World View Hot Topics in Pivotal Markets
To be with the Grillini beside dangling model sharks at Milan's aquarium is to be among true believers, Italians convinced that the only way to save their country is to sweep away its politicians and rule themselves differently.
The Grillini are partisans of the radical movement led by Beppe Grillo, who made his name in the 1980s as a comedian. Grillo, however, is no longer a joker. His Movimento 5 Stelle, or Five Star Movement, is polling 18 percent ahead of elections on Feb. 24-25.READ MORE
In June 2008, Ms. Ge, a single, 27- year-old native of Jiangsu province, began dating the handsome Mr. Yang, a 32-year-old native of Anhui province. According to an extensive account of the relationship published to Jiangsu province’s official news portal, it was a traditionally minded courtship: When Mr. Yang made overnight visits to Ms. Ge’s family, he stayed in her younger brother’s bedroom.
Ms. Ge and Mr. Yang married in 2009, but, curiously, the change in relationship status didn’t affect Mr. Yang’s preference for the bedroom of Ms. Ge’s brother. In June 2012, three years into a mostly sexless marriage (according to the government account) a frustrated Ms. Ge went looking for answers in her husband’s dresser drawer. There, to her great surprise, she found love letters from her husband to her brother and gay pornography. She filed for divorce in November 2012.READ MORE
In recent months, Russia has adopted a slew of regulations -- on freedom of assembly, free speech, the Internet, non-governmental organizations, gays and foreign adoptions -- that would place it among the most repressive and backward nations on Earth.
Only one difference: So far, no one is bothering to enforce most of the new rules.READ MORE
On Jan. 24, a federal district court in Chicago sentenced David Coleman Headley -- born Daood Gilani in Washington, D.C., in 1960 -- to 35 years in prison for his role in plotting the terror attacks that killed 164 people in Mumbai in 2008.
Headley's trial was widely watched for many reasons. Unusually among terrorists wanted for attacks on Indian civilians, Headley was a U.S. citizen. But uniquely among them, he had also served as an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. He made his first visit to Pakistan to spy on heroin traffickers before turning rogue and joining a plot hatched by the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.READ MORE
While Prime Minister David Cameron was making his long-awaited speech on the future of the U.K.’s relationship with the rest of Europe this week, Brussels was shrouded in fog. Inevitably, a number of European newspapers recalled the old joke on British insularity, allegedly from a 1930 Daily Mirror headline: "Fog in Channel: Continent Cut Off."
Cameron, in his speech, tried to play it both ways: He wants a new relationship with Europe and is at the same time determined that the U.K. should remain inside the European Union. Legislation will be prepared for a referendum to put the issue to the people, and after the next election in 2015, assuming a Conservative victory, Britons will vote in the first half of the next four-year to five-year parliament.READ MORE
For four years, from 2008 through 2011, Russia was a “tandemocracy,” ruled by Medvedev as president and Putin as prime minister. The two traded jobs after the irregularity-laden presidential election of 2012, a move that came as a blow to Medvedev’s supporters, who saw him as a worldly modernizer and had hoped he would run for a second term.READ MORE
(Corrects to delete reference to Gandhi family members as head of state in third paragraph.)
Last weekend, India's Congress Party, which has enjoyed power for almost nine years as the majority party in the current UPA coalition government, set down a roadmap not only for its own future but also for that of the world's largest democracy. At a party convention in the northern city of Jaipur, it appointed the young parliamentarian Rahul Gandhi, 42, the vice-president of the party. Not coincidentally, Gandhi's mother, Sonia Gandhi, has been president of the Congress since 1998.READ MORE
Last year soon after the fabled Timbuktu had fallen first to Tuareg separatists and then to jihadists linked with al-Qaeda, I wrote to various editors proposing a trip to Mali. They all said no.
The editors didn't see Mali's troubles as a big enough problem to warrant the expense and risk of putting someone on the ground. Now it looks as though many of the people making decisions about Europe’s defense and security thought the same way.READ MORE
One of the last mafia kingpins from Russia’s wild 1990s has died. Rather than marking the end of an era, the event is reminding Russians just how much their government has occupied the role once played by organized crime.
Grandpa Hassan, as the mafia don was known, spent his last day holding court in the downtown Moscow cafe that served as his headquarters. At 2:30 p.m., he emerged to catch two bullets in the head and back, from a sniper on a roof across the street. Within hours, “GrandpaHassan” was a trending topic on Twitter. In the very act of dying, a figure from a freer, more lawless era thrust the nation into an examination of its criminal past and present.READ MORE
On Jan. 14, more than 8 million pilgrims poured into the north Indian city of Allahabad to take a dip in the waters of the river Ganga and inscribe their lives into one of the oldest and grandest religious traditions of the Indian subcontinent. This is the Maha Kumbh Mela (literally, "Great Water Pitcher Fair"), which takes place every 12 years at the confluence of the Ganga and Jamuna rivers in Allahabad and attracts Hindus and spiritually curious people from all over the world.
The 2013 Kumbh Mela will last 56 days. With 80 million pilgrims expected, it will be the largest religious gathering in history: a conglomeration so vast and tightly packed that, as was the case at the last great Kumbh Mela in 2001, it will be visible from space. And even that may not be the most extraordinary of the photo-ops that the festival provides.READ MORE
On the evening of Aug. 8, 2008, the Summer Olympics were scheduled to open. Since being awarded the games in 2001, the government had repeatedly promised that the city’s notorious air pollution would be solved in time for the first events.READ MORE
There is no getting away from Nigel Farage if you live in the U.K. Turn on the TV or radio, or open any British newspaper and there is, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party. One recent opinion poll showed UKIP scoring 16 percent support, making it the third-most-popular party in Britain.
That isn't bad for a group that Prime Minister David Cameron once derided as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists.” If so, then Britons seem to be warming to fruitcakes. Trevor Kavanagh, the associate editor of the Sun, (the most widely read newspaper in the U.K. with a daily circulation of 2.3 million) writes correctly that: “UKIP are on a roll. They are the flavor of the month and support is growing by the day.”READ MORE
A newspaper devoted exclusively to rural news appeared in north India last month. Here's why this was such a big deal.
The most significant development in India in the last two decades has been the rapid (and often messy) urbanization of a society that for all of recorded history has been predominantly rural. The last census, in 2010, showed that, for the first time since 1921, the population of urban areas grew faster than that of rural ones. This demographic shift can be attributed not just to urbanization (which has its good and bad sides) but also to rural distress, which causes the migration of great numbers of people from villages to cities in search of employment.READ MORE
On Dec. 9, the American basketball player Marcus Williams, formerly of the National Basketball Association’s San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers, did something no other player in the 17-year history of the Chinese Basketball Association had accomplished: He tested positive for smoking marijuana.
The fact that Williams, who played for the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons, is a foreigner was of particular importance to the bureaucrats who administer the CBA. Williams, and the dozens of other non-Chinese who play in the league, have long been viewed as necessary to improve the association.READ MORE
A new World View contribution from Europe should begin at the beginning. What is going to happen in 2013? There have been plenty of well-informed predictions for how Europe's debt crisis will unfold this year, most of which, as a simple fact of mathematics, will have to prove wrong.
More interestingly, some of the continent's best thinkers have been going back to the future, following that portentous aphorism of U.S. philosopher George Santayana that: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So what, and from which piece of the region's long and fractious history, can the past teach us about Europe's future?READ MORE
As they embraced, they looked just like Obelix and Asterix, the two comic-book Gallic warriors: the bear-like French movie star Gerard Depardieu and the short and energetic Russian President Vladimir Putin. And indeed, the occasion for their photo opportunity -- the granting of Russian citizenship to Depardieu -- was a comic plot come true.
Depardieu, who has actually played the role of Obelix in French movies, didn’t initially set his sights on Russia. He was reported to be moving to a Belgian village just across the border from France, a location that would allow him to avoid France’s new 75 percent income-tax rate for people making more than 1 million euros a year. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault publicly called the expatriation “minable,” meaning “shabby” or “pitiful,” prompting an irate Depardieu to say he would relinquish his French passport.READ MORE
Acceptance is not voluntary -- rather, it’s law. But that isn’t stopping China’s editorialists, bloggers and microbloggers from openly contemplating a serious question: Can China’s raucous, muckraking Internet culture survive if the anonymous microbloggers who enervate it are forced to disclose their identities to the often state-owned entities that allow them to surf in the first place?READ MORE
The house of Tata owns dozens of prominent Indian businesses and brands, from the Taj Group of luxury hotels to the super-inexpensive Tata Nano car. It is widely perceived to represent Indian capitalism at its best, enjoying the goodwill of millions of customers, the loyalty of more than 400,000 employees and the investments of 3.8 million shareholders, while also reinvesting a substantial part of its profits into philanthropic work overseen by a set of trusts.READ MORE
The most hotly debated issue in India in 2012 was finally resolved the first week of December, when the coalition government's decision to open up the Indian retail sector to foreign direct investment was put to a vote in both houses of parliament and went through.
The vote was something of an anomaly. The government's verdict on foreign investment in September, though hotly opposed by many political parties (including some of the very coalition that makes up the government), traders' guilds and periodicals, was an executive decision not ordinarily requiring a vote in parliament, as draft bills do. But persistent hold-ups over the FDI issue meant that something had to be done to resolve the logjam on legislative activity. In the build-up to the vote forced by the opposition, the managers of the Congress Party -- including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who in September made a rare address to the nation explaining the need for foreign investment -- worked overtime to bring around the skeptics in the coalition's own ranks.READ MORE