Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Economist - April 25th

The Economist forgets their Prozac – Don’t get too excited about recent stock market gains. 5 20% growth periods from 1929 to 1933. Global output shrink 1.3% govn’t deficits now average 9% of GDP

British Politicians are sleazy – Prime Minister Gordon Brown is having budget problems. Borrowing lots of $$$ and proposes ‘childish’ plan of empty promises to pay it back. Economist says Brown = Nixon.

Tamil Tigers last breath – Sri Lanka is about to finish off rebel Tamil Tigers. May be time for political end since Tigers are militarily weakened enough. SL govn’t must avoid perception of Sinhalese majority vs Tamil minority in post-conflict society.

‘Who else is eating with Einstein on page 19?’

South America Politics – Obama doing his part to politely engage Chavez and Cuba – even though embargo is still in place, US shows signs of improving. Brazil should step up and criticize Chavez.

All your base are belong to us – Russian hackers are really good at ‘cyber-attacks’ on government sites. Obama is going to fund more cyber security and Homeland Security (boo) is competing with National Security Agency (yay) for money.

15 pages later, Britain still sucks – Prime Minister Gordon Brown was chancellor of the exchequer (money stuff) for the past ten years and screwed up. Britain is worst off among the G7 – worst deficit, worst GDP decline, worst food

Timmy Geithner: on-the-job political training – able to do well as Pres of Fed Reserve NY because it was out of spotlight. Politics makes his work complicated – can’t speak like an economist and has to deal with media.

EPA says greenhouse gas is bad – apparently the EPA didn’t think this before, but now says that motor vehicle emissions should be regulated.

Illinois makes the Economist! – but not in a good way. Labeled as ‘exceptionally corrupt’ – maybe Blagojevich scandal so embarrassing that people will change. http://www.spitzerblagojevich2012.org

One World Trade Center: Your new HQ (in 2037) – New York real estate market sucks, so nobody thinks anybody will move in to new World Trade Center for a long time.

College are getting more expensiver – tuition is going up, endowments are shrinking, and loans suck. 180,000 people support cancelling student debt to stimulate the economy. Make that 180,001.

Californian Republicans (other than Arnold) – An angry old man proposes that California split in two – 13 coastal counties from LA to San Fran – and then everyone else. Good luck with that.

There are homeless in California – and always have been. ‘Tent city’ didn’t have much to do with foreclosure stuff. Economist takes swipe at Oprah!

[insert prison joke] – Larry Levine is a prison consultant that helps white collar criminals deal with prison. $999 (or 8 packs of smokes and an inmate named Tiny) and he’ll show you the ropes. Madoff is going to get stabbed.

Does the Smithsonian get the waterboard? – Obama is releasing documents to move US away from ‘torture stuff’ – balancing national security needs with improvements on human rights.

The uncorrupt Illinois educated president of Ecuador – Rafael Correa is running a tight ship, but economics are hurting. Faced trouble and slapped on tariffs (whoops) and now he’s running out of cash.

Canadian Politics (probably on the quiz) – Michael Ignatieff is the leader of the Liberal Party, the opposition to the Conservative Party. He and his party are popular, but they don’t stand for anything.

US and Mexico (pre-Swine flu) – Obama charmed the leaders of Latin America – Bush promised lots to Mexico ($1.4 billion in helicopters and other cool stuff) but we haven’t given them a peso yet. http://www.superpigflu.com

Hostages in Columbia – Government says that numbers are down – NGOs say they’re lying.
30 pages later, Tamil Tigers still hanging on – will be tough for PM Rajapaksa to win over Tamils.

The tattoo guy said it meant ‘harmonious ocean’ – China is getting a kick-ass Navy, with an aircraft carrier soon. First naval deployment beyond the Pacific to fight pirates.

More Chinese Characters - Mao Zedong tried to convert character based language into alphabet. Instead he simplified them by reducing the number of strokes. Now, the govn't is planning to correct the simplification and make the characters more complicated.

Oh, by the way, Kuwait now owns your farm - Cambodia is getting lots of cash from Kuwait in exchange for land rights, but the deals probably won't work because local citizens tend not to like to give up their homes so the govn't can afford a road or a dam.

Bauxite, schmauxite - Vietnamese locals concerned about Chinese mining of bauxite - something about 'irreparable damge to the environment.' Vietnam govn't will probably just ignore them and go ahead anyway,

Immigration in Australia - recent asylum boat blew up - australia deciding how to handle refugees coming in on dangerous boats - stricter laws may not deter boat people. people smugglers - 'lowest form of life.'

Hans Blix, Oh No! - North Korea and their nuclear adventure aren't anything new - their missile was a dud and they threaten. a lot. China isn't interested in taking the lead. US could hold 6 party talks without them and plan for post-Kim N. Korea.

When pigs fly (or kill you) - The new Israeli PM, Netanyahu (also the old PM '96-'99) meets with Obama soon. Will Palestinians recognize Israel as a 'Jewish' state? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President, is still an a-hole. But Obama thinks there's possibility of peace in middle east.

Rocking in Beirut - Lebanon is doing really well - GDP up 9%, bank deposits, tourism, new car sales all up. politics are all tied up with rival factions, so business can get work done. Oh, and their national debt is 162% of GDP, triple world average!

Powderkeg in Kenya – country about to blow up – rival parties could return to fighting, but they’re both stealing so much money, they don’t want to rock the boat. Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General UN was the mediator.

South African Election Results – Jacob Zuma (sleazebag) and the ANC won – rival parties, Democratic Alliance and Cope (off shoot of ANC), did ok, DA doing better than expected, Cope doing worse.

Ukrainian MBA820 Case Study – They’ve got it all: 40% devalued currency, IMF loans, GDP contraction of 9%, export controls to appease populist politicians. People aren’t protesting b/c they have low expectations. Should consider auctioning dates with the Prime Minister

Did you hear the one about the Pole, South Korean, and Mexican? – Poland is doing well – bureaucratic government of past helped slow rapid housing expansion, so Poland not hurting as much now. Ranked 76th, behind Kazakhstan, in ease of doing business.

Left-wingery of German Politics – Social Democrats (SPD) v. Christian Democrats (CDU). Steinmeier (SPD) v. Merkel (current chancellor and CDU). Steinmeier is underdog and propose bunch of socialist stuff to pull votes away from Merkel (curbs on pay, cash bonus for people earning too little to file taxes

Basquetteball anyone? – Spain doesn’t want to play ball and negotiate with Basque separatists (ETA) since they’ve arrested senior leaders and feel that ETA is almost finished. The Economist listens to Great White?

Cyprus Hill – Island still divided between Turkish north and Greek south. Nationalist party won big election in North and now low prospects of Cyprus reunification continue to hurt Turkish EU chances.

My Bologna has a first name – Graduate education reforms are occurring in Europe. Standardized diplomas, work-related degrees, and more flexibility for schools to run their business. Bologna is Europe’s oldest university – founded in 1088.

Fishy smell from Europe – European fisherman are catching too many fish. Economist proposes ‘cap and trade’ solution (apparently their fix for everything!)

No bloke left behind – British schools are supposed to be graded, so parents can decide which schools are best for their kids. Didn’t work because bureaucratic inefficient government managed to screw up (cock up in British!) another good idea.

Can I get a British student loan? – interest rates pegged to inflation, measured by the retail price index. With deflation occurring, interest rates on student loans will be negative and taxpayers might help pay them off.

The Economist really doesn’t like Gordon Brown – The Labour party should be nice and help the people, not be snarky politicians, like Gordon Brown.

UN Conference on or for Racism? – Great work at the UN. Ahmadinejad calculates that the Holocaust did not exist. Considered a good thing that UN produced statements that just ignored the whole ‘middle east’ thing.

Venezuelan Bearer Bonds, anyone? – international disputes are often held in secret arbitration courts. US and Canada suggest that there should be more openness.

Oracle is buying ‘Business in Briefs’ for $2.4 billion – Oracle is a very rich software company in Silicon Valley. Larry Ellison is their very rich CEO. They bought a lot of other companies, recently Sun Microsystems. Software industry maturing through mergers and acquisitions.

Ich habe den Strom in meine Hose – Germany’s electricity market is messed up. No competition and the providers own the distribution so new competitors cannot enter easily.

Corporate Scandal?! Sacre Bleu! – French energy company, EDF, spied on Greenpeace to see when protesters were going to screw up their construction plans. Greenpeace doesn’t think that’s fair. Wah.

Daddy will not be happy – Rich Hong Kong billionaires have been trading assets between companies they own, but some rich punk named Dick Li went too far and got called out by the Hong Kong courts.

Chinese patents – China is playing the intellectual property game – protecting their inventions with more patents that the US last year.

DVR’s are not evil – TV execs worried that digital video recording would destroy power of TV advertising, but they didn’t make much of a difference since Americans are still lazy and don’t even fast forward through ads when they can. Hulu is an evil plot to take over the world.

Choo-Choo Trains! Keeping up with the Muhammad’s. – Middle Eastern countries are building kick-ass railroad systems to show off their money and because high-speed rail is cool.

Fiat/Chrysler – Fiat’s CEO Sergio Marchionne is ready to clean house at Chrysler if he can get deal terms that will make it work (debt concessions, etc…)

I’m a marketing major – monetary policy isn’t consistent worldwide. Some national banks and financial institutions have greater power than others and it impacts how effectively that can address the current crisis.

Say Dubai to your money – Dubai and Abu Dhabi spent a lot of money on ridiculous real estate projects and some think they’re not in good shape. They’ll do just fine with $300 billion in assets.

….and it’s gone – commercial real estate sucks in the US. Loan-to-value ratios used to be 95% and now delinquencies are on the rise.

Who is Mr. Buttonwood? – Housing prices are still relatively high, but more important statistics are related to affordability (mortgage rates) Homes as investment tools might not be feasible or popular for a long while.

Bank Bail-outs and stress tests, oh my! – investors waiting to hear results of ‘stress tests’ for major American banks. Treasury running out of money for more bail-outs. Europeans are just crossing their fingers.

We still trust the rating agencies? Really? – Moody’s, Standard & Poors, and Fitch, of the ‘mortgage securities are great investments’ fame, now have govn’t promoted roles in the new Fed lending programs.

Hey son, why don’t you just wait in the car? – Nobody likes the World Bank. Mr. Zoellick is president and didn’t do well getting money for his programs while people lined up to hand over cash to the IMF. Maybe that’s because it has a cooler sounding acronym.

Pakistan added you as a friend on Facebook– Pakistan scares everyone because it could implode any day – IMF and the ‘Friends of Pakistan’ give billions of dollars and their reserves are stronger.

Americanese Hot Money – China is up to some complicated stuff with US currency. They want to hide how much they hold in US Treasuries, but they also are committed to keeping the yuan down so it’s unlikely that they’d dump a bunch of their dollars.

Let’s make a ‘popular science’ magazine – and call it Nature. Sir John Maddox helped make science journalism consumable by the masses by making it more of a newspaper.

Was it yellow, then red, or the other way around? – Scientists can color cancer cells so that they’ll be easier to remove. Hooray.

Robotic one-eyed monster? – visual processing is difficult with two image sources, so seeing for a robot is easier with only one eye.

Hello? Ever heard of David Blaine? – Some cocky Canadian scientists think they’re cool because they made a 6mm robot levitate. Big deal!

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Economist - April 18th

Jacob Zuma: Class Act – South Africa’s soon-to-be new President – political party: ANC (African National Congress). Great politician – bribery and rape allegations. Will he help or hurt the country – no one is sure.

India Elections – incumbent Congress party – prime minister Manmohan Singh. Rival national party: BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) complicated elections – 50% local parties with local agendas. Muslims and Christians may not trust BJP. Economist backs Congress party as most likely to accomplish progress.

Bank bail-out return policy – Goldman Sachs ready to give back $10 billion to Treasury. Banks want to avoid govn’t restrictions on exec comp and hiring foreigners. Even though GS has solid capital ratios, banking system is too interconnected and one bank’s return might jeopardize weaker banks. Wah.

Breaking News: Healthcare is expensive – technology in healthcare makes operating costs higher. Doctors don’t know how to run businesses. No competition on med devices so cost-plus pricing is used.

Housing: Blame the Govn’t – government policies encouraged housing boom, such as mortgage interest tax deductions. If anyone is looking for a condo in CT, let me know – I’ve got one for you!

South Africa has issues – ANC in charge for 15 years. Good: new black middle class, electricity and clean water access up 33%, murders down 33%. Bad: murders still relatively high, Zuma has six wives, recession bring threat of unemployment.

Arguing about Immigration – 11.9 illegal immigrants in US. Forces shifting toward reform: AFL-CIO (union) support. Latino support for Obama. Lou Dobbs is still angry.

Oakland has a crack problem – West coast occasionally gets earthquakes. Oakland (2 Fast 2 Furious) has a big crack problem - sits on Hayward fault line. Old houses collapse.

Guess who’s back, back again? – George Bush is back, tell your friends. He’s writing a book about his 12 biggest decisions.

Beverly Hillbilly’s: There’s Uranium in Virginia? – Apparently there’s almost $5 billion worth of Uranium under some guy’s farm in Virginia. He wants to sell it. Neighbors are scared. Policies might change to let him mine it.

WOOO-EEEEE, that’s some good moonshine – homemade whiskey is awesome and can clean floors. Also illegal but that just makes it taste better.

Biotech in North Carolina – manufacturing isn’t just textiles anymore. $1.2 billion from state for biotech research. Now nation’s 3rd largest center, after Cali and Mass.

Best Saxophone around in Yemen – We spend $10 mil a year to send jazz musicians to countries that don’t like us. Really.

Iowa smells like yeast and success – Iowa is doing all-right. Unemployment below average, ethanol industry remains part of future, but not as prominent. Broader manufacturing and services economy.

Obama, yeah or nay? – Obama has polarized approval/disapproval numbers. Didn’t we go over this last issue – come on Economist!

Bienvenido Cuba, sort of – Obama loosens restrictions on Cuba. How will Raul respond to maintain control over politics. Fidel Castro has a blog. but he mostly talks about baseball.

Bolivian politics, hold the Chile – Bolivian president Evo Morales has no shame. Hunger strike to push for new constitution. Slept on mattress on floor of state room. Really – not a joke.

Mexico priorities – worried about emissions. Target 5% drop. Would Pres Calderon be happy if drug traffickers did drive-bys and smuggled in fuel efficient vehicles?

Brazil priorities – worried about emissions. Foreign ministry not a supporter, but local govn’t helping slow deforestation.

Thailand's technicolor protests – government didn’t expect protests to spiral into violence. Former PM Thaksin has enemies who only wear yellow shirts. His supporters wear red shirts.

Fiji has an army? – The president tried to kick out the army and call a mulligan on the constitution. The commander is 88 years old. Politics divided by ethnic Fijians and Indian minority.

Indonesian elections – Democratic Party is the winner in parliamentary elections – tripled support and saw decline of fragmented opposition. Their president has the coolest name ever: Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (pronounce You-da-hoe-yo-now – at least that’s what I suggest)

Healthcare in China – healthcare is expensive in China too – big spending plans to have a ‘robust’ government financed health-insurance system - $125 billion – by 2020. Questionable if it will work

Homemade Dialysis –some sick people bought a dialysis machine because government healthcare sucks. When government shut it down, the media called them out and now the people get free dialysis care.

India state politics: next national leader? – Northern State Uttar Pradesh, Miss Mayawati leading candidate for local party BSP. She’s a dalit, lowest class, and threatens strength of national parties.

On the Thai King’s good side – amidst political strife, both sides show deference to King Bhumibol – red shirts question if the King supports Thaksin. Illegal to criticize the King. I like the King.

Guns don’t kill pirates, Navy SEALs kill pirates – but does shooting pirates solve the problem? No, we probably have to do the ‘soft’ stuff like give the Somalis something else to do. I hear there’s a big market in Thailand for red and yellow shirts!

West Coast Pirates: Death Row Records – West coast Africa has pirates too (and oil). US Navy sailing around teaching Nigerians stuff like hand-to-hand combat, boat maintenance, and jazz.

OMG! Egypt and Hezbollah: not BFF? - Egypt Pres Hosni Mubarak criticized for not supporting Hamas in Hamas v. Israel. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah not happy. Lebanese arrested in Egypt - perhaps part of wider Hezbollah operation taking place within Egypt.

Congo: The GM of Africa? - No one is buying Cobalt (or Chevy Cobalts). Congo is broke but IMF and World bank are giving out half a billion. China is pissed because they have deals with Congo that they can't renegotiate because IMF supports Pres Joe Kabila.

It's the economy, Stupide - French pres Sarkozy has approval rating of 36%. unemployment in France is above EU average. No longer EU president so he's off international stage. French civic institutions are weak so the kids like to protest. a lot.

Swiss-Italian fluid border - changed the border because of glacier melting. Previous borders were at watersheds, but glacier has shifted so borders are adjusted

Greece is not an island - The economy sucks there too. there were some riots in december and govn't says they were isolated, but many fear that further unemployment will spark greater unrest.

New German Cars - German govn't offers $3,300 for people to sell old clunker cars and buy new ones. Both political parties support it (at cost $5 billion Euro) Questionable effectiveness: people buy small foreign cars, not German ones. Cuts into future car sales and from other expenditures, like beer.

Croatia and EU - Croatian economy is lousy. Need to fix it for EU membership - Slovenia (current EU member) wants to fix dispute over Piran bay.

Moldova and Georgia protests - Moldova has problems with youth riots for faster EU integration. Hardcore crackdown - jailings, beatings. Moldova Pres Vladmir Voronin doesn't like Romanian Pres. Traian Basescu - vocal Moldovan minority seek reunification with Romania. Tounge twister - problematic protesters prefer potted plants.

EU scared of Chi-merica (I prefer Amerinese) - EU and China don't get along - trade tariffs and Sarkozy talking with Dalai Lama. EU recognizing that G20 or G8 might be meaningless and become G2 (U.S. and China). Too fractured within EU to come up with consistent strategy.

Pakistanis in Britain – 250k Pakistanis enter Britain each year. Marriage is big role in immigration. Some concern over potential terrorists entering under fraudulent student visas.

Big Brother works both ways – British police are caught on camera beating up protestors. The Economist used the phrase ‘cock-up’ which might seriously change my google adwords.

England makes cars – about as well as we do. Lots of schemes to give manufacturers a boost: car-scrapping like Germany, credit insurance, like France, or electric car subsidies.

Homes in England – housing market sucks there too. More people interested in buying homes, but mortgage approvals still low and prices still dropping.

Political Scandal in Britain – PM’s aid creating some trashy email slander about an opponent and got caught and resigned.

Professional paths to politics – Lawyers in US, Engineers in China. Business 2nd worldwide. Data from 5,000 politicians in ‘International Who’s Who’ - The Economist has a lot of time on its hands – but they’re certainly not mailing out their issues on time.

Indian entrepreneurs in healthcare – low cost healthcare through frugal but effective surgery. Think Jaipur foot. Aravind – world’s biggest eye hospital chain.

Satyam sold – The Enron of India, Satyam software company sold to Tech Mahindra

Doubledown in Vegas? – MGM’s $8.7 billion CityCenter development in jeopardy because of struggles to pay $13.5 billion debt burden. Dubai World 50% partner. Las Vegas revenues down 10%.

Nintendo: Game Over? – Wii sales down. Marketed to less committed gamers? Video-on-demand for Wii and portable DSi has features like cameras, mp3 player, web browser to compete with iPhone.

French file-sharing – France wants to ban file-sharing with scary government agency that will send you a letter and then cut-off your internet. Carla Bruni thinks file-sharing is why people don’t buy her album.

It’s the economy, Durka Durka – US private equity fund, Marshall Fund investing millions in Iraqi SOE (State owned enterprises) Founded by Dan Rice (West Point class of 1988).

Zappos! – Tony Hsieh is CEO – still has web startup enthusiasm despite $1 billion in sales. $2,000 to quit after training. ‘Service company that happens to sell shoes’

Homes: Give me shelter or beast of burden? - homes are supposed to great ways for wealth accumulation. States like them because crime is supposed to drop and home owners more involved. Backfire when people buy homes only as investments.

Bank’s questionable come-back – bank stocks are up since early March on reports of 1st quarter profits at big firms (Goldman, Chase, Wells Fargo). Probably not at bottom with commercial real estate about to implode. Yay!

MBA821: Jumping off of bridges – Recession recovery will be ‘slow and painful’ – deflation is mostly because of fuel and food declines but people are still depressed and pessimistic about future.

Germany wants to avoid banking like it's 1930? – Germany is averse to nationalizing banks since they haven’t done that since the 30’s. didn’t act quickly to help HRE (Hypo Real Estate) bank.

Brazil’s development bank – The BNDES (National Bank for Economic and Social Development) is awesome. 5.8 billion profit (reais) and 277 billion reais in assets. Established to for new capital- Brasilia.

Bringing Sexy Back: Municipal Bonds – 1/3 of buyers have left (institutional funds) leaving those scary retail investors holding most of the debt. Potential bailout for government purchase of local government municipal bond issues.

Google hires Nostradamus – Google trends, which track aggregate search keyword volume, could be useful in predicting sales. Fewer people search for ford trucks, fewer people buy. (author’s note: Google trend #28 today: Grandma’s Chicken Soup)

China Recovery? – China forecasts 8% GDP growth. 16% higher retail sales, 36% higher home sales, 30% higher fixed investment, and a 22% increase in questionable statistics.

The Damned Mob – There are quick solutions to the economic crisis but people and their stupid political concerns stand in the way.

Autism and superpowers – studies suggest that around 30% of individuals on the ‘autism spectrum’ have some savant-like capability – extraordinary memory, calculation, music, etc…

Old Female Mosquitoes – Neuroscientists discover that we subconsciously know the answer but then cloud it with too much analysis. Go with your gut

Rosetta Stone: Now for Infants – teach your kids another language. It helps with their decision making skills and they enjoy creepy puppet shows. This is the way to do it.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Visit weekly for a quick summary of The Economist and my poll for the best trivia fact from each week's issue.

As you can imagine, it's not easy to summarize each article into two sentences. If you'd like to help, please contact me at michael.j.nemeth@gmail.com Thanks!

The Economist - April 11th

Here's the summary of The Economist - cover to cover...

Obama wants a nuclear free world – acknowledges difficulty. Russia and Britain ready to reduce – China and France silent. North Korea launched a missile over Japan

US wants Turkey in EU – Obama visits Turkey –Muslim country with functioning secular democracy. EU, especially Sarkozy say no. Turk PM Recep Erdogan helping diplomacy in Mid East. EU: “Don’t tell us what to do.”

G20 boosts IMF – International Monetary Fund gets $750 billion. $250 billion for ‘Special Drawing Rights’ a quasi-international currency. IMF can help but won’t be a bank and needs new rules.

Water Problems – 2 billion more people by 2025. They need lots of food – farmers wasting lots of water. Set up usage rights, cap and trade system, to allocate water usage for most efficient crop per area.

Accounting rules – banks complain about accounting standards that force them to report losses. Wah. FASB and IASB should promote transparency, not be a tool for new regulation.

Kim Jong Il is back! – Launched a ‘communications’ satellite. Probably cover for Taepodong-2 missile. Bigger problem is disagreement over response – China w/ N. Korea, S. Korea wants to avoid confrontation and Japan is pissed. US envoy Bosworth wants diplomacy and engagement.

Obama polarizing? – widest gap in approval (D – 88%; R – 27%) Most Americans like that world likes Obama, but others afraid that we’re being too nice – citing lack of international support for Afghan war.

Pentagon budget: More $$$, less sexy – Defense Sec Robert Gates shifting $$$ from F-22 (think Mercedes) to F-35 (Toyota). Total budget up 4% @ $543 bil. More $$$ for ‘small war’ stuff, like UAVs.

Fast and Furious: Oakland, CA –violence up. Kids racing cars. Respect killings: wrong look = gunfight.

Little House on the Prairie: St. Louis, MO – There are lots of parks in St. Louis. Hooray.
Volunteering up – AmeriCorps gets $5.7 billion and triples size to 250k. AARP: people prefer time over $.

Choo-Choo Trains - $9.3 billion for trains. Our trains are slow. High-Speed rail could be cool.

Gay Marriage– Iowa and Vermont ok same-sex marriage. Vermont first by legislature instead of courts.

Lessons from Virginia Tech – gun control debate inconclusive. Lesson is that it’s impossible to prepare.

Hello Cuba – Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago – 34 leaders, but biggest question is Obama and lifting embargo on Cuba.

Let’s go to Prison: Fujimori in Peru – President from 1990 – 2000. Secret execution squads are bad.

Venezuela Politics – Hugo Chavez doesn’t like competition. Most opposition jailed.
Chagas Plague – ‘kissing bugs’ infect 18m people. Prevention is key since drugs only work in early stages.

Sri Lanka War – Tamil Tigers vs. govn’t. Tigers are almost defeated. Sri Lanka Pres Rajapaksa will have to be careful to end the war on good terms and not exacerbate humanitarian crisis.

Trouble in Pakistan – President Asif Zadari admits internal violence threatening ‘survival’ of country. North West Frontier Province a US concern with its connections to Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Trouble in Afghanistan too – latest effort for security is Afghan Public Protection Program (AP3) – modeled after Iraq militias. Replaces Afghan National Auxiliary Police (ANAP) – improvements are AP3 units have greater US support and are for local defense not law enforcement.

Unemployment in China – six million new students and not enough jobs. China concerned about student unrest. Loans for entrepreneurs and breaks for companies that hire new grads.
China at the G20 – President Hu Jintao gets high marks from home – prominent position at summit - $2 trillion in foreign currency reserves gave him power to suggest use of Special Drawing Rights as replacement to dollar. Pocket change: $40bil loan to IMF.

Asia is a Banyan Tree – Asia is tough to define, so how about a botanical metaphor? Asia is growing and we should pay attention to it. The Banyan represents Asia’s values of learning, justice, and commerce.

Rwanda’s Future – Hutus and Tutsis living as neighbors. Anti-Genocide Law outlaws enthnicity – everyone is ‘Rwandan.’ President Kagame accused of using law as cover to silence opposition.

Nigeria’s President’s Health – President Umaru Tar’Adua has a kidney condition. Speculation that his death would disrupt Nigerian economic growth and bring a return to political instability.

Sudan isn’t Stable – Problems beyond Darfur – soldiers not getting paid – risk that country will fragment.

Iranian Dissidents in Iraq – The People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI) fought against Iran and now live in a camp in N. Iraq. Iraqis don’t want them and it’s not clear how well Iran would treat them.

Banking in Iraq – Iraq is getting electronic clearing systems to allow for modern banking. Can’t find work? 7,000 new job openings for qualified finance professionals at Rafidain Bank.

Italian Earthquakes – Town of L’Aquila destroyed. Berlusconi’s promise to rebuild towns nearby is reminiscent of earlier earthquake recoveries that were marred by corruption.

Turkey in Headlines – Obama addressed parliament. Kissed PM Erdogan. US will need Turk help as it leaves Iraq. Didn’t use the word ‘genocide’ about the Ottoman Armenian ‘catastrophe.’
French Toast with Freedom Fries – France and US friends – French rejoin military NATO yet little support on Afghanistan or Turkey

Turkey, hold the Danish – Denmark PM Rasmussen leading NATO – Turkey not happy because of history with offensive Muslim cartoons in Danish newspapers.

No Hotels on Baltic Avenue – Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia need money ($10 billion for Latvia). Hurting their chances to join the Euro. Countries solid – little protest.

Spanish Government Changes – PM Zapatero replaces finance minister and brings in Elena Salgado.

EU Leadership – 6 month rotating presidency, currently with Czech Mirek Topolanek – who doesn’t like US policy. EU might be better off with a full-time presidency – Tony Blair strong candidate.

Local Govn’t Finances – British cities get lots of money from central government – federal money dropping; tax revenue dropping – forcing more responsibility on local govn’t to make decisions.

Hometown Outsourcing – Cities considering privatized services, like libraries and community centers. People not happy – risks of poor service or failure that end up costing more in long run.

Nyudies and Hoes – people in London like gardening. Nyudie – New yuppie digger

Old School Catholics – New Archbishop Vincent Nichols - faces critics and politics – more conservative

Britain makes movies? – 60’s were fun, 70’s depressing – people are depressed now and they prefer the 70’s. The Boat that Rocked – 60’s radio station; The Damned United – 70’s football (soccer) manager

Stock up on Aquafina – Lots of water around, but world doesn’t use it right. 9% of fresh water withdrawn for use. Need improvements on water usage governance and corporate commitments.

UN at Glacier Speed – UN taking a long time for climate change legislation even with new US govn’t support. Prince Charles wears suits in the jungle.

Activist Investors Decline – single voice large shareholders (hedge funds, rich guys) are not as powerful, so companies can manage their own business. Italcementi isn’t under pressure. But Govn’t might take new role of interfering with decisions.

GM PUMA – GM developed the PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) (where’s the noun?) Built off of Segway technology. No one called the Scooter Store.

Spain: Now Accepting US $$$ - Spain marketing for US contracts within $317 billion stimulus $$$.

Japan on (oil) shopping spree – strong yen lets Japan buy its own foreign energy projects – target 40%

What’s on NBC? – apparently nothing important. Americans watch 151 hours of TV a month, most ever, but broadcast network share dropped considerably relative to cable and premium (HBO and Skinimax)

Newspaper for breakfast – First Flavor makes edible ads. Thinks people would eat their newspaper.

Europe’s Big Plane – Airbus A400M, a transport, is over budget and late. Ruined by bureaucratic sourcing decisions and overly ambitious technical goals. Stop-gap solution is buy/lease Boeing aircraft

Kikkoman is Soy Sauce – Yuzaburo Mogi turned Kikkoman soy sauce into global brand through attracting the ‘non-japanese’ market as an all-purpose seasoning, not specialty.

IMF: Next on Game Show Network – The IMF gives out lots of money. Little consistency in how programs are managed.

SDR: Special Drawing Rights – A currency that’s not a currency. Unit of account for IMF that includes yen, dollars, pounds, and euros. It’s confusing and Americans don’t like it.
Stock Markets go up and down – There are lots of contradictory statistics that ruin the S&P rally of 21%. There’s less panic (the Vix) but fundamentals are still poor – profit outlooks and commercial real estate.

G20: All Talk – G20 just renamed a bunch of organizations and didn’t make many structural changes to the world’s financial system.

ECAS is/are important – Export Credit Agencies help fund global trade by providing liquidity support.

Fed Reserve: Oversight Please – Congress is thinking about expanding oversight of the Fed Reserve

India Bank of America? – India has restrictions on foreign banks that have allowed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to thrive. Foreign banks might soon compete as India is underrepresented by banks.

Japan Banks Invest in their Customers – This is all good until their customers tank and those customers depend on their banks, which now suck because their customers tanked.

Deal or No Deal? – When you’re under stress, you make riskier decisions. Thanks Rutgers!

Smart Guy has an Idea – Mr. Rajan is at University of Chicago and used to work for IMF. Comprehensive, Contingent, and Cost-effective regulations would be nice. Don’t plan when you’re panicked. If you’re really big, then you should have a back-up bankruptcy plan.

Malaria is Bad – Kill off the old mosquitoes without scaring the young ones, that way they don’t develop evolutionary resistance to insecticides.

Biofuels are Bad too – It’s usually worse to make biofuels because of nitrous oxide release.
What is your brain doing right now? – Some smart people are mapping how we think using gene ‘food coloring’ for nerve cells.

Ice is melting, and? – There are some new books about climate change. Lord Giddens thinks that we shouldn’t be so depressed about it so that we’re inspired to change for good reasons as opposed to scary ones. Sir Stern says it’s cheaper to fix the problem than to deal with the consequences. Mr. MacKay is a physicist who calculates energy requirements and wouldn’t believe in Santa Clause.

There are some other good books about Islam, Liberia, Ants, and the sister of William Wordsworth.

Helen Levitt’s photographs of New York are great (really) and you should google them.