Monday, April 13, 2009

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.


  1. Love It. LMAO. (first time I have ever used that acronym, honest)