Latest activities of group #13 Russia is Still a Global Challenge 2012-09-04T15:08:04Z<p style="text-align: justify;">We are all agreed: living in Russia these days is not exactly a fairy tale. The country has large quantities of natural resources at its command, providing ample means for unprecedented economic development, but the vast majority of the population &ndash; demographically in decline &ndash; do not benefit, and poverty remains endemic. Even more worrying: where does this persistent malaise, this feeling that Russia has lost its momentum in social and cultural progress, come from? Why, after visiting this magnificent country, do we want to clasp our passport murmuring &ldquo;how lucky not to be a citizen of Putin&rsquo;s Russia?&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Once again the sickening odor of autocracy rises to our nostrils, the impunity of power and of its judicial and police henchmen throughout the land. And that doesn&rsquo;t seem to bother many people out of Russia. It seems to be easier and more fashionable to attack the Americans. It&rsquo;s true that as a nation they like to see themselves as more moral and blameless than others, so it&rsquo;s particularly difficult to tolerate their brutality and egocentricity &ndash; it will soon be clear that Obama&rsquo;s choice of personnel are far from choirboys. Any abuse of American power is sanctioned with the greatest firmness &ndash; which would be fine, if at the same time we pursued those who fall far short of the democratic standards of America with the same zeal. Starting with our cousins in Russia.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">What should we think about Putin&rsquo;s visit to the Olympic Games where he offered $1 million to any Russian judo or wrestling competitor who won gold? What do the Games mean for this lifelong Russian despot? Pierre de Coubertin would have turned in his grave &ndash; both at Putin&rsquo;s bribe, and at the silence with which it was met by the IOC and other high-standing political visitors to London. However, the message is sadly clear: Russian power exercises its will through a common or garden variety despotism. It&rsquo;s a reality that doesn&rsquo;t seem to bother anybody much because for more than 20 years, Russian oil and gas have bought their clients&rsquo; silence, and that of its citizens. Fear and arbitrariness reign supreme in Russia, where corruption is both moral and financial.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Navalny was the most active and visible blogger during the latest Russian presidential campaign, calling out for another Russia. He has now been arraigned for the most preposterous charges ever in such an unfounded criminal case. Khodorkovsky has been bricked up alive in a State lie. The provocative young artists of Pussy Riot were thrown into prison and cast in the role of heretics and anti-Putin witches. The good offices of Russia in Syria produced no comment. As for the article published in this issue on that most admirable and courageous organization &ldquo;Russia Behind Bars&rdquo;, it is a perfect measure of the reality of current power in Russia. Whichever angle you take, Putin&rsquo;s power has reached its full maturity; there is not the smallest atom of democracy left in the Kremlin at the moment, however much one might have imagined there once was.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">To believe that the Russian people should live under the yoke of a brutal and repressive power is to insult this great culture, indeed, to display a deep contempt for them. To believe that we can live as neighbors next door to a violent and despotic power such as Putin&rsquo;s is an act of cowardice that will one day cost us an exorbitant price. Russian power is an obstacle to the democratization of the world. Transforming the governance of the world, not only that of the Security Council, will happen with Russian democracy. Not with a judo gold medal ceremony. Democratization is a necessary passage to prepare the world to face the huge challenges of tomorrow. Without a democratic Russia, the world will not change; Russia&rsquo;s current message of impunity and lawlessness will remain, ready to attract less enlightened leaders.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">If, meanwhile, the Americans could close Guantanamo &ndash; and give it back to Cuba, why not &ndash; such a message would certainly carry unusual weight. It would make more sense of the boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics, and Obama might not have to ask himself if he hadn&rsquo;t lost his re-election because of a tiny annexed territory in Cuba. It&rsquo;s not all about the economy&hellip;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;">September 2012, Jean-Christophe Nothias, Editor-in-Chief.</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;"><span style="color: #ff0000;"><a rel="nofollow" href="">Su</a></span><span style="color: #ff0000;"><a rel="nofollow" href="">bscribe or order a copy of The Global Journal.</a><a rel="nofollow" href="" target="_blank"></a></span><br /></span></p>Speaking Truth to European Powers2012-09-04T14:20:07Z<p><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="George Papandreou" src="/s3/cache%2F1a%2F29%2F1a292b6d1dbdd0fe913caf610a35e256.jpg" alt="George Papandreou" width="580" height="380" /></p> <blockquote> <p>An interview with George Papandreou, &nbsp;former Prime Minister of Greece, about debt,&nbsp;the challenge of structural reform, and governance in a time of crisis.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong><span style="color: #800000;">At what point did you realize that your European counterparts, beyond giving Greece money to pay back its debt to them, would take no further measures?</span></strong></p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The Deauville summit between Merkel and Sarkozy was a clear turning point. Their decision concerning the future European Stability Mechanism (ESM) spooked the markets and creditors. It created a selffulfilling prophecy, as the new ESM would basically punish creditors in the future if they invested in highrisk countries; it pushed them to stop investment or hike the risk premium for these countries in the present. This created fear and it hit Greece first. While we were expecting to access the market in 2012, by May 2011 we all realized the markets were too afraid to invest in countries like Greece. And this had little to do with Greece&rsquo;s performance. The markets simply did not trust the new system set up for the euro.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In fact, what happened after Deauville is that we created a rift in the Eurozone between low and higher risk countries. This divide has been growing ever since and is threatening to tear Europe apart. Up until then, Greece &ndash; at least until March 2011 &ndash; was the &lsquo;poster boy&rsquo;: the positive example of our efforts. In fact, Greece had been hailed in Brussels as a model to follow in terms of putting our house in order and making deep structural reforms. Up until then, there had been diligent preparation on behalf of all parties: the Greek government, the Greek people and the Troika. In Greece, the tide was turning in favor of complex issues such as tax collection and the reform agenda for our civil service. But Deauville created fear. Confidence in the market was consistently being eroded, pushed by a populist press full of doomsayers and fear mongers. This wasn&rsquo;t just happening in Greece, it was happening all over Europe and around the world: Greece was the news every night on every major channel. The morale of the markets as well as the morale of the Greek people was undermined. There was a sense of inevitable failure: our difficult Odyssey suddenly seemed to become a Sisyphean task. But if we look at the facts, Greece had made major changes and improvements in a very short time &ndash; to say nothing of the unprecedented reduction of the deficit by 5 percent in one fiscal year.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">It was, however, quite convenient for some EU members and the Troika to attribute this impasse in the markets solely to a lack of effort on Greece&rsquo;s part: Greece soon became the easy scapegoat. This further de-legitimized the program among the European public and in the eyes of the Greek public. Not only were Greeks already feeling the pain - now they were also being told that they were failing. The markets, analysts and politicians then began to predict a default or an exit from the euro. Uncertainty is corrosive &ndash; more so than austerity. Uncertainty further undermined our efforts. This had profound effects on the economy. Lending, borrowing, consuming and investing simply slowed down almost to a halt. At the same time, people started to worry about their savings in euros and began pulling them out of the banks. This situation continues to the present day. Therefore, a program and a mechanism set up to protect Greece while it was reforming ended up not protecting Greece at all.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">While we began the program in a climate of optimism &ndash; even dynamism &ndash; in a Greek society longing for change, we were overtaken by events beyond our control. A proud people making important sacrifices, we were now portrayed as lazy, incompetent and profligate: stereotypes and prejudice reigned rather than cool-headed analysis. This became offensive to the Greek people. It not only harmed the economy, it deepened the recession, and also undercut the acceptance of major reforms such as fighting against tax evasion. All the efforts we had put in place in the preceding 14 months were eroded. At this point, there was little understanding from a number of governments in the Union of the complexity and difficulties of the situation. Instead of solidarity &ndash; a word to be avoided &ndash; there was a greater push for more discipline. This was compounded by a new style of decision- making by France and Germany that avoided in-depth deliberation or technocratic examination, while sidelining the Commission. Once again, in unchartered waters, it was politically easy to put the onus on Greece. As I was battling for consensus between domestic and international political forces on reform intensity and the impact of austerity, I clearly understood and stated from the very beginning that Greece had a problem but was not the problem.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">What is clear, more than two years after the crisis began, is that Greece is a victim of failings in the design and implementation of the common currency. Over the past two years, the Eurozone has made significant progress in fixing some of the structural flaws. Sadly, it has always been too little, too late. We have reached a make-or-break moment for the Eurozone. We must stop applying patchwork fixes and take immediate steps towards a deeper, more integrated union. We must stop avoiding the real issue, which is not simply to monitor our individual behavior, but to pool our resources as a community and to deal with the crisis at hand.</p> <p>To read the full interview,&nbsp;<a rel="nofollow" href="" target="_blank">subscribe or order a copy of The Global Journal.</a></p> <p><span style="color: #808080;">by Jean-Christophe Nothias&nbsp;</span></p>Romney and Obama's Foreign Policy: What's in a Name?2012-09-04T14:19:05Z<p style="text-align: justify;"><img style="vertical-align: top; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="/s3/photos%2F2012%2F08%2F726409d2350ecaaf.png" alt="Romney" width="485" height="341" />Diplomatic gaffes on culture as a determinant of economic performance aside, Mitt Romney&rsquo;s recent trip to Israel was perhaps one of the most revelatory moments in this year&rsquo;s race to the White House.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Sure, the Jewish vote is important &ndash; it holds the power to determine swing states like Florida &ndash; as was, no doubt, the courtship of donors like Sheldon Adelson. But Jewish voters only make up 2-4 percent of the American electorate, and have consistently leant left since FDR&rsquo;s time; even in the wake of Eisenhower&rsquo;s defeat of Hitler, Republicans only managed 40 percent of the Jewish vote in 1956, and Obama garnered 78 percent of the vote in 2008. What Romney&rsquo;s visit to the Holy Land really showcased was the rhetorical arm-wrestling and political maneuvering that has come increasingly to dominate this presidential race, as a result of an absence of substantive divergence between the two candidates on foreign policy.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">After all, the facts speak for themselves. Romney&rsquo;s suggestion that there is a need to &ldquo;repair relations,&rdquo; with Israel &ndash; likely in reference to Obama&rsquo;s frosty relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu &ndash; adds little to what is already an enduringly enormous commitment to the country and its security. The current administration allocated more than $200 million in 2010 for the Iron Dome defense system &ndash; a &ldquo;game-changer,&rdquo; in the words of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta &ndash; and the House of Representatives has passed an authorization bill sanctioning an extra $680 million for 2013. There&rsquo;s also the $3 billion in aid expected to flow to Israel this year, and an additional $70 million from pre-programmed 2012 funds.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Despite Romney&rsquo;s openly uncompromising stance on Iran, he has pledged full support for tighter sanctions and diplomatic isolation, like Obama, and both have put militaristic options on the table. National Security Advisory Committee Co-Chair, Mich&egrave;le Flournoy, has termed it &ldquo;incredibly robust,&rdquo; while first pledging to tighten a noose through non-military options aimed at changing Iran&rsquo;s &ldquo;calculus.&rdquo; It was only in early August that the Administration passed a new sanctions bill &ndash; following those signed into law last year targeting Iran&rsquo;s central Romney and Obama&rsquo;s Foreign Policy: What&rsquo;s in a Name? bank &ndash; adding penalties to those that aid Iran&rsquo;s petroleum, petrochemical, shipping, insurance and fi nancial sectors, with specific reference to the National Iranian Oil Company. Following criticism of an early withdrawal date, Romney has also now accepted Obama&rsquo;s 2014 deadline for removing American forces from Afghanistan, a decision confi rmed in early May by NATO. On Syria, the two candidates also ultimately find themselves on the same page, isolating and pressuring the regime while supporting &ndash; but not arming &ndash; the rebels. Obama in fact allegedly signed an order earlier this year authorizing the CIA and other agencies to support Syrian rebels in toppling Assad, apparently collaborating with a secret command center run by Turkey and its allies. The State Department has also acknowledged setting aside $25 million in in &ldquo;non-lethal&rdquo; assistance for the Syrian opposition.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Enter then, the power of rhetoric. Romney&rsquo;s assertive &ldquo;I love this country, I love America, I love the friendship we have,&rdquo; in Israel was a statement on who was the better, more outspoken friend; his &ldquo;American century,&rdquo; a sharp juxtaposition to Obama&rsquo;s &ldquo;new era of engagement&rdquo;; his definition of Russia as the US&rsquo; &ldquo;number one geopolitical foe,&rdquo; a s&eacute;ance for the ghosts of the Cold War, pitting himself and his adversary in a battle of strength on who is more capable of defending America against apparent enemies.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The fact is, this race&rsquo;s foreign policy debate is not dominated by a defining issue, like Afghanistan or Iraq, allowing tone to take on singular importance. Bruce Jentleson, an analyst with ties to President Obama, told NPR that Romney&rsquo;s strategy was now to portray himself as &ldquo;very tough,&rdquo; and a man who, as he announced before the Veterans of Foreign Wars in late July, should not be the choice of American voters if they didn&rsquo;t &ldquo;want America to be the strongest nation on earth.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The debate has also served as a platform for political maneuvering. In particular, it has served to expand Romney&rsquo;s voter base and reconcile different political streams: that of his identity as a religious minority with Christian conservatism &ndash; whose adherents he desperately requires &ndash; and, secondly, that of the neoconservative inheritance of his predecessor with the hunger for moderate realism. Romney&rsquo;s subsequent defense of his remarks in Israel via an op-ed in the National Review, where he attributed American freedom to being &ldquo;endowed by our Creator with the freedom to pursue happiness,&rdquo; seemed aimed at winning the support of the religious right. Israel, too, is identified with a culture premised on individual freedom, while Palestine &ldquo;deserves&rdquo; but lacks it, evoking the language of the post-9/11 Bush era. &ldquo;The last time we met in this chamber, the mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes, forbidden from working or going to school. Today women are free...&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">To read the full report,&nbsp;<a rel="nofollow" href="" target="_blank">subscribe or order a copy of The Global Journal.</a></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;">by Chiara Trincia</span></p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><span style="color: #888888;">(Photo &copy; Reuters)</span></p>Russia Behind Bars2012-09-04T14:16:07Z<p><img style="vertical-align: top; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="Russia Behind Bars" src="/s3/cache%2Fbc%2F59%2Fbc59a8e147f3941b5a7278c90eb27d13.jpg" alt="Russia Behind Bars" width="580" height="397" /></p> <blockquote> <p style="text-align: justify;">Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Sergei Magnitsky, and now, Pussy Riot. While these highly publicized cases are mostly known for their political nature, they also hint at deeper problems within the Russian justice system. Unwarranted arrests, unjust trials and unfair verdicts. Members of the social movement &lsquo;Russia Behind Bars&rsquo; have personally encountered these injustices. Now, the mostly female group dedicates its time and energy to helping others who have the misfortune to be going up against what Russians cynically call &lsquo;the system&rsquo;.</p> </blockquote> <p style="text-align: justify;">Lora Kudelko is a woman with presence. Blond, elegant and beautiful. Of Polish and Lithuanian descent, she has lived in Moscow with her husband since the mid-1990s. As a law-abiding citizen, she will not even cross the street on a red light, no matter how far away the traffic. She speaks to the point, gives instructions with an air of urgency and walks around with an overflowing notebook. Kudelko is an activist, a true rights defender. As one of the original members of the social movement &lsquo;Russia Behind Bars&rsquo; (RBB), Lora spends her time attending court hearings, donating food to prisoners and raising awareness of corruption in the Russian justice system. Yet, until only recently Kudelko lived a carefree life as the wife of a successful businessman. All that changed five years ago when her family&rsquo;s &ldquo;journey into the whirlwind&rdquo; began.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><img style="float: left; margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="Russia Behind Bars" src="/s3/cache%2F4b%2Ffe%2F4bfe1ce92bb5fef4b51102116a9fece7.jpg" alt="Russia Behind Bars" width="280" height="401" />Kudelko&rsquo;s husband, Nikolai, was one of the largest coffee distributors in Russia. In April 2007, while away on a business trip, police arrived at his warehouse and confiscated almost $2 million in goods, with no investigation launched for six months. The company&rsquo;s entire import stock was seized, despite the fact that police claimed only one of the coffee brands was counterfeit. Upon returning to Moscow, Nikolai began knocking on every administrative door in an attempt to retrieve his merchandise. The police demanded $500,000 for its return. In a desperate bid to keep his business afloat, Nikolai paid the sum. His goods, however, were not returned. Indeed, friends were soon calling from outside of Moscow to warn that specific brands of coffee, which only Nikolai distributed in Russia, were showing up in the provinces. &ldquo;[The police] thought that since he is a foreigner, he would just leave and not fight,&rdquo; explained Kudelko. &ldquo;When he gathered compromising material, which was very strong because there were some well known figures involved, they put him in prison for three years.&rdquo; Kudelko was left alone to fight for the release of her husband. &ldquo;The scariest are the first days of arrest, the first week of arrest. When you come back to your apartment after a search, you understand that your life has drastically changed,&rdquo; recalled Kudelko with an air of sadness. She did not know whom she could trust or turn to for advice, changing lawyers eight times in three years. Each had been paid off, just like the police. In search of help, Kudelko turned to the Lithuanian authorities &ndash; the country of Nikolai&rsquo;s and her own citizenship &ndash; but was informed by consular staff that they could not intervene in the trial until a verdict was issued. While Kudelko had plenty of prominent connections, an arrest is the type of affliction that most acquaintances prefer to avoid. Among Russians, misfortune is considered contagious, reflected in a common saying: &ldquo;don&rsquo;t bring misfortune into my home.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">As a result, Kudelko began a life of trials and jails. &ldquo;When one person sits [in prison], the whole family sits,&rdquo; she explained, recalling how her daughter was forced to suspend her studies in order to take care of her younger brother. Fortunately for Kudelko and her family, Nikolai was released after three years. The couple has continued to fight for justice, however, demanding the return of their goods as well as punishment for the corrupt officials involved. To date, their efforts have been fruitless. On 20 July, the Moscow City Court decided within a mere 15 minutes that Nikolai was not entitled to the return of his goods. Kudelko suspected that the confiscated items had been sold off and the money had &ldquo;disappeared.&rdquo;</p> <p>To read the entire report,&nbsp;<a rel="nofollow" href="" target="_blank">subscribe or order a copy of The Global Journal.</a></p> <p><span style="color: #888888;">Report by Kira Youdina.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #888888;">Photography by Ziyoda Kurbanova for The Global Journal.</span></p>Swimming Against the Tide: Elusive Democracy in Zimbabwe2012-09-04T14:15:32Z<p><img style="vertical-align: top; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="Swimming Against the Tide" src="/s3/cache%2F57%2F69%2F5769a77352f3c3721e3e8034a8c670de.jpg" alt="Swimming Against the Tide" width="580" height="430" /></p> <blockquote> <p style="text-align: justify;">In the tangled wake of North Africa&rsquo;s &lsquo;Arab Spring&rsquo;, there have been early signs of a much quieter, but no less consequential, democratic movement spreading through the south of the continent. As its neighbors cut a path of peaceful political transition, however, Zimbabwe remains mired in the tenacious grip of its liberation hero Robert Mugabe.</p> </blockquote> <p style="text-align: justify;">As the world celebrated the fall of autocratic regimes in North Africa, many wondered if the calls for greater democratic freedom would inspire similar movements to dislodge entrenched autocratic rulers to the south of the continent. Now, nearly two years after the &lsquo;Arab Spring&rsquo;, the drawn out resolution of the uprisings has demonstrated once again that rapid democratization often becomes a protracted and messy affair.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">During this period of upheaval and &lsquo;democratic revolution&rsquo;, much attention was given in particular to Zimbabwe&rsquo;s Robert Mugabe, who has managed to retain power for close to 32 years. At 88, Mugabe is one of the world&rsquo;s oldest and longestserving leaders, showing no signs of preparation for retirement. Most recently, Mugabe was able to retain power in 2008 after reluctantly entering into a power-sharing coalition with his long time rival Morgan Tsvangirai, of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), following widely discredited and notoriously violent elections. Retaining the executive presidency and control over key institutions of state power, Mugabe is preparing to run for a sixth term as president in elections due next year.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Elsewhere however, southern Africa has experienced three constitutional - and peaceful- transitions of power: Zambia and Lesotho have both elected new governments and saw long-term incumbents step aside, and Malawi's Vice President, Joyce Banda, was sworn in from the opposition benches following the sudden - but natural - death of her increasingly despotic predecessor, closely averting a palace coup. While these cases may not appear to be anything more than good leadership and dumb luck, they could potentially be seen as an indication that southern Africa is experiencing its own democratic transition, albeit a slower and less romantic one than its northern counterpart. Nonetheless, these more subtle developments may yet produce a more stable and sustainable democratic shift than the &lsquo;Arab Spring&rsquo;. And importantly for Zimbabwe, they may hold the key to the long-awaited political transformation the country has been anticipating.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The fact that every state in the region holds elections, and that every incumbent leader claims legitimacy from an electoral process &ndash; no matter how dysfunctional or undemocratic &ndash; is significant in that it reflects the need to be seen to represent the will of the people. According to Tony Reeler, Director of the Zimbabwe-based Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), &ldquo;we are seeing a shift in Africa where people are demanding democracy, because they can see it works. Not all the fate of a state lies in the hands of a dictator, it is in the views of the people.&rdquo; While the process of simply holding an election is not necessarily an indicator of representative forms of governance, it does indicate at some level the value placed on the legitimacy that can only be derived from the electoral process itself.</p> <p>To read the entire report,&nbsp;<a rel="nofollow" href="" target="_blank">subscribe or order a copy of The Global Journal.</a></p> <p><span style="color: #888888;">Report by Louis Chivell.</span></p> <p><span><br /></span></p>A Place Only Soldiers and Children Can See2012-09-04T14:08:59Z<p><img style="vertical-align: top; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="A Place Only Soldiers and Children Can See" src="/s3/cache%2F5d%2Fe9%2F5de93bd68a834fc97fa7910ea3a09ff9.jpg" alt="A Place Only Soldiers and Children Can See" width="580" height="387" /></p> <blockquote> <p style="text-align: justify;">The battle in Afghanistan continues after ten long years. Beyond the frontlines and the fighting, a generation has grown up amidst the &lsquo;reality&rsquo; and &lsquo;insanity&rsquo; of conflict. For one returned US Army Reserve Captain, the moments shared with these forgotten women and children will forever shape her understanding of war.</p> </blockquote> <p style="text-align: justify;">After ten years people tend to forget. They tend to forget what war does. What it does to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. What it does to the women and children who are &lsquo;lucky&rsquo; enough to live through it, and grow up knowing nothing but war. War plays with the mind. It blends the worlds of reality and insanity and creates a new place that only soldiers and children see. That was made clear on a trip I took to Daykundi Province in 2011 to visit one of the &lsquo;Cultural Support Teams&rsquo;. These all-female teams were established by the US Army and Marines to reach out to the half of the population that people tend to forget about &ndash; women and children.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">It was visiting one of those small villages that helped me understand what war does. The Taliban once controlled this particular village. That fact was difficult to imagine because I was able to walk, hand-in-hand, with small children to a nearby local home to visit some of the women. The Afghan men in this particular village had grown tired of the Taliban and decided to join the Afghan local police to protect their homes by the time I arrived in May of 2011.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The hospitality in Afghanistan is like nothing I&rsquo;d ever seen or experienced before. The women welcomed us in with hugs and kisses to sit and talk. They cooked for us, and as we ate our Afghan rice and laughed together, it seemed for a brief moment entirely possible that this small reality we created in this clay home could actually last. We talked about their families and daughters; we brought them some fresh pineapple that had come in on the last military shipment. The sour look on their faces right before they spat out the pineapple and laughed was priceless. The meeting only lasted about two hours, but after we left their home and walked back to the small forward operating base, I sat under the brilliant stars of the Afghan sky with a feeling I could only describe as euphoric. I was na&iuml;ve enough to believe in possibility and hope. I was na&iuml;ve enough to think a moment like that could last.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">It was what happened the next day, and every day after that helped me to understand what happens in a war. I was asked to grab my camera to document a small child, and when I finally saw him, I understood why. I watched as the young Special Forces medic tenderly treated the three-year old boy with burns to over 80 percent of his body. I saw the care and sadness in his eyes as he cleaned his wounds and administered morphine. It was then that the reality of the world I was in kicked me in the teeth. It was then I received my education on war.</p> <p>To read the entire report,&nbsp;<a rel="nofollow" href="" target="_blank">subscribe or order a copy of The Global Journal.</a></p> <p><span style="color: #888888;">Text and Photography by Rebecca Murga.</span></p>Stories Beneath Absence2012-09-04T14:07:04Z<p><img style="vertical-align: top; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="Dust" src="/s3/cache%2Fd1%2F14%2Fd1147443d36137248e6abb0638ee947b.jpg" alt="Dust" width="580" height="383" /></p> <blockquote> <p style="text-align: justify;">DUST: Egypt's Forgotten Architecture, Xenia Nikolskaya, Dewi Lewis Publishing, &pound;30.</p> </blockquote> <p style="text-align: justify;">Egypt is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and has a colonial history that stretches back centuries. From 1882 until 1952 it was under British rule although nominal independence was granted in 1922, with the exception of four &lsquo;reserved&rsquo; areas: foreign relations, communications, the military and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Between 1860 and 1940, Cairo and other large Egyptian cities witnessed a major construction boom that gave birth to extraordinary palaces and lavish buildings. These incorporated various architectural styles, such as Beaux-arts or Moorish Revival, with local design heritage influences and materials. Today many lie empty and neglected, with no legislation protecting historic buildings less than 100 years old from demolition.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In 2006, Russian-born photographer Xenia Nikolskaya began the process of documenting these extraordinary structures. She gained exceptional access and photographed at some 30 locations including Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Minya, Esna, and Port Said. Sadly, the state of Egypt&rsquo;s colonial architecture is now rapidly succumbing to time, real estate frenzy, and an ongoing overpopulation crisis. Since she began the project a number of these spaces have been demolished, whilst others have gone through a process of regeneration and modernization.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><em>Dust</em> is not just a documentation of these fascinating architectural spaces, it also traces the idea of a typology of absence. The project was completed in January 2011, just before the Egyptian revolution of 17 January.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Avoiding any kind of nostalgia, the book challenges its reader: going back to this Egyptian dust also takes us deep into our own expectations of life and notions of legacy.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Nikolskaya lives between St. Petersburg, Stockholm and Cairo. She currently teaches photography at the American University in Cairo, and works as a curator/project leader at the Swedish Institute and the Centre for Contemporary Art and Architecture, Stockholm.</p> <p style="text-align: right;">-J.C.N.</p>A German Photographic Premonition 2012-09-04T14:06:28Z<p><img style="vertical-align: top; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="Road Map To Happiness" src="/s3/cache%2F93%2Fd2%2F93d2ace08b59ebb53c7fa1d8c5e27434.jpg" alt="Road Map To Happiness" width="580" height="453" /></p> <blockquote> <p style="text-align: justify;">Road Map to Happiness Pictures of a Street 1979-1981, Edited by&nbsp;Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, texts by Gabriele Conrath-Scholl, graphic design by Jutta Herden, Hatje Cantz, &euro;49.80.</p> </blockquote> <p style="text-align: justify;">A book such as this represents a unique contribution to German post-war rebuilding history, as a cross between factual inventory and personal enthusiasm: serial photographs of imagination and the reality of everyday life on a street in Dortmund. Somehow, seen through our eyes today, it is hard to accept it as the reality of that period; acceptance, however, enables us to penetrate the flavor of German life at the time.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Between 1979-81 Wilhelm Sch&uuml;rmann (born in 1946) created a series of photographs of the neighborhood surrounding his childhood home on Streinhammerstrasse in Dortmund. During his forays, the artist captures, with both intensity and humor, facades, displays in store windows, living rooms, and residents, unfolding a fascinating panorama presented here for the first time on such a scale. His images portray the Ruhr district, symbolizing the euphoria of Germany&rsquo;s economic miracle and the ensuing phase of disenchantment.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Wilhelm Sch&uuml;rmann is not just a photographer, but also a well known collector and curator of contemporary art. This is the first publication of the photographs he took between 1979 and 1981 in Steinhammerstrasse. Having grown up there, Sch&uuml;rmann not only examines the many facets of his own background but relates impressions of a German cosmos, a small world full of descriptive details. A &ldquo;roadmap to happiness,&rdquo; a brochure for a lottery outlet peeking out of a pants pocket, is only one example of his many fabulous images.</p> <p style="text-align: right;">&ndash;J.-C. N.</p>Hunger for Survival2012-09-04T14:06:00Z<p><img style="vertical-align: top; margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="Eating Mud Crabs in Kandahar" src="/s3/cache%2F0c%2F05%2F0c056d413dfbe4db4165de169dc60672.jpg" alt="Eating Mud Crabs in Kandahar" width="431" height="580" /></p> <blockquote> <p>Eating Mud Crabs in Kandahar: Stories of Food during Wartime by the World's Leading Correspondents, Matt McAllester (Ed), University of California Press, $29.95.</p> </blockquote> <p style="text-align: justify;">War correspondents face dangers most journalists will never encounter. Wearing flak jackets, avoiding injury or death while still getting to the heart of the action, and often living in some very barren conditions, these reporters willingly submit themselves to some of the roughest work conditions in the media business. But we all know about that, and expect it from them. What&rsquo;s often less thought about is how they go about the basics of life; food for example. This series of short stories collected and edited by Matt McAllester presents a fun and interesting view on the experiences of down-to-earth journalists obtaining food during wartime. Despite being put up in one of the best hotels in Sarajevo at the time, Janine Di Giovanni describes her meals at the Holiday Inn as &ldquo;simply something grainy and salty.&rdquo; Scott Anderson talks about the training he went through in order to infiltrate the IRA (spoiler: he drank his way in). But not all suffer during wartime; Barbara Demick describes Kim Jong Il as someone with the attitude deficiencies of a foodie rivaling even the most spoilt New York hipster: &ldquo;his palate was so sensitive that he could detect if the kitchen added a few grams too much sugar to the sushi rice.&rdquo; The writing style of the articles makes light of the often inhuman conditions endured by the correspondents, and the differences of perception based on the authors&rsquo; nationalities bring some delightful variety to the stories. McAllester describes their essence: &ldquo;food can be a rare source of comfort on the road.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: right;">-A.L.</p>Global Financial Crisis2012-09-04T14:04:28Z<p><img style="margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px; vertical-align: top; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="Why America Needs a Left" src="/s3/cache%2F9c%2F28%2F9c28ce518d865b42a20a22a65cb0a12a.jpg" alt="Why America Needs a Left" width="387" height="580" /></p> <blockquote> <p>Why America Needs a Left: A Historical Argument, Eli Zaretsky, Polity, $19.95.</p> </blockquote> <p style="text-align: justify;">Eli Zaretsky&rsquo;s <em>Why America Needs a Left</em> is a call to action to the young idealists of America in today&rsquo;s crisis-ridden world. Traveling back into the history of America&rsquo;s Left, Zaretsky argues that the Left is especially important in times of crisis, when the country&rsquo;s identity must be redefined. Specifically, he cites the American Left&rsquo;s role in defining the abolition of slavery in terms of racial equality and the New Deal in terms of social equality. At both points in America&rsquo;s history, the country faced serious problems eventually leading to the Civil War and the Great Depression, respectively. Today, the US, like the rest of the world, faces another major crisis, the global financial crisis. According to Zaretsky, today&rsquo;s problems are the result of neoliberal policies that began in the 1970s as a backlash to the counterculture of the 1960s. As inequality in the US continues to grow, Zaretsky calls upon the New Left, which formed in the 1960s, to rise again in order to help the country define a new identity based, once again, on equality. Disappointed with the failure of Barack Obama&rsquo;s presidency to revive the Left, Zaretsky places his hopes on Occupy Wall Street. Whether this movement will bring about the return of the Left to American politics is yet to be seen. But in an increasingly globalized world still largely run by a single superpower, the revival of equality in American political discourse could help to decrease economic disparities. <em>Why America Needs a Left</em> is an interesting look into American history, which sheds light on contemporary problems and their possible solutions.</p> <p style="text-align: right;">&ndash;K. Y.</p>