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The End of the Road

| July 21, 2014

Even those who relish watching Washington’s antics may think struggles over funding highways are stranger than usual. But the game being played out today reveals deeper factors that now shape U.S. politics. (And this affects Canada, stalling efforts we should be making to enhance our competitiveness in the global economy.)

Americans are well aware that U.S. infrastructure is in grim shape. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ latest report card on the condition and performance of U.S. infrastructure gives them an overall grade of D+ (the plus because the U.S. seems able to deal better with solid waste). More puzzling is the political storm over funding infrastructure maintenance and improvement.

The problem of deteriorating, underinvested infrastructure blew up into a crisis in the United States early in the 21st century. During the 1990s, rapid economic growth, urban expansion, the emergence of extended supply chains, a multitude of new environmental regulations and long-term underfunding of maintenance all stressed the capacity of the nation’s infrastructure. Over the next years, a series of reports focusing particularly on transportation infrastructure called attention to what one observer termed a “perfect storm”. More …


The Green Energy Gap

| July 21, 2014

Germany made headlines when solar panels generated enough power to meet half of the country’s electricity demand one sunny afternoon in June. It was seen as a milestone in the country’s push to source 18 percent of its total energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. But while Germany is often lauded for its green energy use, the world as a whole still has a long way to go if it is going to replace all fossil fuels with renewables. In the graphic below, we investigate that distance using statistics from the latest Statistical Review of World Energy from BP. More …


Responding to Tragedy: Malaysia Airlines MH17

| July 18, 2014

High above a conflict on the ground, which looked only to get worse, an airliner from a distant country on a routine flight is whacked out of the sky by—something.

In the uncertainty that has followed, the 24/7 news coverage have given play to rumours, reports of intelligence service read-outs and, above all, competing accusations.

The president of Ukraine, where the doomed Malaysian airliner landed, accuses the Russian separatists he is fighting of an “act of terror.”

These rebels, in turn, deny they even have the capability of carrying out such a deed and blame Ukraine’s own military for the downed aircraft.

Some are also arguing it had to be the Russians. I haven’t seen them yet, but the usual conspiracy blogs will no doubt be blaming this on the United States’ CIA any minute now.

Of course someone is to blame, especially if we are to believe U.S. officials who say they have evidence the airliner was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. More …


Using the Internet to Save Lives in Iran

| July 17, 2014

Canadian human rights activist Maryam Nayeb Yazdi saves lives in Iran from her desk in Toronto, where she is at the centre of an international network of activists that work to improve human rights and stop executions in Iran. Though born in Iran, she spent most of her childhood in Canada. She first became concerned about the human rights situation in Iran in 2007 when she saw an interview on Persian satellite TV with a young human rights activist who had escaped Iran after being jailed, tortured and placed in solitary confinement by the Iranian authorities. In 2009, after the Iranian government violently suppressed protests in the aftermath of the Iranian presidential election, she founded Persian2English, a blog that documents human rights violations in Iran for an international audience. Today, she works to draw attention to a range of human rights issues in Iran, including executions, which, she says, take place in public squares each year to instill fear among the population. OpenCanada reporter Alia Dharssi sat down with Yazdi – who awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal by the Governor General in 2013 – to talk about her efforts to halt executions and about how she makes human rights issues go viral. More …


The Ongoing Evolution of Arctic International Relations

| July 16, 2014

Throughout the last two decades, the Arctic region has become an area of intense interest for scholars from a variety of fields. This is unsurprising considering the wide array of variables that go into our understandings of what the Arctic actually is, and precisely which aspect we are discussing when analyzing certain aspects of the circumpolar region. What is equally interesting is that international relations scholars have lagged behind their contemporaries in other fields such as anthropology, biology, environment and transportation. As scholars of international relations begin to pay more attention to political affairs in the Arctic, the complexities and potential conflict becomes far more evident.

Factually speaking, the Arctic region encompasses the area north of the Arctic Circle. This area covers approximately 20,000,000 sq km and represents about 4% of the Earth’s surface. In this geographical space, there are eight Arctic states – Canada, the US, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland. There are an estimated 4 million people living in the Arctic, the majority of which are based in Russian or European Arctic communities and represent a variety of Inuit or aboriginal groups. More …

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  • Bretton-Woods

    70 years since Bretton Woods, the multilateral system is once again in need of reinvention. Brett House on what to do.

    The “explosive” (and very detailed) inside story of the failed peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine instigated by John Kerry, by Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tibon for the New Republic: “We seem to have reached the end of an era in the peace process. And no one harbors much hope for what comes next.”

  • One-the-Road

    Stephen Blank on how Washington’s highway funding crisis threatens the North American economy.


    While the consumption of renewable energy is growing, the world still has a long way to go if it wants to phase out fossil fuels.

  • One day last December, the water level of the Mekong River in northern Thailand suddenly rose by several metres. Then in February, the water level suddenly fell by a metre in some parts. Were these fluctuations the result of natural phenomenon, or were two massive dams in China to blame? Pilita Clark reports for FT.


    Robert Muggah on how new surveillance technology can be used to check the abuse of power by police officers.

  • The New Yorker editor David Remnick on the situation in eastern Ukraine and Putin’s role: “[Putin] has fanned a kind of prolonged political frenzy… that serves his immediate political needs but that he can no longer easily calibrate and control.” The crash of Flight MH17 could escalate things further.


    Jeremy Kinsman on what the Flight MH17 crash means for the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

  • Mandela

    On International Nelson Mandela Day, David Hornsby considers his legacy in South Africa and around the world.

    A Radio Free Europe interview with Artur Gasparyan, an Armenian who volunteered to fight in eastern Ukraine. He barely survived the battle for Donetsk Airport: “There was gossip that supposedly we were so tough and everyone was afraid of us. But it turned out just the opposite.”

  • noose

    An interview with human rights activist Maryam Nayeb Yazdi about her efforts to stop executions in Iran.


    Steve Saideman on the recent Dutch court ruling that Dutch peacekeepers were partially responsible for the Srebrenica massacre.

  • “Trade, Not Aid” has become a popular slogan in development, but more foreign investment doesn’t necessarily mean more development, writes Christiane Badgley for Foreign Policy: “Many African governments are offering increasingly lucrative terms to attract foreign investment. But will the cost of these incentives outweigh the benefits to Africans?”


    Robert Murray on the complexities of circumpolar politics and the scholars seeking to understand them.

  • “Every time [the BRICS summit] happens, there are questions about whether the Brics grouping is anything more than a catchy acronym,” writes Katy Watson for BBC News. But while trade may not be a strength, there is something else that united them: a dissatisfaction with the current global order.


    Navid Hassibi and Wisam Salih on how the U.S. and Iran can work together to fight ISIS in Iraq.

  • Brazil's President Rousseff greets FIFA President Blatter during a visit at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich

    The world’s most watched sports tournament may be over, but debate over its success will undoubtedly play on as Brazil gears up for presidential elections in October, as Robert Muggah explains.

    When the FSB asked Pavel Durov – Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg – for personal data about Ukrainians criticizing Moscow on VK, the social network Durov ran, he told the security agency to get lost. Five days later, Durov has been removed as VK’s CEO. James Bradshaw tells the story for the Globe and Mail.