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Walid Shoebat became a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization as a young man, commited acts of terror and violence against Israelis and was imprisoned in an Israeli jail. Today he is an outspoken critic of any sort of antisemitism, antizionism, terrorism and religious extremism. Watch him speak at the University of California:

Confessions of a PLO Terrorist: Walid Shoebat

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When most Westerners speak of human rights they usually mean political and civil rights like free speech. But to most poor people in the world economic rights are at least as important and often times more important than political and civil rights.

Watch Jean-Pierre Chauffour, Economic Adviser for the World Bank, speak about his latest book, The Power of Freedom: Uniting Human Rights and Development, at a Cato Institute Book Forum.

“Are the quests for human rights and economic development compatible? Jean-Pierre Chauffour takes the development and human rights communities to task for working at cross purposes and often advocating policies that violate basic rights, whether those rights are economic freedoms or broader issues of personal choice. The author will explain how the two traditions can be reconciled by empowering people with economic, civil, and political liberty, and he will outline a mutually supportive agenda for advocates of growth and human rights.”

Listen to Brink Lindsey talk about his book The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America’s Politics and Culture to Russ Roberts at EconTalk:

Brink Lindsey on the Age of Abundance

Feminist Muslim Irshad Manji supported the military intervention in Afghanistan from the beginning – and she did so mainly because of one simple reason: human rights. But now she has doubts, if the West will really be able to bring liberal democracy to Afghanistan: Tribalism triumphs in Afghanistan

Listen to her debate the issue with Nelofer Pazira, an Afghan Canadian journalist, who defends the war as necessary and moral:

The Current – Afghan Moral Mission

That is the subtitle of a new book by Dambisa MoyoDead Aid, which I highly recommend. Moyo knows the facts – and she knows Africa.

Watch her discuss about how we can make poverty history with development expert William Easterly at the Templeton Foundation

A conversation between Dambisa Moyo and William Easterly

Paul Collier is Professor of Economics at Oxford University and Department Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies.

Watch him speak about his book “The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It”, in which he “outlines four traps that the poorest countries in the world can find themselves in: the trap of civil war, the trap of being landlocked, the trap of having abundant natural resouces, and the trap of having a bad government” and explains how they can escape these traps:

Foreign Policy Magazine – Paul Collier

If you believe that total drug decriminialization is a crazy idea, think again! Because Portugal did decriminalize all drugs, including heroin and cocaine, in 2001, and they are still glad they did.

Listen to an inspiring Cato Policy Forum on the topic:

Drug Decriminalization in Portugal

“In 2001, Portugal began a remarkable policy experiment,
decriminalizing all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Some predicted disastrous results—that drug addiction rates would soar and the country would become a haven for “drug tourists.” Now that several years have passed, policy experts can study the results. In a new paper for the Cato Institute, attorney and author Glenn Greenwald closely examines the Portugal experiment and concludes that the doomsayers were wrong. There is now a widespread consensus in Portugal that decriminalization has been a success. The debate in Portugal has shifted rather dramatically to minor adjustments in the existing arrangement. There is no real debate about whether drugs should once again be criminalized. Join us for a discussion about Glenn Greenwald’s field research in Portugal and what lessons his findings may hold for drug policies in other countries.”

Hundreds of migrants feared drowned as boat sinks off Libya

Is there no way we can make sure that a human tragedy like this won’t ever happen again? I believe there is. And so does journalist and economist Phillippe Legrain. Watch him speak about his book Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them on Ireland’s RTE2 (Part 1 / 2) or on Frost over the World.

Even though they try hard to kill it – as the Economist reports:

Gorky Aguila, Cuban punk rocker – No Comandante!

Watch this impressing documentary about a man, who traces his father’s journey “through former labor camps and cities in northern Russia and his final uncovering of the horrible truth at the dreaded camp city of Vorkuta within the Artic Circle”:

Jon Utley’s search for his father

John Stossel has some great ideas in this 20/20 documentary:

Stupid in America – How we cheat our kids

The Economist on How to stop the drug wars

Audio version

Watch Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and co-editor of the Journal of Democracy, debate his book The Spirit of Democracy – The Struggle to Build Free Societies Throughout the World, which I very strongly recommend to anyone interested in the science of democracy and democracy movements, with some researchers from Freedom House at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs:

The Spirit of Democracy – Carnegie Council, New York

Mr. Cardoso is a former president of Brazil. Mr. Gaviria is a former president of Colombia. Mr. Zedillo is a former president of Mexico.
They don’t take drugs. But they all agree that we should stop waging a war against them and the people who use or sell them.

In the Wall Street Journal they explain why: The War on Drugs Is a FailureWe should focus instead on reducing harm to users and on tackling organized crime

Watch Shikha Dalmia explain why the new rags-to-riches-movie Slumdog Millionaire is a brilliant metaphor for recent Indian history at Reason TV:

Slumdog Thousandaire

“In important ways, Slumdog tells the story of India itself—a poverty-stricken underdog with its own rags-to-riches tales.

Since the early 1990s, India has cut its poverty rate in half. About 300 million Indians—equivalent to the population of the entire United States—escaped the hunger and deprivation of extreme poverty thanks to pro-market reforms that increased economic activity.

Watch Daoud Sultanzoy, Chairman of the Economic Committee of the Afghan Parliament, talk about “the current economic and business conditions in Afghanistan and the links between sustained economic growth and democratic institutions” at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE):

Building Democracy and a Market Economy in Afghanistan Part 1 /2

Also watch this short, but very interesting documentary about Tashabos (the Dari and Pashto word for “entrepreneur”), a CIPE program  “to teach high school students the basics of economics and finance. Tashabos tells the story of a married couple that capitalize on the weaving and design skills of the wife to establish a knitwear business that – by the course’s completion – expands into a full-scale manufacturing enterprise”:

Tashabos – Entrepreneurship Education in Afghanistan

Salman Rushdie is an atheist, Irshad Manji a muslim. But they have a lot in common. They both have tons of courage, are open minded and freedom loving. And they both haven’t lost their sense of humour…

Enjoy watching them debate the importance of free speech and the power of fear over people’s minds:

Salman Rushdie and Irshad Manji at the 92nd Street Y

Watch or listen to Susette Kelo, who struggled to save her home from a private developer and greedy politicians and went all the way to the Supreme Court, speak at the Cato Institute:

Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage

“No U.S. Supreme Court decision in the modern era has been so quickly and widely reviled as the infamous Kelo decision, in which the Court ruled that Susette Kelo’s little pink house in New London, Connecticut, and the homes of her neighbors could be taken by the government and given over to a private developer based on the mere prospect that the new use for her property could generate more taxes or jobs.”

They not only hurt American consumers and tax payers, but many poor farmers around the world, as Nick Gillespie explains in this short Reason TV documentary:

Agricultural Subsidies – Corporate Welfare for Farmers

“U.S. farm programs cost taxpayers billions each year, significantly raise the price of commodities such as sugar, undermine world trade agreements, and contribute to the suffering of poor farmers around the world. It’s bad public policy, especially in these troubled economic times.”

Watch journalist and author Philippe Legrain debate this question with Allan Little at BBC Hardtalk:

Is the anti-globalisation movement wrong? 1 / 2 / 3

Watch Phyllis Chesler, Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at City University of New York and author of The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom, speak out against gender apartheid in the islamic world and the silence of feminism at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers in New York:

Chesler: The Death of Feminism

Watch Amal Elsana Alh’jooj, director of the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation, explain at the World Affairs Council how she got to be the first bedouine feminist – and what feminism is or should be all about:

Amal Elsana Alh’jooj at the WAC

“Amal was born in Laqiya, an Arab Bedouin village in the northeastern Negev, to a family with 13 children. At the age of 17 she established the first Arab Bedouin women’s organization. Amal is one of the key shapers of public opinion in the Arab community regarding the status of the Arab minority and the status of women in Israel.”

…it’s a good time to remember why and how it was used to torture and mistreat people:

The Road to Guantanamo

Bad news again from this year’s Freedom House Survey:

Freedom in the World 2009 Survey Release

“According to the survey’s findings, 2008 marked the third consecutive year in which global freedom suffered a decline. This setback was most pronounced in Sub-Saharan Africa and the non-Baltic former Soviet Union, although it affected most other regions of the world.”

Listen to Arch Paddington discuss the main findings:

Paddington Speech

Question & Answers

“Key global findings include:

Free: The number of countries judged by Freedom in the World as Free in 2008 stands at 89, representing 46 percent of the world’s countries and 46 percent of the global population. The number of Free countries declined by one from 2007.

Partly Free: The number of Partly Free countries is 62, or 32 percent of all countries assessed by the survey and 20 percent of the world’s total population. The number of Partly Free countries increased by two.

Not Free: The report designates 42 countries as Not Free, representing 22 percent of the total number of countries and 34 percent of the world population. Nearly 60 percent of this number lives in China. The number of Not Free countries declined by one.

Electoral Democracies: The number of electoral democracies dropped by two and stands at 119. Developments in Mauritania, Georgia, Venezuela and Central African Republic disqualified them from the electoral democracy list, while Bosnia-Herzegovina and Bangladesh became electoral democracies.

Worst of the Worst: Of the 42 countries designated Not Free, eight received the survey’s lowest possible ranking for both political rights and civil liberties: North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Libya, Sudan, Burma, Equatorial Guinea and Somalia.”

Watch how Ghanaian economist George Ayittey “unleashes a torrent of controlled anger toward corrupt leaders in Africa” – he calls them the hippos! – “and calls on the Cheetah generation” – the young, open minded, freedom loving generation! – “to take back the continent” at the Ted Talks:

George Ayittey: Cheetahs vs. Hippos for Africa’s future

We don’t know who murdered Anna Politkovskaya, but we do know why. All her life, she was a strong voice for human rights in Russia, Chechnya and the world.

Watch her speak at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in 2001:

Covering the War in Chechnya

“Ms. Politkovskaya talked about covering the war in Chechnya and related many of her experiences. She answered questions from members of the audience. She is the author of A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya.”

Listen to Tony Leon and Marian Tupy comment on Mugabe’s rule and the world’s reaction to it for the Washington Times:

Mugabe’s election theft and illegitimacy

“Mr. Mugabe’s economic policies and repression are responsible for widespread poverty, sickness and violence that have gripped Zimbabwe, and while his rule appears to be coming to an end, Zimbabwe’s story provides a somber lesson for the rest of the world. For too long, world leaders and international institutions have temporized with African dictators and accepted flawed elections as sources of incumbents’ legitimacy. “

Watch Swedish writer Johan Norberg, author of the classic study In Defense of Global Capitalism, travel around the globe and explain to you, why globalization is the only hope for the poor and why we don’t have enough of it:  

Globalisation is Good

“The world is an unequal and unjust place, in which some are born into wealth and some into hunger and misery. To explore why, in this controversial Channel Four documentary the young Swedish writer Johan Norberg takes the viewers on a journey to Taiwan, Vietnam, Kenya and Brussels to see the impact of globalisation, and the consequences of its absence. It makes the case that the problem in the world is not too much capitalism, globalisation and multinationals, but too little.”