Weekend Roundup: Connecting Minds Across Cultures


Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of Noema Magazine.

“Forty years of crisscrossing the planet has led me to suspect that the world isn’t growing smaller,” the inveterate traveler and literary journalist Pico Iyer laments. “If anything, the differences, the distances between us, are growing greater than they’ve ever been. In the Age of Information, many of us know less about other perspectives and other cultures than ever before.”

This week, the Berggruen Institute announced the launch of a philosophy and culture center that responds to this rift by connecting minds across borders through an exchange of scholars from East and West that will be hosted at prestigious universities from Cambridge and Harvard to Stanford and Tsinghua in Beijing. In order to promote foundational concepts for the future, the center will co-sponsor an ideas contest with the Aspen Institute as well as establish an annual $1 million Nobel-like prize for philosophy.

Behind this unique endeavor is the notion that what is least material most endures. Power wanes, buildings crumble and people die. But ideas, paradigms, worldviews and narratives live on. They shape the world by cultivating the soul, organizing the intellect and animating the will.

In our exponential technology series this week, neuroengineer Miguel Nicolelis tells us that “the brain is not a mechanism” but “an organism” that evolves. He worries that “if we keep relying so much on computers, we will begin to resemble our machines.” In our “Following Francis” series, Sébastien Maillard recounts from Rome how the pope went to a local shop himself to buy — and pay for — new lenses for his old glasses.

The saga of refugees trying to reach safe harbor in Europe continues. Rami, a 17-year-old refugee from Damascus, recounts his “escape to Germany” and the hurdles he faced along the way in Macedonia and Serbia. Mary D’Ambrosio humanizes the refugee influx with profiles of four individuals. Jonathan Portes says immigration can be good for economic growth in Europe if people are meaningfully integrated. From Munich, Sebastian Christ scores the new German policy this week of border controls as “voodoo politics” aimed at shoring up right-wing constituencies. Writing from Berlin, Alex Gorlach — a child of Turkish immigrants to Germany half a century ago — hopes the mistakes of integrating that Muslim population will not be repeated. Writing from Paris, Rokhaya Diallo calls on French leaders to live up to their rhetoric of universal human rights. Daniel Wordsworth, president and CEO of the American Refugee Committee, reminds us there are still 7.6 million refugees within Syria. In an interview, Oxford’s Alexander Betts spells out what we can learn from previous refugee crises in history.

World Reporter Nick Robins-Early reminds us of the brutal violence in Syria that is causing so many to flee their homeland, debunks the 5 major myths of Europe’s refugee and migrant crisis and describes a unique startup by three Columbia University graduates that connects Arabic learners with Syrian refugees.

In a series of photo essays, we look at the images Christopher Furlong has taken of what is left behind as refugees move on with their journey; World Reporter Charlotte Alfred presents unsettling images of the Hungarian border emptied of refugees and, in another report, we show satellite views of the impact of Hungary’s border crackdown. Christoph Asche of HuffPost Germany reports on the mounting crisis on the Serbia-Croatia border where refugees have now moved. Margarita Mavromichalis shows the “human face of refugees” on the streets of Athens. Willa Frej stakes out the positions of the U.S. presidential candidates on the refugee crisis. Writing from Moscow, Georgy Bovt asks whether Vladimir Putin is seeking to exchange Syria for the Donbass region of Ukraine as his new international focus.

In an interview, former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou worries that the large inflow of refugees combined with austerity policies will bolster the political fortunes of xenophobic parties like the Golden Dawn in this weekend’s election. European parliamentarian Gianni Pittella expresses the same worries. In another interview, To Potami leader Stavros Theodorakis says he hopes to be “the third pole” that can balance Greek politics. Writing from Istanbul, Behlul Ozkan sees a similar peril in Turkey as President Erdogan plays the Kurdish card to win nationalist votes in the upcoming election.

Writing from Tehran, Reyhaneh Tabatabaie describes the hopeful mood of the middle class in anticipation of the removal of economic sanctions. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former top Iranian official, calls on Republicans in the U.S. Congress to finally abandon militarism for diplomacy. Faysal Itani sees worrying signs of Iranian influence in Syria.

Sonia Maria Dias examines the vulnerable lives of women waste pickers in the developing world. Environmental scientist Johan Rockstrom describes how “Arctic tipping points” as a result of climate change will have ripple effects around the world. Bianca Jagger tells President Obama that he can’t both preserve the Arctic while allowing Shell to drill for oil there. Lydia O’Connor reports on a key summit of Chinese and U.S. mayors, governors and provincial leaders who met in Los Angeles to “tackle climate change from the bottom up.”

WorldPost China Correspondent Matt Sheehan reports on what 300,000 Chinese students studying in the U.S. are reading — the digital “College Daily” that combines hard news and lifestyle advice.

In this week’s “Forgotten Fact” we examine why the recent coup in Burkina Faso is a disaster for Africa.

Fusion this week look at the 10 cities in the U.S. where it’s especially difficult to scrape by on minimum wage. Finally, in our Singularity series, we look at the open source upside of “biohackers” and DIY amateur sciences.


EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Senior Advisor to the Berggruen Institute on Governance and the long-time editor of NPQ and the Global Viewpoint Network of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate/Tribune Media, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Senior Editor of the WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is the National Editor at the Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s editorial coverage. Eline Gordts is HuffPost’s Senior World Editor. Charlotte Alfred and Nick Robins-Early are World Reporters. Rowaida Abdelaziz is Social Media Editor.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul; Matt Sheehan in Beijing.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media) Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).


CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as the Advisory Council — as well as regular contributors — to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo, Laura Tyson, Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy, Eric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen, Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Wu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail, and Zheng Bijian.

From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing, Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.


The WorldPost is a global media bridge that seeks to connect the world and connect the dots. Gathering together top editors and first person contributors from all corners of the planet, we aspire to be the one publication where the whole world meets.

We not only deliver breaking news from the best sources with original reportage on the ground and user-generated content; we bring the best minds and most authoritative as well as fresh and new voices together to make sense of events from a global perspective looking around, not a national perspective looking out.