Things got a little out of hand in a legislative session in Argentina's Chaco province when the governing party tried to keep opposition lawmakers out of the room during while they were choosing a new president:
In September, FP looked a five of the world's most unruly parliaments. The Taiwanese and the South Koreans could give these guys some tips on legislative brawling technique.
Warning: spoilers to follow.
This weekend, against my wife's better judgment, we went to see 2012, and it was everything its fans and critics said it would be: grandiose in ambition, ludicrous in conception, and technically wondrous in execution.
There are obviously a lot of silly things going on in the movie, not least the idea that you could keep such a thing as the imminent destruction of the planet secret from all but a handful of people, even while you are auctioning off golden parachutes. A fatal flaw of the film that as far as I know has gone unremarked upon, however, is its strange conception of global governance.
For one thing, it's ridiculous to think that the moribund G-8 would be the preferred international forum in which to hash out doomsday planning. And yet, we get Danny Glover as the U.S. president, leaning on his thoughtful Russian and Italian colleagues to help plan for the end of the world. China, though it builds and hosts the giant, arc-like ships that are supposed to save the chosen few from disaster, isn't a G-8 member and therefore this particular nuclear-armed fifth of humanity doesn't appear to get a seat at the big-boys' table.
Then there's India. Despite the fact that an Indian scientist nobly informs his American colleague of his (admittedly far-fetched) findings about how the sun's surging neutrinos are destabilizing the Earth's core, rather than keeping the knowledge to himself, nobody comes to rescue the poor bastard and his family when the meltdown begins. Instead, we are treated to a painful scene of him about to be swamped by a 50-foot tsunami, resignedly informing Washington's top geologist of his plight and the flood's unexpectedly rapid advance, before the line goes dead. And again, since India is not a G-8 member, his compatriots, representing another fifth or so of the Earth's population, don't seem to be on any of the arcs or involved in the discussions about their use.
So, suspending disbelief about the film's premise, here's a question for everyone: What is the proper forum for secret doomsday planning? The G-20? The U.N. Security Council? The P5+1 or the EU3+3? Every country for itself? Mssrs. Drezner and Walt, I'm counting on you to chime in here.
UPDATE: Drezner obliges! Go read.
Tom Fletcher, Mr Brown's private secretary, recalls Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, telling the prime minister at the height of the crisis: "You know, Gordon, I should not like you. You are Scottish, we have nothing in common and you are an economist. But somehow, Gordon, I love you." Mr Sarkozy hastily added: "But not in a sexual way."
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images
While speaking in Turkey, IMF Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn became the latest world leader to fall victim to an attack by shoe:
The Fund’s managing director was addressing students on the campus of Bilgi University when a student took aim with a white trainer, chanting “get out of the university, thief IMF.”
Television footage showed security guards shielding Mr Strauss-Kahn and hustling the bearded student, who wore a white t-shirt and sleeveless jacket, out of the room.
Mr Strauss-Kahn later shrugged off the protest. “It is important for us to have an open debate. I was glad to meet students and hear their views. This is what the IMF needs to do, even if not everyone agrees with us. One thing I learned, Turkish students are polite. They waited until the end to complain,” he told reporters.
With this incident, Strauss-Kahn joins the motley crew of shoe-attack survivors that now includes George W. Bush, Wen Jiabao, Indian Home minister P. Chidambaram, and (possibly) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The shoe-chucking innovator Muntazar al-Zaidi was released from jail in Iraq this month.
So, readers, who do we think will be next?
BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images
When a giant clock reached 09:09:09 on 9/9/09, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE, swiped a personalised plastic card at a ticket barrier and took his place as the first passenger on a network that will, when finished, have cost an estimated Dh28 billion (US$7.6bn).
The first two trains were filled by VIPs but eventually, lucky members of the general public were allowed to take part in the festivities.
A little later, a third train left the Nakheel Harbour and Tower station with 400 members of the public, the winners of “golden tickets”, picked from about 10,000 people who entered an online competition.
One of them, MV Martin, said: “I can’t believe I am going to be part of history.”
With all the layoffs in Dubai and abandoned luxury cars everywhere, the Metro could provide a cheaper transport option. Or maybe abandoned cars are still available for bargain prices?
KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images
South African tech company Unlimited IT was so frustrated with the slow Internet speeds provided by Telkom, one of South Africa's biggest internet providers, that it hired a pigeon named Winston. As the Times of South Africa reports, Winston carried a 4gb memory card from one branch of Unlimited IT to another, far faster than Telkom's transfer speed:
The 11-month-old pigeon flew 80km from a call centre in Howick, outside Pietermaritzburg, to a head office in Hillcrest, Durban, to prove a bird is faster at transferring data than Telkom’s ADSL lines.
Winston made his delivery in 2 hours 6 minutes and 57 seconds, beating Telkom’s estimated download time of up to two days. By the time the memory card, carrying company data, had been collected from Winston and downloaded by midday, the ADSL download had managed 100MB of data.
The Christian Science Monitor's Scott Balduf, based in Johannesburg, explains why the story is more significant than just good publicity for Ultimate and Winston:
Africans pay some of the highest prices for some of the least reliable Internet service in the world. And if a country like South Africa – relatively prosperous and developed – can't solve this problem, then it's going to need a lot more pigeons.
Telkom has since responded to the South Africa Press Association and denied responsibility for Ultimate's Internet connection woes.
In the Financial Times on Wednesday, Chris Cook argues that British immigration laws are giving an unfair edge to soccer clubs with more money.
Clubs with deep pockets hire the small number of local and foreign gifted players available, while poorer clubs must make do with the remaining, potentially much weaker, local journeymen.
Not only that, he says, but the protectionist measures of allowing non-European workers only if the fit certain high-skill benchmarks also inflate wages for less-skilled Europeans, raising ticket prices.
Cook contends tougher competition would boost the English national team:
The impact of more foreign players on the elite band of players who might conceivably play for the national team is that they need to play better to keep their places in their club teams. So, they improve. The English team has markedly improved since foreign footballers started pouring into the country’s top league.
Would some British and European soccer players be pushed out of work if rules were liberalized? Probably, but a more competitive league would be worth it Cook says.
Consumers of an increasing range of products will soon feel the pain in their wallets already endured by so many fans on a Saturday afternoon, who routinely complain that they pay ever-greater sums to watch a football league dominated by just four clubs. What English football needs is fewer English footballers.
Not knowing that much about the economics of the Premiere Leage, here's a question: If teams in the lower half of the standings became much more competitive, would it increase their revenues? Higher ticket sales? More advertising?
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Profiles of Japan's incoming Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama tend to use a lot of adjectives like "remote and charisma-challenged" and "blue-blood." Frankly, despite his reformist zeal, the guy seems pretty dull. His wife Miyuki, on the other hand, seems a lot more interesting:
Miyuki Hatoyama, wife of Japan's Prime Minister-elect, Yukio Hatoyama, is a lifestyle guru, a macrobiotics enthusiast, an author of cookery books, a retired actress, a divorcee, and a fearless clothes horse for garments of her own creation, including a skirt made from Hawaiian coffee sacks. But there is more, much more. She has travelled to the planet Venus. And she was once abducted by aliens.
The 62-year-old also knew Tom Cruise in a former incarnation – when he was Japanese – and is now looking forward to making a Hollywood movie with him. "I believe he'd get it if I said to him, 'Long time no see', when we meet," she said in a recent interview. But it is her claim in a book entitled "Very Strange Things I've Encountered" that she was abducted by aliens while she slept one night 20 years ago, that has suddenly drawn attention following last Sunday's poll.
"While my body was asleep, I think my soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus," she explains in the tome she published last year. "It was a very beautiful place, and it was very green."
While her husband at the time dismissed her experience as a dream, she says that Yukio "has a different way of thinking." Maybe there's more to this PM than we thought...
Fun stories from the Democratic Republic of Congo are pretty hard to come by, but the third launch of the Congolese Space Program is pretty cool, even if "Troposphere 5" didn't get very far. I feel kind of bad for the rat astronaut on board, though. (Video in French.)
(Hat tip: Kings of War)
The Moscow Times reports that Russia has issued new guidlelines to law enforcement officials about how to define extremism:
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Winnie the Pooh share a dubious honor: Anyone who depicts either of them with a swastika can be punished under the law.
The Justice Ministry published the latest — and biggest — update to its list of extremist materials on its web site this week, and many of the 414 new entries are so vague or controversial that analysts say they threaten to discredit the list all together.
The list is important because police officers and other law enforcement officials use it in street checks, apartment searches and criminal cases.
Among the new entries, extremist material is identified as “a picture of Winnie the Pooh wearing a swastika,” “a self-made template for a future newspaper, comic or other print materials,” and “a flag with a cross.”
And just when you thought that was all:
A closer look at the list brings other surprises. For example, item No. 402 is the LiveJournal blog Reinform.livejournal.com.
The blog has not been suspended by LiveJournal’s abuse team and is being updated almost daily. Its owner wrote on its front page that he had opened the blog after seeing prosecutors mistakenly name the then-nonexistent blog as extremist.
MJ Kim/Getty Images
Ambassador Holbrooke specifically referenced last night's episode of The Colbert Report in his introduction to this morning's event, saying this segment on the Afghan elections "got it pretty accurately."
Draw your own conclusions about what that means for Afghan democracy but it is pretty funny. And Ashraf Ghani's new political advisor advisor James Carville does indeed look like "something you'd see in an opium nightmare."
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Yes We Afghan - James Carville|
I recently came across this ingeniously crackpot post on Alex Jones's popular conspiracy site, Infowars:
A major Ghanaian news outlet has been caught in a revealing slip-up after it reported that President Barack Obama’s recent visit to the African country was a return to his birthplace. [...]
Contained in an otherwise relatively mundane account of Obama’s recent visit to Ghana in the Daily Graphic news outlet is a sentence sure to raise eyebrows amongst people like journalist Jerome Corsi, who has been at the forefront of the Obama birth certificate scandal since well before the election.
The full paragraph reads, “For Ghana, Obama’s visit will be a celebration of another milestone in African history as it hosts the first-ever African-American President on this presidential visit to the continent of his birth.”
Why the Ghanaian news outlet would report that Obama was born on the continent of Africa, when this would instantly invalidate his entire presidency, is unclear.
I really love the idea that The Daily Graphic somehow got the scoop of the century and decided it belonged in paragraph four of their "otherwise mundane account." This would probably qualify as the most egregious instance of "burying the lede" in the history of newspaper journalism.
In any event, I'm curious how people in Kenya (or is it Indonesia? I can't keep up.) are reacting to the birther phenomenon. Are they completely dismissive of the idea, or somewhat intrigued by the possibility of being Obama's birthplace? Any Passport readers abroad hearing anything interesting?
Maybe it was bound to happen. The Save Darfur Coalition says its mission is "inspiring action, raising awareness and speaking truth to power on behalf of the people of Darfur."
"Toss these message panties onstage at your favorite rock star or share a surprise message with someone special ... later."
Admittedly, this description is the same for the thong regardless of which logo is chosen. But I'm still cringing.
The dealer, CafePress, gurantees that "100% of the profits will be dontated directly to the Save Darfur Coalition (www.savedarfur.org)." And the deal goes beyond just thongs. Save Darfur pet bowls and beer steins are among the other items on offer.
In fact, even though they didn't make it, I'll be surprised if the Save Darfur Coalition doesn't distance themselves, given that they are featured as the recipient. On the other hand, if the Save Darfur Coalition's "millions of everyday citizens" all sent a thong to the White House, someone would have to pay attention.
Ladies in gentleman, we have Biden's first Ukraine gaffe. From his meeting with Viktor Yushchenko:
During a quick visit by a handful of reporters, Biden also could be overheard expounding on the virtues of Ukrainian women.
“I cannot believe that a Frenchman visiting Kiev went back home and told his colleagues he discovered something and didn’t say he discovered the most beautiful women in the world; that’s my observation,” Biden said. Although it was unclear who the Frenchman the vice president was referring to, one Russian journalist speculated Alexander Dumas, who was well known for traveling extensively in the region. “It’s certain you have so many beautiful women.”
All in all, this could have been a lot worse. I'll bet his meeting with Yulia Tymoshenko was fun, though.
At a large Yaskawa Electric factory on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, where robots once churned out more robots, a lone robotic worker with steely arms twisted and turned, testing its motors for the day new orders return. Its immobile co-workers stood silent in rows, many with arms frozen in midair...Across the industry, shipments of industrial robots fell 33 percent in the last quarter of 2008, and 59 percent in the first quarter of 2009, according to the Japan Robot Association.
Even non-industrial robots are taking a hit. Ugoba, "maker of the cute green Pleo dinosaur robot with a wiggly tail" has filed for bankruptcy, the NYT says, despite selling 100,000 of its creations.
However, there is still hope for the robot industry, or at least baby dinosaur robots. "Pleo is alive and in good hands!" its official website declares. The company has been acquired by the Hong Kong based Jetta Group and will be "re-launched" soon.
YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images
It's finally here. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince opens in theaters tomorrow after an eight-month delay. The world is abuzz with anticipation for this picture, the sixth film to be released in the last eight years. This morning I spotted four sleeping teenagers who had camped out overnight already in line for tickets in front of DC's Uptown Theater.
Apparently, this magical mood surrounding The Half-Blood Prince has even traveled as far as the Vatican, casting its spell on the pope. In its review of the film L'Osservatore Romano -- the Vatican's official newspaper -- praised this latest cinematic adaptation of J.K. Rowling's work (written by Steve Kloves and directed by David Yates) as being the best one yet, highlighting its distinct moral compass.
There is a clear line of demarcation between good and evil and [the film] makes clear that good is right. One understands as well that sometimes this requires hard work and sacrifice."
While longtime Potter readers all over the world might respond with a resounding, "duh," this is certainly a shift for the pope who, until recently was not a Potter fan, once condemning the books as "subtle seductions." In 2008, the Vatican newspaper said young Harry "...proposes a wrong and malicious image of the hero, an unreligious one, which is even worst that an explicitly anti-religious proposition."
David Hardenberg/Getty Images
Before the G-8 summit began, intrepid Guardian reporter John Hooper infiltrated the L'Aquila barracks hosting world leaders and discovered a makeshift basketball court constructed especially to make Barack Obama feel welcome.
As Hooper's quick photo makes clear, it is little more than a portable hoop on some concrete, but given that L'Aquila is an earthquake zone and that there was doubt Italy would finish its preparations in time for the summit, host Silvio Berlusconi deserves some credit for trying.
Each G-8 leader was limited to an entourage of 25, but that should be more than enough to get some real games going during the breaks. If anyone actually plays, will the game help blow off steam or add to the drama?
Hat tip: The indispensable Baller-in-Chief
Update: Baller-in-Chief digs deeper with some comparative height analysis. Obama and Jose Manuel Barroso (president of the European Commission) seem to be the tallest.
JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a transnational, multi-denominational, interfaith co-op of superheroes? International diplomacy may well have found a new medium: the comic book -- forging inspired coalitions, and trumpeting unlikely champions.
In anticipation of upcoming elections, a 64-page comic novel featuring heroine Angela Merkel has hit Germany's streets. As some critics are noting that it took three and a half years for the German chancellor to be satirized in this way is something of a compliment, especially when pitted against similar works based on Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown. Indeed laughs wasn't the only aim with the Merkel bio-comic: "We wanted to both amuse and educate readers about the main points in her life," its creator told reporters.
The United States' DC Comics and Kuwait's Teshkeel Comics will collaborate on an "unprecedented" miniseries collaboration expected to hit shops within the year.
Characters of The 99 anthology battle evil the "Islamic way," representing the 99 attributes of Allah. The 99 comic books "sell about 1m copies a year, enjoy a high profile in the Middle East. The adventures are to be made into an animated film, while the first of several 99-inspired theme parks has opened in Kuwait."
There's some question about how Wonder Woman's immodest getup will cross the cultural lines abroad while others are accusing the American creators of "Muslim pandering," but creators are optimistic that in a post-Bush world, the American superheroes will be welcome among Middle East readership.
And so it would seem Obama will be adding international comic book alliances to his list of recent triumphs.
ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images
Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (known as MI6) was forced into damage control mode this past weekend amid a major security breach, potentially involving "hostile foreign powers" and all manner of terrorists. Soon-to-be-appointed spy chief Sir John Sawers is keeping his head down -- and with good reason:
His wife put pictures of him on Facebook.
Not just ordinary family albums, reports The Mail on Sunday, but shocking images of the man in a swimsuit. The intelligence community is up in arms -- but at least one among the scandal is talking sense:
“It is not a state secret that he wears Speedo swimming trunks,” Foreign Secretary David Miliband declared snippily in a television interview. “The fact that there’s a picture that the head of MI6 goes swimming — wow, that really is exciting.”
Britney Spears could be returning to film for the first time since "Crossroads" in 2002, for which she was given a Golden Raspberry award for worst actress of the year. She is said to be reviewing the script for "The Yellow Star of Sophia and Eton" a romantic tragedy partially set in the Holocaust.
As Der Spiegel reports, not everyone is thrilled about the potential casting choice:
Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, has said she is horrified..."In films that deal with the Holocaust, the script should be carefully chosen and the cast picked with care," Knobloch told the German tabloid Bild. "It is reprehensible to combine the issue of the Holocaust with Britney Spears in an attempt to secure financing for the film 'The Yellow Star of Sophia and Eton.' Ethical considerations should have priority."
More on the film from Haaretz:
If she accepts the role, Spears will be taking on the title role of Sophia LaMont, a woman who invents a time machine and succeeds in traveling to the time of the Second World War. According to the script, LaMont ends up at a concentration camp and falls in love with a Jewish prisoner named Eton. However, the budding love story is cut short when both are killed by the Nazis.
Britney, time-travel, Nazis. What could they be worried about?
Trust The Nation's "Deadline Poet" Calvin Trillin to find it:
The Private Thoughts of a TV Anchor as He Observes the Iranian Election
A president like Moussavi
Would fill me to the brim with glee:
For anchors not completely lame,
It's easy to pronounce his name.
But this was not to be. Oh, God--
I'm stuck with Ahmadinejad.
In a surprising capitulation to Iranian tyranny, Newsweek (who recently redesigned the interior of the magazine) boldly and officially renamed their magazine NewsAyatollahs, starting with the cover of the June 29th issue.
With crafty image editing, Dernavich decides to rename several magazines in a similar fashion and to create his own. The images are a must see. My favorite is Ayatollahs Illustrated.
In the wake of the Iran's soccer team wearing opposition armbands in a match this week, Judah Grunstein at World Politics Review has a list of his "admittedly U.S.-centric" top 5 international sports events with political significance. His explanations are worth reading, but here's the bare list:
- U.S. vs. USSR, 1980 Olympic hockey.
- Hungary vs. USSR, 1956 Olympic water polo.
- Jesse Owens vs. Adolph Hitler, 1936 Olympics.
- Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, 1936 and 1938 World Heavyweight boxing title.
- U.S.-USSR, 1972 Olympic basketball.
Can you think of any others you would add?
TOKYO - JUNE 03: A man watches a model train running along the bar at Bar Ginza Panorama Shibuya Branch on June 3, 2009 in Tokyo, Japan. The bar caters to model train enthusists and customers are able to bring their own model trains to run on the tracks.
Photo: Junko Kimura/Getty Images
The new book "Sex as you don't know it: for married couples who love God," written by a franciscan friar named Ksawery Knotz is flying off the bookshelves in Poland, selling out its initial print run within weeks. While Knotz's message, that even godly married couples should enjoy sex, is all fine and good and probably a smart move for the struggling Polish catholic church, isn't there something a little strange about taking sex tips from a guy who's celibate?
He also dismisses those that have questioned the competency of a celibate monk to write about sex, saying his experience comes from counselling married couples and from running a website giving sexual advice for almost a year.
A man urinates on April 25, 2009 in the toilets of the Sodoma bar in central Reykjavik where photographs of the former bankers who left their country after the financial crash have been stuck on the urinals. AFP PHOTO OLIVIER MORIN.
Someday very soon, a graduate student is going to have a field day with the gender dynamics of Iceland's transfer-of-power.
It's hard for journalists not to get carried away with something as juicy as modern-day pirate attacks. But I think Chinese news agency Xinhua has jumped the...er...dolphin with this story:
The Chinese merchant ships escorted by a China's fleet sailed on the Gulf of Aden when they met some suspected pirate ships. Thousands of dolphins suddenly leaped out of water between pirates and merchants when the pirate ships headed for the China's.
The suspected pirates ships stopped and then turned away. The pirates could only lament their littleness before the vast number of dolphins. The spectacular scene continued for a while. [Emphasis mine]
Is the People's Liberation Army training a squadron of dolphins to fight pirates on the high seas? Have we allowed the Chinese to open up a dolphin gap? Well, probably not.
Though as The Lede's Robert Mackey points out, the idea's been floated before.
Here at FP, we don't always pay much attention to U.S. domestic policy, obviously, and the tax-day tea parties confused us a bit. Why weren't the protesters dressed up as Native Americans (like in the Boston Tea Party) or Mad Hatters? Weren't top-bracket taxes higher under Reagan?
Regardless, we've glommed onto a U.S. domestic issue which suggests a foreign-policy disaster: the U.S. state of Texas threatening to secede. Texas Governor Rick Perry, angered, like the tea-bag-partiers, over Obama's spending and tax policies, has implied that Texas might leave the Union.
So what would Texas look like as a foreign country?
It would be the world's thirteenth largest economy -- bigger than South Korea, Sweden, and Saudi Arabia. But its worth would crater precipitously, after NAFTA rejected it and the United States slapped it with an embargo that would make Cuba look like a free-trade zone. Indeed, Texas would quick become the next North Korea, relying on foreign aid due to its insistence on relying on itself.
On the foreign policy front, a seceded Texas would suffer for deserting the world superpower. Obama wouldn't look kindly on secessionists, and would send in the military to tamp down rebellion. If Texas miraculously managed to hold its borders, Obama would not establish relations with the country -- though he might send a special rapporteur. (We nominate Kinky Friedman.)
So, Texas would need to court Mexico and Central American nations as a trading partners and protectors. Those very nations would also pose a host of problems for Texas. President Perry might find friends in anti-U.S. nations like Venezuela and Cuba, but their socialist politics would rankle the libertarian nation.
And Texas would become a conduit for drugs moving north to the United States from Mexico, maybe even becoming a narco-state. It would need to invest heavily in its own military and policing force to stop drug violence within its borders -- taking away valuable resources from, oh, feeding its people, fending off U.S. border incursions, and improving its standing in the world.
In short: the state of Texas would rapidly become direly impoverished, would need to be heavily armed, and would be wracked with existential domestic and foreign policy threats. It would probably make our failed states list in short order. Probably better to pay the damn taxes.
And of course -- Texas isn't seceding. Only regions in civil war or self-governing areas in very weak states manage independence. Perry was floating a piece of asinine political rhetoric, running a heated race against fellow Republican Kay Bailey Hutchinson and courting small-government conservatives of all stripes. Plus, more importantly, Texas can't secede, according to the 1869 Supreme Court Case, Texas v. White. Ah well.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Chuck Norris has offered to be President of Texas, greatly reducing the possible internal threat of unionists or external threat of U.S. military forces to the seceded country. (H/t Ezra Klein.)
Photo: Flickr user Susan E. Gray
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