Few political leaders in power today have harnessed the power of the media as effectively — and as personally — as Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. From the moment he took office, Chávez deployed himself across existing platforms, using every available communications resource to present himself, his ideology and his policies directly to the public. Now, as his idiosyncratic rule runs up against limitations imposed by serious health problems, Chávez has found that the latest in modern communications technology, social media, is a most useful tool. Chávez is becoming the Twitter President, issuing a continuous stream of 140-character opinions and dictates […]

When pro-democracy protesters took on President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, watching from his perch in Lebanon, could hardly contain his glee. Arab demonstrators were taking on yet another Sunni dictator who was hostile to Hezbollah. At the time, the Arab Spring looked like good news to the Iran-backed Shiite militants. But the popular revolts did not stop with Hezbollah’s foes. Now that an uprising next door threatens the rule of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, one of Hezbollah’s principal patrons, Hezbollah is starting to look less steady. As the wave of popular unrest washes across the region, […]

Dalai Lama Feels ‘Freer’ Since Giving up Political Role

Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has been in Washington since last week, celebrating his birthday and guiding followers of Tibetan Buddhism in a multi-day prayer and meditation ritual. The U.S. government-funded Voice of America sat down with him.

An open-ended sit-in in Cairo’s Tahrir Square will enter its seventh day today and may grow larger if calls for another major Friday protest are met. Five months after an 18-day uprising brought down President Hosni Mubarak, a substantial number of Egyptians feel that the pace of change has been too slow to satisfy their revolutionary demands. They are holding major demonstrations in Tahrir Square and around the country, explicitly condemning the ruling military council that took over after Mubarak’s resignation and pushing for faster and deeper reforms. In the week since the latest round of protests began, the interim […]

A former resident of Addis Ababa returning today after an absence of five years would find the city almost unrecognizable. In that time, Ethiopia has transformed itself economically, and nowhere is that transformation more on display than in its capital. In terms of infrastructure and housing, Addis Ababa has blossomed from perhaps Africa’s worst example of urban planning into a grid of paved streets and multilane ring roads, with corresponding glass-walled high rises and luxury villas comparable to Johannesburg, South Africa. The Ethiopian government has used its unlimited power to bulldoze whole neighborhoods, evicting residents with little notice or compensation […]

KIGALI, Rwanda — Young, radiant and eloquent, Clare Akamanzi is anything but modest as she outlines her government’s plans for Rwanda’s future. As chief operating officer of the Rwanda Development Board, an institution mandated with fast-tracking private sector growth, Akamanzi is a rising star among Rwanda’s best and brightest and the day-to-day brains behind one of the boldest development visions on the planet. Here, in this former conflict-ridden backwater best known to the world for its grisly 1994 genocide, officials are determined to forge Africa’s first knowledge-based society — turning away from small-scale agriculture and embracing services like information and […]

In 1999, Amartya Sen, an Indian economist who a year earlier had won the Nobel Prize for Economics, published “Development as Freedom.” Sen mapped out two arguments for a general audience. First, he defined economic development as the expansion of individual freedom, challenging “narrower” views that reduced development to GNP growth or a rise in personal incomes. Sen’s ideas spurred the creation of the U.N. Human Development Index, which created a composite measure of development that included income, health and education. Second, Sen maintained that democratic political arrangements, defined as the existence of civil and political freedoms, were necessary to […]

MAE SOT, Thailand — On June 9, deadly clashes broke out in northern Myanmar between the country’s army and the ethnic minority Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The fighting reportedly erupted after Myanmar’s military moved to secure the Tarpein Hydropower Project, a Chinese-built dam that came online in January. The plant, which sits on a tributary of the Irrawaddy River close to rebel-held areas, has since suspended its operations, and the clashes have spread to surrounding regions, pushing Myanmar’s strategic borderlands to the brink of civil war. Rights activists say the Myanmar army’s offensive has brought a range of rights abuses, […]

When the generals in Myanmar orchestrated their pseudo-democratic pageant last November, the exercise was labeled a “sham” by most of the world. Some in the West, however, speculated that despite the deeply flawed elections, the long-ruling junta might still redeem itself and allow real democratic progress in the wake of the polls. So far, however, the optimists are being proven spectacularly wrong. In the months since the vote, the country has marched in the direction of civil war and intensified oppression rather than toward democratic reconciliation and real reform. The election may, in fact, have made matters worse. Myanmar’s new […]

Syrian Protesters Attacked, Tank-led Assault Continues

Amateur video shows Syrian protesters coming under attack by what appears to be plainclothes security forces. And while the Syrian army continues its tank-led assault in the region, the situation along the border with Turkey remains calm after Syrian troops shot dead 11 villagers.

The Legality of Israel’s Gaza Blockade

Israel’s proposal for a special naval court to confiscate ships may be an attempt to deter future pro-Palestinian flotillas from bringing aid to Gaza. But it prompted a fresh round of debate over how far Israel can go with its naval blockade before breaching international law. According to U.S. Navy Commander James Kraska, a professor of International Law at the Naval War College in Rhode Island and a contributor to World Politics Review, the answer is pretty far. “Under the law of blockade, nations can seize vessels that fail to ‘heave to’ in order to allow for the belligerent right […]