Passport

Science magazine turns the heat up

The editors at MaxPlanckForschung, flagship journal of Germany's Max Planck Institute, got a little more than they bargained for with an example of "classical" Chinese calligraphy they used on the cover of their latest issue. The idea was to evoke an image of China, which was the focus of the issue. But instead of arousing interest in cutting-edge science, Chinese readers discovered the calligraphy was titillating in other ways. A translation:

With high salaries, we have cordially invited for an extended series of matinées

KK and Jiamei as directors, who will personally lead jade-like girls in the spring of youth,

Beauties from the north who have a distinguished air of elegance and allure,

Young housewives having figures that will turn you on;

Their enchanting and coquettish performance will begin within the next few days.

Despite having consulted a "German sinologist" about the text, no one seems to have caught the two glaring letter K's - I would think a dead give-away things aren't so "classical," even if you fail to comprehend the other characters. Maybe that's just in hindsight, though.

If only the content in science journals was so exciting.

Passport

The UN: Where Belarus is richer than Singapore

Over at Slate, CFR's Michael Levi explains one big reason why the UN climate talks currently under way in Poznan, Poland have hit the skids. The UN climate change regime apportions different levels of responsibility to rich and poor countries, but the way it makes that distinction if very odd:

The United Nations first divvied up the developed and developing world for climate talks in 1992, with the goal of using that split to apportion responsibilities for cutting emissions. But distinctions that once made sense are no longer tenable. Ukraine, for example, is considered rich. In 1992, it was reflexively lumped together with the countries that once comprised the powerful Soviet Union; by 2007, its citizens had fallen to 97th richest in the world by GDP per person. (All wealth figures cited here are from The CIA World Factbook.) At the same time, Singapore (now the sixth-richest nation in the world) was designated as poor. Unless the climate regime overhauls its wealth labels, a country like Singapore could reap the benefits of financial aid, while Ukraine would be burdened with emissions caps. Needless to say, that kind of nonsensical setup won't get you very far in international talks. [...]

The resulting deal had its flaws then. It makes absolutely no sense today. Belarus, for example, is lumped together with the rich countries, despite a GDP per person of about $10,000. As a result, it has an emissions cap like those in place for Europe and Japan. Kuwait, meanwhile, is considered poor. That means the oil-rich emirate is spared any obligations, despite the fact that its residents are about five times wealthier than the Belarussia.

Not surprisingly, the "poor" countries aren't in much of a hurry to change this set-up. Any regulatory system that has Singapore crying poverty is probably in need of reform.