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Jonathan Power: Absolutely Nothing in the News

The serious newspapers I read used to take me an hour to get through. These days it is fifteen minutes. Nothing much is happening, at least in foreign affairs. Iraq has all but disappeared from the front page. Afghanistan and Pakistan still remain; but even so, investors continue to up their investments in Pakistan, presumably judging that the conflict is over-hyped. The argument with Iran over whether it is building nuclear weapons drags on, despite the forgotten report of the CIA two years ago that found that it probably was not. (Not to mention that the West and Russia look a bit silly when they turn a blind eye to Brazil for doing exactly the same as Iran.) More recently there's Iran’s suggestion that it might ship some of its used uranium to Russia to be converted into fuel to provide medical isotopes, or else to import from Europe enriched uranium instead of manufacturing its own. So this conflict should now be relatively easy to wrap up. What else is there? Georgia is out of the picture; Chechnya was long ago. The Russians and the Americans sweet talk each other. Now that Washington has decided to abandon its ill-judged anti-missile system in Eastern Europe, the Russians have switched off their angst and are happily agreeing to the first major nuclear arms cuts in nearly a decade. China is now part of the “system.” The priorities are economic growth, dealing with financial imbalances, and, unfortunately, keeping the lid on dissent at home. It has made peaceful settlements of its border disputes with Laos, Russia, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and is working on its age old dispute of border demarcation with India. Its bitter clash with Taiwan, which commentators once called the most explosive issue on the map, is now quiescent. Japan and China are finally getting on fine. Add to this that India’s reflexive anti-Americanism is dead and buried—thanks to President George W. Bush’s decision to lift the embargo on nuclear materials. North Korea is isolated, even from its old mentor China. Who on earth is it going to use its two or three nuclear weapons against?

Clinton Summit: What We Talk About When We Talk About Infrastructure

PANEL: The Infrastructure of Human Dignity Star Spotter: Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, Barbara Streisand, Ricky Martin, Eve Ensler Moderator:  John Podesta, president and CEO of Center for American Progress Panelists: Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health Wangari Muta Maathai, founder of The Green Belt Movement, Kenya Ingrid Munro, founder of Jamii Bora Trust and CEO of Jamii Bora Group By Ruthie Ackerman for World Policy Journal When we think of infrastructure we think of roads, sewage systems, and buildings. But a panel at the Clinton Global Initiative led by John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress and former White House chief of staff under President Clinton, took a different look at infrastructure. Entitled “The Infrastructure of Human Dignity,” the panel focused on the systems that affect the world’s most vulnerable people: clean water, health care, and food systems. This is, as Podesta pointed out, the infrastructure needed “to support a decent standard of living for all people.” Each panelist represented a different starting point on the issue: Wangari Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work on the green movement in Kenya, believes environmental education should be a universal education in all schools, especially given the link between conflict and resource management. In wars around the world—and, especially, those in Africa such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo—battles over natural resources have sparked and prolonged those conflicts. The solution, Maathai said, is to develop a new consciousness over what she calls natural capital. “People come out of university with a lot of knowledge. They are full in the head. But it is important to be able to apply that knowledge. How do we tend the soil? This is important.”

THE INDEX — September 9, 2009

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