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How much does soccer-loving China hate its men’s national team?
The mostly empty hotel lobby that greeted the team on June 12 when it checked in before a game against Thailand was one measure -- especially in a country where national athletes, even in minor sports, receive adoring attention from fans. The many bare seats at the stadium in Hefei where the game was played on June 15 were another sign. But perhaps the biggest display of disdain followed the Chinese squad’s 5-1 loss to a team that had replaced seven members of its roster with youth players. A sizable number of fans found their way down to the team bus and blocked it from leaving while chanting furiously, sometimes obscenely, about the coach, the team and the human anatomy they all resemble. A riot ensued, injuring at least 100 people, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.READ MORE
Old politicians never die, they just harangue on. Pardon the dubious pun, but it is a fitting way to describe the recent behavior of the opposition leader Lal Krishna Advani, 85, the grand old man of Indian politics.
Advani has been in public life for as long as India has been a nation. He began his political career in 1947, the year that colonial India split into the nation-states of India and Pakistan. His peak came more than half a century later: He was home minister in the center-right coalition in power between 1998 and 2004. During this period, he thought of himself as the prime-minister-in-waiting, only for his party to suffer a sudden reverse in the next elections from which it has not yet recovered.READ MORE
The revelation that the U.S. National Security Agency can more or less spy on anyone who uses a phone or the Internet, at home or abroad, has elicited mostly angry and amazed reactions across Europe. Much of the outrage seems to me disingenuous.
By 2013, anyone who discusses criminal plans by e-mail surely has been in hiding. When people shop with store cards, they seem content to allow companies to track their purchases in exchange for points and discounts. Gmail and Facebook use surfing data to populate people's private pages with tailored advertisements, providing a free service in exchange. All of this is snooping, too.READ MORE
Russian President Vladimir Putin has largely defeated the opposition that rose against him during the attempted “Snow Revolution” of 2011 and 2012. Now a mayoral election is giving him the opportunity to retake Moscow, the city that led the revolt.
The Moscow election, scheduled for September 8, is crucial for several reasons. The capital was the only district Putin failed to win in the March 2012 presidential vote, despite officials’ widely documented efforts to rig the result. The mayoral contest itself is happening because Dmitry Medvedev restored regional elections as a concession to protesters when he was president. A victory for a Kremlin-backed candidate would undermine the legitimacy of the opposition leaders who have claimed Moscow’s streets, leading tens of thousands on anti-Putin marches, sometimes in defiance of official bans.READ MORE
Could the biggest threat to China’s image be its own citizens when they work and travel abroad? It’s a question that’s been the subject of a noisy public debate in recent days as the country learned that more than 160 Chinese miners in Ghana had been arrested -- and were soon to be deported -- for a range of illegal and destructive activities.
The accounts were greeted with shock, anger and an unusual degree of introspection, in large part because China has spent the last decade reaching out to Africa, hoping that economic assistance and diplomatic cooperation can result in friendship. News that stories of renegade Chinese miners were prominent in Ghana over the last several weeks was thus not only unwelcome but also a rude reminder of how China’s aspirations for international respectability can be undone by its citizens’ behavior.READ MORE
The celebration of World Environment Day, on June 5, was, as it is every year, the occasion for living high-mindedly, for making resolutions that never endure and for pledging penance for sins of carbon and consumption.
For the past 40 years, the United Nations Environment Program has diligently found a "theme" for June 5 every year to focus global awareness on the environment. These phrases vary in their scope and in imperative intensity. Sometimes they're just plain nouns (human settlements, 1975; desertification, 1984). More recently, they've incorporated a call to action: "Our Earth -- Our Future -- Just Save It!" (1999), "Kick The Habit -- Towards A Low Carbon Economy" (2008) and, my favorite, "Your Planet Needs You -- UNite to Combat Climate Change" (2010). That's the story of the UN right there: fantastically good intentions UNdone by self-congratulation and rhetorical excess.READ MORE
It looks as though leaders in the former Yugoslavia are now more likely to be imprisoned for taking bribes than presiding over mass murder.
On June 5, a court in Slovenia convicted Janez Jansa, who was forced to resign as prime minister earlier this year, of corruption. If he goes to prison, he will be following in the footsteps of Ivo Sanader, the former prime minister of neighboring Croatia, who last year was convicted of taking bribes.
The regime of Vladimir Putin has always presented successful, liberal-minded Russians with a quandary: To what extent are they willing to put up with an authoritarian government in return for making a life in their native country?
Lately, a number of well-known Russians have decided that the bargain isn’t worth it.READ MORE
For those Chinese paying attention to Xi Jinping’s four-country tour of the Americas this week, one question stands out: Why would their president want to spend two informal days, more or less one-on-one with U.S. President Barack Obama in the middle of the desert?
This isn’t just a matter of protocol -- though there are plenty of questions about that -- but rather a deeper inquiry into what precisely China wants from a bilateral relationship with the U.S.READ MORE
An outlawed revolutionary group, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which has for more than three decades carried on a guerrilla war in the forests of central India, carried out a vicious strike last weekend. On the evening of May 25, a band of about 200 armed Maoists, both men and women, ambushed a convoy of Congress Party leaders that was on its way to a political rally in the state of Chhattisgarh. Almost the entire top rung of Congress leaders in the state was eliminated in the attack, in which 28 people were killed. Some of the victims were dragged out of their cars and shot dead at point-blank range.
The Congress, which holds power as the leading party in India's UPA coalition government but is the opposition in Chhattisgarh, was unnerved by the attack. Rahul Gandhi, the party's vice president, traveled immediately to Chhattisgarh, where he said that the massacre was "not an attack on Congress" but "an attack on democracy." The Maoists, meanwhile, sent a four-page statement signed by a top Maoist leader to the BBC, which said that the attack was "necessary revenge against the UPA's fascist Operation Green Hunt, which is being run in connivance with several state governments."READ MORE
Corruption in Russia is like a hydra that constantly grows new heads to replace severed ones. Just ask the people trying to reform the country’s college-admissions system.
Getting a prestigious university education in Russia has long been largely a matter of money. At the most sought-after institutions, which are all state-owned, the government covers tuition for a certain number of students. Until recently, competitors for the coveted “free” slots took written and oral entrance exams. The grading was arbitrary, giving unscrupulous admissions officers the power to extract bribes in return for high scores.READ MORE
For Croatia, it is all over bar the fireworks. The former Yugoslav republic will join the European Union on July 1, and without a second thought for the bloc's economic traumas.
I asked President Ivo Josipovic, while he was in London last week, why on earth his country would want to become the EU's 28th member now. Iceland's new government, after all, last week decided to freeze its EU membership talks and the U.K. is thinking seriously about leaving.READ MORE
Ever since China became an economic superpower, the question of why it does what it does has been a major intellectual growth industry.
There's probably nothing that excites an editor in New York more (the latest "Fifty Shades of Grey" imitation being one exception) than a book proposal on some aspect of Chinese power and its world-changing implications.READ MORE
Combine a meat-cleaver murder by Islamist radicals in the streets of London with the U.K. tabloid press and Twitter, and you get something as bizarre as it was gruesome.
At about 2:20 p.m. on May 22, two men driving in the suburban south London area of Woolwich crashed their car into a young man. He was wearing a T-shirt from the charity Help for Heroes, which assists former soldiers. The two assailants jumped out and attacked the man with a knife and cleaver. One of them, his hands red with blood, then demanded that a passer-by film a statement from him. As he spoke, a woman pulling a shopping trolley wandered past.READ MORE
Is the Chinese government’s uneasy friendship with North Korea costing it the public’s confidence? A curious confluence of recent events involving two fishing vessels suggests that might be the case.
The crisis began in the waters of Scarborough Shoal, a set of fish-laden reefs and small rocky islands west of the Philippines and the source of territorial disputes among the Philippines, China and Taiwan. (China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and thus sees Taiwanese territorial claims as inseparable from those of the mainland.) On May 9, after a month of escalating tensions between China and the Philippines, a Filipino coast-guard vessel fired on the Guang Da Hsin 28, a Taiwanese fishing boat in the region, killing one.READ MORE
In March, I spent a few days in Koraput, a vast, hilly, sparsely populated district in the state of Odisha in the east of India. Few people not native to the region ever visit there: It is almost exclusively known for its poverty and backwardness and has become a kind of emblem of benightedness, the dismal antithesis of an emerging India.
The region, however, has some of the richest biodiversity and is also one of the most distinctive areas demographically (this has something to do with its poverty). More than 60 percent of the people of Koraput are "adivasis," or tribals, indigenous peoples who enjoy (in theory, at least) special privileges under the Indian Constitution, where they are referred to as "Scheduled Tribes." This demarcation itself conceals an enormous internal variety. Koraput is home to as many as 62 different tribes, each with its own myths and mores, but almost all living hand-to-mouth in small villages and hamlets where they try to raise rice on their tiny landholdings or labor for pitiful wages on the estates of non-adivasi farmers.READ MORE
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s changing attitude toward two giant government-led high-tech projects sends a troubling message about his third term in office: Maintaining power is more important than modernizing the economy.
The projects, known as Rusnano and Skolkovo, were meant to propel Russia’s raw-material economy into the technology age. They involved multibillion-dollar government investments, the first in nanotechnology and the second in a new city that would become Russia’s answer to Silicon Valley. They were supposed to provide the infrastructure and stability required to attract large amounts of foreign investment.READ MORE
Two wigs, one blond, one dark. Three pairs of glasses. Two knives. Two envelopes containing 500 euro notes. One flashlight. One can of mace. One compass. One paper map of Moscow. One ancient Nokia phone. One letter in Russian, addressed “Dear friend.”
These, according to the state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti, were the objects that were seized from Ryan Christopher Fogle, third secretary of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, when he was arrested by Russian counterintelligence late May 14 for allegedly trying to recruit a Russian special services officer.READ MORE