Fashion forward can be backward policy

Milan fashion houses are finding that their dramatic styles and remarkable statements are looking threadbare. A recent Gucci advertisement for a blackface tunic is only the latest entry in the insensitivity sweepstakes that designers are increasingly winning.

The result is boycotts and an assault on their bottom-lines as they try to navigate the world of fashion-forward styles in a rapidly evolving and immediately reacting globalized marketplace.

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At home and abroad, fashion forward can be backward policy.

Gucci’s racial gaff was not an isolated incident for first-tier fashionistas. Dolce & Gabbana made itself toxic in China when it produced an Italian voiced-over advertisement with a good-looking, ditzy Chinese model incapable of eating pizza with chopsticks. The offense continued with an Instagram anti-China rant that resulted in a widespread D&G boycott in China. READ MORE

There’s a renaissance on the African continent that the U.S. can’t afford to dismiss

Ethiopia is the latest nation where an international aviation accident is in sharp focus, but the country itself is treated merely as the hazy backdrop and tragic context for a larger geopolitical story. This one involves Boeing, China trade wars and the credibility of American regulatory institutions.

All important stories, for sure, but Ethiopia is more than the tragically fatal scene of a plane crash. With more than 100 million people, Ethiopia is the second most populous African nation after Nigeria. Landlocked Ethiopia is also the continent’s fastest growing economy with arguably its most dynamic young leader.

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While other African countries, such as Algeria, struggle to put to pasture their near-comatose leader-for-life Abdulaziz Buteflika, Ethiopia broke the old clichéd mold of African strongman leaders who were generals or geriatrics and instead, almost a year ago, appointed a fresh and energetic reformer, the 42-year old prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. READ MORE

The tension is high in Venezuela’s standoff, but no one can afford to shoot first

Venezuela’s Interim President Juan Guaidó and questionably-elected President Nicolás Maduro are gunning for each other, but with no intention to shoot. In Hollywood, this is called a “Mexican standoff.”

Guaidó is confronting the Maduro government with an army of motivated street protesters. Maduro has deployed a largely unmotivated Venezuelan army. Both leaders currently know that they need to refrain from using violence not only to save themselves, but also their country.

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If logic and reason rule, then they will keep their powder dry, come to an accommodation, and peacefully solve the current crisis. Logic and reason, however, rarely rule in such high-stakes gamesmanship. READ MORE

President Donald Trump, global peacemaker. Really.

War is the ultimate test for nations and their leaders. History is full of great leaders who fought and won military victories, from Revolutionary War hero George Washington to Abraham Lincoln’s civil war and World War II’s FDR.

Victory is the key to greatness.

President Trump is different. If George W. Bush went into his successful 2004 re-election campaign embracing his role as a “war president,” Trump may angle to win a 2020 re-election as the nation’s “peace president.” Remarkably, if things go well, he could be Donald Trump, peacemaker.

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Disquieting as it may be for those who see him as morally bankrupt, as well as a threat to democratic norms and human decency, there has to be a reckoning that he just might actually succeed in pursuing peace on multiple fronts. Trump’s campaign promises, unorthodox methods and his limitless ego are leading him to seek an end to American military engagements and — with a couple of notable exceptions — even lower the temperature elsewhere. READ MORE

Merkel, and the rest of Europe, are through with Trump

Munich.

The very name conjures vastly different images and emotions depending on your age and where you live.

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For the Greatest Generation, Munich immediately evokes memories of a spineless Western “appeasement” that sold out Czechoslovakia and fed Hitler’s insatiable appetite for power leading to World War II. Baby Boomers recall Munich as a terrorism turning point when cold-blooded Black September members murdered 11 Israeli athletes in the city’s 1972 Summer Olympic Games.

This past week, Munich may likely be remembered as the place where American allies finally gave up on President Trump, America’s leadership of the alliance of Western democracies and any U.S. security guarantees as credible.

Appeasement, murder, betrayal. Munich has had its pivotal historic moments, and this looks like one of them. READ MORE

Trump’s foreign policy is pushing allies into China and Russia’s waiting arms

Nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula have diminished since last summer’s Singapore summit between President Trump and North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. In the run-up to this month’s Vietnam summit, Trump is acutely aware that a potential landmark deal on Kim’s complete, verifiable and permanent denuclearization would be a significant foreign policy win for him, the region and the world.

Unfortunately, that potential deal is where Trump’s foreign policy successes both start and end.

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By any other measure, the president’s aggressive pursuit of nativist policies has weakened America’s global leverage, given its adversaries strategic openings and made the world a little less safe for democracy and human rights. In normal times, this would be seen as a failure of leadership and a threat to America’s fundamental values, global stature and international dominance.

These are not, however, normal times. READ MORE

Quest for the Fountain of Youth remains a continually updated story

Ponce de Leon sought it in Florida. Alexander the Great expanded his empire to find it in the East. Now, in the latest search for eternal youth, an American company hopes to make you vibrant and spry by having youthful blood coursing through your system.

Globally, all countries and people share this one desire for a healthier and slower aging process, but if past results are any indication of future prospects, the next elixir, cell therapy, or blood transfusion may be a futile and, perhaps, dangerous search for a panacea.

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Ambrosia Medical is the latest entrant in the all-too-human race for immortality or, at least, healthy longevity. For $8,000-$12,000, the company says that it can deliver nutrient-rich, youthful blood to the aged, the hopeful and, maybe, the hypochondriac crowd. In vague terms and using limited research, the company intimates a promise of parabiosis — a rejuvenated vigor and refreshed immunity to both illness and aging. READ MORE

Brexit aside, Poland and Italy are Europe’s latest troublemakers

Poland is free because of a pope, the Vatican and a European dream. Not that long ago, Soviet-dominated Warsaw created a spiritual alliance and common cause with a church-dominated Rome and its dream of an expansive pan-European political union.

That dream is now a nightmare that aligns the two Catholic-dominated nations of Poland and Italy, bound together in an anti-immigrant stance, an unholy alliance ready to take on Europe and cut it down to size.

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This latest assault on the European Union comes on top of an uncertain and undefined Brexit brought on by a banger-eating British populace tired of Polish plumbers unclogging their water closets. Europe seems especially brittle right now with the political chaos surrounding Britain’s political schizophrenia and the unanswered Irish border wall question. Despite Brexit’s severe disruption, however, Poland and Italy are the European Union’s newest challenge for survival. READ MORE

With Juan Guaidó seizing the presidency, Venezuela’s ‘Latin Spring’ is heating up

Arab Spring, move aside. Latin Spring is now blossoming, and if all goes well, it will be less bloody and a lot more successful at ousting corrupt leaders and promoting homegrown democratically elected representatives than the Middle East revolutions.

The North African and the Middle East popular movements that began in late 2010 shook up the power balance, catalyzed civil wars and further destabilized the region. Venezuela just experienced a so-far relatively peaceful and planned constitutional coup.

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It’s way too early to predict if the effects of Wednesday’s dramatic event will devolve into chaos or breed new forms of violence, corruption, juntas or dictatorships, but as with the Arab Spring countries, what kicked Venezuelans into action is that daily life hit rock bottom. Living conditions have gotten so bad that people’s hope for a better life completely dissolved. Ninety percent of Venezuelans today are living in poverty and over the last year had lost an average of 24 pounds. Citizens were both on the path to real starvation while on a strictly enforced diet from democracy. READ MORE

NBA player goes one-on-one with the petulant President Erdoğan

Shoot a 3-pointer, go to jail.

If Turkey’s spoiled-sport president gets his way, he will soon be locking up Enes Kanter, a Turkish-American star center for the New York Knicks.

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The reason for a just-requested Interpol “Red Notice” arrest warrant is not Kanter’s aggressive defensive style, it is his offensive speech calling President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, among other things, the “Hitler of our century.” Erdogan returned the favor and labeled Kanter “a terrorist.

Unlike in the United States, where public figures can’t be libeled, criticism of the Turkish president is illegal. I can write that President Trump is a boob and feel pretty secure that the black helicopters won’t descend on my home. Well, maybe not totally secure as the U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr recently told the Senate that he “can conceive” of instances where journalists might be arrested. READ MORE

Trump’s foreign policy is all about him. That’s not good for us, or the rest of the world

Snap troop withdrawal from Syria? Overnight decisions for a dramatic military draw-down in Afghanistan?

America’s foreign-policy and national-security establishment is reeling from the rapid-fire changes, declarations and White House edicts. Our allies are shocked, too.

While President Trump’s tweet-from-the-hip policy-making is shocking and shaking-up the world, no one should be surprised.

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The truth is, Donald Trump has never lied to us about his foreign-policy priorities. We may not have wanted to believe him, we may ultimately find out that they were improperly influenced, we may even disagree with them. But the reality is that he has not simply intimated or coyly indicated how he sees the world and what he wants to do. He has told us. Repeatedly.

Treaties? Tear them up. READ MORE

Think doomsday scenarios are just some film fantasy? Think again.

Security threats do not always come from a determined adversary or sworn enemy. What if, like in the age of dinosaurs, we faced an external threat? A huge, hurtling meteor, for example, that could destroy most life on Earth as it did 66 million years ago?

It’s a scary thought to contemplate this early in the new year, but the question of whether we humans could deal with a real and credible global threat to our species is both timely and real. 

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Global threats, however, just aren’t very high up on today’s worldwide political agenda, where nationalism is on the rise - whether Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda or Xi Jinping’s “Made in China 2025” domination strategy.

But what happens if - or when - the entire Earth’s existence is threatened? If a meteor is hurtling toward this blue marble of a planet and only collective action and coordinated efforts can save humanity? When dollars can’t buy you out of a survival fix and opposing militaries can’t fight for primacy in a world left for ashes. READ MORE

The West has long militarized space. China plans to weaponize it. Not good.

Neil Armstrong brought the world to the moon. As the first man to tread on that rocky surface, he reminded us that this was not only an American achievement but another link in humanity’s aspirational chain. It was “one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.”

That happened almost 50 years ago.

Lunar landings are now back in the news, not because the marginal scientific or symbolic value of the current missions is high for mankind on Earth. Rather, it’s because national pride is driving America’s strategic competitors to escape gravity.

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China and Iran both are hard at work launching and lobbing rockets into space to show that America no longer has a monopoly on technological leadership. They are also using these blast-offs and landings to warn us of their ability to match and surpass America’s scientific prowess. For good measure, they also want to remind us that they can easily land a nuke on the U.S. homeland.

If the Apollo program was the height of astronauts exhibiting the right stuff, the Beijing rocket program is looking like a perfect example of the wrong stuff. READ MORE

Russian President Vladimir Putin praises and warns U.S. at end-of-year press conference

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his year-end press conference, where he praised President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. He also warned of the growing threat of nuclear war between Russia and the United States. Markos Kounalakis, a foreign affairs columnist for McClatchy News and visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, joins CBSN with analysis. VIEW HERE

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This is not what Vladimir Putin wanted for Christmas

Vladimir Putin won’t find many great presents under the Christmas tree this year.

Orthodox Christian religious leaders worldwide are weakening an important institution that gave him outsize power and legitimacy.

The Russian Orthodox Church is being broken up, and an independent Ukraine Orthodox Church will be established. The Ukrainian flock soon will be led not by the Moscow-based church and Patriarchate, but rather by its own independent church and youthful leadership. Ukraine and its political class are suddenly freed from an influential Russian institution that has been fiercely loyal to Putin.

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This was not on Putin’s Christmas list. Instead, the news is like a lump of coal in his stocking.

Russia’s wider designs on — and power over — Ukraine have included a wide hybrid war from the Donbass to the recent naval blockade in the Black Sea. Moscow has its fingerprints on the shoot-down of the Malaysian MH-17 passenger plane over Ukrainian territory and its paw prints on an annexed Crimea. Every step of the way, Putin has found legitimacy in his actions and the nation’s military activity through reignited Russian nationalism and the silent acquiescence of Moscow’s spiritual leadership and clergy. READ MORE

High-flying U.S. car execs often crash when when they run into foreign laws

Mary Barra runs a global auto company that has fallen out of favor with both the American public and president. Barra runs General Motors and she argues that shutting down plants will prevent her from shutting down business.

Americans think of General Motors as an American company that boldly asserted that what’s good for GM is “good for the country.” Born of Detroit, built up during and after World War II and bailed out by President Obama with taxpayer cash. Its headquarters — and its heart — are in the United States. But its head is in China and other emerging global markets. In this time of impending trade wars and active geostrategic competition, this is a worrisome development.

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Car execs operate with near impunity in America, but they are selling their souls to a China that is less accommodating. They are also selling out their workers and America’s economic advantage and technological edge in the process. If that’s not enough, brash auto executives may find that their leadership style and attitude doesn’t play as well overseas. READ MORE

George H.W. Bush, Pearl Harbor and America’s other fallen

George H.W. Bush survived an airplane crash in Japan’s Pacific Ocean in September of 1944. Seventy-four years later, on Wednesday of this week, two Marines were recovered in the same Bush-ditched cold waters when a couple of planes went down in a mid-air collision. 

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In both incidents, the majority of the crew went missing. Time teaches us that some soldiers are remembered more than others, but that everyone’s military sacrifice must be recognized and revered.

Men who go on to greatness and achieve power are remembered in remarkable ways, with eloquent words, in lasting tributes. READ MORE

Nicaragua’s ‘House of Cards’ stars another corrupt and powerful couple

Nicaragua is a political stage where a real-life “House of Cards” is now in its second season. President Daniel Ortega and his wife and partner in crime, Vice President Rosario Murillo, have together run the country as an increasingly violent family business for the last couple of years. Ortega has been continuously in power for the past decade and, all in all, for four long terms with no term limits. The next elections are scheduled for 2021.

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Ortega and Murillo make the Netflix series’ Frank and Claire Underwood seem like law-abiding, Constitution-respecting, selfless public servants. The Ortega family runs everything, owns the ruling Sandinista Party, dominates media, monopolizes power, skims profits and loots the nation. They are living proof of Lord Acton’s axiom that, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The United States has now decided to shut down parts of the Ortega-Murillo gang’s operation by freezing funds and flummoxing any financial transactions using American banks or brokers. READ HERE