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America’s difficult high-wire act in Egypt

In the face of a nearly impossible diplomatic dilemma, the US must continue to have an open mind toward Egypt.
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A supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and of Egypt's ousted President Mohamed Morsi demonstrates on July 16, 2013 under the Six October Bridge in the center of Cairo. (MAHMOUD KHALED/AFP/Getty Images)
As the chaos in Egypt accelerates, Washington will have to think hard about the role it must play as the most influential outside force in that critical country.
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Egypt: The "Tamarrod" (Rebellion) is planned for June 30, 2013

Commentary: On the one-year anniversary of Muhammad Mursi's presidency, growing political turmoil has left opposition leaders calling for the Egyptian leader to step down.
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Egyptian Islamist groups led by the ruling Muslim Brotherhood take part in a demonstration to mark the upcoming one year anniversary since President Mohamed Morsi (portrait) was elected, on June 21, 2013 in Cairo. Tens of thousands of Egyptian Islamists gathered for a show of strength in Cairo ahead of planned opposition protests against President Mohamed Morsi, highlighting the tense political divide in the Arab world's most populous state. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)
June 30, 2013 will mark a significant moment in Egypt's post-Mubarak transition. On that day, the opposition to President Mursi has called for a 'Tamarrod' or rebellion demanding new presidential elections. It will contribute to Egypt's further descent to poverty and instability.
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Morgue fridge for sale on eBay

The giant, "used" morgue fridge from New York's Office of General Services has drawn $2,000 in bids on eBay.
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New York's Office of General Services is selling this used, four-drawer morgue refrigerator on eBay. (eBay/Courtesy)

Looking for that special gift for the person who has everything?

You may find it on eBay, where a giant "used" but "fully operational" morgue refrigerator is being auctioned off by New York's Office of General Services.

That's right. A four-drawer fridge for the dead.

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Nepal: Can Sherpas compete with North Face?

Locally manufacturered Sherpa Adventure Gear aims for elite status
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Apa Sherpa, who recently won the Guinness World record for scaling Everest 21 times, says that the lack of snow on the mountain due to climate change may one day make it unclimbable. (Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images)

As Nepal celebrates the 60-year “Diamond Jubilee” of the first successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 this week, Tashi Sherpa is celebrating an anniversary of his own.

Ten years ago, he was in the import-export business, when, as he was walking down the street in Manhattan, a magazine cover honoring Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Staring back at him from the cover was his uncle, Ang Gyalzen Sherpa, whom Tashi soon learned had been one of the porters on the historic expedition. Soon after, Sherpa Adventure Gear was born. 

“When I started this brand it was a tribute to all the unsung heroes of Everest, the ones who have sacrificed years and their lives making it easier for people to climb and supporting them,” Tashi said. “Essentially, we are the story.”

The word "Sherpa" has become synonymous with the word "guide" or "porter" on Mt. Everest, though it refers to an Indo-Tibetan ethnic group numbering around 150,000 in Nepal. 

More from GlobalPost: Mt. Everest: Sherpas getting a bad rap

Today, Sherpa Adventure Gear is Nepal's own answer to world famous mountaineering apparel brands like Patagonia and The North Face. And even in Kathmandu, the brand competes successfully against the Chinese knockoffs sold in the backpacker ghetto of Thamel – where a Gore-Tex shell with The North Face label costs less than a third of Tashi's made-in-Nepal originals.

Made in Nepal – because we make 80 percent of our production in Nepal – has been one of our big assets,” said Tashi. “People love the fact that we make our stuff in Nepal. We're very original, we're very authentic.” 

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Obama's leadership challenge on Syria

Commentary: The US can no longer afford to stay on the sidelines in Syria, says GlobalPost's senior foreign affairs columnist.
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A slipper hangs on a vandalised poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo on July 24, 2012. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
If the evidence says Assad used chemical weapons, Obama cannot afford to let him get away with it. The risk is just too great in a region where others might resort to their use if Assad goes unpunished.
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India: Armed and dangerous -- Update

Teenage school boy shot dead by four classmates in northern Indian state
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Indian police officers display a recovered weapon, a US-made .32 revolver and 20 rounds of Czech-made ammunition with five empty cartridge cases, during a press conference in Mumbai on June 27, 2011, which are alleged to have been used to kill a prominent Mumbai crime journalist. Indian police said they had arrested seven people for the murder of Jyotirmoy Dey and revealed that the hit was believed to have been ordered by an underworld boss. (INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

India's battle with gun violence hit another milestone over the weekend, as a group of schoolboys allegedly shot and killed a classmate in Rohtak, Haryana.

Though the alleged incident took place at a religious function, rather than on school grounds, the age of the victim and suspects recalls India's first school shooting, the 2007 killing of 14-year-old Abishek Tiagi in nearby Gurgaon.

In the latest incident, a 15-year-old Class 10 student was allegedly shot dead by four classmates during a religious function in Meham, a town about 50 miles from New Delhi, early on Sunday, CNN/IBN quotes local police as saying. 

As GlobalPost reported inIndia: Armed and Dangerous, schoolyard gunplay remains rare around here. But thanks to a strange coincidence of Americanization and traditional machismo brought on by rapid economic growth, India has developed a gun obsession that makes Charlton Heston look like Gandhi.

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Dennis Rodman is an FBI informant

And if you visit North Korea, you can become one too.
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Dennis Rodman speaks during the Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Symphony Hall on Aug. 12, 2011, in Springfield, Mass. Rodman's recent trip to North Korea makes him the latest in a long line of musicians, artists and athletes who have helped open Asian dictatorships to the world. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
And if you visit North Korea, you can become one too.
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What’s kosher?

On the announcement that President Obama will be eating kosher in Israel this month, GlobalPost offers an explanation of what exactly “kosher” means.
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An Orthodox Jewish boy inspects a Matzah, the unleavened bread eaten during Passover. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)
On the announcement that President Obama will be eating kosher in Israel this month, GlobalPost offers an explanation of what exactly “kosher” means.
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Revisiting the American economy four years after it hit bottom

Commentary: The recent rally has taken us back to baseline with a big upswing just beginning.
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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on March 6, 2013 in New York City. One day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied to a record high to close at 14,253.77, stocks were up over 40 points in morning trading. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK — The recent rally has taken us back to baseline with a big upswing just beginning.
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India's motivation problem: From the Kumbh Mela to the Jaipur Foot

The World Bank sees reason for hope in the 'pop-up megacity' built for the Kumbh Mela. Here's why it just confirms my despair.
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ALLAHABAD, INDIA - FEBRUARY 12: Hindu pilgrims walk across a pontoon bridge as others bathe on the banks of Sangam, the confluence of the holy rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, during the Maha Kumbh Mela on February 12, 2013 in Allahabad, India. The Maha Kumbh Mela, believed to be the largest religious gathering on earth is held every 12 years on the banks of Sangam, the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. The Kumbh Mela alternates between the cities of Nasik, Allahabad, Ujjain and Haridwar every three years. The Maha Kumbh Mela celebrated at the holy site of Sangam in Allahabad, is the largest and holiest, celebrated over 55 days, it is expected to attract over 100 million people. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) (Daniel Berehulak/AFP/Getty Images)

Everybody from Harvard researchers to the World Bank (not to mention the World Hindu Council) found reason for hope at this year's Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. Here's why their findings just drove me deeper into despair.

As the Financial Times points out, Onno Ruhl, the head of the World Bank in India, observed in Allahabad that the otherwise incompetent authorities of Uttar Pradesh are able to build an efficient "pop-up megacity" every three years for the massive religious festival. This year, for instance, they built a tent city for 2 million people in less than three months, "complete with hard roads, toilets, running water, electricity, food shops, garbage collection and well-manned police stations."  All things that the government has by and large failed to provide the population of its permanent cities, towns and villages over many decades.

Inspiring? To me, not so much.

The conclusion that Ruhl and others draw from this experience is that India is capable of solving its notorious infrastructure problems. But that is self-evident. Anything that America can do, India can do. The issue is not one of ability, but of will. And that's where I get depressed. India CAN solve problems, but it WON'T. And the reason is hidden in the throwaway "explanation" that the bureaucrat in charge of the project gives for its success.

"First, the authorities ensure that all those working on the project are accountable for their actions and the money they spend. Second, those involved are highly motivated," the FT cites Allahabad divisional commissioner Devesh Chaturvedi as saying.

“They feel it’s a real service to all these pilgrims who have come here, the sadhus [holy men] and the seers, so it’s a sort of mission which motivates them to work extra, despite difficult working conditions,” Chaturvedi says.

This is the same non-explanation that I have received time and again when I've visited "success stories"like the cleanup of Surat, Gujarat -- which was inspired by a bout of the plague in 1994 to reinvent itself of one of India's cleanest cities. Things happen because somebody actually cares and takes responsibility. Or, what is the more depressing flip side, apart from an occasional blip on the radar, every public activity in India is a complete and unmitigated failure because nobody cares and everybody would rather, for example, steal from the public distribution system than ensure that starving people get food.

Take the Jaipur Foot, a remarkable low-cost prosthetics project profiled inthis month's Forbes India. Again, everybody from Harvard Business School on down has examined the project to see how they've managed to provide prosthetic limbs to 1.3 million people for free. But all they've been able to come up with is that it is the result of the efforts of a single man, a former bureaucrat named Devendra Raj Mehta. And now that he's getting up in years, the very real fear is that the project may well die with him.

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