World View Hot Topics in Pivotal Markets
As the U.S. tries to process the news that the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing had ties to the Russian republic of Chechnya, Russians and Chechens know what it means for them: trouble.
Little is known in Russia about the brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokar Tsarnaev. Apparently, the family moved to the U.S. more than a decade ago to seek refuge from Chechnya, which had a long and brutal secessionist conflict with Russia. Relations between ethnic Russians and Chechens remain fraught, and Chechen nationalists and religious fanatics have carried out numerous terrorist attacks on Russian soil.READ MORE
Shortly before the explosion yesterday at the Boston Marathon, Wang Shi, the billionaire chairman of China Vanke Co., China’s largest real-estate development company, took a photo near the finish line. The subject was one of his 15 employees who participated in the race, wrapped in a Chinese flag, greeting family.
He posted it to Sina Weibo, China’s most popular social-media platform, at 2:49 p.m. Boston time, one minute before the explosions. He wasn’t heard from again until 3:12 p.m., when he posted a photo of the scene. Smoke rises over the street as confused spectators appear to move in the opposite direction. Wang wrote: “Two loud bangs near the end of the course, race terminated, evacuating.”READ MORE
When I saw him last week, Slovenian Finance Minister Uros Cufer had just sat through a grueling public presentation by officials from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, in which they painted a grim picture of the state of affairs in his country. He was clearly in a foul mood.
I asked them the obvious question: In the wake of the Cyprus debacle, was Slovenia next for a bailout? OECD Deputy Secretary-General Yves Leterme said he thought that, at least for now, it did not need one. Cufer said nothing.READ MORE
(Corrects citizenship of Browder in fourth paragraph.)
Russian officials have gotten themselves worked up over the U.S. government’s public naming of 18 Russians it considers to be human-rights abusers. It’s hard to understand why.READ MORE
The young Indian politician Rahul Gandhi, whose bloodline includes three former prime ministers, is widely expected to be his party's nominee for that post when elections are held in the first half of 2014. But even Gandhi's supporters within his Congress Party were frequently bemused by a speech he made to more than 1,000 prominent members of the Indian business community last week.
At a meeting organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry, the 42-year-old Gandhi stood out among the elegant suits and saris of businessmen and women. He chose to wear the male Indian politician's traditional garb of a simple white kurta-pajama. His words, however, were less distinctive. It was always going to be difficult to recover from a beginning as hokey as:READ MORE
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts at comedy have never been particularly endearing. Lately, they’ve been bad enough to turn the country into a pariah state.
This week, Putin embarked on a European image offensive against a background of creeping repression at home, as government agencies started implementing a law requiring nongovernmental organizations that receive foreign money to register as “foreign agents.” Amnesty International and 42 other organizations received visits from law-enforcement officials. One group -- Golos, known for its efforts to expose electoral fraud -- was charged with violating the law.READ MORE
Margaret Thatcher's death has achieved the impossible -- for a day she united Europe.
At least, Europe's media all seemed agreed that the passing of Mrs T (as Thatcher was often called in the U.K.) was the story of the day, and that love or loathe her brand of politics it changed Britain and the world.READ MORE
How does the Chinese Communist Party manage to calm a public convinced that -- on matters of public health, at least -- officials are probably lying to them?
It’s a critical question as infections and fatalities related to the H7N9 bird flu slowly tick upward, unnerving Chinese disinclined to trust their government. The crisis of confidence has its roots in the fatal consequences of the high-level coverup of SARS in 2003, and, more recently, in the still unexplained dead-pig tide that polluted Shanghai waterways. With this sorry history as a precursor and widely assumed precedent, Chinese seem ready to believe anything that doesn’t come from a government mouthpiece -- especially if it contradicts the official story or fills a knowledge gap that the government hasn’t addressed.READ MORE
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who died in Manhattan this week at the age of 85, was one of the most prominent interpreters of India to the world. She was born in Germany in 1927 to Jewish parents, educated in England after her parents fled the Nazi regime, then married an Indian architect and worked in New Delhi for more than two extremely productive decades before moving to New York in 1975.
The fund of perceptions and experiences from a life as an (often) privileged outsider in three continents gave Jhabvala's projects in fiction a richly worldly and cosmopolitan tone and her ventures in screenwriting an unusual poise and confidence. She was a classic emigree, seemingly at home nowhere and everywhere. Her main long-term attachments seemed to have been to her Jewishness, India and New York. (The last two were wittily linked in the titles of one of her books of short stories, "East Into Upper East.")READ MORE
Russia’s long stretch of oil-fueled economic growth could be coming to an end. The greater danger, though, might be President Vladimir Putin’s plans to get it going again.
Economists polled by Bloomberg estimate that the Russian economy grew at an annualized rate of only 2 percent in the first quarter of this year, less than half the pace of the same period in 2012. Russia’s biggest industry, hydrocarbon extraction, contracted 0.8 percent in January and 2.2 percent in February. Growth in retail sales has slowed considerably compared with last year, and food retail has practically stopped expanding. Last week, Deputy Economics Minister Andrei Klepach said he expected growth of only 3 percent for the whole of 2013, down from a previous ministry estimate of 3.6 percent.READ MORE
(Corrects date of documentary in fifth paragraph.)
Political news in the U.K. has been dominated recently by stories about two very different men: Boris Johnson, the larger-than-life mayor of London and possible future prime minister, and David Miliband, the former British foreign minister, who wanted to be prime minister but has quit politics to work in New York.
This morning, 17 days after China’s state media began a campaign against what it characterized as Apple’s Inc.’s discriminatory warranty and repair policies, and 12 hours after Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook apologized for them, I stopped by the Apple store on Shanghai’s Huaihai Road.
I’ve visited many times in the past, and it was as packed as ever with passersby checking e-mail on iPads and clerks running credit cards through readers. My efforts to strike up conversations with customers at the Genius Bar regarding Cook’s apology were met with indifferent shrugs and a couple of “it’s not important to us” dismissals. Cook appears to have known this already. “Close to 90% of our customers expressed satisfaction with our repair services,” he wrote in his apology letter. “And customer satisfaction is the most important metric by which Apple measures its success.”READ MORE
(Corrects sequence of events in 25th paragraph of article published April 1.)
In late 1992 and early 1993, a series of violent events took place in India that damaged, perhaps irredeemably, the commitment of both state and society to the country's hard-won secularism and vulnerable interfaith harmony.READ MORE
News that a new form of deadly bird flu recently killed two Shanghai residents arrived in the morning’s papers, along with some expert suggestions on how to avoid catching the unwelcome disease.
“Wash your hands, and cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing,” was the advice published in the Oriental Morning Post, Shanghai’s most popular newspaper (and repeated in others). “And avoid eating or contact with dead and diseased livestock.”READ MORE
Boris Berezovsky was often portrayed as a ruthless mathematician who stayed several chess moves ahead of his opponents. He dutifully acted the part, saying famously in a 1997 interview, “I have never built an unreliable system.”
The real Berezovsky, however, was an accomplished communicator, actor and mythmaker rather than an evil mastermind. Even his death is something out of a mystery novel.READ MORE
Peng Liyuan, celebrity folksinger and wife of President Xi Jinping has a chic, elegant and decidedly local look. Since March 22, when she appeared at a Moscow airport, arm in arm with her smiling husband on the opening leg of his first international trip as China’s new head of state, talk of her has spread across newspapers, blogs and microblogs. Especially as compared with her low-key, all-but-invisible first lady predecessors, Peng is a vision of modern Chinese times, and modern Chinese people seem to be embracing her.
“Peng Liyuan’s debut trip is remarkable. For a very long time, Party leaders, and especially their wives, left dowdy impressions,” tweeted a retired academic in Shandong province via the Sina Weibo microblogging service on March 25. “No matter if they were dignified ladies from a high-level background or quiet ladies from humble circumstances, they were never so brilliant or dazzling on the international stage.”READ MORE
(Corrects date in first paragraph.)
Nantes, the historic capital of Brittany, is celebrating. Aircraft manufacturer Airbus SAS last week signed tens of billions of euros of new orders, meaning that thousands of workers here have their jobs assured for years to come.READ MORE
Italy's government moved belatedly last week to defuse a diplomatic standoff with India by agreeing to send back two Italian marines who had shot dead two fishermen off the coast of India in February 2012.
The marines were standing trial in an Indian court and had been given permission to return home to vote in the recent Italian elections. The Italian government, which had originally contested the terms of the case, then decided it wouldn't be sending them back after all. The dispute played out between India and Italy all week, with both sides trading charges and India taking the punitive step of restraining the Italian ambassador to India, Daniele Mancini, from leaving the country. Just when it seemed that the stand-off was beyond resolution -- an eventuality that would have grievously impacted ties in both politics and business -- the Italian government relented and said it would be sending the marines back by March 22.READ MORE
China’s notorious “one-child” population-control strategy has always been about money and resources. Did China have sufficient food to feed a billion mouths? Could a rapidly expanding population be led into a modern, market-oriented future? Morality, social impacts and the preservation of Chinese culture were seemingly secondary concerns, even in the face of international condemnation of coercive means to enforce the policy.
Now, more than three decades into the “one-child” policy (actually, a set of policies restricting the number of children Chinese may have), the economic calculus that made Chinese population control a logical and even necessary (in the eyes of many Chinese) course of action is faltering. As a result, last week the Chinese government took the first steps toward reforming how its population-control policies are devised, enforced and perceived.READ MORE
For a country whose government and banks reneged on tens of billions of dollars in foreign obligations during its own financial crisis in 1998, Russia has responded with incongruous fury to the prospect of a similar event in Cyprus.
Russians have a peculiar vested interest in the European Union’s efforts to rescue the island nation’s banking system. To pay its share of the bailout, the Cypriot government is planning to impose a tax on depositors, many of which are Russian entities that have long used Cyprus as an offshore haven. The levy could wipe out about 10 percent of the estimated $19 billion in deposits of Russian companies, and possibly more.READ MORE