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The Path of Pen or Sword?

The path of the pen or the path of the sword? Young Kachin in northern Burma are preparing and learning on both fronts.

The question dates back to antiquity, but recently it has come to life here in Kachin State where the Kachin have struggled for autonomy for generations.

The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) fought an armed insurgency for more than 30 years. Despite being out-numbered and out-armed, the KIA was never fully defeated, but they were not able to win full autonomy for the Kachin people.

Yemen: the Weakest Link

The executive order signed by President Barack Obama on 22 January 2009 commits the United States to shutting the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay within a year. It is a clear victory for civil-rights advocates - but one that throws into sharp relief the persistent dangers posed by weak and failing states, and the inadequacy of United States policy towards them.

Tajikistan: Khojand

Our tickets were booked for the 11am flight to Khojand, not 2pm as we asked for and were told was our departure time. The woman at the airline service desk told us we were out of luck, everything was booked solid for the day -- but a porter took us aside and offered to fix things. He took us to a different counter and within about fifteen minutes he handed us tickets for the 11am flight. After going through security –which consisted of a broken metal detector-- the porter asked for 100 somoni, about $35. A bit exorbitant but I didn't have the energy to argue.

Palestinian Militants' Advantage in Gaza?

The humanitarian focus in Gaza will soon begin to shift, thanks to the more than $4 billion in pledges that were made by international donors at the Sharm el-Sheik conference this month.

Among the emergency relief workers, the humanitarian workers, and medics flooding the strip, there will be some unexpected people trawling through the rubble before reconstruction starts.

Tajikistan: Freedom to Farm

This morning I met with Tajiks involved in agricultural development. A big government reform is in place that could have a huge impact on Tajikistan's agriculture. Farmers now have the right, in theory, to choose what to grow. The reform is called "Freedom to Farm."

Near The Afghan Border

Today was a fiasco.

Having cooled our heels all morning waiting for press accreditation badges, Carolyn and I finally hit the road. We are both eager to check out the isolated farming communities lining Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan.

Will the Economic Crisis Destabilize Tajikistan?

Taking a car from Dushanbe, Tajikistan's easy-going capital city, to the Afghanistan border requires special permission from government authorities. I didn't have it.

Tajikistan: Dushanbe #2

Central Asia is not a beacon for press freedom. But government attitudes are generally calibrated by the language a journalist writes or broadcasts. National languages –Tajik, Kazakh, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, or Turkmen-- are the most sensitive and tightly controlled. Russian, the lingua franca of post-Soviet Central Asia, comes a close second. English is not such a big deal since very few Central Asians can understand it and Central Asian regimes care most about controlling the information actually consumed by their citizens.

Tajikistan: Dushanbe

On the Turkish Airlines flight into Dushanbe, the young American woman sitting next to me was enthusiastic about her next three days of personal freedom in Tajikistan. She is a political officer at the US embassy in Afghanistan. "I'm looking forward to being able to walk around on streets," she told me in a slight southern twang. "It will feel good to be in a normal city."

Istanbul revelers revive a Greek bacchanalia

ISTANBUL — Ottoman fezzes and false moustaches abounded. A man dressed as the Grim Reaper waited at a tram stop.

As the masked revelers made their way down Istanbul’s most famous pedestrian thoroughfare, well-dressed diners gaped from the area’s hundreds of restaurants and taverns.

With their eccentric procession, these fancily dressed merrygoers revived a bawdy working-class carnival, known as Baklahorani, banned by the Turkish authorities during World War II.

Christians gird for war in Myanmar

"My generation thinks there will be a war," says a 22-year-old cadet in the Kachin Independence Army, one of several armed groups that struggle for political autonomy on the frontiers of Myanmar.

His AK-47 slung loosely over his shoulder, the cadet qualifies his prediction, perhaps in deference to the officers who listen as he speaks.

"We don´t know what the leadership will decide," he says. "We will follow their orders."