In early December, as President Obama was announcing that he was sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, Greg Mortenson was releasing his book Stones into Schools, a followup to his 2006 best-seller Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson has logged more months in remote parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan than almost any other Westerner.
For many American Christians, the religious experience of modern Western Europe offers a dire warning. European church membership has been in free fall for a generation. Each new survey shows ever-growing numbers willing to proclaim themselves totally nonreligious.
President Obama goes to the Copenhagen conference on climate change this month in a weak position, unable to point to any significant U.S. plan for cutting carbon emissions. Though the U.S. has the highest per capita emissions in the world, it has yet to commit itself to cutting the volume of heat-trapping gases that cause global warming. The issue remains on the political back burner.
When the U.S. government imagines the global future, the term BRIC features prominently. The concept was created in 2001 when researchers at Goldman Sachs identified four critical emerging powers—Brazil, Russia, India and China. By 2050, claimed these experts, the BRIC powers would be challenging the U.S. for worldwide economic supremacy. U.S. officials have taken this forecast very seriously.
Dr. Paul Farmer, an infectious disease specialist known for his work in Haiti, has been to Liberia and planned to go back again in the fight against Ebola. According to Farmer, the outbreak of Ebola is a symptom of a very poor and weak health-care system in the three West African countries where it is spreading. In Liberia there is one physician per 100,000 people, compared to 240 in the United States. The president of Liberia points out that the Dallas Cowboys stadium uses more electricity each year than her whole country. Vaccines and drugs don’t exist because Ebola’s victims are poor and—so far—not very numerous (London Review of Books, October 23).