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

November 11th, 2014
07:20 PM ET

Why the 'Ignorance Index' matters

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

By Global Public Square staff

Americans voted on Tuesday for big change. But did they understand the facts that they wanted to change? Not according to a groundbreaking new survey.

You see, Americans think the unemployment rate is much higher than it is, that there are many more immigrants and pregnant teens than there actually are, and that the population is much older than it actually is.

Now maybe this gap between perception and reality is because of American ignorance or hyper-partisanship. Except, we’re not alone.

In the first international study of its kind, the U.K. research firm Ipsos MORI highlights the political “ignorance” of participants across 14 countries. Here are some of the findings from Ipsos MORI’s quiz:

When asked what percentage of people are unemployed or looking for work, Americans guessed 32 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate is actually closer to 6 percent, of course. In fact, we could only find one country on the planet – Macedonia – which has had more than 30 percent unemployment in recent years according to IMF data. It turns out every country over-estimated its unemployment level. FULL POST

November 4th, 2014
05:53 PM ET

How will governments respond to technology wave?

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

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

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Topics: Economy • Technology • What in the World?
October 27th, 2014
05:38 PM ET

Why Snowden should stand trial in U.S.

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By Fareed Zakaria

Recently, via satellite at the New Yorker Festival, Edward Snowden said he would "love" to stand trial in the United States.

He should. It would transform what he has done from theft into civil disobedience – which by definition means being willing to accept the consequences of your actions.

At the New Yorker event, Snowden explained to Jane Mayer that, given the stipulations the government is putting on his return, he doesn't think he could get a fair trial. But the legal scholars I consulted – none of them die hard conservatives or national security hawks – believed that Snowden could get a fair trial...

...The most striking aspect of Snowden's substantive foreign intelligence revelations is how few consequences they have had. That's because they mostly showed the U.S. government doing secretly what it has said it was doing publicly – fighting the Taliban, spying in countries like Pakistan and searching for Al Qaeda cells around the globe.

The disclosures also revealed routine foreign intelligence operations. Some of these are entirely justified, such as hacking into Chinese computer systems - something that Beijing does on a much larger scale to the United States. Others are perhaps unwise, such as tapping the phones of the leaders of Brazil and Germany. But none are morally scandalous.

Watch the video for the full What in the World or read the WaPo column.

 

October 22nd, 2014
06:27 PM ET

A power shift in global oil dynamics

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By Global Public Square staff

Since the financial crisis of 2008, the global economy has been in slow motion. As a result, commodity prices have fallen dramatically. But there was one great puzzle – the price of oil had continued to go up, up, up.

In 2007, before the crash, oil cost $72 a barrel on average. By 2012, Brent Crude was trading at over $111 a barrel on average, a second year of historically high levels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Well, now the trend has turned. Prices have dropped, dramatically. Last week, Brent oil, the global benchmark, fell to about $80 a barrel, nearing a four year low.

Why?

Well, today the world is awash in oil. There's too much supply and too little demand. The world's largest and second largest economies are probably the most responsible. That would be the United States and China. The China piece of this story is fascinating. FULL POST

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Topics: Energy • What in the World?
October 15th, 2014
03:10 PM ET

Why are Americans still gloomy about the economy?

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By Global Public Square staff

The American economy is back. Last week, the IMF projected that the United States will be one of the very fastest growing advanced economies in the world in 2015. In fact, the American economy is just about the great exception in a world that is showing signs of economic stagnation.

Good news keeps piling on. The Congressional Budget Office just announced that the U.S. deficit fell by nearly a third during the fiscal year, which marks a 6-year low. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both surged to record highs over the last month. And the most recent economic snapshot from the Labor Department says that private sector employment grew in September for a 55th month in a row, a record, and that the unemployment rate is now at 5.9 percent, the lowest level it's been since July 2008.

But, and here is the paradox, despite a relatively robust recovery now, Americans aren't feeling more prosperous. In fact, 56 percent of Americans told the Pew Research Center in August that they are "'falling behind' financially." That's pretty much the same percentage as in October 2008, during the heat of the Wall Street financial crisis. FULL POST

September 16th, 2014
11:38 AM ET

Do sanctions actually work?

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

By Global Public Square staff

The West has announced a new round of sanctions against Russia. But can America and Europe craft effective sanctions?

Sure, sanctions have already hurt the Russian economy: stock prices are down, capital is fleeing the country and the Russian ruble has taken a hit. But Vladimir Putin shows no signs of moving to the off ramp of diplomacy that President Obama has talked about. Indeed, he's retaliating against the West by basically imposing his own set of counter-sanctions, banning around $9 billion worth of food imports from the West, despite the fact that this will mean higher food prices for Russians.

And he's not changing his military strategy, which has been to encourage the Ukrainian separatists to stand firm. So, will yet another round of sanctions do the trick?

Well, here's the problem. Sanctions don't really have that great a track record. We think of sanctions as highly effective because they did bring the Iranians to the negotiating table, it seems. But those are unusually comprehensive sanctions, implemented by almost all countries. That's very rare. FULL POST

September 8th, 2014
07:06 PM ET

Some good news out of Washington

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

By Global Public Square staff

We’re always on the lookout for good news – and we have some important good news this week, and it's actually coming out of Washington, despite all the polarization. Of course, true to form, the two parties disagree about this piece of news. So what is it?

Well, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently released its semi-annual outlook of the U.S. economy over the next decade. And the CBO's headline is that things are going better than expected. We are firmly in an economic recovery with substantially lower federal deficits, low interest rates and, we would add, little danger of inflation.

The CBO says that the federal deficit – the gap between revenues and spending – is projected to be $506 billion in 2014. That is just 2.9 percent of GDP, slightly lower than the average shortfall over the last four decades.

Keep in mind that in 2009 the federal deficit was 9.8 percent of GDP. The current number is much better than most believed was possible just a few years ago.  FULL POST

Topics: Economy • What in the World?
September 4th, 2014
12:13 PM ET

Why we should all use our vacation time

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

The world's second richest man said recently that we should all be working just three days a week. Which is why Stephen Colbert joked: “Now you know why he’s only the second richest man.”

Actually, Mexico's telecom magnate Carlos Slim isn’t alone. His fellow billionaire, Larry Page (the co-founder of Google), recently pushed for a reduced work week as well.

Why are the mega-rich telling the rest of us to work less?

They have different strategies and goals. But they're right that being a workaholic is not only bad for your health and sanity – it's bad for the economy. Really.

Americans are notorious workaholics. They take much less vacation and work longer work weeks than most of their counterparts in advanced industrial countries. And here's one more piece of American exceptionalism: the U.S. is the only advanced economy in the world where workers are not guaranteed paid vacation time. As a result, it's said that as many as 23 percent of Americans get no paid holidays or vacation. Americans who do get paid time off only take about half of it on average, according to one survey. FULL POST

August 19th, 2014
11:31 AM ET

U.S. living in the past over Cuba

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

By Global Public Square staff

Remember last December when President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raúl Castro at Nelson Mandela's memorial service, and got a lot of criticism for it? In truth it didn't signal any sort of a real rapprochement between the United States and Cuba. The Cuban rapprochement of note is a different one – with Vladimir Putin, who recently made the long trip to Havana.

While there, Putin forgave about $32 billion worth of debt that Cuba had accrued from the former Soviet Union decades ago and that Russia had inherited – that's 90 percent of Cuba's outstanding debt to Moscow.

In addition, Russian officials recently confirmed that Cuba has also provisionally agreed to reopen a spy post. This eavesdropping facility, 150 miles off the coast of Florida, allowed Russia to spy on the United States until it closed in 2001. (Putin denied claims that he's reopening the listening post in Cuba, but many experts doubt his denial).

What in the world is going on? FULL POST

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Topics: Cuba • What in the World?
August 11th, 2014
12:56 PM ET

And now for the good news

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

By Fareed Zakaria

Wherever you look these days, the world seems like it’s on fire.

New hot spots like Russia and Ukraine are competing with the old ones like Gaza and festering conflicts like those in Syria and Iraq – especially Iraq – are getting much worse. Even Afghanistan, which seemed in better shape than the other places, had a setback this past week.

So, is there any good news out there? In fact, there is. Some of the most important countries in the world are making remarkable progress, affecting at least 1.5 billion people. FULL POST

July 22nd, 2014
11:28 AM ET

A rival to the World Bank?

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

By Global Public Square staff

World leaders came together in Brazil last week to celebrate. And no, this had nothing to do with the World Cup. We’re talking about the 6th annual BRICS summit.

The leaders of all the BRICS nations – that is Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi, Dilma Rousseff, Xi Jinping and Jacob Zuma – all gathered in Fortaleza, Brazil. And on Tuesday they sent a shot across the bow by announcing a $50 billion bank meant to rival the World Bank, and a $100 billion crisis fund to replace the IMF.

It’s clear why they made this move.

You see, these five nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – now account for more than 40 percent of the world's population, almost 20 percent of the world's total GDP and 17 percent of global trade. Yes, growth in the emerging markets has slowed recently, but these countries have still become a large enough force in the global system that they want a seat at the table.

FULL POST

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