Italian former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, backdropped by Euro banknotes, gestures during the recording of a talk show on Italian state television, Rome, Jan. 11, 2018 (AP photo by Andrew Medichini).

Italians go to the polls this Sunday in a climate of uncertainty, amid fears, not unfounded, that their country’s political stability is at stake. Three main political forces are contending for power: On the right, a shaky alliance of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and two far-right parties, the League and the Brothers of Italy; the maverick and populist Five Star Movement; and the governing, center-left Democratic Party. They are polling roughly in that order, followed by Free and Equal, a left-wing coalition of disgruntled Democratic Party veterans who broke away in 2017. But 30 percent of the […]

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn speaks at a press conference announcing his resignation, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 15, 2018 (AP photo).

After almost three years of deadly, sporadic crises, 2018 brought signs of much-needed change to Ethiopia when the government announced in early January that it would release many jailed journalists, politicians and protesters. But instead of opening up, Africa’s second-most populous country has returned to a formal state of emergency following the surprising resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Feb. 15. With an emboldened opposition, and divisions within the ruling party, Ethiopia now faces more uncertainty. The chaotic chain of events underscores the difficulties for the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, or EPRDF, in trying to […]

Parents with their young children shop for vegetables in downtown Amman, Jordan, Dec. 2, 2017 (AP photo by Lindsey Leger).

Jordan’s prime minister, Hani al-Mulki, reshuffled his Cabinet on Sunday, making changes in several key and telling portfolios, including the ministries of economy, labor and interior. The shakeup comes amid a period of public uneasiness over the direction of the country’s economy and who should bear the burden resulting from years of economic mismanagement by largely unaccountable policymakers. In early February, the government raised the sales tax from 6 to 10 percent on more than 160 basic food items, services and commodities ranging from eggs to electricity. Brand new sales taxes were also introduced on agricultural products that were previously […]

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov welcomes Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdul-malik al-Mekhlafi for talks in Moscow, Russia, Jan. 22, 2018 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

In late January, Yemen’s foreign minister, Abdul-malik al-Mekhlafi, traveled to Moscow where he met with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. As they discussed the implementation of an elusive peace settlement in Yemen, Lavrov emphasized Russia’s willingness to mediate between rival Yemeni factions. Lavrov’s somewhat surprising announcement was followed up days later by a statement from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, offering to broker talks in the burgeoning conflict between separatists in southern Yemen and the forces of Yemen’s internationally recognized government, whose president is in exile in Saudi Arabia. Until recently, Russia has maintained a diplomatic presence in Yemen’s […]

A rooftop is covered with solar panels at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York, Feb. 14, 2017 (AP photo by Mark Lennihan).

There is a future in which wind turbines, twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty, produce electricity across the United States. Because of their height, these turbines would generate power from stronger, more constant gusts, making wind power a viable option in all 50 states, instead of primarily those in the nation’s plains where there are steady, lower winds. In this same future, inexpensive solar cells would coat windows, turning office buildings and homes into self-reliant electricity “prosumers.” Best of all, these technologies would be American innovations. The United States could breathe a sigh of relief after China briefly […]

Diosdado Cabello, center, the chief of Venezuela’s ruling party, attends a parade marking the anniversary of a 1992 failed coup, Feb. 4, 2018 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

Earlier this month, before leaving for a five-country trip in Latin America, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speculated about a potential way out of the economic and political chaos in Venezuela. Perhaps, he suggested, the best solution was a military coup d’état. “In the history of Venezuela and South American countries, it is oftentimes that the military is the agent of change when things are so bad and the leadership can no longer serve the people,” he told an audience at the University of Texas. President Donald Trump first introduced the notion of prioritizing bullets over ballots in Venezuela […]

Chad’s president, Idriss Deby, at the opening ceremony of the G20 Summit, Hangzhou, China, Sept. 4, 2016 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

On Monday, a spokesman for a civil society group in Chad called Iyina became the latest government critic to be detained by security forces. According to police, Alain Kembah Didah was caught with a bottle of gasoline in his hand, preparing to burn a tire as part of an anti-government protest. Didah has disputed this account, but that didn’t stop Chadian authorities from taking him into custody and, according to Amnesty International, beating him to the point where he could barely stand. In Chadian Arabic, the name Iyina means “We’re fed up.” Its members aren’t the only ones who’ve been […]

Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy, Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill arrive for a meeting with Ireland’s prime minister, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Dublin, Feb. 19, 2018 (Niall Carson for Press Association via AP Images).

BELFAST, Northern Ireland—As the 20th anniversary of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement approaches this April, Northern Ireland once again finds itself in a political crisis. It has been without a government for over a year now, since the governing coalition in Belfast collapsed. Following the failure of talks last week between the two main parties, the Democratic Unionist Party, or DUP, and the nationalist Sinn Fein, the anniversary of the agreement that ended three decades of violence between Unionists and nationalists will be less of a cause for celebration. Of course, peace has held, more or less, since that […]

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, center with black cap, goes for a walk with members of the public, Cape Town, South Africa, Feb. 20, 2018 (AP photo).

When Jacob Zuma formally resigned as South Africa’s president last week, some commentators used his overdue but less than gracious exit as an opportunity to reach for the famous words of U.S. President Gerald Ford, who in 1974 declared, in the wake of Richard Nixon’s resignation, that “our long national nightmare is over.” Those words capture both the widespread sense of disgust in South Africa at the malignant nature of the Zuma presidency, and the hope for a new beginning and a fresh start under Cyril Ramaphosa. The new president has chosen his words carefully so far, anxious not to […]

A Yemeni soldier allied to the country's internationally recognized government unslings his machine gun on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 2, 2018 (AP photo by Jon Gambrell).

Secessionists in southern Yemen have agitated for independence for almost as long as there has been a unified Yemeni state. But since unification in 1990, a common complaint among foreign diplomats and Yemeni government officials was that the secessionists were too diffuse and too poorly organized to credibly demand independence or even political relevance. They were seen as a noisy rabble with no real platform or strategy. Yemen’s civil war has changed that, as a group of secessionists is now moving to build a state within Yemen’s state of chaos. In late January, clashes in the southern port city of […]

Russia's energy minister Alexander Novak and Saudi Arabia's energy minister Khalid Al-Falih attend a news conference after an OPEC meeting, Vienna, Austria, Nov. 30, 2017 (AP photo by Ronald Zak).

Saudi Arabia and Russia are gushing over their budding relationship. In a series of recent interviews, the Saudi energy minister, Khalid al-Falih, and his Russian counterpart, Alexander Novak, expressed soaring optimism over the future of their countries’ ties, and not just in managing oil markets. “Think of it as a relationship that is in decades and even in generations,” al-Falih told his CNBC interviewers in Davos, Switzerland on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum last month. Forged after the 2014 collapse in world energy prices, the unlikely partnership between the two Cold War-era adversaries is based first and foremost […]

Britain's then-Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese President Xi Jinping at The Plough pub, Casden, England, Oct. 22, 2015 (AP Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

When he was British prime minister, David Cameron promised that his country would become China’s “best partner” in the West. His recent decision to accept a leadership role in a new joint Sino-British investment fund—part of China’s ambitious Belt and Road development initiative, no less—shows that, even after his retirement from frontline politics, Cameron is still dedicated to making good on that commitment. Last month, as part of his new job, he had a personal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, where he expressed hope for a new “golden era” of U.K.-China relations, echoing what he said when […]

Gambian President Adama Barrow arrives to cast his vote during parliamentary election, Banjul, Gambia, April 6, 2017 (AP photo).

In January 2017, under pressure from other West African leaders and much of his own population, Gambia’s longtime dictator, Yahya Jammeh, flew into exile in Equatorial Guinea. His successor, Adama Barrow—the winner of an election whose results Jammeh at first respected, and then disavowed—promised to pursue accountability for crimes committed during Jammeh’s more than 22-year tenure. So far, Barrow’s administration has had little luck concerning Jammeh himself, whose hosts in Equatorial Guinea are refusing to extradite him. Nevertheless, authorities recently arrested several of Jammeh’s top former associates, holding out the possibility of some justice. But at the same time, some […]

A protester wearing a mask of President Petro Poroshenko and a sign with the word "Impeachment" attends a rally outside the Ukrainian parliament, Kiev, Oct. 17, 2017 (AP photo by Efrem Lukatsky).

Today in Ukraine, both inside the government and out, it isn’t uncommon to hear that President Petro Poroshenko is no less corrupt than Viktor Yanukovych, the Kremlin-connected leader who was ousted in the 2014 Maidan revolution. The main difference between Poroshenko and Yanukovych, according to many Ukrainians, is that the Poroshenko administration is simply far more duplicitous at presenting a polished image to Western donors. That was the view from more than 100 interviews with Ukrainian public officials, activists, lawyers and businesspeople that I conducted as a visiting Fulbright scholar at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy throughout 2016 and […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel flanked by the SPD’s Martin Schulz, right, and the CSU’s Horst Seehofer, after Merkel’s bloc and the SPD reached a deal to form a new coalition government, Berlin, Feb. 7, 2018 (AP photo by Ferdinand Ostrop).

BERLIN—Germany is getting another grand coalition. At least, that’s what the country’s political leaders hope is about to happen. After a bruising round of negotiations that went days over deadline, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, or CDU, struck a deal last week with the center-left Social Democrats, the SPD, to extend the coalition that has governed Germany for the past four years. SPD members could still scuttle the deal, though. The 443,000 members have final say over whether the party will enter the agreement, with the results of their vote by mail set to be released in early March. The […]

Presidential candidate Fabricio Alvarado gives a thumbs-up as he’s surrounded by the press at a polling station, San Jose, Costa Rica, Feb. 4, 2018 (AP photo by Arnulfo Franco).

Costa Ricans headed to the polls last Sunday amid an unusually heated campaign that few had foreseen and even fewer dared to predict. Following the Feb. 4 vote, Fabricio Alvarado of the conservative National Restoration Party and Carlos Alvarado of the leftist Citizens’ Action Party, or PAC, which has been in power since 2014, are headed to a second round on April 1. No presidential candidate came close to securing the 40 percent share of the vote required to avoid a runoff, underscoring the increasingly fragmented political environment in what has been Central America’s most stable democracy. The two Alvarados […]

Cameroonian President Paul Biya speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron during an EU Africa summit in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, Nov. 29, 2017 (AP photo by Diomande Ble Blonde).

Michel Thierry Atangana Abega spent 17 years in detention in Cameroon, locked in a tiny underground cell. He was alone for nearly all that time, denied access to lawyers and doctors and dependent on charity to supplement meager, state-issued rations. His primary connection to the outside world came from a radio that carried local stations and, sometimes, Radio France Internationale and the BBC. Born in Cameroon in 1964, Atangana studied in France and became a naturalized French citizen in 1988. He embarked on a career as a financial engineer and, in 1994, traveled back to Cameroon to develop road projects. […]

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