamous Kurdistan group the PKK, potentially ending a 30-year war that claimed 40,000 lives. Furthermore, thanks to a strong economy, large army and incessant pestering, it appeared that Turkey was closer than ever to joining the European Union once and for all. The significance of this would have stretched past Turkey itself - joining the E.U. would have sent a signal to the Middle East that Turkey, a bastion of secularization and democracy, was worth emulating in many regards. Prime Minister Erdogan has been applauded around the globe for being a democratically elected Muslim leader who has brought his country to this level of achievement in just over a decade.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Why the World Needs a Bully: Syria and the Hegemonic Stability Theory

By Guest-Writer Paul Mitchell

Like it or not, the United Nations and the “international community” which it purportedly represents, is allowing the death of a country and endangering the stability – if we can call it that – of the entire Middle East.  Whether you want to call the situation in Syria a mere crisis, a revolution, a revolt, or a rebellion, a reported death toll of over 70,000 people can be called nothing other than an atrocity.  The brutality is magnified by the fact that one side is using military aircraft, armor, and weaponry, and is fighting a civilian force that had been largely disarmed over years of oppressive rule.  With recent reports that chemical weapons have been used, and with a US President that had implicitly drawn a line in the sand regarding the use of such weapons, something has to be done, right?  Unfortunately, with a US President who, like former President Bill Clinton, believes whole-heartedly in the merits and capabilities of the United Nations, the answer is no.