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Malik Al-Abdeh explains why Syria's rebels are increasingly focusing on business rather than war.
Gwen Robinson travels with Burma's reformist president across a conflict-ridden state.
Eric Randolph notes that Nepal's social revolution has only just begun, despite a successful national election.
Anna Nemtsova details the latest tribulations of Russia's political activists.
Mohamed El Dahshan describes what happens when Algeria's police state butts heads with Arab internet activists.
Juan Nagel writes about Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro's new power to rule by decree.
Asma Ghribi reports on police brutality in Tunisia -- and why the revolution has failed to stop it.
And Christian Caryl explains how the fate of one woman is complicating Ukraine's European dream.
And now for this week's recommended reads:
The Overseas Development Institute presents a must-read infographic about the relationship between democracy and economic development.
Reporting for Reuters, Kanupriya Kapoor and Randy Fabi investigate Indonesia's fiercely independent anti-corruption commission, and find that its future rests on the public.
The Daily Star Lebanon warns that the Syrian rebels' battle for the Qalamoun region may only make matters worse for refugees.
Writing for Al-Monitor, Amberin Zaman finds that Turkey is scaling back its support of Syrian Islamists.
At the Atlantic Council website, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh argues that Jordan is a black hole for free speech and activism.
In Tablet, Samuel Tadros looks at Egyptian General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's options as he contemplates whether to run for the presidency. (In the photo above, an Egyptian protester runs from tear gas during anti-military demonstrations in Tahrir Square.)
The Open Society Justice Initiative and Muslims for Human Rights scrutinize Kenya's counterterrorism efforts and uncover a startling array of human rights abuses.
Reporters Without Borders launches a campaign against the Sochi Olympics for its abuse of independent journalists.
The Center for International Private Enterprise explores techniques for building "entrepreneurship ecosystems" -- and concludes that the effort starts with democracy.
MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images
TUNIS — A friend and I were heading home in a taxi two weeks ago when we suddenly encountered a police checkpoint. The policeman asked my friend and I for our IDs. We were about to hand them over when the policeman suddenly turned away and ran over to the other side of the street, where he attacked a man who was standing there. The policeman beat him brutally, kicking him and screaming obscenities at him.
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Christian Caryl asks whether Pope Francis is steering the Catholic Church toward democracy.
Scott Radnitz and Sean Roberts argue that Beijing's strategy for pacifying ethnic minorities by making them prosperous isn't working.
Anna Nemtsova tells the sad tale of a Russian town that earns its keep from a carcinogenic mineral.
Mohamed Eljarh reports on the massacre of peaceful protestors in the streets of Tripoli.
Juan Nagel analyzes the "war on business" launched by Venezuela's president.
And now for this week's recommended reads:
Reuters offers an in-depth analysis of the work of Indonesia's anti-corruption commission. (The photo above shows Mount Sinabung, one of two Indonesian volcanoes that began erupting this weekend, forcing thousands to evacuate.)
Writing for Commentary, Michael Rubin explains why Turkish democracy is dead -- and why Turkish leaders are finally willing to admit it.
Jenai Cox of Freedom House offers a concise study of Robert Mugabe's election-rigging techniques.
The Economist questions the usefulness of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
In a new report for the Atlantic Council, J. Peter Pham argues that Morocco has a vital role in stabilizing the Middle East and North Africa region.
Jason Brownlee of the Carnegie Endowment reports on official discrimination and toleration of violence against members of the Egyptian Coptic Church.
Jadaliyya summarizes a recent roundtable discussion on the failures of Islamism following the Arab Spring.
SUTANTA ADITYA/AFP/Getty Images
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is an apt pupil of his predecessor, the socialist firebrand Hugo Chávez. Like Chávez, Maduro distrusts business, and capitalist profits give him hives. But on Nov. 11, he took this wariness to a new level when he announced plans to directly set corporate earnings.
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Anna Nemtsova reports from the town of Baikalsk, where the shutdown of one of Russia's dirtiest factories threatens the community's livelihood. Photographer Brendan Hoffman captures Baikalsk in pictures.
Juan Nagel marvels at Venezuela's new, Orwellian Ministry of Happiness.
Christopher Walker and Alexander Cooley expose Azerbaijan's zombie election monitors.
Asma Ghribi explains why Tunisia's first suicide bombing sends an ominous signal amid rising political violence.
Christian Caryl looks back on the life of Tadeusz Mazoweicki, Poland's modest revolutionary, and explains what today's activists can learn from him.
Luka Oreskovic argues that Bosnia's politicians should seize the chance to embrace a broader notion of citizenship.
Mohamed Eljarh reports on Benghazi's assassination epidemic.
And now for this week's recommended reads:
Writing for the Atlantic, transitions scholar Larry Diamond asks whether the world's dictatorships are suffering from the "70-Year Itch."
The Center for International and Strategic Studies issues a new report urging increased U.S. assistance for the Burmese health care sector.
Writing in the Washington Post, Michael Abramowitz and Holly Atkinson demand protection for Burma's beleaguered Muslim minority.
The Community of Democracies publishes A Diplomat's Handbook for Democracy Development Support.
Today's Zaiman writer Ali Aslan Kilic reports on the female lawmakers who are challenging Turkey's secular establishment by wearing headscarves to parliament. (In the photo above, thousands of Turkish Alevis rally to demand equal citizenship.)
Michael L. Ross finds that countries rich with petroleum tend to have violent conflicts and durable autocracies.
On the Arabist, Fahmy Howeidy argues that the current alliance between Egyptian liberals and the military will not stand the test of time.
In the Financial Times, Jonathan Ledgard and John Clippinger make the case for a universal digital currency in Africa.
In the National Interest, Vivek S. Sharma argues for a new view of corruption in developing countries.
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Erica Chenoweth analyzes the techniques that make for successful protest movements.
Samia Errazzouki and Maryam al-Khawaja explain why we shouldn't trust Middle Eastern autocrats who try to justify their rule by claiming respect for women's rights.
Anna Nemtsova watches as Sochi's Olympic volunteers practice smiling.
Juan Nagel describes the dystopian nightmare of crime-ridden Venezuela.
Mohamed El Dahshan ruminates on the recent U.S. cuts in aid to Egypt.
Besar Likmeta reports on Tony Blair's new mission to Albania.
Christian Caryl warns against the dangers of rule by the few in a world dominated by the super-wealthy.
Finally, Prachi Vidwans presents a visual analysis of protestors wielding unlikely weapons of dissent: pots and pans.
And now for this week's recommended reads:
Arch Puddington of Freedom House offers talking points to the defenders of democracy around the world.
Democracy Digest offers its take on the new White House strategy for the Middle East, which downgrades democracy promotion; it also presents an illuminating interview on the situation in Tunisia with a leading Tunisian labor union official.
A new Asia Foundation report offers a primer on the local governing structures codified in Burma's 2008 Constitution.
Writing for the Monkey Cage, Jason Brownlee, Tarek Masoud, and Andrew Reynolds zero in on two factors that determined which states were vulnerable to the Arab Spring.
Al Arabiya reports on the latest unrest from Sudan, suggesting that the regime is "on the verge of collapse."
In the Financial Times, Borzou Daragahi explains how the countries of the Arab Spring are rewriting school textbooks to reflect changed circumstances.
Writing for Project Syndicate, Daniel A. Bell and Chenyang Li contend that Singapore's "compassionate meritocracy" poses a real challenge to liberal democracy.
Tech in Asia's Enricko Lukman reports on the huge success of Indonesia's crowd-sourced corruption website.
(The photo above shows Turkish dissidents huddled together in a cloud of tear gas and mist during a recent protest.)
ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images
NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images
"At least we're number one at something, even if it's from the bottom," quipped one of my friends in Cairo. We had just finished reading the recently issued World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014, which rates Egypt as the worst country in the world in the quality of primary education. The report is based on the WEF's Global Competitiveness Indicator, an aggregate of 114 indicators grouped under 12 categories of "drivers of productivity and prosperity," including institutions, financial markets, technological readiness, and health and education, among others.
Mosa'ab Elshamy/Contributor/Getty Images
Last Thursday, an annual Venezuelan ritual took place. Venezuelans of every social class and all sides of the political spectrum sat down to watch and comment on the Miss Venezuela, the country's national beauty pageant. As a Venezuelan expatriate, I find it hard to take the whole thing seriously. As an analyst, though, I have to find a way to explain it.
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When I published my book on African economic statistics earlier this year, I never expected it would ruffle quite so many feathers. Last week, Foreign Policy published a story about the latest chapter in this lamentable epic. After the United Nations Economic Commission on Africa (UNECA) invited me to present my research on African statistical capacity, other presenters withdrew their names in a boycott led, notably, by Pali Lehohla, the statistician-general of Statistics South Africa -- leading me to be dropped from the conference. But rather than engage with my ideas, Lehohla and his self-proclaimed union of "African Statisticians" seem to be focused on attacking me rather than the issue at hand. It's ultimately a self-defeating campaign.
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The overall effect is reminiscent of the Gospel of Matthew: the little children come unto Hugo Chávez. Resplendent in a field of daisies, the national flag draped across his broad shoulders, Venezuela's late president stands at the center of a group of adoring youngsters. They embrace him, gaze upon him, or simply tug at the hem of his garments.
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Recently I spoke to Amera Ali, a young lawyer from Tripoli, who had little good to say about the current situation. During the early days of the Libyan revolution, Ali took to the streets as part of a lawyers' movement to protest the killing of anti-Qaddafi protesters. As she was putting her life on the line, I am sure she never dreamed that the end of the conflict would bring a-not-so subtle campaign to drive women out of the judicial and legal profession altogether.
OSAMA IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images
TRIPOLI — There's a joke that Libyans tell about their driving habits. A Tripoli driver zooms through a red light at full speed. When his foreign passenger protests, the Libyan responds, "Don't worry, I'm a professional." At the next red light, the driver does the same, once again reassuring his nervous guest. "It's okay, I'm a professional." The next traffic light is green -- and this time the drive stops. "Why are you stopping?" asks the nonplussed foreigner. The Libyan shrugs: "You never know when there might be another professional around."
JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images
When you first arrive in Naypyidaw, as I did last week, you can't help but experience a peculiar sensation of equal parts awe and fear. In just a few years, the then-ruling military junta carved a new Burmese capital out of pure jungle. It came at a cost of billions of dollars to a country where most people live in poverty. "Only an autocrat would come up with a grandiose project like this" I mused, "at the expense of all other important things, of course."
CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images
In post-revolution Libya, people have learned to express themselves in a variety of different ways. There are rallies, protests, the ballot box, and even guns. But these days, the city of Benghazi has witnessed the birth of a new form of self-expression: fashion.
Boza Facebook Page
Mocking rulers is a tradition almost as old as rule itself. At times mockery is subtle and allegorical; at others it is blunt, sometimes gauche, but always funny. Some wonderful examples are the fables of Nasreldin Goha, a folkloric character rumored to have lived in thirteenth century Turkey. One of his jokes comes to mind:
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images
Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images
The video has no sound, just several minutes of footage shot on a busy street in the sallow sulfur glow of Vientiane streetlights. Two blurry figures approach the passenger's side of a jeep stopped at the curb. A man gets out of the driver's side, walks around the jeep and onto the darkened sidewalk. Another man dressed in black arrives by motorbike, ducks into the shadows, then gets inside the jeep and drives away. Three minutes later a pickup truck stops, people get in, and the vehicle leaves.
Photo by VOISHMEL/AFP/Getty Images
When I left Burma sixteen years ago, the last place where I stayed was the Rangoon home of my friend Thet Win Aung. We got up at three in the morning and said goodbye to his parents as monsoon rain poured down outside. Then we got in a car and headed for the Thai-Burmese border. Little did I know how much was to happen before I would be able to return to my homeland.
There's a statistic that sheds a harsh light on the current gang-rape scandal in India. According to the Association for Democratic Reforms, a nongovernment organization, there are quite a few Indian politicians who stand accused of rape and other crimes against women. Six state assembly members have actually been elected to office despite facing rape charges.
Photo by SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/GettyImages
The drizzle didn't spoil the street party in Jakarta that ushered in the New Year. About 200,000 people converged in the main square of the Indonesian capital on New Year's Eve to party and watch the fireworks light up the sky above the city's skyscrapers. If the shamans had done a better job repelling the rain, the turnout could have reached the 700,000 that Jakarta governor Joko Widodo had hoped would turn out.
Photo by JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP/Getty Images
Now that 2012 has come to a close, I can say that it has been an interesting year for Uganda, with the country experiencing some of the greatest highs and lows in its history. The country just buried a young woman member of parliament from the ruling party, Hon. Cerinah Nebandah from the Butaleja District in Eastern Uganda, who died under mysterious circumstances. Her suspected poisoning has strongly divided the nation. The official government autopsy report claims she died from a drug and alcohol overdose, but her family and legislators have rejected the findings. The debate, however, does bring to the fore the alcohol and drug problem in Uganda, which society has failed to acknowledge as a deeply entrenched problem among young people. What I see, above all, is the loss of one of Uganda's most vibrant young politicians. For many young people, the 24-year-old Nebanda represented a new political force that could potentially cleanse the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party from within.
Photo by MICHELE SIBILONI/AFP/Getty Images
On November 27, the president of Venezuela's National Assembly read a communiqué from President Hugo Chávez where he asked Congress for permission to travel to Cuba. In a characteristically opaque statement, the President said he needed to travel for a combination of "physiotherapy" and "hyperbaric oxygen therapy." Venezuelan bonds rallied following the news.
Photo by JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images
James A. Robinson explains why Colombia's remarkable degree of political stability is not all that it's cracked up to be.
Malik Al-Abdeh wonders whether the creation of a new umbrella group for the Syrian opposition group will actually help to bring down the Assad regime.
Mohamed El Dahshan argues that the current government ban on pornography in Egypt threatens freedom of expression.
Larry Jagan analyzes the dynamics within the Burmese leadership and explains why fragmentation of the ruling party would be a disaster for the country.
Christian Caryl explores the comparison between two civil war presidents, Bashar al-Assad and Abraham Lincoln.
Besar Likmeta profiles Ina Rama, Albania's first female general prosecutor and valiant hero in the fight against sleaze.
Jackee Batanda reports on the increasing demoralization of a Ugandan public battered by new revelations of corruption in high places.
And here are this week's recommended reads:
Thomas Carothers and and Nathan J. Brown explain the real danger for democracy in Egypt.
Katrin Verclas and Lina Srivastava wonder why a new list of democracy promotion heavyweights is bereft of women.
In a Guardian interview with Colin Poulton, the SOAS research fellow makes the case that the establishment of democratic institutions in developing countries can be detrimental to the rural poor.
A new RAND report assesses the nation-building challenges in post-Qaddafi Libya.
A new report on Burma from the International Crisis Group, Storm Clouds on the Horizon, shows how continuing sectarian conflict is casting a shadow over the reform process. Writing in The Independent, Emanuel Stoakes stresses the need for President Obama to acknowledge the issue during his upcoming trip to Burma.
In an analysis for the Middle East Research and Information Project, Pete Moore explains why -- despite the recent turmoil there -- Jordan is unlikely to experience its own version of the Arab Spring.
Sarah Kendzior argues that there are good reasons for holding policy forums in authoritarian countries.
Alina Rocha Menocal takes issue with the notion that "building institutions" is the best formula for promoting development.And finally, Evelyn Lamb, writing in Scientific American, explains the background of the Gini coefficient -- and why it's not like the Kardashians
Photo by Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images
"I called people up so they would join the revolution. And they died. I let (Ahmed) Harara walk onto Mohamed Mahmoud Street, and he was blinded. My friends, who weren't into politics but whom I talked into coming to the streets, died... All so you would block porn sites, you sons of bitches?"
Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
Indonesian Islamist politicians must be looking with envy at the victory of Islamist parties in Egypt and Tunisia in the wake of the Arab Spring. The Islamist parties here have contested three democratic elections since Indonesia turned to democracy in 1998, but despite their 14-year head start they pooled only 26 percent of the votes in the last election in 2009. Their own fragmentation hasn't helped; the election spoils are shared by four political parties.
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My father recently bought a new copy of an old book. We couldn't buy it earlier because it was virtually impossible to get one when Hosni Mubarak was president. You'll understand why when you hear the title: Dictatorship for Beginners: Bahgatos, President of Greater Bahgatia. (You can see a copy here -- in Arabic, but you don't have to understand the text to enjoy it).
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Transitions is the group blog of the Democracy Lab channel, a collaboration between Foreign Policy and the Legatum Institute.