"Kremlin" by Larry Koester is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Within every state, leaders strive to find a perfect equilibrium between individual liberty and the state’s responsibility to protect its people. The balance found, however, is often based on the ideals of the system of government in place. Finding this balance is complex enough on its own, and becomes far more complex when one considers the corruption of Russia’s government and the KGB officer-turned-president, Vladimir  PutinRussia’s recent decision to pass a bill to decriminalize domestic violence, then, has many wondering what the true motives of this bill are. Does the government believe it to be in the nation’s best interest, or was it passed to alleviate financial burdens and reinforce gender inequality and the old Russian proverb, “if he beats you it means he loves you?” It is also important to consider that even if the government believes it is in the state’s best interest, does it have a responsibility to protect and punish violent actions taken inside families, or is it acceptable to allow families individual liberty to make their own judgment calls?

"Monumento a la Federacion Venezolana I" by Rjcastillo is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Last week, Venezuela’s government honored the 200th anniversary of Ezequiel Zamora’s birth, in national celebrations. According to the official leftist party line, Zamora was a national hero that led guerrilla warfare against Venezuela’s corrupt governments in the mid-nineteenth century. Hugo Chavez’s political ideology was founded on the so-called “tree of three roots” (árbol de las tres racíces): Simon Bolivar, Simon Rodriguez and Ezequiel Zamora.

Bolivar and Rodriguez are heroes universally admired and respected by Venezuelans throughout the political spectrum. Zamora, on the other hand, is a much more divisive figure. According to historical revisionists, Zamora is no hero.

"Donald Trump" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

It is a time-tested notion of politics that the delivery matters just as much as, perhaps more than, the message. It is also a notion that feels painfully appropriate to describe our current times, as the country prepares to inaugurate a former reality show star to its highest office. In light of Donald Trump’s ascendence, and in preparation for the days to come, those looking to rein in the President-elect’s most unethical tendencies are approaching this lesson with fresh eyes.

"Pinochet en Historia Plitica BCN" by Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de Chile is licensed under CC BY 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Just before Christmas, prisoners serving long terms for human rights abuses during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile received a mass and asked for forgiveness from the families of their victims. Some families of the victims protested the mass, and many human rights advocates dismissed these moves by the prisoners as empty, and not genuine steps towards earning forgiveness.

Forgiveness is often seen as a virtue, a good-making feature of a life well lived. To forgive is to let go of the blame we feel towards those who wrong us. Letting go of negative feelings can seem like an obvious good, a move towards a more positive way of living. When we hurt each other and let one another down, we make amends, apologize, and aim to get past states of blame and hurt. When someone who harms us apologizes, forgiving them is how the relationship can move forward.

"Syrian Refugees strike at the platform of Budapest Keletri railway station" by Mstyslav Chernov is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Anxieties over changing demographics, immigration, and refugees have been a key theme in Western politics over the past couple of years. A central flashpoint in the political debates leading up to the Brexit vote was a controversial poster from the “Leave” Campaign, depicting a line of Syrian refugees. In the United States, reports of racist taunting and vandalism have increased since the recent election. France will vote in presidential elections in 2017, and the National Front’s candidate Marine Le Pen is projected to have a strong showing. The National Front has also been associated primarily with its opposition to immigration, specifically immigration from Islamic countries. More generally, political sentiments that reject multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism, in favor of nationalism and isolationism, have grown in popularity in both the United States and Western Europe.

"Mujer musulmana en Pamukkale, Turquia" by Edgardo W. Olivera is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

On Tuesday, December 6th, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a speech calling for a ban on the full-face veil worn by some Muslim women. Earlier this year, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere also called for a ban on the full veil in public places. In defense of the ban, politicians appeal to society cohesion, and adherence to the values of Germany.

"Angela Merkel" by Tobias Koch is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Although nations have been dealing with international Islamic terrorism since the 1960s, Islamism’s threat has expanded over the last half-century. It has seeped out of immediate regional disputes in the Middle East and found its way directly into Western territory with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centers and the subsequent attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001.

"Fidel Castro, havana, 1978" by Marcelo Montecino is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

Fidel Castro is dead. During his trial, in 1953, he pronounced his famous words: “History will absolve me.” Whereas President-elect Donald Trump has emphatically condemned him, President Obama has been more cautious, and has proclaimed that, indeed, the jury is still out, and that History will judge Fidel Castro’s enormous impact.

"Putin/Trump make Russia great again" by Charles Stone via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

President-elect Donald Trump’s comments on Russian President Vladimir Putin have been a hot topic of discussion for months now. Trump has praised the Russian president’s leadership skills, noting that a renewed US-Russian cooperative relationship would be beneficial to both countries and to the world, specifically when it came to fighting ISIS. A Russian hack on the Democratic National Committee that resulted in thousands of leaked internal e-mails may have also influenced the election in Trump’s favor, leading to questions about the Putin-Trump relationship and concerns over election ballot hacking. Now that Trump stands to assume the presidency in a little less than two months, many Americans wonder what our future relationship with Russia will be. In order to understand what may come in the future, it is important to understand the beginnings of the Russian Federation – and how the United States may have had something to do with Russia turning from the West in the early 1990s.

Untitled by itkannu4u via Pixabay (Public Domain)

Two weeks ago, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, came on the evening news and made an announcement that would send shocks through the country. In the unscheduled televised address, Modi informed the public that in four hours, 500 and 1,000 rupee notes would no longer be legal tender. Two details of this startling law: first, people may deposit or change their old  ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes in banks until December 30th, the day that new ₹500 and ₹2,000 rupee notes will be issued. Second, until then, people may exchange a small sum of old cash into legal tender of smaller denominations at banks—three days ago this amount was reduced from ₹4,500 to ₹2,000.