World View Hot Topics in Pivotal Markets
"Poor Americans! It's so hard for them to choose between Romney and Obama. Lucky Russians! They only had to choose between Putin and Putin."
On Nov. 7, this joke made the top 20 on anekdot.ru, a popular Russian humor website.READ MORE
Hundreds of thousands of Indians will rise earlier than usual tomorrow to join U.S. voters in tracking the final hours of the presidential election. The long campaign -- and particularly the candidate debates -- was closely watched in India, whose citizens asked themselves why it was so improbable that the leaders of their country's two major political parties would ever consent to a similar challenge.
In 2008, Barack Obama's historic campaign and skepticism-dissolving language caused a bubble of optimism about politics in the U.S. and around the world, and the weight of Indian support falls squarely behind him this time, too. But Indians have invested less, with both heart and head, in the election of 2012. Obama's possible re-election isn't as interesting. And in a campaign fought mainly over domestic issues, there has been no significant mention of India in either candidate's pitch.READ MORE
India's business and journalism circles pulsed last week with the news that a U.S. District Court judge in Manhattan had sentenced the prominent Indian-American business leader Rajat Gupta to two years in prison on the charge of insider trading.
For decades, Gupta had stood tall in the consciousness of middle-class Indians trapped in a semi-socialist, semi-feudal economy. He seemed a flag bearer of the American Dream, an ambitious, self-made man who from modest beginnings had become one of the first Indians to achieve a position of prominence on the global corporate stage. Gupta left India for the U.S. in 1971 at the age of 23. He obtained an MBA from Harvard Business School and then spent most of his career at McKinsey & Co., serving as its managing director from 1994 to 2003. Although he became a U.S. citizen in 1984, he kept up many links to India, co-founding the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad in 1998, serving as a consultant on public policy to the Indian government, quoting verses from the Bhagavad Gita in commencement speeches and taking part in humanitarian work.READ MORE
If the Chinese could vote in the U.S. election, President Barack Obama would likely win in a landslide. That win, however, would have almost nothing to do with his policies toward China (the Chinese aren’t fans).
Nor would it have much to do with Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s embrace of China-bashing as a campaign strategy. Rather, it would have almost everything to do with style, symbolism and online China’s aspiration for leaders who offer something more than the stone-faced, opaque politics presented by President Hu Jintao and other top Chinese leaders.READ MORE
When U.S. voters head to the polls next week to choose their president, they can take pride in an electoral system far superior to what, for example, Ukrainians experienced in their parliamentary elections last weekend.
Or can they?READ MORE
The big day would be Oct. 2, the two young men announced, and anyone was welcome to attend. For the precise location, a prospective guest needed only contact the instant chat address included in the tweet. And for those still unclear about the parties to be married, the couple attached several affectionate engagement photos. In the days that followed, they received RSVPs and a few hundred dollars worth of donations to defray the costs associated with what they hoped would be a traditional ceremony.READ MORE
Sixteen years after undertaking a privatization program that marked its transformation into a sort of market economy, Russia has completed an about-face: With the $61 billion purchase of the oil company TNK-BP from private investors, it has renationalized nearly its entire petrochemical industry.
The TNK-BP deal, announced this week, is the biggest single nationalization in Russian history. It will turn the state-controlled Rosneft, which made the purchase, into the world's largest publicly traded oil company, with 1.7 times the production of Exxon Mobil. It will make Viktor Vekselberg, one of the investors on the selling side, into Russia's richest man. It represents the culmination of President Vladimir Putin's efforts to reverse the privatizations of the 1990s.READ MORE
Some of India's most powerful politicians probably aren't sleeping as peacefully as they used to. The responsibility for the panic in what were formerly some of the most secure bastions of power in India belongs to an ambitious anti-corruption campaigner, Arvind Kejriwal, and the many middle-class workers and activists of his organization, India Against Corruption.
The source of Kejriwal's power is the widespread perception in India that the country's political class -- particularly the main governing party, the Indian National Congress, and the main party in opposition, the BJP -- has profited enormously from its unscrupulous farming out of government assets (particularly land at cheap rates) to itself and its ability to approve big business projects in return for kickbacks. Inured from exposure by an unwritten code of fellowship extending across political parties and a compliant media that has lost its appetite for hard journalism, many politicians have erected huge empires.READ MORE
Kingfisher Airlines Ltd., until 2011 India's second-biggest airline by market share, has this month appeared to enter the terminal stage of a prolonged and painful descent into bankruptcy and stasis.
Dependent for the last few months on the goodwill of its employees, many of whom have not received their salaries since March, Kingfisher on Oct. 1 terminated the last few flights on its schedule after the staff went on strike. A notice on the airline's website said it was "hopeful of resuming operations on October 21, 2012."READ MORE
It's hard to say what's most impressive about Russia's latest round of regional and local elections -- the shameless rigging or the apathy of the voters. Either way, the October 14 polls sent an unmistakable message: Electoral democracy as we know it is dying a slow, painful death under President Vladimir Putin.
The votes occurred in part because Putin, seeking to calm widespread anti-corruption protests, restored gubernatorial elections he had ended years earlier. The results suggest the Kremlin retained ample control of the outcome. In the five regions that could have chosen new governors on Oct. 14, nothing actually changed. Five incumbents, all appointees of the ruling United Russia party, won in landslides. None received less than 64 percent of the vote.READ MORE
For Chinese viewers, the first U.S. presidential debate took place at 9 a.m. on a Thursday morning, in English.
It was broadcast and streamed live from several outlets, but it did not generate much live commentary on the country’s microblogs. Of course, the low level of online Chinese interest shouldn’t be a surprise. China has its own politics and issues, and -- especially in a U.S. election year that some in the Chinese media have derided as boring -- those remain far more pressing to most Chinese than what happens to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Ohio.READ MORE
If 4,000 people go on strike at an iPhone factory in China, will anybody know it? That’s the question at the heart of an ongoing puzzle over whether, in fact, iPhone 5 production was shut down by a labor action in the northern Chinese city of Zhengzhou on Friday.
For most of the world, the news broke on Oct. 5 when China Labor Watch, an influential New York-based workers’ rights group issued a press release claiming a strike had occurred at a plant producing iPhone 5s that “according to workers, involved three to four thousand production workers.”READ MORE
Forget gay marriage. In Russia and Ukraine, politicians are treating homosexuality like a curable addiction -- and even a crime.
Last week, acting on a widespread popular belief that sexual orientation is a matter of indoctrination, the Ukrainian parliament gave its preliminary approval to a bill that makes “propaganda of homosexuality” a criminal offense, punishable by a fine of about $10,000 or as many as five years in prison. “The spread of homosexuality is a threat to national security because it propagates the HIV/AIDS epidemic, destroys the family and could lead to a demographic crisis,” the bill's drafters wrote in an explanatory note. The danger, they reasoned, is great enough to justify a limitation on freedom of speech.READ MORE
What's not to be envied about the life of the Indian businessman Robert Vadra, a self-made man if ever there was one? Now 43, Vadra emerged from relative insignificance to a position of tremendous wealth, power and influence, especially in the Indian capital, New Delhi, where his name can move mountains.
Of course, it helps that Vadra is married to Priyanka Gandhi, the daughter of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and granddaughter of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. And his mother-in-law is Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress Party, the most powerful woman in the land. Vadra could, by his own candid admission, become a member of Parliament any time he liked, but he has chosen to stay out of public life and chart his own path in "business" (an impressive but sometimes vague word covering a gamut of activities).READ MORE
For Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's visit to Moscow was a great photo opportunity. Some of Russia's technology entrepreneurs, though, saw it as the latest salvo in a global battle for the country's best minds.
Ahead of the visit, Anatoly Karachinsky, one of Russia's leading tech moguls, fired off an uncharacteristically outraged Facebook post in which he deliberately and repeatedly misspelled Zuckerberg's name. “Recently, a number of Russian programmers -- as far as I know, those who have rather unique and rare competencies and work for excellent Russian companies -- have received invitations for interviews with Comrade Zuckerberger. Those who went say they have been offered jobs and immediate evacuation to America," he wrote. The "meeting with the prime minister gives the process a kind of significance and legitimacy. I think the prime minister's aides should work this through more thoroughly and think again whether we are sending the right signals to markets and to society."READ MORE
Real estate in Sao Paulo has been booming in recent years. Fires have devastated slums in or near the most desirable areas. Is there a connection?
That's been a subject of debate in Brazil’s largest city for weeks. So far this year, 34 fires have been recorded in Sao Paulo's so-called favelas. On her blog, Raquel Rolnik, a professor of architecture and urbanism at the University of Sao Paulo, suggested the blazes were linked to gentrification projects:READ MORE
Which came first? The corruption or the mistresses? In China, they most often go together.
The stories abound: from the corrupt official in Fujian who, in 2002, held the first (and only) annual competition to judge which of his 22 mistresses was most pleasing, to Liu Zhijun, the former railway minister deposed in 2011 for allegedly embezzling the equivalent of millions of dollars -- and maintaining a relatively modest 18 mistresses. The association is so strong, in fact, that it’s all but taken for granted in China that when an official falls due to his -- and it’s almost always a he -- misdeeds and miscalculations, the mistresses will be uncovered next.READ MORE
Last month, as many as 34 people were killed in a single incident when a bus driver lost control of his vehicle in the hilly northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, and sent himself and many of his passengers down a steep gorge to a grisly death.
This kind of accident happens often in the state, with its steep, narrow and winding roads, inclement weather and overcrowded public transport. Only the month before, in August, 52 people had died in exactly the same way.READ MORE
The Cold War is back. Russia's moves to expel the U.S. Agency for International Development and effectively strip U.S.-funded Radio Liberty of its broadcast license are just the latest manifestations of a harsh reality: In today's Moscow, any connection with the U.S. practically guarantees bureaucratic problems.
There's not yet any real iron, though, in President Vladimir Putin's anti-American curtain. The Kremlin's hostile moves have only a symbolic significance in a world where finance is global and the Internet is freely accessible.READ MORE
It wasn't the Gettsyburg Address -- unless it's poker faces we're comparing.
Future historians aren't going to be parsing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's speech for hidden meanings, and rhetoricians won't be delighting in the majesty of its style and the compression of its effects. It inflamed no passions, as did Mitt Romney's words about the "47 percent," and asserted no big idea or thesis, unless there was one contained in the homespun phrase "money does not grow on trees."READ MORE