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.
A disturbing factor in the rash of police shootings of unarmed black people and of deaths in police custody is that many of the victims were apprehended for petty offenses. Sandra Bland was stopped for not signaling a lane change, Samuel DuBose for a missing license plate, and Walter Scott for a busted taillight. A trend among municipalities is to issue fines as a means of generating revenue, and this onerous strategy falls disproportionately on people of color, many of whom are poor themselves. Not having the means to pay the fines can land them in jail, resulting in job loss and perpetuation of poverty—and increased distrust of law enforcement (Mother Jones, September/October).