Archive for July 12th, 2009

The National: The new world is leaving old man Europe behind

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

National:Europe is used to seeing itself at the centre of the world map. In the view of Europeans, they are the fount of history and the origin of the global empires that shaped the modern world, not least the Middle East. The Eurocentric hubris can be seen today in the summit in Italy of the Group of Eight – of which five members are European – which claims against all the evidence to be the steering committee of the world economy.

The world can be presented in different ways from the traditional map. If you look at weight of population – not history and cultural prestige – then Europe is shrinking to a peninsula on the edge of Asia. A new report, The Power of Numbers, published by Policy Exchange, a British think-tank, casts Europe as the “senescent continent”, whose low birth rate will deprive it of vitality, economic growth and global influence. In short, Europe is destined to be a continent on the golf course.

Europe is not going to disappear, but it will fall way behind in the population stakes. By the middle of the century, there will be a billion more Asians, just under a billion more Africans, 200 million more Latin Americans, 130 million more North Americans – and some 40 million fewer Europeans.

Newsweek: Even at the Vatican, they love Obama

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


In the weeks leading up to President Obama’s May appearance at the University of Notre Dame, almost 80 American Catholic bishops, in response to his pro-choice stance on abortion, voiced their disapproval of the honorary degree being bestowed upon him. If the bishops of Obama’s own electorate were that harsh, you’d expect the Curia at the Vatican, the church bedrock where the president will meet Pope Benedict XVI tomorrow, to distance themselves from him furiously.

That expectation would be wrong. President Obama is much more popular at the Vatican than he is with the most vocal American bishops. American monsignori in Vatican City “are all Fox News, Bush-loving Republicans,” a Vatican reporter told me on the condition that I not use his name and harm his access. “The Italians, however, are another story. They love Obama.” Indeed, most Vatican officials are just as excited to meet the new president as their secular counterparts have been elsewhere in Europe.

One reason church officials swoon for the president like their counterparts across European capitals is that the Monsignori often come from the same families as those who work in high civil-government offices. They consult the same magazines and newspapers. They attend the same boarding schools and universities. They even vacation at the same resorts. The view from Rome and the view from Brussels are similar on most issues of international importance.

Bono in NY Times: Rebranding Africa

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Times:Soon, Air Force One will touch down in Accra, Ghana; Africans will be welcoming the first African-American president. Press coverage on the continent is placing equal weight on both sides of the hyphen.

And we thought it was big when President Kennedy visited Ireland in 1963. (It was big, though I was small. Where I come from, J.F.K. is remembered as a local boy made very, very good.)

But President Obama’s African-ness is only part (a thrilling part) of the story today. Cable news may think it’s all about him – but my guess is that he doesn’t. If he was in it for a sentimental journey he’d have gone to Kenya, chased down some of those dreams from his father.

Todd Crowell at Real Clear World: The Real Race Begins in Japan

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

RCW:It is 6 a.m. in front of the railroad station in Musashi-Sakai, a western suburb of Tokyo, and Reiko Matsushita is already up and campaigning. She stands in front of the station entrance catching the commuters as they head for the trains to go to work.

For the next three hours, she will bow and repeat her name over and over again, while her campaign supporters hand out flyers to those who will take them. Most of the commuters walk past her, their heads held down, hurrying to catch their commuter trains.

Matsushita, 38, is a first-term member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, the legislature of the capital, and is running for a second four-year term as a member of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DJP). Four years ago she defeated a longstanding member of the governing party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), for the seat, and she is fighting hard to retain it in a rematch.

UK Guardian: We must rediscover our purpose in Afghanistan

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


One advantage that Afghan insurgents have over Nato forces is that they know what victory would look like. For those who despise the mere presence of foreign soldiers, the relentless killing has a simple purpose – to end the occupation.

That murderous zeal gives some clarity of purpose in turn to the young men and women who are its target. They must survive. They must fight back. But then what? That is the awful question that hangs over British policy. Fifteen troops have been killed in the last 11 days. To what end?

The answer seems to vary according to how much pressure British forces come under from enemy fire. When there are lulls, politicians indulge in the rhetoric of nation building and human rights. The Taliban, we are reminded, subscribe to a doctrine that hates freedom, subjugates women, murders dissent. Their defeat should be our moral purpose.

UK Independent: Leading article: Africa still needs our aid – but it’s not just about money

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


The G8 meeting in L’Aquila has ended, just like the summit at Gleneagles in 2005, with promises for Africa. Yesterday’s communiqué pledges $20bn (£13bn) from the world’s wealthiest economies for farm investment aid in the world’s hungriest continent over the next three years. Such a commitment should not be scorned. But, at the same time, we need to recognise that these headline numbers are meaningless if the funds never materialise.

The fact is that G8 has a serious credibility problem. Its members pledged to double the size of their overseas aid budgets by 2010 in Gleneagles. But those targets are not going to be met. This year’s G8 host, Italy, has been particularly brazen in disregarding its commitments.

It’s up to the five powers to bottle the nuclear genie: Japan Times

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


LONDON – Speaking in Moscow on July 7, U.S. President Barack Obama was the very soul of reasonableness. The United States and Russia must cooperate to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, he said, while keeping the goal of a world without nuclear weapons always in sight: “America is committed to stopping nuclear proliferation, and ultimately seeking a world without nuclear weapons.”

Unfortunately, that is the wrong way round. The deal that underpinned the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, signed way back in 1968, was that the five great powers who already had nuclear weapons would gradually get rid of them. In return, the rest of the world’s countries would not make them at all. But more than 40 years later, none of those five countries (U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China) has kept its side of the deal.

Why We Don’t Want a Nuclear-Free World: MELANIE KIRKPATRICK

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


‘Nuclear weapons are used every day.” So says former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, speaking last month at his office in a wooded enclave of Maclean, Va. It’s a serene setting for Doomsday talk, and Mr. Schlesinger’s matter-of-fact tone belies the enormity of the concepts he’s explaining — concepts that were seemingly ignored in this week’s Moscow summit between Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev.

The National: To know what Bibi really thinks, listen to his father

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


When a top sportsman wants to express opinions that might get him into trouble with his employers, his father often pops up in the media to reveal what his son is really thinking. In the same way, while Benjamin Netanyahu would risk incurring Washington’s wrath if he were to admit the cynicism behind his apparent embrace of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, his father has no such qualms.

On Israeli TV last week, the 100-year-old historian and stalwart of the Israeli right, Ben-Zion Netanyahu, was blunt when asked whether his son now supports the creation of a Palestinian state: “He does not support it. He supports such conditions that they [the Palestinians] will never accept it. That’s what I heard from him. I didn’t propose these conditions, he did. They will never accept these conditions. Not one of them.”

The Obama Doctrine and Africa: Shlomo Ben-Ami

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Real Clear World:MADRID – President Barack Obama’s much discussed Cairo speech represented not only the demise of George W. Bush’s ideological drive to reconstruct the Muslim world through a democratic revolution; it marked the end of American liberalism’s quest to remake the world in its own image.

Instead, Obama’s administration is guided by a relativist political realism that assumes respect for cultural and religious distinctions. His secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, underscored this tendency during her first visit to China, where her unmistakeable message was that order and stability take priority over liberty and human rights.

But what about Africa, the forgotten continent that has been conspicuously absent from Obama’s hectic agenda? There, both the resilience of the local political culture and strategic imperatives are converging to define the limits of the West’s capacity to impose its values.

Colorado Springs Gazette: Audit the Fed? Of course

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul is using his newfound prominence to push for a measure that has long been close to his heart. He has introduced HR 1207, a bill to direct the Government Accountability Office to audit the Federal Reserve System. To date the bill has attracted 245 co-sponsors, ranging from minority leader Rep. John Boehner to Michigan Rep. John Conyers, one of the House’s most liberal members.

Given the emerging consensus that the Fed’s monetary manipulation in the early 2000s was a significant contributor to the housing bubble that led to the financial meltdown – and proposals backed up by heavy behind-the-scenes lobbying by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke to increase the Fed’s power rather than cut it down to size – an audit would be especially appropriate.

UK Guardian: With underfunded, ill-equipped British troops struggling in Afghanistan, now is the time for European defense co-operation

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Labour’s much-praised defence review of 1998 never contemplated an Iraq and an Afghanistan simultaneously. In military language it envisaged one “relatively short war – fighting deployment” and one “enduring non-war-fighting operation”. Instead we have had two long hot wars, one of which, Afghanistan, has every sign of “enduring” for a long time to come. Iraq may to all intents and purposes be over, but as the death toll inexorably rises Afghanistan makes the assumptions of 1998 invalid.

WSJ — The Massachusetts Health Mess: Massachusetts shows how ObamaCare would really work.

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


For 15 years Massachusetts has also imposed mandates known as guaranteed issue and community rating — meaning that insurers must cover anyone who applies, regardless of health or pre-existing conditions, and also charge everyone the same premium (or close to it). Yet these mandates allow people to wait until they’re sick, or just before they’re about to incur major medical expenses, to buy insurance. This drives up costs for everyone else, which helps explain why small-group coverage in Massachusetts is so much more expensive than in most of the country. Mr. Romney argued — as Democrats are arguing now — that the individual mandate would make that problem disappear, since everyone is always supposed to be covered.

Well, the returns are rolling in, and a useful case study comes from the community-based health plan Harvard-Pilgrim. CEO Charlie Baker reports that his company has seen an “astonishing” uptick in people buying coverage for a few months at a time, running up high medical bills, and then dumping the policy after treatment is completed and paid for. Harvard-Pilgrim estimates that between April 2008 and March 2009, about 40% of its new enrollees stayed with it for fewer than five months and on average incurred about $2,400 per person in monthly medical expenses. That’s about 600% higher than Harvard-Pilgrim would have otherwise expected.

The individual mandate penalty for not having coverage is only about $900, so people seem to be gaming the Massachusetts system. “This is a problem,” Mr. Baker writes on his blog, in the understatement of the year. “It is raising the prices paid by individuals and small businesses who are doing the right thing by purchasing twelve months of health insurance, and it’s turning the whole notion of shared responsibility on its ear.”

Washington Post: White House Eyes Bailout Funds to Aid Small Firms

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


The Obama administration is developing an initiative to take money from the $700 billion rescue program for the banking system and make it available to millions of small businesses, which officials say are essential to any economic recovery because they employ so many people, according to sources familiar with the plan.

The effort would represent a striking shift from the rescue program’s original mandate, since it would direct billions of bailout dollars toward a plan that aims more at saving jobs than at righting the financial system. Some economists estimate that small businesses, defined as firms with fewer than 500 workers, employ most of the country’s workforce.

AP: Muslim women lead protests in restive west China

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


URUMQI, China – The petite Muslim woman with the sky blue head scarf began by complaining that the public washrooms were closed at a crowded mosque on Friday – the most important day of the week for Islamic worship. When a group gathered around her on the sidewalk, Madina Ahtam then railed against communist rule in China’s far western region of Xinjiang, rocked by ethnic rioting that has killed at least 184 people this week.

The 26-year-old businesswoman eventually led the crowd of mostly men in a fist-pumping street march that was quickly blocked by riot police, some with automatic rifles pointed at the protesters.

CNET: Games overtake electrical sector in Japan

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


In a recent newsletter, Gerhard Fasol, head of Eurotechnology Japan, points out that the Japanese games sector is booming–with the combined net annual income of Japan’s top nine game companies overtaking the combined net income of Japan’s top 19 electrical giants.

Game companies such as Nintendo are thriving through the global recession while stalwarts such as Panasonic andSony struggle (Sony’s diversification and PlayStation sales haven’t helped recently) with huge corporate hierarchies and a dearth of new “must have” products.

What’s interesting about the growth of Japanese game play is that it’s mainly on consoles and handhelds (with the Nintendo DSi blurring the line), whereas in the U.S. the growth is on mobile devices and online.

CNET — The royal family’s Twitter feed: One is confused

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


The royal household has launched a Twitter feed,, full of the latest gaffes and indiscretions that you would expect from the modern royals.

Oh, alright, not quite.

Still, from this Twittering, you can enjoy the Duke of Edinburgh attending the Centenary of Naval Aviation garden party. Or the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall sampling “some goods at a branch of Marks and Spencer.”

For those of you not familiar with the Marks and Spencer name, it is not a jeweler or a fruiterer. Rather, it is the place where, in the halcyon days of royalty, every single British subject was required to buy his or her underwear.

I am, however, a little confused by this royal venture into Twitterdom. As I look at the top of the page, I see that, currently, the British Monarchy has 6,306 followers. And, as befits those of regal stature, it is following no one.

A high-quality image projector on your smartphone?

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


BOISE, Idaho–Imagine you’re on a camping trip with your family, and your kids are bored. They want to watch a movie, but you forgot your laptop at home. Hopeless? Not at all.

You pull out your fifth-generation iPhone–yes, this is a story about future technology–power it up, aim it at the wall of the tent, and start projecting their favorite film there.

This is one of the many potential promises of a new microdisplay technology from Displaytech, a recently acquired division of Boise-based Micron. Known as FLCOS, or fast liquid crystal on silicon, the technology is designed to make it possible to project from a relatively small form factor device, and with high image quality and vibrant colors, just about anything you’d want, be it a Disney flick or a complex PowerPoint presentation.

Don Reisinger: Ten issues I have with Twitter (and its community)

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


2. Down times are back For a while, Twitter was on its game. There were so few down times, it seemed the Fail Whale was finally in the past. But as of late, I’ve noticed many more down times on the service. Almost each day, it’s down for a minute or two at a time. It’s not nearly as bad as it used to be, but it’s still present. Down times have been a problem with Twitter since the beginning. They need to be averted.

3. Search still sucks Sorry, but Twitter Search doesn’t even compare to some of the third-party apps available on the Web. I’ve used it on numerous occasions and each time, I’m left wanting more. So, I followed CNET Editor Rafe Needleman’s advice and tried out Twazzup. It’s more robust than Twitter’s search. It helps me find results more quickly. Don’t waste your time with Twitter Search. I don’t.

Warner Music Group and YouTube talking again

Sunday, July 12th, 2009


Six months ago, talks between Warner Music Group and YouTube over the licensing of the label’s music videos broke down, and since then, anyone looking for official clips from acts such as The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Death Cab for Cutie, and Green Day has likely been disappointed.