August 12th, 2014
12:26 PM ET

What I'm reading: Inequality debate avoids asking who is harmed

By Fareed Zakaria

“It is striking how the public discussion of inequality has been careful not to differentiate between citizens except by wealth or occasionally by the skill needed for their work,” writes Adam Posen in the Financial Times. “In most of the serious recent discussions on inequality, the idea that someone’s economic fortunes might depend upon race, gender or ethnicity is nodded to in passing, at best. Another blind spot is persistent regional backwardness – as besets West Virginia and Alabama, southern Italy and Portugal.”

“Instead of confronting these continuing harms of exclusion directly, commentators have fixated on the ways in which the rich become richer, and the fact that some have lost the opportunity to become rich. Popular resistance to high estate taxes may be puzzling to many. Yet, inequality due to inherited wealth is far less grave an injustice than an inequality that emerges because of inherited skin color, ethnic identity or place of birth.”

“I’ve been tracking allegations of fraud for years now, including the fraud ID laws are designed to stop,” writes Justin Levitt in the Washington Post. “In 2008, when the Supreme Court weighed in on voter ID, I looked at every single allegation put before the Court. And since then, I’ve been following reports wherever they crop up. To be clear, I’m not just talking about prosecutions. I track any specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls, in any way that an ID law could fix.”

“So far, I’ve found about 31 different incidents (some of which involve multiple ballots) since 2000, anywhere in the country.” FULL POST

How the world sees Obama
July 16th, 2014
03:43 PM ET

How the world sees Obama

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.

Beleaguered at home, U.S. President Barack Obama remains beloved in many nations abroad. And he is far more popular than his predecessor George W. Bush. But the bloom is definitely off the Obama rose.

Obama’s election in 2008 was widely approved of around the world, and there were high expectations for the incoming American leader, whose election seemed to promise an end to the anti-Americanism that had plagued Washington’s relations with the rest of the world for the past several years.

And, despite revelations such as National Security Agency spying on foreign leaders and the growing sense in the United States that President Obama is already a lame duck domestically, his continued (if somewhat diminished) favorability abroad suggests he remains a force to be reckoned with in international affairs. But will the president follow the well-trodden path of his predecessors in spending more time on foreign policy in their last years in office as their domestic influence has waned?

His popularity abroad suggests he might.

FULL POST

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Topics: Politics • United States
July 2nd, 2014
08:39 AM ET

The return of Muqtada al-Sadr?

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

By Global Public Square staff

It seems that everyone – President Obama, John Kerry, NATO, Grand Ayatollah Sistani, even the Iranian government – has the same advice for the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki: Form a broad-based, inclusive government that reaches out to the Sunnis. That would take away some of the sense of grievance that fuels their support for radical Sunni groups like ISIS that are threatening Iraq's existence as a nation.

So why in the world is al-Maliki flatly refusing to do this?

Partly it's because he’s a hard line Shiite politician himself whose party draws its support from the Shiites, who are not particularly well disposed to the notion of being nice to the Sunnis, their former overlords.

But it's probably at least as much because al-Maliki needs to worry about radical Shiites as much as radical Sunnis. You see, he has his own Tea Party. And this one has an army of its own.

FULL POST

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Topics: Iraq • What in the World?
June 28th, 2014
10:32 PM ET

On GPS Sunday: The costs of the climate crisis, and are we facing 1914 redux?

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

On GPS this Sunday, Fareed speaks with two former treasury secretaries, Henry Paulson and Robert Rubin, about the coming costs of the climate crisis. For more on the issue watch the video clip or read Paulson’s New York Times opinion piece ‘The Coming Climate Crash.’

Then, why might Muqtada al-Sadr’s army be playing spoiler in Iraq, again?

Next, are we reliving 1914? On the 100th anniversary of the assassination that sparked World War I, Fareed explores the geopolitical similarities and differences with former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, author of the recent op-ed ‘How 2014 Is Strikingly Similar to 1914,’ Geoffrey Wawro, author of A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire, and Walter Russell Mead, professor of foreign affairs at Bard College.

And, introducing a new GPS series: Where America Works. Washington, DC may be broken, but intractable problems are being solved in towns across America. First stop: Houston’s immigration solutions.

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Topics: GPS Show
June 6th, 2014
01:16 PM ET

What I'm reading: How to tackle poverty

By Fareed Zakaria

“Debates over what kind of social welfare system the United States ought to have are always polarizing, from the creation of the Great Society in the 1960s to the Clinton welfare reforms of the 1990s to the Paul Ryan budgets of this era. Conservatives tend to attribute the persistence of poverty, even amid economic growth, to the perverse incentives that a welfare state creates against working,” writes Neil Irwin in the New York Times.

“But the reality is that low-income workers are putting in more hours on the job than they did a generation ago – and the financial rewards for doing so just haven’t increased. That’s the real lesson of the data: If you want to address poverty in the United States, it’s not enough to say that you need to create better incentives for lower-income people to work. You also have to devise strategies that make the benefits of a stronger economy show up in the wages of the people on the edge of poverty, who need it most desperately.” FULL POST

April 26th, 2014
11:41 PM ET

On GPS Sunday: Donilon on Russia and Ukraine, and a look at the next potential crisis

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

On GPS this Sunday: Ukraine and Asia – we will start with the two topics that have dominated American foreign policy this week.

First, Fareed will ask Barack Obama’s former national security advisor, Tom Donilon, what Russian President Vladimir Putin's real intentions are likely to be in Ukraine...and also whether the so-called Asia pivot in U.S. foreign policy is working.

Then, GPS looks at the next big international crisis – and why tensions are rising in East Asia. Robert Kaplan, chief geopolitical analyst for Stratfor and author of Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, and Geoff Dyer, foreign affairs correspondent for the Financial Times and author of Contest of the Century: The New Era of Competition with China-and How America Can Win, will offer their take.

Also, what is the most important economic trend of the last three decades?

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Topics: GPS Show
April 24th, 2014
05:14 PM ET

What I'm reading: Syria key to handling Russia

By Fareed Zakaria

“[S]hots fired by the U.S. in Syria will echo loudly in Russia. The great irony is that Putin is now seeking to do in Ukraine exactly what Assad has done so successfully: portray a legitimate political opposition as a gang of thugs and terrorists, while relying on provocations and lies to turn non-violent protest into violent attacks that then justify an armed response,” writes Anne-Marie Slaughter in Project Syndicate.

Recall that the Syrian opposition marched peacefully under fire for six months before the first units of the Free Syrian Army tentatively began to form. In Ukraine, Putin would be happy to turn a peaceful opposition’s ouster of a corrupt government into a civil war. Putin may believe, as Western powers have repeatedly told their own citizens, that NATO forces will never risk the possibility of nuclear war by deploying in Ukraine. Perhaps not. But the Russian forces destabilizing eastern Ukraine wear no insignia. Mystery soldiers can fight on both sides.”

“Sixty-one years ago, a telegram arrived at the State Department from the U.S. embassy in Moscow. Its purpose was to examine the sources of the conduct of the men who ruled in the Kremlin. Its impact was immediate,” writes Yuliya Tymoshenko for Foreign Affairs’ iPad extra on Ukraine. “The ‘Long Telegram,’ penned by a young diplomat named George Kennan, became the basis for U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union for the next half century. Although the Soviet Union is long gone, the West is once again groping to understand what motivates the leaders in the Kremlin.”

FULL POST

Why U.S. should care about surveillance abroad
April 16th, 2014
09:29 AM ET

Why U.S. should care about surveillance abroad

By Laura Pitter, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Laura Pitter is a senior national security researcher at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

Under growing pressure to rein in domestic surveillance, President Barack Obama recently offered a proposal to end the government's bulk collection of Americans' phone records. Under the new plan, those records would stay with phone companies but be accessible to the government with the permission of a judge. While the proposal is a step in the right direction, many questions remain about how exactly it will be implemented. But  even more important, it is just a small part of what needs to be done on comprehensive surveillance reform.

Still left unaddressed are mass bulk collection and indiscriminate U.S. surveillance practices abroad, which affect many more people and include the collection of the actual content of internet activities and phone calls, not just metadata.

A number of media reports, based on documents obtained by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, have exposed the vast and sweeping nature of these programs. According to one story, the NSA taps into main communication links of data centers around the world and collects millions of records every day, including metadata, text, audio and video. Another revealed that a program called "Mystic" had allegedly been recording “every single” telephone conversation taking place in one, unnamed country and then storing them in a 30-day rolling data base that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive. Another, last month, reported that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a court that handles intelligence requests, often in secret, authorized the NSA to monitor "Germany” – as in the country of. And yet another claimed that the NSA has developed and deployed an automated system, codenamed “Turbine,”  that could potentially infect millions of computers and networks worldwide with malware implants that can covertly record audio and video.

FULL POST

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Topics: Spying • Technology
April 7th, 2014
12:38 PM ET

Ukraine crisis underscores need for renewables push

By Russ Carnahan and Michael Shank, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Russ Carnahan was a U.S. Representative from Missouri and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is now a partner at Carnahan Global Consulting, a consultancy that also advises firms in the energy sector. Michael Shank is associate director for legislative affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the advocacy arm of Friends (Quakers) in the U.S. The views expressed are their own.

At the heart of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is the question of energy independence and energy security. We’ve witnessed this before in previous violent conflicts – whether in the Middle East, Central Asia or North Africa. Energy wars are real and they will continue to dominate our geopolitical agenda for the coming years unless the United States and its allies decide to act.

In discussions with our European Union counterparts in Berlin and Warsaw in the past month – as part of a U.S.-E.U. transatlantic dialogue on, among other salient topics, the annexation of Crimea – energy was very clearly at the core of this conflict. There was also consensus that the present moment couldn’t be a more historic opportunity to ensure an energy transition happens – and soon – lest more wars be fought, more territories acquired, or more people literally left out in the cold. The urgency of this effort cannot be overstated.

To be clear, when it comes to energy security and energy independence, anything that’s got a valve on it and has to be transported thousands of miles across borders decreases a country’s capacity for stability. That pipe – whether carrying oil or gas – is a target for acts of sabotage, political and physical. In 2009, for example, Russia turned off the spigot to gas exports to Ukraine, leaving the country out in the cold in the dead of winter. The Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. is proving similar in serving as a political target, whether erroneously or accurately.

FULL POST

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Topics: Energy • Environment • Ukraine
China or America? Indians pick U.S.
April 4th, 2014
12:52 AM ET

China or America? Indians pick U.S.

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is the director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

During the Cold War, the Indian government attempted to position itself between Moscow and Washington by claiming leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement. As Indians head to the polls over the next six weeks, their country again finds itself in a world with two preeminent powers: this time, China and the United States.

And the Indian public is fairly clear where its sympathies lie: with America. Of course, how such attitudes will influence the views of the next Indian government remains to be seen. But, for now at least, there appears to be no evidence of broad anti-Americanism on the sub-continent.

This might come as a surprise to some. After all, the favorable views of the United States came despite the fact that the Pew Research Center survey measuring sentiment was conducted in India in the immediate aftermath of the controversial December 2013 arrest and strip-search of India’s female deputy consul general in New York on charges of visa fraud. Yet by more than three-to-one (56 percent to 15 percent), Indians express a favorable rather than unfavorable view of the United States.

FULL POST

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Topics: China • India • United States
How to save the American Dream
March 14th, 2014
02:03 PM ET

How to save the American Dream

By Rep. Alan Lowenthal and Michael Shank, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif) serves on the House Foreign Affairs and Natural Resources Committees.  Michael Shank is associate director for legislative affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation and a senior fellow at the JustJobs Network. The views expressed are their own.

The partisan picking apart of last month’s Congressional Budget Office report on the minimum wage – and the debate over its impact on employment – was just the latest missed opportunity to find bipartisan solutions for this country’s problems. Sadly, in this case, the failure strikes at the very heart of the American Dream – economic mobility.

Despite what many Americans assume, the United States actually has some of the lowest and longest-stagnating rates of economic mobility in the rich world – significantly lower than many European countries. This fact should be of concern to both Democrats and Republicans as it hinders this country’s economy.

How has this happened? For a start, the minimum wage has lost much of its purchasing power, and hasn't kept pace with inflation. Indeed, the minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, is lower now than it was in the late 1960s, while wages at the bottom end of the scale have fallen in recent decades, even as worker productivity has grown.

FULL POST

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Topics: Economy • Inequality • United States
March 10th, 2014
10:44 AM ET

West must do better on Ukraine than it did with Syria

By Anna Borshchevskaya, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Anna Borshchevskaya is a fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy. You can follow her @annaborsh. The views expressed are her own.

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has captured the attention of the world, including the Middle East, where many see parallels between the struggle for democracy in Kiev and their own countries. But the unrest in Ukraine has a particularly special meaning for Syria, where peaceful protests against Bashar al-Assad eventually turned violent in the absence of Western support. Ukrainian protesters in Kiev last month, for their part, flew the Syrian revolutionary flag alongside the Ukrainian flag. The big question, though, is whether the West will see the connections that the protesters see – and draw some vital lessons.

From the U.S.-Russia reset, to Syria, to Iran, there has been ample opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to perceive weakness from the West. And in the absence of decisive Western leadership, the post-Soviet space and the Middle East have seen a resurgent Russia, under Putin’s leadership, work to create what amounts to a Soviet Union 2.0, propping up authoritarian regimes, creating areas of influence, and stifling freedom and democracy.

Such moves have prompted some analysts to note what they see as a revival of the Cold War struggle between Russia and the U.S., whether it be the ongoing crisis in Ukraine or the Middle East/North Africa region.

FULL POST

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Topics: Syria • Ukraine
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