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Widening attacks on the press, arrests and intimidation of journalists are among the barriers to the free flow of information worldwide. But beyond the usual lists of suspects blocking and censoring news and the internet, there's a definite and deadly spike in violence against reporters, ranging from the Syrian civil war to drug cartel intimidation in Mexico.
If it's Tuesday, this must be Havana. Given U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's peripatetic global travels, the two-day visit to Cuba, especially in the midst of a frigid New York winter, seemingly made sense. After all, the trip was officially to attend the meeting of the
The U.S. President's annual State of the Union address is primarily about domestic policy with foreign flourishes and interludes. Barack Obama, facing lackluster poll ratings, presented a pedantic and populist address with the usual laundry list of political promises.
There used to be an advertising slogan that said, "We're number two but we try harder." Perhaps in the spirit of the times we should revive this phrase and proclaim, "We're number twelve, but it's somebody else's fault."
The powerful polar vortex causing the "big freeze" in parts of the U.S. has forced tens of millions of Americans to confront record cold winter temperatures. While waiting for the bus in the icy New York winds, I reflected on a report I picked up earlier at the U.N. dealing with the widening humanitarian crisis in Syria and how the vortex of conflict in that Middle Eastern land has engulfed a generation of children in the most horrible conditions in a civil war without mercy.
It's that time to consult the snow globe and try to peer ahead at some of the key stories, crises and opportunities which await the world as we prepare for a new year. Indeed, 2013 has been marred by new levels of violence, humanitarian disasters and a perceptible lack of leadership from the U.S. on the foreign policy front.
Faced with the ongoing civil war in Syria, the natural disaster in the Philippines and a spreading civil conflict in the Central African Republic, the U.N. humanitarian agencies are confronting a near perfect storm of political and natural disasters. Add the continuing needs from earlier trouble spots such as South Sudan, Somalia and Haiti and the system and donor states are facing a near overload.
While final exams and the end of the semester are fast approaching for students across America, there's an early report card which was just delivered with grades for math, reading, and science. Regrettably, students in the United States don't rate terribly well against their global peers, especially those in East Asia. But wait, there's more to the story.
Situated geographically between two blocs, divided culturally and religiously between two civilizations and now placed in the political conundrum of choosing between East and West, Ukraine is again the object the competing interests. And amid the political and gravitational pull of the two sides are the swirling clouds of Ukraine's tumultuous 20th century history.
In a world where politicians and potentates clog the media with pre-packaged sound bites, yammer on with a staccato of political chatter, or drone on with endless explanations of subjects even they forgot, it's heartening to see a former British prime minister act the role of statesman and sage. Thus, after the sonorous drone of the recent U.N. General debate, it's a pleasure hearing Tony Blair address key global issues with passion, verve, and dedication.
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