-Despite an absence of support of a million and one self-important Americans on Twitter, Iran went ahead with trying to have a revolution. On top of the death and demonstrations, the clerics in power saw their own disagreements made public knowledge.
-Concerns about how a dude got explosives on a plane saw Barack Obama empowering a task force of investigation. Their initial report was turned in within the hour, as their initial report consisted of a hamburger wrapper with the word "EASILY" written in Sharpie black.
-Nigeria banned open-air preaching, a group of Muslims went ahead anyway, cops got involved, and 38 people died.
-After seeing how well UN sanctions have worked in Cuba and Iraq, the United Nations threw that card down for one more rodeo, this time in Eritrea. (Eritrea has been helping out some of the local militias in Somalia, a country that the UN has a long history of talking-lots-of-shit-about.)
-While South Korea may have beaten Japan, France & America in the race to see who gets to build four nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates, word has it that the French "didn't really care that much in the first place" and "wouldn't have built it anyway, because you guys are all a bunch of assholes."
-In an attempt to maintain a sense of open dialog with the American public and its leaders, some members of the US government voted in favor of a health care reform bill over the Christmas holidays, a time period when Americans are well known for paying attention to things happening outside of their living room.
-Besides health care, the US Treasury promised to help out Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac with whatever they needed, like, forever, whatever you two want, you got it, you want the fillings in my grandmother's teeth? Hand me the pliers and a shovel, that is no trouble whatsoever, I will dig her up and yank them out of her skull, I am your boyfriend for life. This wasn't the only Mae/Mac story of the week, as the Wall Street Journal also pointed out that Fannie & Freddie had done a bang-up job of lying about a huge portion of the subprime loans they had on the books.
-Although 2009 was supposed to be the year we stopped hearing about Columbia's FARC guerrillas, they popped right back up again and killed a governor.
-Also in "this is still horrible" news: during a government raid in Mexico, a soldier and a drug-trafficker died. Right after the soldier's funeral, the drug gang came for revenge, killing four of the guy's relatives, including his mother. The war in drugs: it's not just about putting African Americans in jail for overly long sentences in numbers disproportionate to how many of them there are in the country, it's also totally about a soldier's mother being murdered by the same people who killed him, right after she buries her him.
-Argentina, the same country that opened its shores to escaped Nazi war criminals back in the good old days, became the location for the first gay marriage in Latin America. Nothing smarts like getting morally outpaced by the chosen retirement home of genocidal bags of shit.
-Croatian voters gave the middle finger to the current ruling party in the first round of their presidential election.
-Basel came back with tougher banking regulations than bankers expected, but "came back" just means they published a consultation document. So it's not a rule yet. It's a wish list.
-China executed a British man for heroin smuggling, making it the # 1 country for the eventual reboot of the Midnight Express franchise.
-India arrested a Pakistani American for involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks, realized that they might need to tighten up their tourist visa rules due to his travel history, did so, and people complained about it.
-An 84 year old man had a four way--that's three woman and him--and some television station showed pictures of it on the air. Since he was a governor of an Indian state, he had to resign. And even though everybody was really disappointed in him, there were quite a few people who turned to their buddy at the bar and quietly said "shit, a four way?"
-The cover feature of the Economist's post-holiday issue: it's a put-something-in-the-can article. It's not time-sensitive for the same reason that the magazine is a good 40 pages shorter than usual, but that doesn't make it bad. Actually, there's nothing negative to be said about it all--it's a terse shakedown of the current status of women in the workplace, complete with the positive (women are set to cross the 50% threshold in a few months) and the negative (women are disproportionately absent from the top jobs, don't make enough money, mothers are roundly fucked over, part of the statistics are due to the fact that men are losing their jobs at a higher rate). Skirting past social/feminist analysis for the most part, reserving most of the ire for the treatment of mothers, it's an educational piece worth checking out. There's a later article, a longer one, about coping with this development. I tried to read it, but it was really hard to imagine a way in which it would affect me personally. So I gave up and thought about how scary it would be to have a period for a couple of hours. It would be scary!
-Besides those two, there's an actual "let's all have an argument, as long as your wife cooks the pies" piece, this one a column about successful women in business like Dong Mingzhua, who responds to questions about how women can be successful in the workplace by saying awesome shit like "I never miss. I never admit mistakes and I am always correct". The column is a general attack on some of the theories of "new feminism", and while the tone seems to be overly dismissive to the point of inaccuracy--it's sort of unbelievable that there's this many companies in the world adopting some of the bonehead shit that the writer argues against--the conclusion is strong. Dong Mingzhua makes a shitload of money for her shareholders, she's really good at her job. As long as she isn't eating babies out of a bucket in the boardroom, there's no reason imaginable why she should be expected to embrace a bunch of gender workshop ideals, ideals she didn't need to get where she is today.
-Columbia won't be holding their presidential election until May 30th, but one of its primary factors--whether or not the current president, Alvaro Uribe, can run for a third term--is to be decided in the next few months. The Economist doesn't want to wait, and they've written what is, essentially, a personal letter telling Uribe to back off and agree to walk away after his second term is up.
-Iran's recent firestorm of violence--firestorm might be an exaggeration--sees another "don't know what's going to happen, sure is crazy anyway, let's call it good news" leader article from the Economist. God bless 'em for trying, but it sure would be nice to have somebody on the ground floor producing more fact-based information than this meandering attempt at turning unknown situations into tarot cards. Op ed can be great, but this is pure speculation.
-Copenhagen's climate change summit wasn't what the optimists had hoped for, but it wasn't as bad as the pessimists expected. The possibility of agreements between the major economic powers and the rising ones saw an uptick, and that's a good thing. The niggling factor remains in what the US Senate decide later this year, how bad China wants to help out, and, of course, whether any of these actions will be quick enough to stave off a disaster that may have already begun.
-It being 2010 and all, the Economist seems to have decided that now is the time to start referring to Japan's "lost decade" as a double header--at some point, they'll just have to ditch the whole "last" thing, which implies a future change, and just start calling Japan's new economy what it is, a bad one. Maybe? But underneath the concern, this little piece is about how Western economies have learned as much as they can from the way Japan tried to deal with its economic crisis, and they're now entering new territory. From here on out, it's try it and see.
-Most of the letters column is eaten up by people arguing about whether climate change is in crisis, whether carbon taxes are preferable to carbon trading, and it's about as HIGH VOLUME BIG WORDS as those debates always are. Being an Economist letters column doesn't make that much of a difference, it might up the class of the debate, sure, but it's still "you're wrong" versus "no, you're wrong". Then there's some stuff from a union president about how unions are good, some stuff from a Baroness about how British people don't like inherited privilege--wait, a baroness? irony!--and finally, a piece of boring trivia about the history of violin construction. All in all, it's so much the standard letters column that it's almost parody.
-In "what's wrong in Chicago" updates, apparently the city needs help defending itself against Asian carp. And while that sounds...well, it sounds stupid, that doesn't make it any less of a problem. Besides screwing up fisheries and damaging the ecosystem, fixing the problem requires mass poisonings (that aren't working on the carp, but kick ass with everything else), expensive electrical barriers, and a possible overhaul of the sewage system for the entire city. Seriously, Matthew J. Brady: my couch. It's always available. Get out now!
-Americans ain't moving around like they used to move around back when the economy wasn't swimming in the toilet with Chicago's sewage and too many Asian carp. Read all about it!
-If you only plan to read one article about how America's various intelligence agencies bent over and fucked themselves in their own mouths when it came time to save Detroit from a terrorist who lit his pants on fire, than I'm sorry that I was a week late in providing you a link to this one, because I'm certain you would have found it entertaining to know that all that Orange Level, Green Level, no more shampoo bottles bullshit didn't work out so well. Maybe we should just make sure there are quick thinking 23 year olds on every flight from now on? Would that help? Seriously what's it going to take for the fucking twerps at the CIA and FBI and TSA to actually work together, you know, "doing their jobs" and all? Are we going to have to crash a couple of planes into the World Trade...oh, wait, that already happened! Let me know when you crawl out of your asshole, will ya? I've got to put this fist somewhere.
-Hawaii is having a tough time dealing with a collapse in tourism, which is the basis for their economy. Man, I've been to Hawaii. And being homeless and broke does suck. But being homeless and broke in Hawaii? Look, you're thinking it too. Don't lie to me.
-Here's a good case for the Economist going a bit too far with the title of an article: "Adapt or Die", subtitled "Reforming Canada's Senate". Immediately, one would think that Canada's Senate chamber is in danger of "dying" in case it doesn't "adapt". And you know what, it totally might be. The article mentions a bunch of different people, notably the prime minister, wanting for the Senate to change. Heck, one group even wants to abolish it! Geez, it must be all kinds of sick! But then you get to the end of the article, and you wonder: hey, what exactly is the problem with the Senate? How should it be reformed? There's a mention of term limits and advisory elections, along with a mention of hoped-for radical changes. Doesn't really work, guys.
-Waziristan is the area of Pakistan that joins the country to Afghanistan--this article calls it the "hinge", that's pretty much spot-on. It's a tribal area, and the writer of this piece has dubbed it the headquarters of terror, although that's clearly a definition that he (or she, although probably he, since the article involved intimate, on-the-ground discussion with the Taliban, and they're--you know, not into women so much) isn't using that as an official term. It's a good, extensive article about the place, one that touches on a history that hasn't changed a whole lot---there's a quote from over a century ago, when a British viceroy recommended running the "military steamroller" through Waziristan completely, if peace was the goal. Don't expect to fantasize about a vacation home, but don't expect Apocalypse Now, either.
-An expanded edition of two blurbed stories on the front page, this article about China's recent holiday presents make for interesting reading, but if you ignore the "not since 1950" aspect of China's execution of a European citizen, they aren't that unusual. A dissident who was getting too successful, now incarcarated. A drug smuggler's death sentence, carried out. (Admittedly, Gordon Brown's vocal opposition to the execution does make the case for this one being different, but considering how often China executes prisoners, it wasn't unlikely they'd eventually hit upon a European, and even less surprising that the deceased probably didn't get a fair trial.)
-Steve Coll--who might be this idiot's favorite journalist, although Dexter Filkins is a ten foot tall cyclops who shits fire--wrote a book years ago about how running Pakistan turns people into some paranoid ass motherfuckers. The book is old, and while much of the Pakistani landscape might have changed on the ground, the game hasn't: you gotta have an iron will and a trusty security force if you want to be a top dog on the Silk Road.
Middle East and Africa
-The Eastern African Community is made up of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania & Uganda. Sometime this summer, it looks like those five countries will start exporting and importing from one another without tariffs, a major step in what the EAC hopes will eventually become an economic revitalization. There's a lot of hoops left, the benefits can't be evenly distributed (Kenya's way ahead of the rest when it comes to manufacturing), but it's still good news for five countries that often find the stuff in short supply.
-Besides providing that Nigerian bomber a home since August, Yemen has seen a hellaciously bloody tribal rebellion, a strong al-Qaeda contingent working to bring about global jihad, and American-intel sponsored bombing raids amongst a populace who may not be interested in Western interference. Sound familiar?
-Although it's never funny when the Turkish military plots to assassinate a political leader, it's hard not to smirk when a member of the cabal gets busted trying to eat evidence. (Since the story frames it as "tried to eat the piece of paper", the implication is that the hungry man failed--somebody stuck their fingers in his mouth, one assumes?) While some of the plotters may have gotten away with it, most evidence points to this one being a win: it's the first major operation carried out against the military by civilian officials since a 2009 law was passed that allowed military criminals to be tried in civilian court, and some of the leaks may have come from army men breaking rank with the criminals in their midst.
-Want to read an article scolding Angela Merkel for...you know, doing stuff that that the Economist doesn't like? No? No?! It's okay, I find these kinds of articles pretty repetitive as well. I won't think any less of you. Shit, I doubt I could. I've been trying for weeks.
-Okay, that was mean. Here's some good news from the Balkans. Don't get a lot of that, do we?
-Here's an odd development: Poland accounts for over half of Britain's extraditions to Europe. If you break the law in Poland--even if it's stealing a piglet, a chicken or a cupboard door, and yes, that's three of those extradited people--Poland will track you to the ends of the Earth, as long as you define ends of the Earth to mean Britain. Hell, the British had to set up a bi-weekly plane, long-haired Nicolas Cage style. (I stole that.)
-Britain's justice secretary got a crew together to get started on reforming the British libel laws that have seen the country become the go-go location for rich people to sue the hell out of journalists, writers and scientists, even if both defendant and claimant don't reside in Britain. It's been a long time coming--the last two years have been rife with libel tourism nightmares, as well as the sight of American states hurriedly coming up with ways to protect their residents from the confusing reach of British courts.
-How much does Nicholas Sarkozy like America? He likes America so much that when he heard about how some Americans like to use France as exhibit A in the whole "socialist wetdream" department, he said to himself, "shit, they're going to need some facts to back that up, or else people are going to think that they're dumb and xenophobic when they start talking at parties". So he went and set up Fonds Strategique d'Investissement, an investment company half owned by the government. FSI exists for one thing--to pump money into French owned businesses, in some cases beating out foreign investors due to FSI's overly friendly terms. National champions, eh? Those never fail.
-One of the more fascinating technological developments that's bubbled up recently has been the addition of cameras to Tasers, designed to record the usage of the devices. (And yes, it's in direct response to the prevalence of Taser horror stories.) But beyond that hopefully helpful change is this, a global network called AXON, a digital video archive of what cops do, all the time. Entire incidents, recorded via the weapons they use. When cops are clean, it makes them more efficent and deserving of praise. When they aren't--well. Goes without saying what happens then. Hopefully.
-After Copenhagen failed to put definitive prices on global emissions, corporations have ended up in the ugly position of having to beg for big investments (or explain ones already made) without any government mandate for those investment's necessity. (Blunter, possibly less accurate: if the government isn't willing to say that emission reduction matters, investors are less likely to take chances on big "green" projects--all imagined carrot of hope, no stick of punishment on the horizon.) Smartly closing the piece with an actual comment from a corporation already involved in energy reduction, the piece ends with a reminder that "policymakers hear a lot from the NGO community and from environmental activists, but not from companies." That, one could assume, better change.
-While America's pay-television is currently going through all the woes that a buttfucked advertising dollar and a surplus of choice provided, the global pace of pay-television has shot up--Latin America, eastern Europe, Japan, Australia--everybody is getting more channels, as many as they want, more than they need, you want an MTV totally set in your backyard that focuses on the way the grass grows, that shit is on the way my friend you do not have to wait much longer. According to the article, the most successful global channels are Discovery & National Geographic, because nobody expects an hour long documentary about lions eating gazelle to be set in a nearby locale. (Whereas everybody gets their own version of American Idol.)
-Although all the columnists are on vacation with most of the country-based writers, one hopes on a gigantic journalism cruise, the science and tech department are balls out this week. Besides the normal sized section of the various bits they get accused of stealing from old British science magazines--I don't know if that's true, just passing along some gossip, telephone game style--there's this bad boy: three raw text pages about the worldwide usages of cell phones. Or mobiles. Or hand machines. Handys. "Something you carry on around with you". Those are some of the names that residents of the globe use to describe cell phones, and along with the actual usage numbers and corporation name type information, that's the sort of trivia you'll find in the article. It's interesting to find out that Germans reportedly beat the shit out of people who talk on their phones in public, or that the Japanese are cutting down on their talking while ramping up their emailing, but the article focuses on the social stuff (and backs it up anecdotally) so much that the article comes across as one that might have been better served by placing it in the dentist's office copy of Time that it most resembles. But if you're looking to spit out superfluous information of no real factual merit at the next Lion's Club meeting, this'll be your ride right here, Dr. Asshole.
-Here's a charmer for you: "For those unfamiliar with the delightful prairie vole, it is a small rodent found in the grasslands of central North America." Yeah, but it's still a fucking rodent, right? Like--cute it up all you want, voles are farm rats, not as irritating as a weasel or as ugly as nutria, but they're still about ten miles short of a bulldog puppy in the race towards "delightful". Anyways, these little bastards are monogamous, they look after each other, raise their little feces sized worm children together, and scientists are hoping to use the research to extrapolate knowledge about divorce, promiscuity, how to have a successful relationship, et all. Brother, you may be a scientist, but let me cue you in on something: you start telling your spouse that the two of you are going to get along better just as soon as you utilize some of the information you've gleaned from the behavior of a couple of fucking rats, you mine as well wrap your lips around the tailpipe, because you're ten minutes away from a swinging front door.
-This world is split into two groups: people who care about what happens to their shit after they flush the toilet, and people who don't. Choose wisely.
-As a way to combat the ignorance in that last statement, here's a case for scientists being some all around bang up peoples: they figured out something useful to do with dandelions. It involves something with rubber and tires--which the British persist in incorrectly spelling "tyres", because they think they still get to call the shots with the English language--and if it works, people may actually start growing dandelions on purpose. I wonder if that means we can hire children to crawl around on their hands and knees blowing on the things come planting season. I hate it when kids are bored.
-The Economist can't resist making fun of the acronym "Portable Lightweight Ubiquitous Gasket", which I think is sort of unfair to me, but if I'm reading this cease and desist letter correctly, I should probably not push my luck. The PLUG works like this, it...shit, it just PLUGS, that's what it does. It's going to take the place of sandbags when a flood comes. Oh wait, it has a brother, he's named "Rapidly Emplaced Protection for Earthen Levees", and that one is...well, make fun of the names if you want, "The Economist", but the names do pretty accurately define what the objects do. Oh, and there's another acronym. Seriously? Yeah, seriously. The other one is called REHAB. Read it here if you want, i'm getting tired.
-The Economist believes that a good review--hell, a sphincter tightening fireworks show of praise--will guide an audience towards their radio to listen to a "100 15-minute broadcasts". If that wasn't naive enough, the episodes are being produced by the British Museum, and each episode will zero in on one made-by-human item housed within the walls of the cheery old lady. How much does the Economist believe in this journey into the past? They believe in it so much they provide a mailing address for one to write in their own suggestions for the final episode. Ah. The mail. The final refuge of stilted history. Kill it! Kill it dead!
-On less positive fronts, the Economist thought that Richard Reeves' book on the Berlin airlift of the late 40's was about as good as a book could be when it contains no original research and is composed completely out of one's home while using "what a swell buncha folks" as its primary thesis. They also didn't have much patience for the histrionics of Steven Solomon, who wrote a book about water and called it "Water". Apparently Solomon likes to exaggerate how important water was in history, and he doesn't spend enough time talking about how important water is right now. One wonders if maybe books about water are what the great bard once called a zero-sum game. But they did like Madeline Bunting's novel about her dad, because if there's one thing the Economist always falls for, it's memoirs where children lionize the distant parents that spent most of their waking life doing something, everything, anything, just as long as it went down somewhere where their children were not.
Obituary: Oral Roberts
They hold back on criticism as much as they can, but by the end, it's pretty obvious how the Economist felt about Oral Roberts. After plowing through a few of the famous televangelist's success and failures, after acknowledging that yes, this was the guy who sold people his used handkerchiefs via television and promised that their donations would be returned to them multipled, they close with this: "He would rule and reign over the ORU campus until the end of time, when hoodlums and sodomites and disbelievers together would be repaid for laughing at him with everlasting fire." Is that how your best pals are going to talk about you after you kick the bucket?
-Note: Since the last Economist versus Idiot, the magazine has moved much of the magazine's content behind a paywall. If the links no longer work, that's why. Apologies are extended, your understanding is appreciated.