Tim Russert, moderator of NBC's Meet the Press, died of a heart attack this afternoon right here in Washington. He was 58 and had just returned from a family trip to Italy to celebrate his son's college graduation. Election 2008 will not be the same without him.
If you want to become a German citizen, you'll have to pass a new citizenship test as of September 1. The test has 33 questions on the country's politics, history, and society. To pass, you have to answer 17 questions correctly (52 percent of the total 33).
Seven sample multiple-choice questions were unveiled this week. I took the mini-test here and passed, but just barely (I got four questions right). How did you all score? Feel free to leave comments below.
And, for anyone planning to become an American, the United States will be using a redesigned citizenship test as of October 1 that is supposed to focus less on civics trivia and more on fundamentals about the country's government, history, and geography. Ten sample questions are here. I doubt many American-born citizens would know the answers to most of these questions. In fact, Gary Gerstle, a professor of American history at Vanderbilt University, told the New York Times that of those who take the test:
[T]heir knowledge of American history may even exceed the knowledge of millions of American-born citizens.
No word yet on whether the German or American citizenship tests' study materials will include a DVD of gay men kissing and a topless woman on the beach -- images found in the Netherland's test-prep package.
The New York Post broke the news today that the Abu Dhabi Investment Council is buying a controlling stake in Manhattan's famed Chrysler Building for $800 million. This follows a deal last month in which an investment group including the Kuwait and Qatar sovereign wealth funds purchased the GM building (as well as yesterday's notably less controversial sale of the Flatiron Building to an Italian company). Judging from the giant red headline on the Drudge Report and the hysterical reader comments on the Post site, I'm guessing that this is going to be a BIG DEAL.
I understand all the reasons why oil-fueled SWFs make people uncomfortable. I also understand the all-American symbolism of the Chrysler Building, generally considered New York's most attractive skyscraper. (Though out of pure borough pride, I'm partial to Brooklyn's Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower.) But is the fact that wealthy foreigners are buying property in one of the world's most international cities really that revolutionary a concept? After all, Abu Dhabi is buying the Chrysler building not from Americans, but from a German investment firm.
We've also been here before. This 1989 Time article on the dark implications of Japanese firms buying New York real estate helps put some of today's "decline of the West" fears into perspective. The sale of Rockefeller Center to Mitsubishi was considered especially disgraceful, as evidenced by this quote from Connecticut's freshman senator, one Joseph Isadore Lieberman:
This year when they turn on the lights of that Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, we Americans are going to have to come to grips with the reality that this great national celebration is actually occurring on Japanese property."
Were they going to replace it with a bonsai or something?
Nearly two decades after that deal, millions of Lieberman's constituents continue to visit Rockefeller Center, which has been safely back in American hands since 1995. Something tells me that New Yorkers will still be proud of the Chrysler Building even if it's owned by rich Arabs instead of rich Germans.
Think that math and science remain the domain of Asian-Americans? Think again. Today's Times, in reference to a recent study conducted by the College Board and New York University (pdf), had this to say:
The report found that contrary to stereotype, most of the bachelor’s degrees that Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders received in 2003 were in business, management, social sciences or humanities, not in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering or math. And while Asians earned 32 percent of the nation's STEM doctorates that year, within that 32 percent more than four of five degree recipients were international students from Asia, not Asian-Americans.
The report also shows a correlation between Asian-American students' SAT scores and their parents' earnings and education level. Ironically, the same correlation is found with other Americans. So... maybe it's time to stop viewing Asian-Americans as a mathematically-inclined monolith and to start seeing them as individuals? After all, the designation "Asian-American Pacific Islander" does encompass 48 ethnic groups.
The summer gas-tax holiday is back, and John McCain thinks he may have a winning issue:
Along with Barack Obama, many economists largely dismissed the notion of a gas tax holiday as a political ruse that would do little to lower prices, but McCain has repeatedly said he does not believe the proposal would be a panacea for America's energy woes. [...] Instead, McCain argued, low-income families could save some extra cash to pay for their children's school supplies this fall, or perhaps treat themselves to a nice dinner.
I'm no mathematician, but let's do some quick number-crunching here. Suppose you buy a tank of gas each week and your car holds 15 gallons. The 18.4-cent a gallon gas tax will cost you $2.76 each week. There are 12 weeks left until Labor Day, the end of summer. That means a typical person would save $33. If you're a childless couple living in Falls Church, VA, that might buy you dinner at the Olive Garden -- where the Chicken Alfredo will run you a cool $13.50 -- but no wine.
So says FP contributor Benjamin H. Friedman, writing for Cato@Liberty:
I keep reading about the cyber-war we’re supposed to be fighting with China. Reading this story, I don't see it. There are evidently a lot of Chinese hackers (not necessarily government-sponsored), and a bunch of Chinese electronic espionage (not necessarily successful). That's a problem, not a war.
Fed up with skyrocketing gas prices? Does it seem like driving is becoming more of a hassle with each passing day? It gets worse.
Check out this story from USA Today, which links rising oil prices with rising pain in nationwide road and highway repair budgets:
The mix used to resurface roads consists of gravel and sand held together with a binder called liquid asphalt, which is made from crude oil. As oil prices rise, so does the cost of asphalt, says Don Wessel of Poten & Partners, a consulting firm that publishes Asphalt Weekly Monitor. "Prices are the highest I've seen in many, many, many years," he says. "The concern is that they will go up considerably."
What's next? I don't even want to know.
Maybe Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's Facebook campaign is working after all. Xinhua reports that Americans kids are now going wild for Wen. The really bizarre article quotes letters that American students apparently wrote to Chinese leaders expressing admiriation for their earthquake-response efforts. Here's one from 12-year-old Hannah Rudoff from Portland, Oregon:
Dear Grandpa Hu and Grandpa Wen, your love to the quake-affected in Sichuan has again won worldwide respect for China, I hope all the leaders of other countries can also make it this way in their administration [...] I admire your people-first style and selfless spirit, and I pay my respect to you!"
Rudoff's classmate Elizabeth Krasch, addressed her note to China's military:
Thank you, Uncle PLA!" said Elizabeth in the newly acquired Chinese vocabulary "Jiefungjun Shushu" meaning uncle soldier of the People's Liberation Army, "You saved many lives from ruins. You bring hope to each and every corner of China. We will never forget your love to the young, the old and to the people! I will never forget this new Chinese word that I learned today!"
Now, I attended an elementary school that was so PC that the card game "war" was banned because of its violent overtones and we learned about César Chávez before George Washington, but I still don't think my teachers would have had us write fan letters to communist party leaders as a class project.
(Thanks to reader AS for the link.)
For months, the rough consensus of the pundit class has been that Iraq is an albatross around the neck of John McCain. Surge or no surge, the U.S. public had largely made up its collective mind about the war -- the toll on the military, the massive expenditures, and everything else -- and decided it wanted to get out. (As über-pollster Andrew Kohut observers, however voters are divided on how fast to get out, and they overwhelmingly prefer McCain to Barack Obama on national security.)
But what happens when the facts change? May saw the lowest number of U.S. combat deaths of any month in the war's five-year history, and Iraqis are increasingly taking the lead. Iraqi military operations in Basra, Sadr City, and Mosul have all gone better than many outside observers expected. Although it's easy to imagine the violence picking back up again, it's also conceivable that, by November, Iraq could be very calm indeed.
The Washington Post editorial board seems convinced that this will present trouble for Obama. I'm not so sure. It's possible the war staying out of the news will only help focus the race on the economy, where the Democrats have an advantage. But I can see it cutting both ways. At the very least, it will be awkward for Obama to pivot from saying, "the war is lost, let's get out" to "the war is won, let's go home." Readers, what do you think?
Shane Harris makes some explosive allegations in a new article for the National Journal. Experts, citing U.S. officials, believe that China's People's Liberation Army may have shut down power grids in Florida and the northeastern United States, Harris reports:
Tim Bennett, the former president of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, a leading trade group, said that U.S. intelligence officials have told him that the PLA in 2003 gained access to a network that controlled electric power systems serving the northeastern United States. The intelligence officials said that forensic analysis had confirmed the source, Bennett said. “They said that, with confidence, it had been traced back to the PLA.” These officials believe that the intrusion may have precipitated the largest blackout in North American history, which occurred in August of that year. A 9,300-square-mile area, touching Michigan, Ohio, New York, and parts of Canada, lost power; an estimated 50 million people were affected.
If the allegations are true, was this act intentional? Perhaps not, another source tells Harris:
A second information-security expert independently corroborated Bennett’s account of the Florida blackout. According to this individual, who cited sources with direct knowledge of the investigation, a Chinese PLA hacker attempting to map Florida Power & Light’s computer infrastructure apparently made a mistake. “The hacker was probably supposed to be mapping the system for his bosses and just got carried away and had a ‘what happens if I pull on this’ moment.” The hacker triggered a cascade effect, shutting down large portions of the Florida power grid, the security expert said. “I suspect, as the system went down, the PLA hacker said something like, ‘Oops, my bad,’ in Chinese.”
I wonder if Richard Clarke still believes that the real threat from Chinese hackers is industrial espionage.
It seems that Americans are finally getting the message: Driving's a financial drag. For the first time in six years, U.S. consumers said they would drive less this past Memorial Day weekend. The U.S. Department of Transportation also reported that March showed the steepest decrease in driving since 1942, when the government first started keeping tabs.
Angry voices are even rising in Europe, where consumers have long paid relatively high prices to fill their tanks.
British truck drivers blocked a highway today and are marching to Downing Street to demand a $1.85 discount on diesel that has now hit $9.00 per gallon. The truckers complain that the higher the gas prices, the greater the government's profits off the taxes. (U.S. consumers pay a flat 18.4 cent federal tax per gallon, but Britain adds about 50 pence onto each liter plus a 17.5 percent VAT on top of the total cost.)
In France, fishing boats blocked ports last week to prevent oil shipments to refineries. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is proposing a tax cut on fuel, though he says the measure should be EU-wide.
All this talk of fuel tax completely misses the point -- only an increase in supply will make a difference in the long run. Brazil has the right idea, announcing it will invest $5 billion in deep water fields, ships, and rigs. That's the kind of government intervention that matters.
The opening of a new American think tank isn't usually much of a story. (I have trouble keeping track of the ones in our building.) But the new Russian Institute for Democracy and Cooperation is raising a few eyebrows. The first Russian think tank based in the United States is seen by many as Vladimir Putin's payback for all the grief he's gotten from U.S. human rights NGOs over the years. Statements from the Institute's already-opened Paris branch about looking for "weak spots" in American democracy would seem to confirm the characterization.
But the institute's U.S. director, Andranik Migranyan, says that all they want to do is learn from U.S:
"We have very serious problems today concerning these problems of immigration, integration, and adaptation," Migranyan said at a recent press conference in Washington. "Russia is becoming more multinational, multiethnic, multireligious, and we have serious problems in this area. This country [the United States] has a long-lasting history on all these issues. And we would like to know how these problems are discussed here, how they are solved here -- as well as institutional problems, and problems [with values]. What do those things mean?"
The RIDC has bought office space in New York but hasn't yet announced a date for their opening. Meanwhile, Migranyan is holding meetings with established think tanks like the Brookings Instution and the Heritage Foundation.
Migranyan is pretty vague about where the institute gets its funding, which doesn't do much to dispel the notion that it will be little more than a Kremlin propaganda tool. Of course, if they ever open a D.C. office, they're welcome to join our softball league.
(Hat tip: David Johnson)
The folks at Rock the Vote just sent over the results of their latest poll, conducted by using jukebox-like machines to "survey" more than 72,000 bar and nightclub patrons. Here's the results, as provided by their PR flack:
I guess we can conclude:
1) A fair number of beer guzzling bar rats think all three of the candidates are pretty lame as drinking buddies.
2) Old beer guzzling bar rats in Florida would really like to sit down with McCain and commiserate about how the Maginot Line totally sucked.
3) Three in 10 bar rats have no clue what either the Republican or Democratic party is -- and probably don't care to.
4) Most bar rats could really use some extra cash to pay for beer.
Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives voted 324-84 to permit the U.S. Justice Department to sue OPEC for manipulating oil supplies and prices. Fortunately, the White House opposes the measure, saying that going after OPEC countries "would likely spur retaliatory action against American interests in those countries."
Rep. Steve Kagen, a Wisconsin Democrat who sponsored the legislation, issued a press release that said, "American consumers remain at the mercy of OPEC nations." Hmmm … Americans, living in one of the wealthiest and most innovative countries on Earth, are helpless weaklings who survive at the mercy of others? Perhaps they should pay attention to columnist Thomas Friedman when he said:
It baffles me that President Bush would rather go to Saudi Arabia twice in four months and beg the Saudi king for an oil price break than ask the American people to drive 55 miles an hour, buy more fuel-efficient cars or accept a carbon tax or gasoline tax that might actually help free us from what he called our “addiction to oil.”
FP readers already know the story of "How Sushi Went Global." And it's generally no secret that you can get a spicy tuna roll everywhere from Bangalore to Belize. But barbecue? Yes, apparently slow-cooked pig's butt is starting to go global, too.
The word out of the 2008 World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, the world's largest pork BBQ contest held last weekend in Memphis, is that the globalization of barbecue is in the "embryonic" stages.
The trend can apparently lead to some awkward interactions:
At one point this year, a member of the Deominox team [from Belgium] was trying to talk his way in past the gate. The 'good old boy' working the entrance [had to ask for] help.... The language barrier almost got the Deominox team disqualified when it turned in its blind box in the whole-hog contest. Two of the non-English-speakers handled the delivery, but they missed the deadline after walking past signs they didn't understand. A sympathetic official interceded and successfully made the case for giving the team a break and letting their samples be judged...."
Now, before getting carried away about diluting of an American icon, it's important to remember that around two-thirds of this year's contestants still hailed from Tennessee. Perusing the list of winners, I don't see any foreign teams. Nor did I see baby backs on the menu the last time I was in Beijing. Of course, that was two years ago....
Yesterday, John McCain's campaign announced that the candidate's wife Cindy has sold off $2 million she held in mutual funds that include Sudanese businesses. The Wall Street Journal also reported that McCain shares a consulting firm with the Vladimir Putin-backed Party of the Regions in Ukraine.
This follows last weekend's firing of McCain's mid-Atlantic regional manager and convention CEO when it was revealed that they had lobbied for the Burmese government in Washington. McCain, who fancies himself the scourge of totalitarian regimes worldwide, has now vowed to do a more thorough job vetting his campaign hirings.
To be fair, there's no evidence that his wife's investments or his advisors' lobbying ties have in any way influenced McCain's stances on these countries. Indeed, McCain has always been an outspoken supporter of Ukraine's Orange Revolution and has called for international action against the "thugs" in the Burmese junta. But this has been an election where candidates have been judged by their associations (see: Wright, Jeremiah) as much or more than by their positions, statements, and political record. So McCain's new caution about who gets a seat on the straight-talk express is probably a smart move.
Responding to a question from the Politico about why he hasn't played golf in recent years, U.S. President George W. Bush said:
"… playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."
Admittedly, it's probably a bigger sacrifice than most Americans have made so far, as suggests the recent FP article, "The War We Deserve."
(Note: A quick search of Getty Images seems to confirm Bush's sacrifice: The site doesn't appear to have any photos of Bush playing golf after Oct. 13, 2003. There are, however, many photos of him driving golf carts, such as the one here of Bush giving his wife Laura and Afghan President Hamid Karzai a ride at Camp David, Maryland, in August 2007.)
In December 2006, Jeremiah S. Johnson, 25, began serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Rozdilna, Ukraine, a town near the border with Moldova. When he started, he was HIV negative. In January of this year, he had a midservice medical exam in Kiev and agreed to an HIV test. It came back positive. The Peace Corps told him to pack his bags and return to the United States.
Johnson says the Peace Corps director for Ukraine told him he had to go home because Ukraine doesn't allow HIV-positive foreigners to work there. (If so, this isn't unique. As blogger Andrew Sullivan has pointed out repeatedly, the United States has its own fair share of restrictions on HIV-positive immigrants and tourists.)
Back in Washington, Johnson had an end-of-service medical exam and received written notification that he was being "medically separated" from the Peace Corps. He contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the organization sent a demand letter to the Peace Corps saying that it is violating the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability. (The State Department, by the way, changed its policies just this February to permit HIV-positive Americans, on a case-by-case basis, to work in the Foreign Service.)
Johnson doesn't have any physical symptoms of HIV. He and the ACLU say the Peace Corps did not assess him to determine if he could continue serving with reasonable accommodations. Additionally, his requests to be assigned to another country were denied.
What do you all think? A few questions come to mind:
Just a few ordinary days in modern Mexico...
Gunmen killed 17 people over the weekend in the southern coastal state of Guerrero in a wild hunt for the head of the state cattlemen’s association, who has gone into hiding, the authorities said Monday.
On Saturday morning, several men dressed as commandos and carrying assault rifles opened fire on a cattlemen’s meeting at a hotel in Iguala, killing seven ranchers but missing the leader of the group, Rogaciano Alba Álvarez.
The next day, eight trucks full of armed men pulled up outside a house on Mr. Alba Álvarez’s ranch in Petatlán. The men asked for the owner of the ranch. His family and ranch hands denied knowing his whereabouts.
The gunmen then lined people up against a wall and opened fire, killing 10 people, including two young sons of Mr. Alba Álvarez, Alejandro and Rusbel, a witness told The Associated Press. Then they kidnapped a teen-age girl believed to be Mr. Alba Álvarez’s niece or daughter and fled, authorities said.
TIJUANA – A confrontation between rival criminal gangs left 13 dead and nine injured early yesterday in gunbattles that started along a major thoroughfare and continued near a private clinic where police exchanged gunfire with injured suspects.
Police have recovered the remains of seven men who were killed and dumped along a road in northern Mexico.
Dana Milbank on the twilight of the Bush presidency:
Eight months before the end of his second term, President Bush is forgotten but not gone. Power has shifted to Congress, attention has moved to the campaign trail, and the White House seems at times to be just going through the motions. For many reporters who remain on the White House beat, it has become a time to phone it in -- literally.
Four minutes after the scheduled start time for yesterday's White House briefing, only 14 of the 49 seats were occupied -- and the 14 included flamboyant radio host Lester Kinsolving, who sat in the Bloomberg News seat; Raghubir Goyal of an obscure Indian American publication, who occupied the New York Times chair; and a foreign journalist in the back row, perusing the White House's Cinco de Mayo dinner menu. Though attendance eventually swelled to 28, many of the nation's leading news outlets left their chairs empty, among them National Public Radio, the Washington Times, the New York Daily News, the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, the Boston Globe, the Baltimore Sun, the Chicago Tribune and the Politico.
Maybe we don't have to worry that Americans are too dumb to read the Economist after all.
A teenage rap duo in Chicago has recorded a track, aptly called "The Economist," that extols the British publication's breadth and brevity and samples podcast commentary by correspondents Edward Lucas and Anthony Gottlieb.
"The style in which they write is simple and concise, how do they get their sentences so precise?" the rappers wonder. [UPDATE: Matt Yglesias quips, "The answer, of course, is 'heavy-handed editing' facilitated by lack of bylines."]
And the chorus is a gem, too: "He reads the Economist so he can get the gist, its solid competence gives him confidence that his intelligence is correct."
The rappers also weigh in on accusations that the Economist pushes a particular line: "Yes, they have a bias; it's pro-democratic. And pro-free trade; they are very emphatic."
Jay-Z it is not. But it is funny stuff.
When Hillary Clinton signed on to John McCain's proposal to suspend the 18.4-cent federal gas tax this summer and Barack Obama didn't, the Democratic candidates suddenly had a real substantive difference to debate.
The trouble is, there's not much to argue about. Everyone who's looked at this knows that a gas-tax holiday is a silly idea. With gasoline supplies pretty much fixed in the short term, demand will increase and the price will go back up. But instead of the U.S. government capturing that revenue, the oil companies will pocket it. Factcheck.org tried and failed to find a single economist who thought gas prices would drop as a result of the holiday. PBS couldn't find a supporter, either.
Asked about this by ABC's George Stephanopoulos Sunday, Hillary sniffed, "I'm not going to put in my lot with economists." What's it going to be then, prayer circles?
Now, you might say: There's almost zero chance this proposal will go anywhere, so what's the harm? Well, it makes no sense to say you're for "energy independence" while vowing to cut gas taxes. If anything, the U.S. government should raise the federal gas tax to at least 50 cents a gallon, not cut it. Or better yet, tax carbon and bring coal emissions into the mix, too. But above all, don't mislead voters about the choices before them.
Over at the Huffington Post, National Interest Senior Editor Jacob Heilbrunn worries that realists such as Kissinger and Scowcroft have failed to groom a generation of young Republicans to follow in their pragmatic foreign-policy footsteps:
[W]hile Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, and other realist elders are consulted by [John] McCain, his heart is with the younger neocons, the 'beavers,' in the words of one McCain supporter, who draft the speeches and get the grunt work done ... the result is disastrous recommendations such as threatening to expel Russia from the G-8.... The gap -- and it is fundamental -- in the GOP today is generational. The elderly realists haven't groomed anyone to replace them. The neocons have."
I think the simplest explanation for why the neocon voices within the McCain campaign are the loudest is that in recent years McCain has most closely identified with them ideologically. That's why, as I pointed out a couple months ago, he surrounded himself with foreign-policy minds like Mark Salter, Daniel McKivergan, Marshall Wittmann, and Randy Scheunemann (though McCain has never really fully signed on to the neocon cause).
As for the generational gap between GOP realists and neocons, Heilbrunn is probably right that it exists. But when I talk to young Republicans, I get the sense that, thanks to the Iraq war, the problem will be self-correcting. Just because a group of young realists hasn't found a home in the McCain camp doesn't mean they aren't out there. Still, it is unfortunate that they had to come to their thinking based on a botched war instead of being groomed by the old guard.
Reader Jonathan Hendry wrote in with some interesting backstory related to my post about Apple, Inc. becoming a defense contractor:
Actually, [Steve] Jobs isn't a stranger to selling to the Pentagon. While his products are thought of as consumer electronics, there was a time when his best customers were in very serious industries like defense and high finance (UBS, Swissbank, Merrill Lynch, First Chicago, Soros, etc).
Jobs' company NeXT Computer (which Apple bought in 1997, bringing him back into the fold) sold quite a few machines to the spooks in the early 90s. The spy agencies liked how quickly software could be developed on the NeXT operating system. I personally interviewed for a defense-oriented NeXT programming job with, I think, Lockheed-Martin back in 1994, my senior year of college. (I don't recall what the system was, but I know I would have needed a security clearance - they gave me the forms to fill out. I wound up taking a job in Chicago that put me on a contract at Swissbank.)
Around 1993, NeXT stopped making computers, changing to an OS-only strategy. Supposedly they had to run the assembly line for a little while longer, in order to fulfill the spare-parts stock requirements of their defense contracts.
I expect Mr. Jobs is feeling a little deja vu right now.
Jonathan's email reminded me that the Pentagon has recently begun integrating Apple computers to bolster its network security. So, high-profile defense contracts are nothing new to the most powerful man in business.
Matt Yglesias complains about the media's campaign coverage, and offers a plausible reason as to why there's such a relentless focus on trivia:
What's driving this, I think, are the dual desires to be "tough" and to be "objective." In particular, being objective is thought to preclude being tough about public policy because that would entail picking sides in ideology-inflicted arguments. And people didn't get into this business in order to provide softball coverage. So instead you ask tough questions about process or about trivia, even though there's little evidence that these are the subjects about which people want to hear.
I don't buy this last bit, because, sadly, I think there is plenty of evidence that more people are actually interested in trivia than they are the issues. Why did the Drudge Report pull in 590 million "page loads" in March? Why has the horserace-centric Politico been such a resounding success? If Yglesias really believed that more people are interested in substance, he should use his book earnings to open a new network devoted to hashing out the issues and see how it fares.
He could call it... "PBS."
Steve Jobs's shop recently announced the $278 million purchase of a small computer-chip maker named P.A. Semi—a takeover that most analysts assumed was designed to shore up efficient chip technology for future versions of the iPhone.
But it turns out some of P.A. Semi's best customers are defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, and they're not at all comfortable with the company's new latte-drinking, yoga-practicing, peacenik boss. Rumors are flying that Apple will shut down production of a key processor used in "more than 10" different defense systems.
EE Times reports:
Apple Inc. may have to face the ire of the U.S. Department of Defense following its planned acquisition of P.A. Semi Inc. The startup's PWRficient processor is designed into DoD programs in every major branch of the armed services, said one P.A. Semi customer who expects Apple will end production of the parts.
"We've had customers saying they are going to the DoD on this one," said a source in one of the several companies making embedded computer boards with the processor.
Lends new meaning to the term "iPod Killer," doesn't it?
Due to skyrocketing rice prices, Liberians are switching to pasta and learning how to twirl spaghetti on a fork. In India, the government has restricted rice exports, and moms are choosing between eating and paying for their children's schooling. Meanwhile in the United States, Wal-Mart's Sam's Club warehouse stores are limiting the sale of 20-pound (9 kg) bags of jasmine, basmati, and long-grain white rice to four per customer.
In the developed world, food shortages might be overhyped. The head of the California Rice Commission told Reuters, "Bottom line, there is no rice shortage in the United States. We have supplies." Plus, how many Americans buy 80 pounds of rice per shopping trip? (Apparently, it's restaurant owners and small-business owners who typically buy in bulk.)
But for people in developing countries, outrageous food prices and shortages are a serious reality. Josette Sheeran, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, which provides food aid to the needy, told FP in this week's Seven Questions, "This is a silent tsunami." Video, audio, and prepared remarks from her recent talk on global food insecurity at the Center for Strategic and International Studies is also available here.
By the way, if you want to help hungry people get rice, play the Free Rice vocabulary game.
Where In the World Is Osama bin Laden?, a documentary by Morgan Spurlock -- the man who ate McDonald's cuisine for 30 days straight for Super Size Me -- took on the task of finding al Qaeda's leader. As Spurlock explained in a Seven Questions interview with FP last week, sometimes a comedic film can get an audience to pay attention to a serious topic.
This week, Harold and Kumar -- those two guys from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle -- take on the subject of Guantánamo Bay, though their purpose doesn't seem to have anything to do with prompting serious discussion about the controversial prison. In Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, debuting this Friday, the pair board a flight to Amsterdam with a bong. That gets them sent to Gitmo. The duo make a wild escape, of course. Politically incorrect humor is abundant.
Some reviews say the movie falls short of White Castle's charm, but it currently has a 78 percent on the tomatometer. So, if you need something to do this weekend, you have two choices: Gain a bit of enlightenment with Spurlock, or lose a few IQ points with Harold and Kumar.
When I read today that Hillary Clinton is playing John Mellencamp's "Small Town" at her rallies this week, I had to laugh. Because, seriously? How literal are we going to get here? (Plus, I had to wonder whether Mellencamp, a former Edwards supporter, has endorsed anyone yet. He famously asked John McCain to stop playing his songs at rallies earlier this year.)
And in my 5-minute Google search to find out whether Mellencamp's made a pick, I discovered that Bruce Springsteen has just announced this afternoon that he's backing Obama. Here's what Mr. Working Class America said about Bittergate:
He has the depth, the reflectiveness, and the resilience to be our next President. He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. A place where '...nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone.'
Does this mean no more Springsteen songs at Clinton rallies?
UPDATE: A Getty Images search for "Springsteen Obama" brings this result:
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