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The author with CNN crew in Kabul, Afghanistan, June 2011.

The tattoos were a tell-tale sign. So were the black t-shirts, baseball caps, Oakley shades and bird-nest beards. But it was those dark jags of ink splayed over tanned forearms that really screamed soldiers of fortune. This group of hired guns had strapped in beside me aboard a Lockheed C-130 transport plane, en route to southern Afghanistan's restive Helmand province. The men were mostly silent as the plane took off, with occasional head bobs to adjust the keffiyehs neatly tucked under their chins. On their laps rested German-engineered MP-5 long guns. On mine, a grey notebook and a small camera.

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There is a well-trodden escape route out of North Korea. It is both illegal and daunting, rife with unscrupulous human traffickers and hounded by heavily-armed soldiers. But over the decades, thousands of North Korean defectors have made the dangerous trip, which leads across the Yalu River and into China. From there, clandestine assistance networks and charities help them to make the trek further north into Mongolia. If they get there, they stand a chance of moving on to seek asylum in free countries elsewhere in the world.

But if they are caught in China, they are typically returned home to face imprisonment and torture. Recently, the Chinese government of President Xi Jinping – who visits North Korea today -- has moved to crack down harder on the safe houses that aid these asylum-seekers, according to rights groups and recent Reuters reporting.

Here is one story of a defector who, despite near unfathomable hardships, managed to escape. Yeonmi Park says she survived the great famine of the 1990s by foraging for grasshoppers and dragonflies, before being subject to human trafficking in China. Today she is a human rights activist living in Chicago. How she got from there to here is the story of a lifetime. And it's the subject of a special edition of GZERO World.

If there's one thing the Brits, the Russkies and the Yanks have all learned over the years, it's this: Being a superpower is hard. After all, it means not only projecting military, economic and cultural influence well beyond your borders, but also doing it in different parts of the world at the same time. Very few countries have been able to pull that off throughout history. And right now, the US is the only one that fits the bill in every category.

Still, being a superpower ain't what it used to be.

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One Million Species Risk Extinction. The Chief Culprit – Humans
One Million Species Risk Extinction. The Chief Culprit – Humans

As many as one million plant and animal species are being threatened with extinction as a result of human activity. That is the conclusion of a sweeping 1,500 page United Nations assessment, according to an early summary of the report released Monday. The report forecasts a staggering loss of biodiversity brought on by pollution, loss of habitat, invasive species and climate change. It also projects "grave impacts on people around the world (as a result of the change) are now likely." Ian Bremmer spoke with a man who says the consequences are actually far more dire than most people realize. And yet David Wallace-Wells, author of "The Uninhabitable Earth," also offers a bit of hope.

The World's Largest Democracy Scans Voters' Eyes
The World's Largest Democracy

The world's biggest democracy heads to the polls. It's also expanding the world's largest biometric ID system to track 1.3 billion people. A man who recently ran the Reserve Bank of India, Raghuram Rajan, explains why. And on Puppet Regime, Donald Trump is in Moscow. #RaghuramRajan

The West Bank is a 2,180-square-mile patch of landlocked territory home to 2.6 million Palestinians and more than half a million Israeli settlers. Recurring conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has left the territory's fate up for grabs, though Israel has had de facto control over much of the West Bank for decades. The use of the term "Palestinian Territories" refers to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a small piece of land bordering Egypt over which Palestinians also have semi-autonomous control. Two competing governments claim to speak for the Palestinian people, one in the West Bank and the other in Gaza. In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to grant Palestine "non-member observer" status, though the Palestinian quest for autonomy and a "two-state solution," whereby an independent State of Palestine resides alongside the State of Israel, has been undercut by unresolved questions regarding borders, refugees, security and the city of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital.

What now, Mr. Guaidó?

GZERO interviews Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

It once seemed so encouraging for Venezuela's political opposition: Millions in the streets. Strong international support. An unpopular autocrat seemingly on the ropes. But what a difference a month can make.

In early March, Juan Guaidó — the man recognized by dozens of countries as Venezuela's interim president — returned home to cheering crowds. He had been abroad for almost two weeks, currying favor with other regional governments, and trying to get much–needed humanitarian aid to his countrymen.

But in the days since then, little has changed. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro remains in power, despite having overseen one of the most staggering economic collapses in modern history.

Guaidó's overtures to the military to drop their support for Maduro have had little effect — only an estimated 1,000 soldiers and national police have defected, despite huge protests, growing sanctions pressure, and the whispered threat of US military action. The top brass remains loyal to Maduro.

In fact, after a few weeks of mostly ignoring Mr. Guaidó, Venezuelan authorities have quietly ratcheted up pressure of their own. Earlier this week, in a pre-dawn raid, the intelligence services detained Mr. Guaidó's chief of staff at his home, raising the possibility that the government may be closing in on Mr. Guaidó himself.

With relatively few tangible gains to show recently, what is Guaidós plan? Is he open to US military intervention? What would a realistic transition look like?

He sits down with us to answer these very questions. Watch the interview here.