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Week in Review

World news this week was dominated by protests that erupted in Turkey. When riot police attacked a peaceful sit-in in Istanbul, people in cities across the country marched in defiance, shouting “down with Erdogan” and other slogans against Turkey’s strong and conservative leader. Things have quieted down significantly but still there is unrest.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, fighting from the Syrian civil war spilled into Lebanon, giving rise to fears of a sectarian war spreading across the region from Basra to Beirut. Vali Nasr took aim at the Obama administration saying because Washington is sitting on its hands, refusing to do much about the mess in Syria, the Iran-Assad-Hezbollah axis has gained the upper hand in the civil war. President Obama’s new foreign policy team took shape, which might mean some changes in his Syria policy. Meanwhile, UN peacekeepers withdrew from the Golan Heights amid heavy fighting, giving Israel something to worry about, and the US Embassy in Egypt issued a travel warning to citizens, which is very bad news for vital Egypt’s tourism industry.

Xi Jinping, China’s president, arrived in California for an informal “shirtsleeve summit” with President Obama to discuss everything from cyber security to North Korea to currency. The summit underlines how far China has risen in global geopolitics, a fact similarly emphasized by China’s strongly-worded criticism of Europe in an ongoing, multi-fronted economic battle. The Chinese also took aim at Japan with a video game that lets players kill Japanese and storm Japanese territory. In India, Narendra Modi was announced as the leader of the main opposition party’s 2014 election campaign.

An IMF report that describes in detail how bad Greek debt really is was leaked to the WSJ then officially released. Lithuania broke free of Gazprom. And a high speed rail project connecting Brussels Amsterdam now looks like a debacle.

The big news on the domestic front was another scandal for the Obama administration: dramatic revelations of government surveillance. In this week’s essay, we explained how this was related to Obama’s wish to end the Global War on Terror:

President Obama wants the global war on terror to look like a series of aggressive but normal police actions—but he can only maintain that appearance by the unremitting use of techniques and weapons that we rightly deny to ordinary police fighting ordinary crimes. The greater the President’s success at convincing us that the war is fading into the background, the more shock and anger he faces when (as inevitably happens) the nature of his war fighting strategies comes out into the open.

An energy guru predicted that the US could use its glut of natural gas to power its cars. Technology isn’t just transforming the way we drive, it’s producing more powerful and more energy efficient computers. In Israel, technology is allowing visually-impaired people to “see” again. Unfortunately, that’s where the good medical news ends. Most Americans are decidedly undecided on Obamacare, but disapproval is on the rise. Defenders of the new law have pointed to California as evidence that the ACA can work nationwide, but that argument is built on bogus proof.

Republicans and Democrats released competing overhauls to No Child Left Behind. Higher education needs its own overhaul, and MOOCs are delivering. Tuition costs need to be addressed as well, because student debt is crushing small business in America. And a report of a possible reform to higher ed accreditation was a much-needed breath of fresh air.

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