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GORI, GEORGIA — The keychain costs about 50 cents. It comes in a little plastic bag with a staple through the middle, and is sometimes given away free to visiting foreigners. On one side of the keychain is a thumbnail size photo, a scratchy black and white of the revolutionary when he was in his early 20s. On the flip side of this cheap souvenir is an image of the same man about 30 years later, no longer a revolutionary, but a despot who commanded one of the most heinous reigns of terror in the history of mankind. Welcome to […]

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Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is a city that brings to mind three images: hospitality, khachapuri (a delicious cheese-filled heart attack encased in dough), and George W. Bush, whose larger-than-life visage graced the surface of numerous billboards on the stretch of road that linked the airport to the city in August 2005. The billboards went up after Bush visited Georgia in May 2005, and not long after that, this main drag officially became “George W. Bush Street.” Cab drivers got a kick out of pointing to the billboards and giving Americans smiles — the type people give each other to […]

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The good news is that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rica turned up at the regional security forum in Malaysia. The bad news is that she broke with a 12-year tradition and didn’t give an amusing after-dinner performance. Her State Department predecessors were much more entertaining at the annual networking event of the Association of South East Nations (ASEAN). Madeleine Albright did an Eva Peron impersonation, and Colin Powell is remembered for singing the disco music hit YMCA. But Rice played a somber Brahms sonata on the piano in Kuala Lumpur to reflect, she said, the grim situation in the […]

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On Tuesday night July 25, Hasan Nasrallah gave a speech on al-Manar TV, the satellite station of Hizbullah. It was the fifth time he addressed the Lebanese since the war started July 12. Nasrallah looked calm, confident, and defiant when he announced that Phase Two of the war against Israel had started. During Phase One he had promised to bomb Haifa, the third-largest city in Israel, and he did. He also bombed Kiryat Shmona, Acre, Safad, Tiberias, and the Biblical city of Nazareth. The State of Israel had not witnessed similar attacks on its cities since the start of the […]

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On the occasional evening when the absence of both a breeze and electricity brought me to wonder if I was residing in a kiln, sanctuary existed under one of the bread fruit trees at Migombani, the only prostitute-free local bar in my quarter of Stone Town, Zanzibar. And when you’re a broad-shouldered American, in a region where size is roughly equivalent to wealth, you tend to get plenty of smiling faces approaching your table in the shade. Perhaps stemming from the island’s legacy of trade, perhaps because they posses nothing else to peddle, one becomes accustomed to the fact that […]

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AMSTERDAM — At one point during the press conference that followed Wednesday’s high-level meeting in Rome, Condoleezza Rice raised a hand to her face and ran it across her forehead. She knew the world’s cameras were trained on her and the image might put a dent in her carefully cultivated image as an unflinchingly cool diplomat facing a tough international crisis. Analysts had already declared that the meeting – designed to find a solution to the war in Lebanon and Israel – had ended in failure. Indeed, the negotiators did not reach consensus on how to stop the fighting. And […]

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Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez was the guest of honor as the newest member nation joined the 30th Mercosur Summit in Córdoba, Argentina July 20-22. But it was Cuba’s President Fidel Castro whose rare foreign visit stole the show with some fiery rhetoric and the signing of a new trade pact with the Mercosur. Defiance of Yankee “imperialism” was a recurring theme at the summit. This might be expected for an event held close to the childhood home of Ernesto “Ché” Guevara. Fidel and his protégé Chávez peppered their discourse with anti-American sentiment. Along with President Evo Morales of Bolivia, the […]

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Although it’s difficult to predict when Israel will decide it has done enough to ‘neuter’ Hezbollah as a military force, that moment may provide the international community with the opportunity to offer a long-term solution to the ‘border issue.’ But what will be the components of that solution, and will it be sustainable? Or are we now entering a more volatile era in the Middle East that makes a settlement highly unlikely despite the international community’s best efforts? An era in which Israel faces enemies who are better equipped, better organized and more resolute than its old nemesis, the PLO? […]

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Taking a cue from comedy duo Laurel and Hardy or, perhaps more accurately, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Pootie-Poot and Dubya’s foibles took center stage at the Group of 8 (G8) summit. Between Putin’s jabs and Bush’s FCC violation and unsolicited shoulder rub on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, much of the G8’s purpose, to allow world leaders “to harmonize attitudes to acute international problems,” was lost. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who U.S. President George “Dubya” Bush nicknamed Pootie-Poot back in 2002 when he gazed into his eyes and got a “sense of his soul,” set the tone of the G8 […]

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China’s new railroad linking the city of Golmud in Qinghai province with Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, is a $4.2 billion engineering feat. Stretching 710 miles at an average elevation of 13,000 ft, it is the highest railroad in the world. Technological excellence was not the only reason why President Hu Jintao called the line a “magnificent feat” while flagging off the inaugural run on July 1. The railroad is a powerful instrument with which Beijing hopes to complete the full integration of Tibet with the mainland. Ever since Chinese communist forces overran Tibet in 1950, the region has undergone […]

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The fighting between Israel and Hezbollah is what the U.S. military calls “asymmetrical”. In other words, the opposing forces are so different that they’ll never fight on the same terms. For a high-tech conventional land and air power like Israel, this means its airplanes, tanks and artillery work hard to find targets that will hold still — and whose destruction will make a strategic difference. For Hezbollah, a lack of conventional forces means it relies on improvised terror weapons whose effects are difficult to predict. Short-range ballistic missiles called Katyushas comprise the backbone of the Hezbollah arsenal. The terror group […]

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In the Arab world, Hasan Nasrallah is an exceptional man. In an age of dull orators and boring Arab officialdom, Nasrallah, in the eyes of many Arabs, stands as one of the few charismatic, honest, and appealing figures in the Middle East. His inflammatory speeches have done wonders for the moral of his followers since he liberated South Lebanon from Israeli occupation in May 2000. He has earned a reputation — among enemy and ally alike — as a man who keeps his word. He promised to liberate the South and he did in 2000. He promised to bring back […]

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On an exceptionally cold January day in 1978, my family was beginning its long voyage to America from the Soviet Union. Our bags were being checked by Soviet customs in Brest, Belarus – the last Soviet outpost – when my father stepped out of line to, in his own words, “wave one last time to my father, whom I may never see again.” He started walking towards the exit, but before he reached it, a Soviet agent walked up behind him and said, “Either you go back to the waiting area, or you won’t be going anywhere today or anytime […]