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Chinese pro-democracy activists against Nobel for Liu Xiaobo

Fourteen Chinese dissidents and the Chinese Communist Party have finally agreed on something: Liu Xiaobo should not get the Nobel Peace Prize. While Chinese authorities have found his pro-democracy work worthy of 11 years of prison time and have made it clear to Norway that his victory would not be in its best interests, a group of overseas Chinese dissidents found Liu to be "unsuitable" for the award because they believed he has not adopted a strong enough line against the ruling Communist Party:

In a letter, the signatories accused Mr. Liu...of maligning fellow activists, abandoning persecuted members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement and going soft on China's leaders.

"His open praise in the last 20 years for the Chinese Communist Party, which has never stopped trampling on human rights, has been extremely misleading and influential," they wrote.

Chinese dissidents against Chinese dissidents? The New York Times accurately notes that the letter is symptomatic of the Chinese dissident community throughout the world, a "fractured group beset by squabbling and competing claims of anti-authoritarian righteousness." Well, it wouldn't be the first time exiled dissidents haven't gotten along.

ANTONY DICKSON/AFP/Getty Images

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John Holdren on science in the Obama era

Last night I went to one of those quintessential Washington odd-couple events, where Bianca Jagger in a floor-length leopard-print sheath said some words about research and rainforests and presented a trophy to President Obama's national advisor on science and technology, John Holdren, on behalf of the Federation of American Scientists. The take-home gift for guests was a reprint of the 1946 bestseller, One World or None, a collection of essays penned by scientists warning of the coming nuclear age.

Holdren talked a bit about the role of science and technology in the Obama administration. He noted the happy uptick in intellectual capital over the Bush years, pointing to the multiple Nobel laureates at the helm of federal agencies, and the administration's increasing willingness to examine the role of technology in achieving other priorities, such as healthcare delivery and development assistance. But even so, darn it's hard making progress, he said, in this political and economic environment. Not many big concrete, accomplishments to brag about. No projections on future climate or carbon policy. 

Yet, one passing remark gave me some hope: When Holdren took the job, he had expected much of his role to entail educating the president. However, Holdren found, as he put it, "When I go in to meet with the president, I almost never have to explain to him how the underlying technology works. We go immediately to the question of: 'What should we do?'"

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