November 20th, 2014
10:34 PM ET

America’s prospects are promising indeed

By Fareed Zakaria

Two-thirds of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, a poll number that has not shifted much in three years. The midterm election results were just another reflection of this pervasive discontent. And yet, looking at the rest of the world, what’s striking is how well the United States is doing relative to other major economies. Japan is back in a recession and Germany has barely avoided slipping into one, which would have been its third since 2008. President Obama says the United States has produced more jobs in its recovery than the rest of the industrialized worldput together.

Why is this? Many believe that the American economy has some inherent advantages over its major competitors — a more flexible structure, stronger entrepreneurial traditions and a more demographically vibrant society. Along comes a fascinating new book that says you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Fareed's Take
November 20th, 2014
09:09 AM ET

Are MOOCs the future of education?

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with Stuart Butler, a Brookings scholar, who's written extensively on massive open online courses, or so-called MOOCs, and Anant Agarwal, who runs edX, a MOOC outfit founded by two bricks and mortar institutions.

Stuart, explain first the kind of crisis in what you've called the business model for higher education.

Well, it certainly is a crisis that they’re facing. First of all, the costs of traditional education have been going up and the indebtedness associated with it. Now student tuition debt in the United States exceeds credit card debt. Secondly...

And it's $1 trillion, right?

Butler: Yes, exactly. Secondly, you're seeing different kinds of information coming forward so that people can actually evaluate the success of going to one college or another, whether it actually pays off.

And then the third thing, which you referred to, is that you're seeing new kinds of technologies that, first of all, appeal to students who are not part of the regular market, but now that technology is being developed, such as through edX and through others, such that it is really beginning to break open the existing traditional market. So there's an existential threat to the very business model that, quite honestly, has been lasting for almost 2,000 years. FULL POST

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Topics: Education
November 20th, 2014
08:40 AM ET

What I'm reading: It may take a generation to bring Russia back

By Fareed Zakaria

“Western policy [on Russia] is driven by a combination of economic self-interest and increasing timidity. The EU mishandled much of the early strategy on Ukraine, sending mixed messages to Kiev and Moscow,” writes John Kampfner for The Guardian. “Since the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner, the approach has become more consistent. Putin had assumed that the west, and particularly Germany and France (disproportionately dependent on trade with Russia) would buckle. And with the eurozone economies in an increasingly parlous state, Putin still assumes that Angela Merkel and François Hollande will resist, and ultimately remove, the sanctions that are causing growing damage.”
“To anyone who appreciates the beauty of Russia, the power of its creativity and the potential it has to offer, the events of the past year, indeed past several years, have been dispiriting. In the 1990s Russia had the opportunity to open up, to become integrated into the international community. The goodwill on both sides was intoxicating.”

“[A]nalysts agree one of the video’s key functions for ISIS is to illustrate how far the group’s seductive reach is extending globally,” writes Tracy McNicoll for the Daily Beast. “As France took in the shock news that one of its own sons may be a throat-slitting, decapitating terrorist, the Islamist specialist Romain Caillet told Le Monde, “In putting forward soldiers from the four corners of the world, Da’esh [as the French call the group, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS] is looking to create a ‘United Colors of Jihad’ effect. The message is simple: there are hundreds of Jihadi Johns.” FULL POST

November 19th, 2014
11:24 AM ET

Is Russia cozying up to China?

For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Global Public Square staff

Everyone was talking about the moment at last week's APEC Summit in Beijing when Russian President Vladimir Putin draped a shawl over the shoulders of China's First Lady. Many claimed he was flirting. Who knows if he was, but there's no question that Putin IS trying to woo the Chinese.

Last Sunday, Moscow and Beijing signed an accord to develop a second gas route to supply China with Russian gas. And, just 6 months ago, the two nations struck another energy deal – this one a 30-year blockbuster, worth $400 billion.

The Russians reportedly hope that soon China will become their biggest gas consumer. Are we seeing the consolidation of a Russia-China axis?

Well, not quite.

For China, the mega gas deals would help officials diversify away from coal, which would lower pollution levels, which have caused significant public concern in the country. But for Russia, the situation seems more desperate. Remember oil and gas not only accounted for 70 percent of Russia's exports in 2012, but also for more than half of its federal budget income, according to the U.S. Energy Department, which cites PFC Energy Research. FULL POST

Should West be worried by Russia naval moves?
November 18th, 2014
05:56 PM ET

Should West be worried by Russia naval moves?

By James Kraska, Special to CNN

Editor's note: James Kraska is professor in the Stockton Center for the Study of International Law, U.S. Naval War College. The views expressed are his own.

Just as Russian ground forces have moved into Ukraine, in recent weeks Russian air and naval forces have conducted a handful of high-visibility deployments throughout the oceans and airspace of the global commons. Should the West be worried?

Generally, these operations comply with the international “rules of the road” at sea and in the air, and are in compliance with international law. All nations are entitled to freedom of navigation and overflight in the global commons. Thus, the deployments should be seen as great power theater, rather than as a violation of international law. Yet they also dispel any doubt that we now live in a tri-polar world, with a revanchist Russia and China bent on upending the U.S.-led global order in Europe and Asia, respectively.

Russia, for its part, is using its naval power to underscore the nation’s relevance and global reach. Indeed, this month Russia pledged to expand its forays into the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The announcement follows an incident in June, when two Russian strategic bombers, bristling with intelligence-gathering electronics, came within 50 miles of the coast of California. FULL POST

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Topics: Military • Russia
November 17th, 2014
06:48 PM ET

What I'm reading: The nuclear gun is back on the table

By Fareed Zakaria

“My parents’ generation got grimly used to living in the shadow of the bomb. But for my generation, the very idea of nuclear warfare seems like something from science-fiction or even dark comedy, such as Dr Strangelove,” writes Gideon Rachman for the Financial Times. “But the world’s nuclear arsenals were not abolished after the cold war. Sadly, we may now be returning to an era in which the threat of nuclear warfare can no longer be treated as the stuff of science fiction.”

“The odds against a Chinese dialect ever gaining traction as an international language are formidable, for linguistic, economic, cultural, and political reasons,” writes Andres Martinez for TIME. “For starters, the language is just too hard for outsiders to attain fluency. Then there is the inconvenient fact that Mandarin doesn’t hold sway throughout all of China.”

“Indeed, resistance to any claim the Chinese language may have for global status may be strongest in the country’s own neighborhood, where nations are nervous about China’s intentions.” FULL POST

November 17th, 2014
06:06 PM ET

What's behind Chinese nationalism?

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with Elizabeth Economy, a senior fellow and director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and David M. Lampton, the director of China studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, about nationalism in China.

There’s no question there's been a rise in sort of nationalist rhetoric. And as I point out, all these attempts to really subvert the old international order, alternatives to The Asian Development Bank, to the IMF, to the World Bank, to the various security frameworks. Do you think this is Xi or is this a long-term Chinese strategy?

Lampton: What we're seeing is China, not just Xi. We're seeing a China that sees itself in great historic terms. And this isn't so much a new status for China, it's a sort of restoration of national greatness.

And I think we're going to face a China that, on one hand, is cooperative, increasingly cooperative on some economic and global issues, like climate change. But on the other hand, I just was speaking with military people in China last week and they are clearly going to continue to push China's sovereignty, and he's not going to give on that set of issues.

So he's walking a fine line by trying to seem a good global citizen on the one hand, but assuage this nationalistic drive on the other. FULL POST

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Topics: GPS Show
November 17th, 2014
03:28 PM ET

Facing up to the China challenge

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

As Moscow continues to send its forces into Ukraine, it seems clear that Putin's Russia presents America and the West with a frontal challenge. But in the longer run, it is not Russia's overt military assault but China's patient and steady non-military moves that might prove the greater challenge.

Russia is a great power in decline. Its economy amounts to just 3.4 percent of global GDP. China's is nearly 16 percent and rising, now almost four times the size of Japan's and five times that of Germany's, according to the World Bank.

Presidents Obama and Xi deserve the accolades they are receiving for their historic agreement on climate change, and it seems to suggest that America and China are moving towards a new, productive relationship.

Except that, even while signing these accords, Xi Jinping's government has been taking steps that suggest it is developing a very different approach to its foreign policy – one that seeks to replace the American-built post-1945 international system with its own.

Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column

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Topics: China • Fareed's Take • GPS Show
November 15th, 2014
07:08 PM ET

On GPS Sunday: Assessing U.S.-China ties, and Jon Stewart, Maziar Bahari discuss Iran

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

On GPS this Sunday: President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced some areas where they had found agreement on, from climate change to trade to military cooperation. Is this the big breakthrough in relations between the world's number one and two economic powers?

Fareed offers his take, then speaks to two China watchers. Elizabeth Economy, a senior fellow and director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and wrote about China’s president for Foreign Affairs recently. David Lampton is the director of China studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Then...Jon Stewart and Iranian-born journalist Maziar Bahari discuss the Iran, the Arab Spring, and their new movie Rosewater.

Also, college applications are due soon. But should teens just tear them up? Are colleges as we know them simply too expensive and outdated? Is there a better way in higher education? Fareed speaks with Stuart Butler, a Brookings scholar who has written extensively on this topic, and Anant Agarwal, who runs edX and penned an op-ed for the Huffington Post on reimagining higher education.

Finally, Europe landed on a comet this week. India has a probe orbiting Mars. And Russia remains the not-so-trusty taxi to outer space. What's America up to, up there? And whose spending on space is the highest?

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Topics: GPS Show
November 15th, 2014
02:02 PM ET

When big data meets education

Fareed speaks with Anant Agarwal, who runs edX, a so-called massive open online course or MOOC. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

So one of the criticisms people make about MOOCS is the very successful, it's vast. You have hundreds of thousands of students or tens of thousands taking a class. But you make the case that actually, the very size of the student body taking the same course makes it possible, ironically, to make the education more personal. Explain.

Absolutely. Yes. So we are gathering the big data of learning. And big data and data mining have improved virtually every field known to mankind. We can now improve education, whether online or in the classroom. So as an example, we could do A/B testing on an educational platform...

Explain what A/B testing is.

So on edX we launched A/B testing, where, as part of a course, a professor can have multiple sequences for students, an A sequence, a B sequence and a C sequence. And the platform automatically distributes the students among these sequences. And the professor can give a test at the end and figure out which of these sequences worked best. So in the future, they can then decide that the B sequence, the B approach of teaching was the best...

So you're beta testing the course as you go along.

It's like software. Today, software is in continual beta. You don't spend a year testing it. You put it out there. You do A/B testing and you continually improve it. So we could keep improving education like we improve Web sites today.

And I imagine that also what can happen is as students take tests, because you have so much information on a single course, if a student does badly in the second quiz, you can immediately direct them to some remedial module and say clearly, we know from hundreds of thousands of students taking the same test that you need to go and relearn these two things or something like that.

Absolutely. The Holy Grail for all of us is personalized learning, the kind of learning where you have a tutor sitting next to you like the, you know, like the old ages and the relics where we had only children of kings and so on, who were able to work with a single guru.

Here, the idea would be like you said, to be able to use big data to analyze how a student is learning. And depending on that, to make available specialized pathways for each student and personalize the learning for each student so that if I didn't know something, I'm shown that piece of knowledge. But if I know it already, then I can move ahead faster. So we are launching a few courses along these lines imminently.

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Topics: GPS Show
November 15th, 2014
01:58 PM ET

Interrogators 'doing a job'?

Fareed speaks with Jon Stewart, who directed the new movie 'Rosewater', about its portrayal of torture. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

The certainty of the truth, what you portray a lot is these guys who, they think they know the truth, but you're always wondering, when watching the movie, are these interrogators really...They seem, at some level, very insecure. It's a very deft way of portraying it. There's a lot of bravado, but they're very insecure.

Stewart: Well, you also have to portray it within – they're human beings. People that are interrogators or torturers, this is a job. It's not something that we might see in sort of a more sensationalized cinematic version of it of, the Bruce Willis over the guy, tell me where the bombs are. This guy’s got to come in every day. He's got to be there by 8:00. It's a bureaucracy. He has to work within that. The Green Movement, to these interrogators, was, in many ways, just a chance to get some overtime. You know, the prisons are so filled with people, I think that the gentleman who was responsible for Maziar's torment, in some ways, probably wouldn't have had an opportunity to deal with someone, you know, a “VIP prisoner” – more educated, more Western – if it had not been for the overwhelming amount of people that they were trying to filter through this prison at the time.

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Topics: GPS Show
November 15th, 2014
01:51 PM ET

'The system right now is incentivized for status quo'

Fareed speaks with Maziar Bahari, author of Then They Came for Me, and Rosewater director Jon Stewart about the looming deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

You're not hopeful on an Iranian deal?

Bahari: I don't think so. I don't think that there will be a deal on November 24, because I don't think that there is a real will, either in Iran or the United States, to have a deal on the 24th. And there are also radical interest groups in both countries. In Iran, the Revolutionary Guards are making a lot of money because of the sanctions and because there is no relationship between Iran and the United States. And in this country, as you know, there are many lobbies for making a lot of money by supporting the sanctions and not having...

Stewart: Not a lot of incentives on either side.

And fair to say that whatever deal Obama were to bring, it would be pilloried...

Stewart:...That's my favorite is the new climate deal. So all they talk about in Congress is we're not going to do a climate deal, because if we don't get China on board, it's meaningless. It's utterly meaningless. OK, we've got China on board...No deal...So you realize the system right now is incentivized for status quo, for stagnation. You don't raise money on bipartisanship, on cooperation and good governance. You raise money on demonization. And that's where we sit.

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Topics: GPS Show
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