SANTIAGO – Take a taxi in São Paulo nowadays and you will experience the maddening traffic and untidy streets of an emerging-country metropolis. But when the time comes to pay for the ride, you may feel like you are in Boston, Luxemburg, or Zurich: the value of the Brazilian real, like the currencies of many emerging-market countries, is high – and could go higher.
NEW YORK – Justice Richard Goldstone was condemned by many apologists for Israel ’s human-rights record for his conclusion that Israel intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians as a matter of policy during the 2008-9 Gaza war. Goldstone’s United Nations-backed report accused both Israelis and Palestinians of war crimes, and called on both sides to investigate, prosecute, and punish their own personnel.
NEWPORT BEACH – Three years after the global financial crisis, the global economy remains a confusing place – and for good reasons. Should we draw comfort from gradual healing in advanced countries and solid growth in emerging economies? Or should we seek refuge against high oil prices, geopolitical shocks in the Middle East, and continued nuclear uncertainties in Japan , the world’s third largest economy?
ABUJA – Nigeria ’s legislative elections, to be followed by a presidential poll on April 16, indicate that the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has lost its near-total grip on the country’s politics. Of the four main opposition parties that fielded candidates for the 469 parliamentary seats in contention, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) took the bulk of the votes in the southwest of the country, felling such PDP stalwarts as House speaker Dimeji Bankole and Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, daughter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
NEW DELHI – Will “mission creep” in the West’s intervention in Libya end up creating, inadvertently, a jihadist citadel at Europe’s southern doorstep? Of course, the Western powers must be applauded for their efforts, with the support of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, to prevent a slaughter of Libya’s civilian population.
CAMBRIDGE – Not long ago, a Harvard colleague wrote to me that Saif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, a son of Libya’s dictator, would be in town and wanted to meet me. He is an interesting fellow, my colleague said, with a doctorate from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE); I would enjoy talking to him, and I might be able to help his thinking on economic matters.
MEXICO CITY – Mexican President Felipe Calderón has finally gotten what he wanted: the resignation of United States Ambassador Carlos Pascual. Calderón shot the messenger for delivering bad news through confidential cables released by WikiLeaks. Pascual’s harsh assessments of the “war on drugs” that Calderón unleashed four years ago infuriated the president.
STANFORD – The earthquake- and tsunami-related problems at Japan ’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant have inspired endless commentary and speculation. Unfortunately, much of the debate about the disaster and its implications has been uninformed and problematic.
JEDDAH – The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt provide examples of largely peaceful transitions of power after decades of unflinching authoritarian rule. Yet change in these and other Arab countries caught the world by surprise. Talk of an “Arab Spring” has dominated Western media and political debate for months now. Many Muslims living in the West are also watching events in the region closely, hoping that their co-religionists will soon enjoy greater rights, freedoms, and protections under the rule of law, much as they have done for many decades.
VIRGINIA BEACH – The problem of long-term energy sources has been drifting towards crisis for decades. Indeed, the catastrophes in Japan might finally achieve what decades of conflict in the Middle East have not: compel governments to invest in the research required to develop viable energy alternatives.