James Traub

Watching Modi, the Maestro, at Work

On the campaign trail in India, the election front-runner takes the high road, while his Hindu nationalist followers support him from below.

SHAHJAHANPUR, India — The distance from New Delhi to Shahjahanpur, a town in northern Uttar Pradesh, is slightly less than 200 miles; a four-lane highway runs most of the way. Yet I can tell you from painful experience that the trip takes six or seven hours. Because India's highways, with a very few exceptions, also serve as local roads, the taxi I took earlier this week had to jostle for space with three-wheelers, horse- and bullock-carts, bicycles and motorcycles, and groaning trucks listing way over to one side with mighty loads. For tourists, this is the cacophonous, all-at-onceness that is India's magic. For Indians, the choked highways constitute a colossal loss of productivity and a humiliating failure of infrastructure investment.

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Let Them Eat Apple Pie

Income inequality in the U.S. is now as bad as it was in aristocratic Europe. Are the bread riots finally coming?

Inequality has come out of the fiscal shadows. U.S. President Barack Obama, a scrupulous consensus-builder who long avoided all zero-sum formulations, is now rallying citizens to stand with him against "the relentless, decades-long trend" of income inequality. Bill de Blasio became New York's mayor by campaigning on the issue. And earlier this week, Christine Lagarde -- the executive director of the International Monetary Fund (the epicenter of neo-liberal orthodoxy) -- told New York Times columnist Eduardo Porter that she was very concerned about the macroeconomic effects of rising inequality.

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If We Can Let Syria Burn, Have We Learned Anything at All from Rwanda?

The legacy of genocide and why humanitarian intervention still needs a president that's compelled to act.

When we think about Rwanda today, it is not the genocide that began 20 years ago that we are likely to recall, but the much more recent incidents of repression which President Paul Kagame is alleged to have perpetrated against opponents at home and abroad, and his exploitation of the chaos in next-door Congo. Kagame has undermined Rwanda's reputation, and its victim status.

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The Enemy We've Been Waiting For

Vladimir Putin could be the perfect gift to an American president desperately in need of a foe.

Listening to U.S. President Barack Obama's speech in Brussels this week, I found myself thinking, "He's got his voice back." This thought came right around the moment when he deployed the expression "we believe" as a rhetorical device to underline the universality of faith in free expression and free markets and in "an international system that protects the rights of both nations and people." Obama is a belief-driven leader who in recent months has had very few opportunities to project his beliefs upon the world. Now, suddenly, he has a cause.

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Burning Bridges and the Smell of Fresh Blood

Vladimir Putin says he doesn’t "need" eastern Ukraine, but it just might make sense for him to take it anyway.

In his speech to the Duma earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin turned directly to the people of Ukraine, who perhaps he had heard were feeling jittery. "Do not," he said, "believe those who want you to fear Russia, shouting that other regions will follow Crimea. We do not want to divide Ukraine; we do not need that." One imagines that Putin would not offer such an explicit pledge if he planned to violate it. On the other hand, he also noted that, after the Revolution, the Bolsheviks -- "may God judge them" -- transferred historically Russian territory which now constitutes "the southeast of Ukraine."

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