n.27 December 2009

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama recently became the first modern Japanese government chief to mention the Meiji Revolution of 1868, which restored imperial power and helped lay the groundwork for modern Japan. That was a bloodless overhaul that helped introduced the country to the party system. Now Hatoyama’s “revolutionary” Democratic Party of Japan faces its first test with partial elections in 2010.

Religion is back in Russia. Some say it's a natural reaction to decades of oppressive Soviet atheism, others that efforts on behalf of religious freedom coupled with growing nationalism has helped bring faith back into the Russian social picture. But no one explanation fully explains the comeback. Moscow’s Levada Social Research Center probed the phenomenon and emerged with some interesting statistics.

Russian President Dimitri Medvedev has made tackling endemic national corruption a top priority. But new ratings by Transparency International suggest his country is swiftly losing ground. The misappropriation of federal, regional and local funds is now thought to exceed $100 billion annually, a third of the country’s national budget.

For every $310 earned per capita in Afghanistan, $307 is drug money. For Viktor Ivanov, who heads the Kremlin's drug enforcement agency, understanding the role the drug trade plays is fundamental to considering the country's future. A central player in the relations between Moscow and Washington, he believes the secret to Afghanistan’s future may not lie in military force.