The Higgs boson has captured the imagination of the public, worldwide. Why? The answer is fundamental to the human race, a feature that sets humans apart from other living species: our curiosity and desire to understand the world we live in. Some of this knowledge is self-serving — for example, how to cope with diseases or improve our ways of life. But human curiosity goes well beyond just satisfying those practical needs and desires. Whether it be the origin of the universe or the inner dynamics of microscopic particles, we simply want to understand how things work. Basic research, sometimes […]

1

Tension is rapidly accelerating in Antarctic affairs on a range of issues, all of them relating to sovereignty and resources. The tensions include disputes over proposals for new marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean; renewed friction between the U.K. and Argentina over their overlapping claims in Antarctica; significant numbers of countries expressing an interest in exploring Antarctic minerals, despite a ban on mineral extraction; increasing numbers of states trying to expand their Antarctic presence, signaling both heightened interests and insecurities over Antarctica’s current governance structure; and escalating conflict between anti-whaling groups and the Japanese government over whaling in the […]

Orbiting the Earth once every 90 minutes from nearly 250 miles up, the International Space Station (ISS) is as much a political achievement as a technological one. The ISS represents the largest peaceful cooperative program human beings have ever conceived and implemented, and it is the most politically complex space program since the space age began in 1957. Led by the United States, the ISS program started in 1982, with assembly in space beginning in 1998 and the last planned module scheduled for launch this year. The program’s international partners — space agencies in the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan […]

On March 11, the International Criminal Court (ICC) dropped charges against Kenya’s Francis Muthaura who, along with Kenyan President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta, was accused of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the violence following Kenya’s 2007 presidential elections. In an email interview, William Schabas, a professor of international law at Middlesex University, explained the problems the ICC has faced in prosecuting cases. WPR: What has been the conviction record at the ICC to date? William Schabas: The ICC has registered precisely one conviction to date; the case is still on appeal, although the conviction is unlikely to be reversed. […]

Egypt’s National Salvation Front, an opposition coalition, recently announced its intention to boycott parliamentary elections planned for this April, citing the Islamist-led government’s failure to consult the coalition about the election law. Emily Beaulieu, a political science professor at University of Kentucky and an expert on election boycotts, explained in an email interview the conditions under which election boycotts succeed and reviewed the present boycott’s prospects. WPR: What have been some of the most significant successful and failed election boycotts in recent history? Emily Beaulieu: Recent election boycotts that produced subsequent democratic reforms include the Philippines (1981), Equatorial Guinea (1993), […]

Diplomats are rarely dreamers or gamblers. The experience of grinding negotiations means that most ambassadors and their advisers dislike big ideas and unnecessary risks. But sometimes they have to take a gamble in pursuit of national goals. Two years ago, officials from Brazil, Germany, India and Japan — working collectively as the “Group of 4” or G4 — gambled on a drive to win permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council, despite the failure of several similar initiatives over the past decade. This time, too, they were unable to secure a U.N. General Assembly resolution endorsing their hopes. The […]

In late-February, Interpol concluded its first-ever international operation against illegal logging, a three-month operation in Central and South America that resulted in the arrest of almost 200 people and the seizure of some $8 million worth of timber. Duncan Brack, an expert on illegal logging at Chatham House, explained the scope of the problem and efforts to curb it in an email interview. WPR: What is the extent of the problem of illegal logging in terms of problem regions and financial costs? Duncan Brack: Illegal logging and the international trade in illegally logged timber are major problems for many timber-producing […]