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By Global Public Square staff
Several weeks ago, the CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, was a guest on the show. He said that the biggest development in technology today is that the world of bits is bumping up against the world of atoms. To which you might say, what is he talking about?
He was highlighting a crucial trend. For years, the technology revolution was operating within the digital world – changing the way we got words, music, movies – all products that can be produced and consumed in digital form, in other words, in bits.
But now, software and the big data revolution have moved into every aspect of life – getting a taxi, a hotel room, groceries, and other kinds of physical products. And that's causing friction where the bits and bytes of the digital world meet the atoms of the real world.
Kalanick's company is taking on the world's taxi cartels and commissions. Airbnb is battling the world's hotel industry and zoning laws. And the new global currency Bitcoin is puzzling financial regulators. FULL POST
By Robert Spalding and Adam Lowther, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Robert Spalding is a Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Adam Lowther is a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for the National Interest. The views expressed are their own.
Earlier this month, largely unnoticed by the international media, China took a significant step toward rendering defense systems across the globe obsolete. On January 9, China conducted a test of its first hypersonic glide vehicle, believed to be capable of traveling at 10 times the speed of sound.
The test comes at a time of growing regional concern over Beijing’s increasingly assertive territorial claims, including the announcement in November of unilaterally declared Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea.
For those China analysts that see a more ominous future ahead, such actions are not unrelated, but instead part of a concerted effort on the part of China to return the Middle Kingdom to its former glory and displace the United States from the region. And, based on public statements and writings from a variety of Chinese government sources, China seems to believe it is reaching conventional parity with other Asian states in the region.
By Rebecca Schleifer and Darby Hickey, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Rebecca Schleifer is the advocacy director for Human Rights Watch’s Health and Human Rights Program. Darby Hickey is a policy analyst with the Best Practices Policy Project, which promotes the human rights of people doing sex work. The views expressed are their own.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule next month in a case about whether the U.S. government can require organizations to denounce prostitution as a condition of funding for their international HIV/AIDS work.
As those on the ground who work in programs trying to stop the spread of HIV have reported, this “anti-prostitution pledge” makes it harder to reach out to sex workers, the very people whose cooperation is needed to make these efforts work.
Since 2003, U.S. law has required organizations receiving U.S. anti-AIDS funds to have a specific organization-wide policy “explicitly opposing prostitution.” This requires organizations to censor their speech on prostitution, or sex work, even when using their own private funds in separate programs. The government contends the pledge is a way to identify the best organizations to carry out HIV/AIDS work and that the provision does not violate free speech because groups can set up parallel organizations not bound by the pledge. The Alliance for Open Society International, which brought the Supreme Court case, says that the pledge not only violates its First Amendment rights but also undermines the very public health goals that the government is providing the money to achieve.
By Peter Fragiskatos, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Peter Fragiskatos teaches at Western University in London, Canada. You can follow him @pfragiskatos. The views expressed are his own.
Amidst the horror that continues to plague Syria, a glimmer of hope emerged last week as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced they will try to bring together the Syrian state and its opponents by convening an international peace conference.
In principle, negotiations are the right way to go. Had talks taken place earlier, the bloodshed, which has now claimed the lives of more than 70,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more, could have been vastly reduced. The only way it can be stopped is if there are some compromises, and this will only happen when the warring sides start talking in earnest. Yet reports that Russia is sending advanced anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria are a reminder that Moscow's commitment to the process remains an unpredictable wild card.
In preparing for the discussions, a division of labor appears to have been set – the Americans are trying to persuade the rebels to take part, while Russia is pressing the al-Assad regime. And there are some promising signs on both fronts. According to Kerry, Salim Idriss – chief of staff for the main opposition Free Syrian Army – has expressed strong interest in negotiations, while reports suggest Lavrov has received a list of negotiators from the Syrian government.
By William Pomeranz, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: William Pomeranz is the acting director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C. The views expressed are his own.
The European financial crisis has reared its ugly head – this time in Cyprus. The tiny nation’s lawmakers have rejected a confiscatory tax on bank deposits that would have allowed the nation to receive a 10 billion euro bailout from the EU. Cypriot citizens angrily took to the streets to express their disapproval of the plan, but it turns out that they were not the only aggrieved party. The Russian government also joined in the chorus of protests, calling the Cypriot government’s actions “unjust, unprofessional, and dangerous.” Much of the money to be expropriated, it turns out, is held by Russian individuals and businesses (or, to put it in slightly less flattering terms, oligarchs and shell companies). But Russia’s public outrage masked a more fundamental dispute with Cyprus concerning the island’s status as a major offshore financial center.
Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Fears over an imminent military confrontation between the United States and Iran over the latter's controversial nuclear program have receded, according to a New York Times report today. Western economic sanctions targeting Iran's oil sector prompted the Iranian government to be more flexible in direct negotiations with the United States and other world powers, held in Istanbul two weeks ago, the Times said. Negotiations are set to resume in Baghdad next month. At the same time, there is a growing debate within Israel over launching a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, which has delayed the possibility of an immediate attack, experts said. FULL POST
French Socialist challenger François Hollande beat President Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of France's presidential election yesterday by 28 percent to 27 percent, even as far-right candidate Marine Le Pen captured an unprecedented 18 percent of the vote. Hollande and Sarkozy will face off in the final runoff vote on May 6 (Guardian), in an election that is expected to have significant implications for European integration and the eurozone's response to its ongoing sovereign debt crisis.
"Mr. Sarkozy will have to find a way to attract most of Ms. Le Pen's votes as well as the 9.2 percent who voted for centrist Francois Bayrou, who finished fifth. This is no easy task, and his appeal will probably include a combination of anti-immigration riffs and more attacks on the European Central Bank (which has become the modern French substitute for running against the Germans)," notes this Wall Street Journal editorial. FULL POST
The United States joined dozens of other countries at the Friends of Syria conference in Istanbul yesterday in agreeing to send communications equipment to Syria's opposition groups (NYT).
Arab countries pledged $100 million to opposition fighters, who remain under continued assault by Syrian government forces. The decision to aid the Syrian army defectors, known as the Free Syrian Army, brought the international Friends of Syria coalition closer to military intervention in Syria.
The move came as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad apparently failed to implement a peace plan developed by Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter.
By James M. Lindsay, CFR.org
The tragic news that a U.S. Army sergeant slaughtered sixteen Afghans this week has scrambled the debate over the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Afghan president Hamid Karzai has demanded that the United States agree to pull back its troops to bases in Afghanistan by next year. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have discovered doubts about the wisdom of staying the course in Afghanistan.The public’s dissatisfaction with the war has hardened. A Gallup poll out this week found that 50 percent of Americans want Washington to speed up its withdrawal from Afghanistan; only 21 percent say stay the course.
The White House says it intends to stick by its plan to withdraw the bulk of U.S. troops by 2014. Gen. John Allen, who commands U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan opposes “any form of accelerated drawdown,” so much so that he apparently wants to slow down the pace of President Obama’s proposed withdrawal once the so-called surge troops depart the country next fall. You can still find plenty of independent military experts who think that General Allen has it exactly right. Their impassioned defense of current policy in the face of tragic news touches that chord in all of us that resonates with Winston Churchill’s immortal words from 1941: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in.” FULL POST
Syrian security forces on Sunday beat and temporarily detained protesters marching on the streets of Damascus (NYT) with a nonviolent Syrian opposition group, the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change in Syria, after demonstrators called for the "fall of the regime." The expanded crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad's security forces came as a deadly car bomb exploded in the city of Aleppo, a day after similar bombings went off in Damascus. No group has claimed responsibility for the bombings. On Monday morning, heavy fighting between Syrian rebels and opposition forces (Reuters) broke out in a Damascus neighborhood. FULL POST
A U.S. Army Sergeant allegedly killed at least sixteen Afghan civilians (NYT) deliberately in the Panjwai district of southern Kandahar Province on Sunday, prompting threats of retaliation by the Taliban. U.S. forces reportedly took the perpetrator into custody. The incident is likely to compound already strained U.S.-Afghan relations, which were pushed to new lows after it was revealed that NATO soldiers had burned Qurans at a U.S.-run air base north of Kabul. Both the U.S. and Afghan governments condemned yesterday's attack, while Western personnel in Afghanistan braced for a potentially violent backlash. FULL POST
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won Russia's presidential election with around 65 percent of the vote (WSJ), preliminary results showed. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov looked set to come in second place with 17.1 percent. Meanwhile, independent poll-monitoring group Golos reported around 1,500 claims of electoral violations. The disputed election follows a series of anti-Kremlin protests in the wake of contested parliamentary elections in December. The nascent middle-class protest movement–the most serious challenge to Putin's rule in his twelve years as president and prime minister–is set to hold a large rally in downtown Moscow tonight. FULL POST
The Global Public Square is where you can make sense of the world every day with insights and explanations from CNN's Fareed Zakaria, leading journalists at CNN, and other international thinkers. Join GPS editor Jason Miks and get informed about global issues, exposed to unique stories, and engaged with diverse and original perspectives.
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Check out all of Fareed's Washington Post columns here:
Obama as a foreign policy president?
Why Snowden should stand trial in U.S.
Hillary Clinton's truly hard choice
China's trapped transition
Obama should rethink Syria strategy
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