Weekend Roundup: Why the World Is Not Falling Apart as Much as You May Think


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

By most accounts, the world is splintering. Geopolitical blocs are forming once again, the nuclear arms race is reigniting and religious war rages. Globalization is in retreat as publics across the planet suspect trade agreements, politicians talk about building walls and refugees are turned away. Yet, as Parag Khanna, author of the new book, “Connectography,” writes this week from Singapore, “the same world that appears to be falling apart is actually coming together.”

“It turns out,” says Khanna, “that what most defines the emerging world is not fragmentation of countries but integration within regions.” He illustrates with maps how “major world regions are forging dense infrastructural connectivity and reorienting their relations around supply chains rather than borders” and speculates that, “a peaceful world may emerge as a collection of such stable regions and continents.”

When it comes to U.S.-China relations, Jennifer Harris argues that the strategic “flaw” in America’s competition with rising China is its military orientation instead of a “geo-economic” approach that recognizes the kind of links Khanna highlights. Writing from Berlin, Alex Gorlach points out that along with tighter links come open conflicts. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has cracked down on free speech in his own country, is now trying to squash satire in Germany by seeking the prosecution of a comedian who wrote a “vituperative poem” about him. Gorlach cites one Turkish-German satirist asking, “Has Germany, because of its refugee deal with Turkey, become vulnerable to blackmail? Is it now dependent on Erdogan’s mood?” German music producer Peter Maffay worries that the German “sponge” has absorbed asylum seekers up to its capacity. “Germany is economically strong,” he writes, “but come the next economic downtown we may be encountering significant social upheaval. Who would then pay the additional cost for schools, housing and child care that asylum seekers will need?” Greek photographers working for the New York Times and Reuters were awarded a Pulitzer Prize this week for their haunting photos of the refugee crisis. Here are some of their images.

Divisiveness also stalks the Southern Hemisphere as the impeachment battle against Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff gains strength. Sociologist Leonardo Fontes, who himself finds Dilma’s second term “awful,” nonetheless sees what is happening as a “coup [that] attempts to remove a president legitimately elected by an absolute majority of the population.” Similarly, Joao Estrella de Bettencourt tells impeachment enthusiasts that “it will result in brutal battles in Brazilian society.” In this week’s “Forgotten Fact,” Grasielle Castro, Macella Fernandes and Nicholas Miriello expose the hypocrisy of the impeachment movement: many of President Rousseff’s loudest critics are also embroiled in their own corruption scandals.

As the United Nations convened a special session this week on the global drug problem, several top statesmen wrote in The WorldPost calling for an end to the drug war. Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the U.N., argues that the facts are in after such a long and protracted battle, and it doesn’t work. “The widespread criminalization and punishment of people who use drugs, the over­crowded prisons, mean that the war on drugs is, to a significant degree, a war on drug users —­­ a war on people,” he writes. Writing from Lisbon, former Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio believes it is time to abandon the war on drugs and shift to health-focused drug policy — and he sees “history in the making” as such a shift may be underway. In a painful personal appeal, the former foreign minister of Norway, Thorvald Stoltenberg, describes his own daughter Nini’s struggle with heroin addiction and calls for “opioid assistance therapy” to reduce the number of overdose deaths.

The other major event at the U.N. this week was the formal signing of the climate change pact concluded in Paris last December. Analysts from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Jan Christoph Minx and Christoph von Stechow, already see political inertia threatening the changes required to keep the world warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, joins EU energy commissioner and top climate negotiator Miguel Arias Canete in calling for the earliest possible ratification of the Paris agreement by national parliaments.

Turning to another significant meeting this week, the United States-Gulf Cooperation Council summit, Al Arabiya editor-in-chief Faisal Abbas writes that President Obama visited a Saudi Arabia that is much changed since he was last there. “Observers tend to forget that it’s within the past 18 months that women were allowed to vote and participate in municipality elections for the first time ever,” Abbas says. “The Kingdom’s Shoura Council has revisited the controversial ban on women driving. In addition, Saudi markets are now open to foreign investment and, as revealed by HRH the Deputy Crown Prince in his recent Economist interview, the investment opportunity will eventually also include the ‘crown jewel:’ Saudi Aramco.” World Reporter Nick Robins-Early reports a different story, writing that Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses have only gotten worse after Obama’s last visit. In Yemen, whose civil war the kingdom intervened in last year, one artist is trying to commemorate the civilian casualties and the humanitarian impact of the conflict by painting on destroyed buildings.

On behalf of the Global Citizenship Commission, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Indian Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi appeal to the international community for a concerted effort to end the abomination of child slavery and trafficking, including cases like the missing schoolgirls in Nigeria. World Reporter Charlotte Alfred discusses a new report by the aid agency Mercy Corps on why people join Boko Haram. Based on interviews with 47 former Boko Haram members, the study cites a number of reasons from peer pressure to financial reward to fear. In an interview, Dr. Rod McCormick explains what’s behind the recent surge in suicide attempts among Canada’s indigenous population.

Binghamton University scientist Sarah Laszlo talks in another interview about an experiment which suggests that biometric “brainprints” could replace fingerprints in the future. Her new study shows that people can be identified “with 100 percent accuracy” using only brain waves. In honor of Earth Day, HuffPost India publishes stunning pictures of the subcontinent. NASA also celebrates with these mind-blowing photos of the planet. In this amazing image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, we can see the “blue bubble“ of a nebula 8,000 light-years away. Finally, our Singularity series this week reports how one DNA droplet could store 600 smartphones worth of retrievable data.


EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Co-Founder and Executive Advisor to the Berggruen Institute, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Executive Editor of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing 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

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.


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