North America

It’s become something close to accepted wisdom that the issues on which voters will decide the next election in 2012 will be almost exclusively domestic. But even the most cursory examination of the forces at work in this country today will tell you that what happens beyond American shores will change the way we live our lives over the next four years. Up for discussion this hour: How exactly do voters want the next president to handle affairs in Afghanistan and Iraq? What do Arab-American communities make of the US involvement in the Arab Spring?

"This is an unfinishable battle. [You] try to do everything, but it is a long war." 
– Gyula Almási, head of Hungary’s Intellectual Property Rights Defense Department

While the Arab Spring may have toppled a couple of regimes, democracy alone can’t solve the bread and butter issues of the region. The Arab world faces a stark demographic dilemma: nearly a quarter of Arabs under 30 remain jobless. The bleak economic conditions that fueled the Arab uprisings have become the inheritance of any new governments that stand up in the region. And youth in the region aren’t likely to sit quietly and wait for economic change. 

The U.S. is often thought of as the land of innovation – a great habitat for entrepreneurs. And, this is still the case. But, why are other regions of the world, such as Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, producing entrepreneurs at a faster rate than the United States?

"Seeing them here was actually a sign of the fact that they have moved beyond the religious component and they are serious about doing humanitarian work."
– Giovanni Cassani, head of the camp coordination camp management cluster (CCCM) for the International Organization for Migration

AIDS has been a viral wrecking ball across Africa, and much of the globe for that matter. More than 25 million have died from the disease, but the international community’s bedside manner is getting better. NGOs, nations and international organizations are building up a global resistance to the deadly virus. They’ve succeeding in treating millions already infected with HIV, but stemming the spread is a much tougher case. And with the doctor’s orders often running up against religious convictions and traditional customs, prescribing a potent prevention protocol is a complicated operation.

"There was a thunderous explosion. You could feel all 505 feet and 8400 tons of guided missile destroyer violently thrust up and to the right."
– Kirk Lippold, retired US Navy Commander

Sitting in limbo is where many young Arabs find themselves today. Nearly a quarter of Arabs under 30 are jobless. Long gone are the days of a guaranteed government gig, and the private sector is far from filling the gap. Today, Arab youth are searching for work and waiting for weddings. Some just want to leave the region – and its long unemployment lines – altogether. At best, unemployment and flagging Arab economies lead to a generation of bored and frustrated youth. At worst, economic conditions create a breeding ground for extremism and instability. 

“Stand by, there will be the giant sucking sound, if we are dumb enough to have this jammed down our throats!" – Ross Perot in 1992

While Ross Perot’s prophecy of doom didn’t come true, NAFTA did change the economic terrain of North America. After decades of economic protectionism, Mexico opened its doors to American business and investment. Now when America’s booming, Mexico cashes in. But when the US is in the red, Mexico is passing the hat – and that puts the brakes on America’s recovery. And the economic ties that bind the US and Mexico are not all above board. The escalating drug violence in Mexican cities is fueled by the steady stream of narcotics, guns and money that crisscross the US-Mexican border everyday. We travel from New York to Puebla, to examine the economic ties that bind the two nations, from trade to trafficking. 

Executive Producer: Aaron Lobel / AAM Producers: Monica Bushman, Sean Carberry, Matt Ozug, Monica Villavicencio and Chris Williams / Interns: Colleen Castle, Isabella Schwiermann and Annika Witzel / Web Producer: Javier Barrera / Photo Credit: Nathan Gibbs/ Host: Deborah Amos

The Arab world has the largest youth bulge on the planet. Millions of young people are living in a pressure cooker of social, political, tribal, and religious forces. We visit Jordan and Egypt and speak with young Arabs in America about their struggles with identity, and how globalization, Islam, and a turbulent region are shaping how they look at themselves, and the world. 

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