More than 3,000 workers in the Rana Plaza building in Savar,
Bangladesh toiled making clothes for American, Canadian, and European consumers
for less than $3 dollars a day. Labor
activists say that the workers produced clothing for JC Penney; Cato Fashions;
Benetton and other retailers (click here for more).
The Rana Plaza building collapsed last Wednesday, claiming
the lives of at least 377 garment workers, and hundreds more workers are missing
still, buried in the rubble. Civil Society labor activists say that the Rana Plaze
collapse is deadliest accident in the history of the garment industry (click
here for more).
The incident occurred after owners of the building's
factories ignored a warning to discontinue operation due to cracks found in the
building (click here for more).
While rescue workers focus on the victims, perhaps the rest
of us should search for immediate accountability.
Are global safety standards needed to ensure
Do the American and European MNCs and or
consumers at least somewhat responsible for this tragedy?
Last week in Burma thousands of people gained access to the
Thousands of $2 mobile SIM cards went on sale throughout Burma
making this a significant time in terms of technology, communication, and perhaps justice.
Burma (like North Korea) one of the last untapped mobile
markets in the world.
Until last week, access and the cost of a SIM card was simply
out of reach for most Burmese people.
How might the sale of SIM cards (mobile phones)
shape Burma's future?
What changes do you expect the technology and
open communication will bring to rural Burma?
Stephen Covey wrote, "Trust is the glue of life. It's the
most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational
principle that holds all relationships."
How honest and or forthcoming should a leader or diplomat be?
French ambassador to Kabul: Bernard Bajolet spoke very frankly
and honestly this week as he laid out a picture of his assessment of the
problems and future of Afghanistan. The New York Times reports that when
Bajolet finished speaking, "one diplomat raised his eyebrows and nodded
slightly; another said, "No holding back there" (click here for more).
Above: Bernard Bajolet honestly outlined the challenges
facing Afghanistan (photo by Bertrand Langlois/Agence France-Presse - Getty
Covey also wrote that successful people "seek first to
understand, then to be understood." Instead of blaming the other we are all
better off if we listen first. In a sense, liberal theorists in international
relations agree. Instead of blaming conflict on the zero-sum game and inherent
lust for power, the liberal theorists argue that the emphasis in relations is
correctly placed on seeking first to understand. In place of force, honest diplomacy
is said to provide the best means of achieving mutually acceptable solutions to
common problems. Leaders negotiate seeking Covey's "win-win" - rather than the
"win-lose" of coercion.
Above: US troop in Afghanistan (photo: REUTERS).
Diplomacy is then an open and honest communication and
negotiation between global actors that is not dependent on the use of force and
seeks a win-win cooperative solution.
According to the New York Times, Bajolet's "tone was neither
shrill nor reproachful. It was matter-of-fact." He said, "that the Afghan
project is on thin ice and that, collectively, the West was responsible for a
chunk of what went wrong, though much of the rest the Afghans were responsible
for. That the West had done a good job of fighting terrorism, but that most of
that was done on Pakistani soil, not on the Afghan side of the border. And that
without fundamental changes in how Afghanistan did business, the Afghan
government, and by extension the West's investment in it, would come to little."
Is the positive spin from the US and European
leaders - that glosses predictions of Afghanistan's future with upbeat words
like "promise" and "potential" - serving to effectively address the conflict?
Does "spinning the truth" or Bajolet's frank
honesty about country's progress better serve world leaders who are focused on Afghanistan's
Imagine you are in the Situation Room in the White House.
You are an assistant sitting just back from the table as the
President, his lawyers, and advisors are debating a serious and very difficult
problem - a problem of keeping Americans safe from terrorism, a problem of
international and US Constitutional law, and one that has 93 men in a hunger
strike with several men on feeding tubes just to keep them alive. This is not
an academic argument. Real risks and real lives are in the balance.
During the Bush administration 779 prisoners were brought to
the US prison in Guantánamo. Today, April 25, 2013, 166 of those prisoners remain.
Several of the advisors at the table consider these men to
be too dangerous to release - but impossible to prosecute (click here for
more). These prisoners from the "war on terror" have been held without trial
for more than 11 years and they feel that they will never go home (click here
for more). They are protesting in the only way possible - not eating.
Congress had blocked the President from making prisoner transfers
to countries throughout 2011, but now the Pentagon has the power to waive most
of those restrictions on a case-by-case basis. The argument today is how and or
if to use that authority.
Leaning forward the CIA Director reports to the President
that some 27 percent of 603 former detainees were "confirmed" or were
"suspected" of taking part in terrorist activities after they were released
from Guantánamo. The men who remain he reports are even more likely to take
part in terrorist activities if released. The President listens - you take
The General in charge of Guantánamo says, "Mr. President,
this situation as is - is just not sustainable. The prison structure is
crumbling and we are not equipped to handle the ever-growing medical needs of
the prisoners. We need more doctors and nurses. We must make changes, Sir."
As the President listens you hear strong and principled
arguments for releasing the prisoners, for moving them to a prison in the
United States, and even for spending another $200 million more on rebuilding and
re-staffing the Guantánamo prison.
As you watch the President, you notice that he is making
notes in the margins of a memo from Ms. Navi Pillay, the United Nations high
commissioner for human rights (Pillay's memo singled out the Guantánamo prisoners
when she recently denounced the prison as "a clear breach of international
Do you agree with Navi Pillay that Guantánamo
detention regime is in "clear breach of international law" and should be closed?
What possible Guantánamo exit strategies would
you suggest to the President?
Worldwide efforts in the last twenty years have reduced the number of polio cases by 99 percent.
Today, 99% of the world is free from polio, but is that good enough?
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is working with governments and all partners in the polio effort to ensure no child is at risk of either contracting or transmitting this crippling disease (click here for more).
The University of Texas at Tyler
Over the years, there have been plans to eradicate polio –
but those target dates and milestones unfortunately were missed. Today, in Pakistan,
Afghanistan, and Nigeria polio still hasn’t been stopped.
1. What barriers to eradicating polio might the governments of
Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria face?
2. What role and responsibility do the wealthy states have in
designing and informing a plan to eliminate polio? Should the United States lead
Syria's civil war is now in its third year and more than
70,000 people have been killed. Last week, President Obama said, "The future of
Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is
standing in their way. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for
President Assad to step aside" (click here for more).
Above: Deir al-Zor, Syria: Members of the Free Syrian Army
sit in a burnt house (photo Reuters).
The United States and its European allies are struggling to
find a policy that will stop the violence in Syria. In a speech last week, President Obama said
that the US "will support an effort to bring about a Syria that is democratic,
just, and inclusive for all Syrians" but United States has no plans to send
weapons or give lethal aid to the Syrian rebels.
President Obama signed an executive order that 1) blocks the
property of the Syrian government, 2) bans U.S. persons from new investments in
or exporting services to Syria, 3) bans U.S. imports of, and other transactions
or dealings in, Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products (click here for more).
Despite international pressure, President Assad has managed
to retain power far longer than the Obama administration expected. Since February, the US has shipped food and
medical supplies directly to the Free Syrian Army. The aid was expanded later
to include defensive military equipment. So far, the US has provided an
estimated $117m in non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition (click here for
Obama said that the United States is support the Syrian
people "by pressuring President Assad to get out of the way of this transition,
and standing up for the universal rights of the Syrian people along with others
in the international community."
Should President Obama follow the advice from some
in the US Congress and some administration advisers and provide lethal aid to
the Free Syrian Army?
Might providing lethal aid only lead to further
bloodshed in Syria?
The digital revolution is without a doubt empowering. But just who will be empowered?
Two of Googles top executives - Eric Schmidt, Google's executive
chairman and former CEO, and Jared Cohen, Director of Google Ideas posit that
the digital revolution also has some dark and unanswered questions.
Who will lead in the age of Twitter and Facebook? How will repressive regimes try to use
digital technology to control their citizens?
Within a couple of days of the terror attacks in Boston digital images of the suspects were shot millions of times across our digital networks. Could face recognition and digital scans be used for evil and well as for good?
In their forthcoming book (published 23 April) "The New
Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business," the
authors state: "Dictators and autocrats in the years to come will attempt
to build all-encompassing surveillance states, and they will have unprecedented
technologies with which to do so. But they can never succeed completely.
Dissidents will build tunnels out and bridges across. Citizens will have more
ways to fight back than ever before-some of them anonymous, some courageously
public. The digital revolution will continue. For all the
complications this revolution brings, no country is worse off because of the
Internet. And with five billion people set to join us online in the coming
decades...the digital future can be bright indeed, despite its dark side."
Click here for an essay adapted from Schmidt and Cohen's
What steps can we take to ensure that the digital
future is bright?
Do you agree with the authors that dictators and
autocrats will never succeed completely?
While at this writing, Boston marathon bombing suspect and
Chechen born, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, remains at large, a reporter just
called me to find out why a Chechen born in 1993 might be a terrorist. The answer is not an easy one as it is difficult - at least for me - to rationally link the bombing of the 117th Boston marathon with Chechnya.
The connection between Chechens and terrorism is well known
in Russia - but not so much in the United States - where few American have any idea where Chechnya is even located.
It is very important to note that - at least at this writing
- no link has been established between the Boston marathon suspects and Chechnya -
other than the possibility that they are from that region of Russia. In an interview with Anzor Tsarnaev, the father
of the suspects, conducted by Ellen Barry and
Andrew Roth of The New York Times Moscow bureau, provided no link
between Chechnen social and political interest and his sons (click here for
In 1991, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, the Chechen regional
parliament declared Chechnya's independence from Russia. Independent of any
outside authority, the Chechen leadership was however unable to impose law and
order in the territory - and the region became a center of lawlessness, unrest,
In 1999, Chechen militants and Islamic extremists invaded a
neighboring region of Russia seeking to expand the area under their control. In
response, Russia launched a full-scale military invasion and succeeded in
gaining control of the region.
In gaining control, the Russians committed many human rights
violations and killed thousands. Losing control their land, Chechen fighters
turned to terrorism - attacking civilians outside the Chechen region in Russia.
More than a thousand Russian people have been killed by
Chechen terrorists attacks in the last twenty years - in bombings of subway
trains, concerts, shopping areas, apartment buildings, and airlines.
The Russian leadership has long sought understanding from
the West regarding the terrorist attacks - claiming that the bloody Chechen
conflict has made democracy in Russia much more difficult to achieve.
At what point does a crime become an act of terrorism?
Must an act of terrorism have political or
In 1983, J. William Fulbright, said, "Educational
exchange can turn nations into people, contributing as no other form of
communication can to the humanizing of international relations." The people and leadership of North Korea need to see the people of South Korea with new eyes.
I encourage all of my students to study abroad - especially my
international relations students. When people who are (or will be) opinion
leaders travel and study abroad they very often come to approach "others,"
politics, and policymaking quite differently. People who have had the
experience of "others" often see with new eyes and share that new understanding
with their home community - which in turn makes our village a better place. The
more I read and learn more about the current leaders and the people of North
Korea the more I think that they need to get out more.
Isolation leads to ignorance, misunderstanding, mistrust,
and miscommunication. Students who study abroad - be they Americans in Spain or
Chinese in the United States - return home having learned more about life,
people, and different cultures than they could ever have imagined. People that
are isolated, that are not permitted to travel, to read freely, to have open access
to the Internet will not only lead less fulfilling lives but are likely to be a
people who fear others and are more easily controlled. North Korea is, of
course, just such a nation - isolated, fearful, mistrusting, poor, hungry, and ruled
by a small group of isolated elites.
Given the troubles created by isolation, it is interesting
that US secretary of state, John Kerry, is warning North Korea that it risks even
further isolation with a missile launch (click here for more).
Students who study abroad are often pushed well out of their
comfort zones and asked to do things that they otherwise wouldn't do. Once stretched
in new directions the mind never retakes its original position. Traveling or
study abroad changes people in so many ways; especially in the way they view others.
Students who study abroad become more open-minded and report that they are more
open and inspired by other cultures and traditions.
The people and leaders of North Korea desperately need openness
- not further isolation. Of course, that is not how the leaders of North Korea
see it. They fear openness. They fear the Internet and the free flow of
information - they fear "others."
How might other states and or NGOs help the
North Korean leaders and people to know others?
How might international relations be different if
more Americans better understood people of the Muslim community?
A bomb at a sporting event as pure, hopeful, and optimistic
as the Boston Marathon?
What?! No way! Who does this?!
How you reflexively answer that question may tell you
something about your own social construction of terrorism. How we define our
world very often predicts how we interact with it.
Did you think or say, "it is probably the work of a Muslim
As the US officials seek answers to yesterday's terror attack
in Boston, people in the Muslim world are reminding us that Muslims too despise
terror and abhor violence. Yes, Muslims
despise terrorism just as much as anyone else.
But Muslims (along with the many Americans) come to dread the revelation of the
perpetrator(s). All too often we allow a few Islamic extremists to define an
entire community of faith. Using Twitter and other social media some are
seeking to reshape these definitions and reactions.
Our global village seems
to have two over simplified social constructions and reactions to terror. On the one hand, many Americans quickly jump
to the conclusion that "Muslim terrorists" are probably responsible for the
bombing while on the other, Islamic extremists reflexively assume the people of
the United States hate Muslims.
As we are inextricably
bound to one another in an interdependent village these two narratives tend to
feed one another. Our collective past - the 911 attacks, the killing of Anwar
al-Awlaki, the protests about a Muslim center in New York - tend to shape our
present reactions and future polices.
Even without knowing
anything about the person (or people) responsible for the deadly bombs
yesterday in Boston, some Muslims felt compelled to make it very clear that
they denounce the violence and consider it a violation of Islam.
How do we prevent
the actions of a few fanatical individuals to define our assumptions about
others and ourselves?
Is it true
that we are inextricably bound to one another?
Today, Sunday 14 April, North Korea dismissed South Korea's
proposal to resolve current tensions through dialogue. The North Koreans described the proposal as "a
crafty trick" designed to disguise the South's hostility.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is in China as part of an
intensive three-day push to try to calm tensions on the Korean peninsula (click
here for more).
Above: John Kerry at a press conference in Beijing. Kerry is
seeking China's help in dealing with North Korea (photograph: Paul J
Kerry offered to cut back American missile defenses if the
North abandoned its nuclear program (click here for more). China is North Korea's main ally and provides
much of its food and energy.
Is the 29 year old "Kim Jong-un using the
only bargaining chips he holds (war with South Korea) to do as his father did
and attempt to gain aid and humanitarian assistance?
Do you believe that China's cooperation is an
important factor in the Obama administration's attempt to cool tensions on the
The Asian art market, China specifically, has overtaken the
United States as the world's largest art and auction market (click here for
more). The Chinese are today responsible
for about twenty-five percent of the global art purchases. Chinese interest in art has grown along with
the economy and thus a greater and greater number of Chinese now have money to
spend on art.
Christie's C.E.O. Steven Murphy says that his company is
prepared to be the first independent auction house in China (click here for more).
What - if any - are the implications of a strong
Chinese art market?
Are there any international relations considerations
to consider from Chrisitie's auction house operating independently in China?
Smedinghoff, a young American diplomat was killed Saturday (6 April 2012) while
delivering books to children in Afghanistan (click here for more). Anne volunteered
to take up the challenge of bringing about change - an unbelievable undertaking
in one of the toughest places on earth - Afghanistan.
of State John Kerry said, "The folks who want to kill people, and that's all
they want to do, are scared of knowledge. And they want to shut the doors and
they don't want people to make their choices about the future. For them, it's
"You do things my way and if you don't, we'll throw acid in your face. We'll
put a bullet in your face," to a young girl trying to learn."
on to say, "this is a huge challenge for us. It is a confrontation with
modernity, with possibilities, and everything that our country stands for,
everything we stand for." Kerry said "America does not and will not cower before terrorism. We are going to forge on, we're going to step up. ... We put ourselves in harm's way because we believe in giving hope to our brothers and sisters all over the world, knowing that we share universal human values with people all over the world – the dignity of opportunity and progress."
agree with Secretary Kerry when he said that Anne Smedinghoff embodies what America
What is it
about school and books that makes some people so scared?
The outrageous rhetoric normally heard from North Korean
leaders has recently become even more so. The North Koreans are making
increasingly shrill threats of a pre-emptive nuclear strike and announcing the
ending of the armistice and then refusing to answer a hotline phone.
The threats this week by leader Kim Jong Un and ensuing
actions have been incredibly provocative - raising tensions on the Korean
Peninsula. Today, the North Koreans are saying that they intend to restart all
mothballed facilities at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex.
What pressure might the internal economic
troubles in North Korea be placing on the leaders of North Korea?
How might those pressures be forcing the North
Koreans to engage in such tense rhetoric?