April 15th, 2014
02:22 PM ET

What's behind China's reforms?

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

By Global Public Square staff

If Dick Cheney were arrested…and his assets seized…all in an anti-corruption effort by President Obama…you might say "What in the World," right? Well, as the New Yorker's Evan Osnos points out, that scenario is a rough analogy for what is going on in China today.

Some of you will remember that in the first week of 2014, we began the show suggesting that this would be "the year of China," meaning that the country was likely to go through enormous changes that would make or break its rise.

But even we have been surprised at how much has happened on almost all fronts. China is now being ruled by a new generation, spearheaded by President Xi Jinping who has consolidated power and appears to be the strongest and most ambitious Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping. Consider what he has been doing in just one year in office.

First and most significantly is the anti-corruption drive. And at the forefront of that is the expansive investigation into Zhou Yongkang, China's former domestic security tsar, once head of China's National Petroleum Corporation and a former member of China's "untouchable" Politburo Standing Committee. Zhou is the man who has been called China's Dick Cheney by Osnos.

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Topics: China • Economy • What in the World?
April 7th, 2014
01:14 PM ET

Time to rethink gun access rules for 'at-risk' soldiers on U.S. bases?

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

When I heard about the shooting at Fort Hood last week, one thing stood out to me: the alleged shooter – 34-year old Army Specialist Ivan Lopez – was being treated for mental health issues.

Mental health issues – many believed to be caused by duty in Afghanistan and Iraq – are a scourge upon our military. In 2012, a record 350 soldiers killed themselves. That’s more than died on the battlefield. And between 2008 and 2010, nearly two-thirds of all suicides in the United States military involved firearms.

One former military heavyweight whom I talked with last year, former Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli, said “enough”:

You're a general. You're an army man. You've spent your life around guns. You're comfortable with them.  You know they can be used responsibly. But you also feel that when people are at risk in terms of mental issues, it’s very dangerous for them to have access to guns.

Chiarelli: It is very dangerous for them to have access to guns.  I believe that…I would be very, very careful in not underestimating the impact of 13 years of war on an all-volunteer force. I think we were seeing, in those suicide numbers, some of the effect of repeated deployments and high stress and trauma…”

…What do you say to those who say, well, there is the Second Amendment and that's why you can't go much further with your efforts?

Chiarelli: I don't buy that. I don't believe the Second Amendment was put in place to take a person who is at high risk for hurting themselves, and put in their hands a weapon that in an impulsive moment, at a time when they're not thinking straight, they can end their life.

Watch the video for the full What in the World.

March 25th, 2014
11:47 AM ET

Will computers make human workers obsolete?

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

By Global Public Square staff

Many people are worried that in tomorrow's economy, a machine might take their job. If you think your job is safe, you would do well to remember Watson – that's the IBM computer that beat Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings. If a computer can handle the complex challenge of playing a trivia game like Jeopardy, it is mastering the kinds of subtle judgments that we used to think of as the sole province of humans.

Eric Brynjolfsson and his MIT colleague Andrew McAfee recently wrote a book called The Second Machine Age – an insightful and sometimes startling look at how computers are becoming smarter by the minute. They note that computers can pull off some truly remarkable tasks these days: driving cars by themselves, and even talking to us.

Why is this happening? It's because while all machines improve over time, computers do so on an exponential scale. Moore's law states that computer processing power doubles every two years or so.

A fascinating way to visualize the power of exponential growth is the myth of the invention of chess. In one telling, the inventor of chess – a brilliant man from India – impresses a ruler with his new game so much so that the ruler invites him to name any reward. The inventor's request seems modest: he asks that just one grain of rice be placed on the first square of a chessboard, and then please double the grains on every new square, until all 64 squares have rice.

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March 20th, 2014
09:38 AM ET

Don't forget about Venezuela

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

By Global Public Square staff

The protests in Ukraine - and Russia's response to them - have monopolized headlines…but there is one other uprising that could have a big, global fallout. We are talking about Venezuela, where for weeks now, demonstrations against the government have been met with violent and sometimes deadly force. Keep an eye on that country because what happens there could have consequences across the continent - and all the way to Cuba.

We were surprised to read that one of the guiding lights of these protests is actually not on the ground in Caracas, but more than a thousand miles away…in Miami, Florida. Reinaldo dos Santos is a self-proclaimed "prophet" from Brazil…and he claims that Venezuela's president will soon be out of a job. For whatever reason, his prophesies have resonated with his 1.3 million Twitter followers as he emboldened them to fight the good fight. (A fun fact - Venezuela has the 5th highest Twitter penetration in the world, according to ComScore.)

It's a bizarre, kooky sideshow to what is actually a very serious situation - not only for Venezuelans, but for the global economy. Remember, Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves, and it is the 4th largest exporter of oil to the United States.

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Topics: Protests • Venezuela • What in the World?
Why Chinese don’t want more children
March 10th, 2014
10:45 AM ET

Why Chinese don’t want more children

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

By Global Public Square staff

Much has been made of how China recently eased restrictions on having children. Under the old rules, if a couple wanted to have a second child, both husband and wife needed to be the only offspring of their parents.

Under the new rules, a second child could be allowed if just one of its potential parents was an only-child. The change impacts about 20 million Chinese. You'd imagine after decades of restrictions, many of them would jump at the chance to have a second child, right?

Wrong.

An article in The New York Times recently reports that as many as half of the families impacted by the new rules are balking at the idea of a second child. Parents quoted in the article say that children simply cost too much.

Why is this attitude surprising? And what went wrong?

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Topics: China • What in the World?
February 24th, 2014
03:24 PM ET

Should Spain rethink its late night lifestyle?

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By Global Public Square staff

Last week, Jimmy Fallon took over as host of “The Tonight Show.” More than 11 million Americans tuned in at midnight to watch his debut – that's about 3.5 percent of the population.

Americans love their late night TV. But there's one country that loves it even more: Spain. An estimated 25 percent of Spaniards are up watching TV at midnight, according to Jim Yardley in a great piece in the New York Times.

And it’s not just TV – staying up late is part of the culture. Restaurants rarely serve dinner until after 10 p.m. According to one survey, Spaniards sleep on average 53 minutes less than other Europeans. During the day, Spaniards are known for taking long lunches and breaks – and of course, siestas.

Well, a number of Spanish economists are saying this needs to stop. By some accounts, Spain loses 8 percent of its GDP to reduced productivity. So, what can be done? One suggestion is that Spain should turn its clocks back.

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February 17th, 2014
09:10 AM ET

China's bold environmental move

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

By Global Public Square staff

There has been some surprising good news out of China. As you probably know, China's super-speed growth has produced super-high levels of pollution. Indeed, Beijing's poor air quality has popularized the word "air-pocalypse". There are days when you can barely see more than a few feet in front of you. It got so bad that the U.S. embassy in Beijing posted a real-time measure of air quality on its website; Chinese officials, of course, have disputed the American data as propaganda.

So people, mostly Chinese people, have asked for an accurate reading of pollution levels in China. In recent years, environmental groups have pressured Beijing to release official data on air pollution. But the government, notorious for being tight-lipped, secretive and unresponsive, had declined. In fact, few people actually believed that Beijing would ever accede to their demands.

Well, guess what? Beijing has ordered 15,000 factories to report details about their emissions: in public, and in real-time. The decree also calls for details on the release of pollutants like wastewater and heavy metals. This is a real first in China – an unprecedented mandate for transparency.

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Topics: China • Environment • What in the World?
February 9th, 2014
01:01 AM ET

Local leadership key in Arab world

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

By Global Public Square staff

It's popular these days to say the Arab Spring has gone badly awry. It's a bit early to make these judgments – think of what America looked like in 1779, three years after its revolution – but if you were to compile a mid-term report, Syria would get a failing grade, Egypt's revolution has faltered badly, Libya is a mess. But there is one spark of hope for the revolutions of the Middle East, and it's a country that could be a model for all the others: Tunisia, which was the birthplace of the Arab Spring.

What has Tunisia done right?

Well, let's start with history. Tunisia has been quite different from Egypt and its neighbors for centuries. It was the first Arab state to develop a modern constitution, all the way back in 1861. Over time, Tunisia has developed stronger civic institutions than its Arab neighbors, including a human rights league that was founded nearly four decades ago. About a fifth of the government's budget has been allocated to education. And the demographics are largely homogenous: while Syria and Iraq are divided along sectarian lines – Shia or Sunni – some 98 percent of Tunisians are Sunni Muslims.

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January 25th, 2014
12:49 PM ET

The myths of foreign aid

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

By Fareed Zakaria

I’m in Davos, Switzerland, the site of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting. I usually use our “What in the World” section to give you my thoughts about something that struck me. But I’m going to cede this space to someone else today – Bill Gates.

His annual letter is out. It debunks three myths about fighting poverty and has gotten attention for its claim that by 2035, there will be no more poor countries in the world (using today’s definition of poor, of course).

But what caught my eye was myth number two: foreign aid is a big waste. Actually, this might not strike many as a myth. Lots of people believe that what we send abroad doesn’t really help countries alleviate poverty and develop. Well, Gates does a very nice job carefully explaining why foreign aid has in fact been a pretty spectacular success. The largest piece of evidence for this is literally the life-saving effect of aid.

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Topics: Aid • Development • United States • What in the World?
January 20th, 2014
04:10 PM ET

Is Japan's aging population a good thing?

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

By Global Public Square staff

We were struck by some startling data this past week. Last year saw Japan's population fall by 244,000 people – the largest natural decline in that country's history. It's a trend that's getting worse. By 2060, Japan projects that its population will have fallen by a third; 40 percent of Japanese will be retirees. It sounds like a recipe for disaster. Imagine a United States where half the population is over the age of 65: Social Security would collapse, health care costs will explode.

So, we were surprised to see a headline in the latest edition of The New Scientist claiming "Japan's aging population could actually be good news."

How on earth is that possible? After all, China relaxed its "one-child" policy last month precisely so it could avoid the fate of Japan. And that fate, if you go by conventional wisdom, seems to be slowing growth, and leading to unsustainable debt. Why? Because our entire system is based on having enough young workers to pay for pensions and government services.

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January 11th, 2014
12:00 AM ET

Is Argentina trying out the 5-point economy wrecking plan?

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

By Global Public Square staff

We were struck by a strange proposal this week. A top Argentine leader says his country should move the national capital from Buenos Aires in the east, facing the Atlantic, to a new city up in the north, closer to the Pacific. This would be an immense change – akin to Brazil moving the capital to Brasilia. It would be a shame to see Buenos Aires abandoned. But the idea that Argentina needs some shaking up is exactly right.

A few weeks ago, we ran a report titled “How To Ruin Your Economy.” In five easy steps, it showed how a country could turn itself into a basket case by bad decisions. The segment was about Venezuela…but Argentina is a worthy runner-up.

It starts out much stronger than Venezuela. Remember, Argentina is part of the G-20, the group of 20 big economies. The average Argentine earns more than the average Indian and Chinese combined. But all these facts mask a troubling trend.

Let’s see how it fared on our five-point test.

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January 4th, 2014
08:02 PM ET

Have we reached the end of globalization?

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

By Global Public Square staff

At the start of 2014, let's take a look at one of the great trends of the last century. You could be sitting in Chicago, Illinois right now, but your TV was probably made in Japan, your sneakers were likely manufactured in China and your coffee might be from Kenya. Globalization impacts every single thing around us. So here’s the big question: have we reached the end of globalization?

For much of the last thirty years there has been a steady trend in commerce: global trade has expanded at about twice the pace of the global economy. For example, between 1988 and 2007, global trade grew on average by 6.2 percent a year according to the World Trade Organization. During the same period, the world’s GDP was growing at nearly half that pace: 3.7 percent.

But a strange thing has taken place in the last two years. Growth in global trade has dropped dramatically, to even less than GDP growth. The change leaves one wondering: has the incredible transfer of goods around the world reached some sort of pinnacle? Have we exhausted the drive toward ever-more-globalization?

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