Watching popular American sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” Korean viewers could be appalled at the character Sheldon making fun of Howard for holding only a master’s degree from MIT. In the show, Sheldon, who is a theoretical physicist with a Ph.D. from Harvard, openly mocks Howard for his lower academic degree and his alma mater, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. If a Korean TV series aired such a scene of belittling a specific degree or university, it would immediately create a nationwide sc
The problems in Afghanistan often feel intractable, like a knot of countless ropes bound together. Every time a strand is pulled, another part of the knot tightens up. Currently, the Taliban refuse to have talks with the Afghan government, which they label a puppet regime; the Kabul government insists that any power-sharing agreement allow limited numbers of Western troops to remain; the Pakistanis, who have long sheltered Taliban leaders, are unwilling to fully encourage a peace settlement; the
Still a bit of a tongue twister even to experts: hard to pronounce and difficult to remember. Many tend to get the sequence of the letters wrong. The CPTPP stands for the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. As the name speaks for itself, this is a treaty to save the TPP -- an originally 12-nation trade agreement in the Pacific region, spearheaded by the United States. Upon Washington’s withdrawal in January 2017, the remaining 11 states joined forces to rescue the deal. They
Algorithms have long been able to produce basic news stories from press releases or sets of financial data; that’s not much of a threat to most humans in the news business. Now, however, artificial intelligence has taken a step further. It’s learned to perform a tougher task -- to produce convincing-looking fake news. Stringing together a few formulaic passages from a set of numbers is a mechanical job. Inventing a fake news story on a random subject requires imagination; not every human is up t
Substance often runs a distant second to drama in the age of Donald Trump. So it was when America’s intelligence chiefs visited Capitol Hill recently to deliver their agencies’ annual worldwide threat assessment. It got traction in the news media largely because Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA director Gina Haspel gave testimony that implicitly cut across Trump’s policies toward North Korea and Iran. Kim Jong-un has no intention of giving up his nuclear weapons, Coats and Has
Two major divorces are in the making in March. The obvious one is Brexit, which officially occurs on March 29. The other is the deadline for the US-China trade negotiations on March 1, when US tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports will increase from 10 percent to 25 percent. Even though a trade deal is likely, as both sides want to have a deal and the market is expecting one, this will come down to the wire as the gap in what can be achieved in the deal is still daunting. Both negotia
Vietnam is more than a convenient neutral site for the second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, which is slated for later this month. The Southeast Asian nation is being held up as a model for what Kim’s isolated country could become if he adopts sweeping market reforms. The choice facing Kim at the Hanoi summit is the same as it’s always been: weapons or wealth. The US has long offered North Korea a chance to develop its moribund economy in exchange
Brace yourself: A growing number of hard-up Chinese borrowers are not making good on their debts. The pattern is all too familiar. After a record year of defaults in 2018, two big issuers failed to meet their obligations in recent weeks. Coal miner Wintime Energy Co., one of China’s biggest defaulters last year, missed interest payments again this month. Beijing Orient Landscape & Environment Co., which builds water-treatment plants, was late on a 500 million yuan ($73.8 million) bond due this m
As the US-led world order continues to fall apart, second-tier powers are trying to salvage what they can. But in Germany and France, at least, voters don’t really want the US to be part of the process. The annual Munich Security Report, which provides the starting point for discussion at the annual security forum in the German city, is often a good indication of the Western security community’s current mood. The 2019 report, titled “The Great Puzzle: Who Will Pick Up the Pieces?” is somewhat le
Whatever you’re doing out of a sense of desperation at 2 a.m., odds are that it’s not going to be one of your healthiest choices. Last week, I wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t sleep. Not wanting to wake my spouse in the middle of the night (or, as my students call it, “early evening”), I tiptoed into my office, disturbing the cats who blinked, yawned and then put their paws over their eyes in what I felt were exaggerated expressions of feline sufferance. Once at my desk, I gave into temptation.
President Trump has been insisting for so long that any investigation of his personal finances would cross a “red line” that people may have overlooked the outrageousness of his claim. But this self-declared immunity is about to change. We’re entering a new phase of the Trump-Russia investigation, where the president’s efforts to contain the probe are failing. Information he tried to suppress about his business and political dealings is emerging -- with more to come. “There are no red lines exce
In retrospect, it seems obvious that President Donald Trump would want to have his cake and eat it, too. That’s essentially what he was doing Friday by both signing a government funding bill that provides $1.375 billion for a barrier with Mexico while also declaring a national emergency to allocate other federal funds for the same purpose.Presumably, congressional Democrats knew this could happen when they entered the compromise to keep the government open in exchange for barrier funding conside
I asked some university students a few weeks ago about President Moon’s economic policies. By far, the most common response was: “I don’t know what they are doing.” Because this statement was made with a variety of emotions like exasperation and indifference, I didn’t pay much attention to it at first. It was only later I realized it was meant to be taken literally. My curiosity piqued, I convened a second discussion. Most students knew, of course, there had been a recent minimum wage increase.
For over a decade now, we have witnessed more elections and, simultaneously, less democracy. According to Bloomberg, elections have been occurring more frequently around the world. Yet Freedom House finds that some 110 countries have experienced declines in political and civil rights over the past 13 years.As democracy declines, so does our sense of community. In the United States, this is evidenced by a looming loneliness epidemic and the rapid disappearance of civic institutions such as church
The US government should not regulate social media. It should stay far away from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and the rest. Any regulatory effort might well violate the First Amendment. Even if it turned out to be constitutional, it would squelch creativity and innovation in the very places where they are most needed.Until recently, I would have endorsed every sentence in the above paragraph. But as Baron Bramwell, the English judge, once put it, “The matter does not appear to me now as