WU EXPLAINS THE WORLD: 25 YEARS WITH THE WU-TANG CLAN

WU EXPLAINS THE WORLD: 25 YEARS WITH THE WU-TANG CLAN

Twenty-five years ago today, the world entered the 36 Chambers for the first time, when the New York hip-hop group The Wu-Tang Clan released their debut record Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). It was a grimy, mysterious world of smoky soul samples, cryptic kung-fu wisdom, and rugged tales from the streets of “Shaolin” (Staten Island) and Brooklyn. Totally unlike anything that had come before, it redefined music and would become a cultural touchstone well beyond the world of hip-hop.


But the album also held some geopolitical gems. So to celebrate a quarter century of the Wu as only we can, here’s a look three worldly bars, straight from the slums of Shaolin.

“RAW I’MA GIVE IT TO YA, WITH NO TRIVIA, RAW LIKE COCAINE STRAIGHT FROM BOLIVIA.”

As U-God reminds us in the opening bars of “Da Mystery of Chessboxing,” the Andean nation of Bolivia has always been a major producer of coca as well as, of course, the cocaine that’s made from it. In fact, in 1994, Bolivia produced more of the crop than Colombia, which wouldn’t see its own famous production boom until a few years later. Today, Bolivia is the third largest producer in the world, trailing Peru and Colombia, where coca crops have recently hit a historic high, so to speak. One interesting twist these days is that the Bolivian government allows its people to produce a certain amount of coca for traditional medicinal and religious uses. But according to observers, the nation still produces way above the threshold stipulated by the government. A lot of that is still finding its way abroad—with no trivia.

“TERRORIZE THE JAM LIKE TROOPS IN PAKISTAN”

To be honest, it’s not fully clear what Inspectah Deck meant with this line on “Protect Ya Neck,” the Wu’s first single. There was little terrorism in Pakistan in those days. The line may refer to the fact that Pakistan’s military and intelligence supported – with US and Saudi backing – thousands of Afghan and Arab jihadist fighters (the mujahideen) who battled Soviet forces throughout the 1980s next door in Afghanistan. After the war ended, some of those men would form powerful regional jihadist groups – as well as the global terrorist network Al-Qaeda – whose offshoots have killed thousands in Pakistan over the past decade. In addition, Pakistan is accused of harboring terrorist groups that operate in Afghanistan today. So the Inspectah may have had grimmer foresight than he realized. But the reference may also be to Pakistani military support for separatist insurgents (some of whom committed acts of terrorism) in Jammu and Kashmir, a still-disputed Muslim-majority region of northern India. Either way, consider the jam terrorized.

“PLO STYLE, HAZARDOUS COZ I WRECK THIS…”

The inimitable Ghostface Killah name checks the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in his verse on “Bring Da Ruckus.” The PLO is the national representative of the Palestinian people, formed in the 1960s under the leadership of Yasser Arafat. Until the early 1990s it disavowed Israel’s existence and waged a militant struggle – presumably what Ghostface is referring to – which included terrorist and guerrilla attacks. The year that 36 Chambers dropped, the PLO renounced armed struggle and accepted Israel’s existence as part of the historic, but doomed, Oslo Accords. Those accords created the Palestinian Authority, subordinate to the PLO, which today runs the West Bank but not Gaza (which is governed by the Islamist militants of Hamas).

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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