Tuesday, May 07, 2019

One-Man Show Explores Conflicts, Compromises of North Korea Visit

By Jason Overdorf - The Washington Diplomat (March 2019)

It’s not until the end of John Feffer’s one-man show, “Next Stop: North Korea,” that the foreign policy scholar-cum-playwright offers a withering comment on the failed second summit meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Adopting the guise of a Scottish tour leader who sets the context for the contemplative 12-scene comedy, he opens the question-and-answer session with a setup for a one-liner: “You could ask me what I think about the recent meeting, for example,” he says, “and I’d tell you: They were having such a lovely love affair, I thought they’d consummate it. But instead, we got summit interruptus.”
The co-director of the Foreign Policy in Focus project of the Institute for Policy Studies, a D.C.-based liberal think tank, Feffer has long blurred the line between his academic and creative work. His most recent novel, “Splinterlands,” for instance, describes a dystopian future that’s informed by his study of virulent nationalism and the pressures threatening to dissolve the European Union. And earlier one-man shows dramatized his thinking on the failed response to an ecological collapse and his research on the fall of the Berlin Wall and spoofed a well-known local type: the foreign policy pundit grubbing for “that most coveted of D.C. positions: a top administration job.”
The blending of disciplines works particularly well in his latest show, which is less a satire than a travelogue that takes the viewer on an imaginary visit to North Korea. Where journalism and policy writing all too often eclipse the ordinary people affected by the momentous events they describe, dramatization allows Feffer to portray and explore the nuances of life in one of the most closed-off countries in the world.
This includes delving into the conflicts and compromises that the totalitarian state demands of a foreign tourist and aid worker; a tour guide schooled in propaganda; a government apparatchik; and a taxi driver wrestling with patriotism and the struggle to survive. Because the so-called Hermit Kingdom is the proverbial black box for most viewers, the imaginative journey is especially evocative, although director Angela Kay Pirko has eschewed all but the barest hint of sets and costumes.
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Security Bloc’s First Post-Soviet Members Remain Focused on a Resurgent Russia

By Jason Overdorf - The Washington Diplomat (April 2019)

A day after NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called for the alliance to hold its ground against an increasingly bellicose Russia, the foreign ministers of the three Central European countries that joined the bloc as part of its first eastward expansion following the collapse of the Soviet Union also warned of new threats from Moscow even as they celebrated what Polish Ambassador Piotr Wilczek termed “arguably the most successful alliance in the history of mankind.”
The Czech, Hungarian and Polish foreign ministers were marking the 20th anniversary of their membership into NATO as well as the security alliance’s 70th anniversary. The day before the three ministers spoke at the Polish ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C., Vice President Mike Pence reiterated his boss’s criticisms that some NATO members aren’t carrying their weight, although Pence declared that “the alliance at 70 has never been stronger,” due in large part to President Trump’s leadership.
The three foreign ministers backed Trump’s calls for increased defense spending but cautioned against viewing the alliance in transactional terms during a panel discussion titled “Twenty Years Later: Lessons from NATO’s Enlargement and the Alliance’s Future.”
Pushed through despite protests from Moscow, NATO’s first eastward expansion added the three Central European countries in 1999, as the sheen was just starting to wear off Francis Fukuyama’s idea of the “end of history,” Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz recalled. Two weeks later, NATO’s intervention in the Kosovo War began.
“With [NATO] membership, we got more rights, we got more security, but at the same time we took responsibility,” said Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, touching on a key theme all three countries repeatedly emphasized — that they are among the most vocal proponents of a muscular alliance.
“We want to be active and we have been an active member of NATO. We contributed to many missions, and we also sacrificed the most valuable price, the price of human life,” Petříček said.
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The World’s Most Controversial City Developments

From New York City to Moscow, these urban developments have sparked outrage and debate.

By Jason Overdorf - US News & World Report (May 2019)

Hudson Yards - New York

New York's pricey Hudson Yards real estate development bills itself as "a triumph of culture, commerce and cuisine." But the mammoth cluster of multimillion dollar condominiums, retail outlets, restaurants, plazas and green space has inspired more loathing than love amid growing resentment of runaway inequality.
It's not just the eye-popping rents (a two-bedroom corner apartment at One Hudson Yards goes for $9,715 a month). Critics argue the entire development is a kind of ode to consumption. New York Magazine dubbed it "a billionaire's fantasy city," decrying it as urban life as imagined by Ayn Rand, "a corporate city-state, branded from sidewalk to spire." Even Forbes magazine – which unashamedly calls itself "the capitalist tool" – carried a review that scoffed at developer Stephen Ross's claim the project wasn't only a playground for the wealthy.
Developments like Hudson Yards – centered around posh shopping and luxury apartments – remain as popular with city planners around the world as they are despised by local residents fed up with skyrocketing rents. Here are nine other big redevelopment projects around the world that have inspired similar passions.
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