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

July 15th, 2014
11:33 AM ET

The danger of America's 'economic drone'

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By Global Public Square staff

We’re sure you heard about the Paris-based bank, BNP Paribas, which fell afoul of Washington's regulators and agreed to plead guilty to a felony and pay a staggering $8.9 billion fine – larger than its annual profits.

So it must have violated a slew of laws, right? Actually, no. It hadn't violated French law, or EU law, or any of its obligations under the WTO or the United Nations. It hadn't even violated a French-American treaty.

What in the world?

BNP Paribas violated a set of unilateral American sanctions, passed by Congress, that were never affirmed or followed by the European Union or France.And neither the buyers nor the sellers in any of the transactions BNP was involved in were Americans.

So what was Washington's hold on BNP? It all centers on the central role that the dollar plays in today's globalized economy. You see, even if two foreign companies want to do a deal, assuming it’s a large transaction, the deal is likely to be denominated in dollars – the currency that everyone has access to, is available in ample supply, is a symbol of stability and, as a result, remains the world's reserve currency.

FULL POST

July 7th, 2014
04:51 PM ET

Why the Export-Import Bank matters

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By Global Public Square staff

You know countries don't always play by the rules of international trade, especially countries where the government and large companies are really all part of the same team.

Take, for example, China – the most notorious player who hasn't read the rule sheet. The government of China lavishes subsidies on its companies to make their products more competitive in the global marketplace.

And it's not just subsidies that help Chinese companies. Last year, China's government gave its domestic companies $111 billion in guarantees, loans and insurance to help them sell their various products overseas.

And China is just one example – Japan's companies got $33 billion worth of such treatment, South Korea $24 billion. And by contrast, the U.S. total was just $15 billion. Keep in mind that South Korea's economy is less than 1/10th the size of America's!

FULL POST

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Topics: China • Economy • United States • What in the World?
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 24th, 2014
10:28 AM ET

A smarter way to tackle poverty

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

By Global Public Square staff

The economic buzzword of the year is inequality – it has sparked protests around the world, it’s a centerpiece of President Obama's agenda now, and it has even inspired an unlikely bestseller.

People watch the growing inequality around the world and in the United States and despair about what to do. One of the most popular fixes is raising the minimum wage – and that’s not just on the left. Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has recently supported a new wage increase, as has Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer the Conservative Party’s George Osborne.

In the United States, President Obama proposed boosting the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour at the beginning of the year. That's a 39 percent increase over the current wage minimum of $7.25. Republicans have, of course, made it clear that they will never pass this in Congress.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund weighed in and urged the U.S. to raise the wage floor, saying it is low by both historical and international standards. The federal minimum wage in America was about 38 percent of the median wage in 2011, which is one of lowest percentages among the rich countries of the world.

FULL POST

June 10th, 2014
08:59 AM ET

Why we should care about teeth whitening

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

By Global Public Square staff

All eyes will be on the U.S. Supreme Court this month as it issues its final decisions before recessing for the summer. When it comes back in session (on the first Monday of October), it will likely hear a critical case. But the case is not about money in politics or affirmative action or the powers of the presidency – it's about whether you can get your teeth whitened at a kiosk in the mall.

What in the world?

You see, teeth whitening services have been in high demand since 1989. And, as with any billion-dollar business, people are keen to capitalize on the trend. In 2003, non-dentists in North Carolina started to provide peroxide whitening at significantly lower prices than dentists.

Not surprisingly, the dentists started complaining.

FULL POST

June 1st, 2014
07:43 AM ET

Why there might be cause for optimism in Afghanistan

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By Global Public Square staff

As U.S. troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan, Afghans are preparing to usher in their own new era. Soon, the nation could witness its first ever democratic handover of power. So, what if we told you that Afghanistan seems poised to effectively navigate this transition? In other words, what if we told you that Afghanistan could actually work out?

Almost two months ago, Afghans headed to the polls in record numbers. The election went remarkably well. Afghan security forces performed better than anyone expected. There were few reports of ballot stuffing or corruption that had marred the 2009 election of Hamid Karzai.

Since no candidate secured more than 50 percent of the vote, there will be a run-off in June. And two front-runners have emerged. Guess what? They're both great – highly qualified, modern, reformist and articulate.

Compare them to the hardline Shiite thugs running Iraq and you will see a world of difference. Abdullah Abdullah, a former leader in the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance and a trained ophthalmologist, secured 45 percent of the vote. Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank economist, garnered nearly 32 percent of the vote. Honestly, either would mark a significant improvement for the future of Afghanistan and for Afghan-U.S. relations.

FULL POST

May 24th, 2014
09:56 AM ET

Why the liberal arts matter

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

By Fareed Zakaria

It's graduation season in the United States, which means the season of commencements speeches – a time for canned jokes and wise words. This year I was asked to do the honors at Sarah Lawrence in New York, a quintessential liberal arts college. So I thought it was worth talking about the idea of a liberal arts education – which is under serious attack these days.

The governors of Texas, Florida and North Carolina have all announced that they do not intended to spend taxpayer money subsidizing the liberal arts.Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott, asks, “Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don't think so.” Even President Obama recently urged students to keep in mind that a technical training could be more valuable than a degree in art history.

I can well understand the concerns about liberal arts because I grew up in India in the 1960s and ‘70s. A technical training was seen as the key to a good career. If you were bright, you studied science, so that’s what I did.

But when I got to America for college, I quickly saw the immense power of a liberal education.For me, the most important use of it is that it teaches you how to write. In my first year in college, I took an English composition course. My teacher, an elderly Englishman with a sharp wit and an even sharper red pencil, was tough.

FULL POST

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Topics: Education • GPS Show • Ideas • What in the World?
May 19th, 2014
10:42 AM ET

Should we have the right to be forgotten online?

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

By Global Public Square staff

Do you have something in your past that you would rather forget? A youthful indiscretion that led to a run-in with the police perhaps? A debt that you "forgot" to pay maybe? How about a quickie marriage one night in Vegas that ended in a quickie divorce? In the Internet Age, these are the types of things that can now live forever.

Except perhaps, if you live in the European Union. Let me explain.

Last week, the European Union's highest court decided that parts of your past have a "right to be forgotten" on the Internet. It’s a ruling that effectively censors search engines like Google. Here's how it happened:

A Spanish man filed a complaint against Google because searches of his name turned up links to a 1998 newspaper notice that mentioned some debts. He argued that this old, now irrelevant information infringed on both his dignity and his privacy. And, on Tuesday, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice agreed. Google has to stop linking to the Spaniard's property notice, the court said.

FULL POST

May 12th, 2014
05:45 PM ET

Is China really about to overtake the U.S.?

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

By Global Public Square staff

This month, headlines declared that China could eclipse the United States as the world's biggest economy by as early as this year. But before you start lamenting the end of American dominance – the U.S's 125-year run as the world's economic leader – listen to us. America is still number one. It will be for a while. And, as it turns out, China is OK with that.

Let us explain.

A new report from the World Bank's International Comparison Program says that China is catching up to the U.S. faster than anticipated. In 2005, the ICP estimated China's economy was 43 percent the size of America's. But their latest report, which uses 2011 data, puts China's GDP at $13.5 trillion. That accounts for 87 percent of the U.S. economy, which is $15.5 trillion.

Now, given that China's economy is growing 3 times as fast, it is fair to project that China will surpass the U.S. by year end. So, are we bracing ourselves for a big power shift from West to East, for a new Pacific era?

Well, not exactly. The International Comparison Program based their rankings on a measure called purchasing power parity. PPP, as it's called, estimates the real cost of living – in other words, what money can actually buy you in each country, not how much money you have.

FULL POST

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Topics: China • Economy • United States • What in the World?
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