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From Europe with Love? Nobel Surprise on Both Sides of the Atlantic

In this week's Global Pulse episode, Obama's Nobel War and Peace Prize, host Erin Coker asks whether the Norwegian Nobel Committee made the right choice in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama. Watch the episode and share your thoughts below!

Following the unexpected announcement in Oslo last week, much of the domestic press attributed Obama's Nobel win to his international appeal, particularly in Europe.  The Christian Science Monitor notes the award indicated "a particularly European appreciation" of the U.S. president, while an AOL News headline reads "Obama's Nobel Reflects Europe's Approval."

"The puzzled and heated domestic reaction…is only the latest instance of a gulf in perception between the two sides of the Atlantic," writes James Graff. "The Nobel Committee's decision is a European vote of confidence on the way this particular American president is setting the global agenda."

There is little doubt that Obama is popular among Europeans. A recent Pew Research Center Global Attitudes Survey reported that 93 percent of Germans and 86 percent of Britons said they had confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs. Similarly, 91 percent in France rated Obama favorably -- a dramatic shift from 2008 when only 13 percent of French expressed confidence in George W. Bush.

However, even the U.S. president’s transatlantic supporters were baffled and perplexed by the win, calling the award premature and, like their U.S. counterparts, questioning what Obama had actually done to warrant such an honor.  
"It used to be the rule that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to politicians if they could point to tangible political successes," writes Claus Christian Malzahn in a Der Spiegel editorial. "Awarding him the Nobel Prize now is like giving a medal to a marathon runner who has just managed the first few kilometers."

The U.K.'s Times Online took the criticism even further, calling the decision to award the prize to Obama "absurd," and accusing the committee of making a "mockery" of the award.

So if not an endorsement from Europe, what was behind the Nobel shakeup?

Some international media outlets point to former Norwegian Prime Minister Thorbjorn Jagland, appointed earlier this year to head the Nobel committee, as the driving force behind Obama's win. The Christian Science Monitor's global news blog notes that Jagland "has an activist vision for the Nobel as a prize that can spur peace, rather than simply reward its achievement."

France's Le Monde was even more blunt: "The former Nobel Committee president would have never nominated Obama."

Regardless of the politics behind the award, the reaction to Obama's Nobel is a reminder that action, not vision, will be most crucial in the president's long-term success at home and abroad.



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Winning Work in Hard Times

This week, Global Pulse goes beyond today's front-page news of exec bonus furor and reports on human-scale examples of the economic crisis. From struggling carpet weavers in India to sober singles in Moscow and jobless college graduates in South Korea, we examine how gainful work is won in a new era of contraction.


In the U.S., the U.K., and South Korea, public service is billed as the next great wave of labor opportunity. The News Hour at PBS reports that more and more young Americans are turning to government and non-profit programs like the Peace Corps and Teach for America. Likewise, the Independent chronicles a generation of young Britons eager to jump from the boardroom to the classroom as grade school teachers. And from Seoul today comes word that the South Korean government will create up to 550,000 temporary jobs in coming months, many of them for young graduates to work in fields like education.


But a less rosy portrait of labor emerges from the European Union and Malaysia, where migrant workers have experienced devastating recent changes in status. Der Spiegel interviews Mongolians in Prague, Poles in England, and Ecuadorians in Madrid who explain that jobs are newly few and far between. Across the globe, Al Jazeera English speaks to Bangladeshis locked out of Malaysia, their visas unexpectedly revoked.  


Will these labor changes prove fundamental and long-term? Or will we soon see a return to boom-era ways of expansion, open borders, and private enterprise?


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