Nicholas Kristof on the Impending Sudanese Genocide The New York Times columnist fears that in 2011 Sudan might devolve into the world's "bloodiest" war while the international community sits on the sidelines. In a detailed time-line, Kristof outlines the series of events that could trigger devastating bloodshed in the "boiling borderlands" between the North and South regions. He envisions the South declaring independence, the North invading to seize oil wells, and "hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the attacks." Encouragingly, the Obama administration is now "heavily engaged" in Sudan. But Obama doesn't have any serious "disincentives" with which to persuade President Bashir not to commit to a "genocidal strategy" that will enable him to keep his country's oil. Kristof concludes: "Why shouldn't we privately make it clear to Mr. Bashir that if he initiates genocide, his oil pipeline will be destroyed and he will not be exporting any oil?"
Doyle McManus on China's Prosperity Anxiety After a ten day trip to China, The Los Angeles Times columnist shares his experiences talking with government officials and, more revealingly, ordinary Chinese citizens. He summarizes some of their concerns, including affordable housing in the cities, sufficient job creation to support new graduates, and the fact that conspicuous consumption and Westernization have swept up the under-30 generation, opening a cultural gap. Young Chinese are proudly individualistic, independent, and to the eyes of older generations, "spoiled." This does not mean, McManus notes, that the Chinese are becoming "more like us." In fact, the younger generation is remarkably tolerant of one-party rule and censorship. Interestingly, "their access to Starbucks and McDonald's hasn't turned them into democrats (or republicans) yet. They seem driven to amass wealth and prestige for their families--a traditional Chinese pursuit--but have little apparent desire to question the existing social order."
John Gapper on Entrepreneurs and 'The Social Network' "Punk. Billionaire. Genius." That's how David Fincher's Facebook movie will be marketed, but the "high class drama" doesn't appear to resonate for Financial Times columnist John Gapper. Innovative entrepreneurs aren't merely amoral moneymakers, he argues (though they surely appreciate striking it rich). Instead, they primarily enjoy solving problems and turning large ideas into something tangible. This is true for Mark Zuckerberg: "I have criticised Mr Zuckerberg for his attitude to privacy, but to ascribe his success to being a punk renegade would be ridiculous. More generally, entrepreneurs do not create large companies by being lone, ruthless geniuses but by having the personal and organisational talents to deploy the skills of others."
Walter Russell Mead on the Electric Car Fallacy The notion that electric cars are the key to reinvigorating the American economy is wrong-headed, contends The American Interest columnist. There's no reason to think Detroit will be more competitive with green cars than with traditional ones, and OPEC's going to slash oil prices the second green cars start cutting into their market, anyway. "To grow the American economy," writes Mead, "keep energy prices as low as possible, and don't lift a finger or pay a single cent to develop electric car technology." This way, by the time China perfects the electric car battery, the U.S. will be able to commence "reveling in even lower gas prices" while European and Chinese motorists will be "puttering along in their electric vehicles that only make sense if the gas price is $7 per gallon or higher." This will reinvigorate the SUV market which, as Mead points out, "is about the only car Detroit can make profitably." When plug-in technology is perfected, the U.S. will need only to "reverse engineer the Chinese technology, figure out a way around their patents and, if Detroit is up to the job, make our own electric cars without paying all those huge development costs." It's not the most environmentally friendly approach, but it could be the most profitable.
Timothy Garton Ash on What Silicon Valley Can Teach Washington "If you want to feel optimistic about America's chances of renewal, go to Silicon Valley. For a downer, look to Washington," argues renowned 1989 revolutions observer Garton Ash in The Guardian. The tech industry embodies "everything that is still inspiring about American society: innovation rooted in science and intellectual freedom; entrepreneurs and risk-taking venture capital exploiting that innovation commercially; a dynamic, open society that attracts the brightest from everywhere." It seems all the more vibrant, Ash observes, when compared to the "depressing" arguments that emanate out of Washington, a city ruled by the "politics of cultural distraction" that much resembles the Soviet Union under Brezhnev.
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