10. Hackable Passports
9. What’s Worse Than Bird Flu? The Cure.
8. Petro Powers Drop the Dollar
7. The Gender Gap Gets Smaller
6. Iran and Israel Hold Secret Talks
5. United States Funds the Taliban
4. Russia Fuels Latin American Arms Race
3. Bush’s Post-Katrina Power Grab
2. China Runs up African Debt
1. India Helps Iran Build the Bomb, While the White House Looks the Other Way
OK, when FP do lists like this, I'd like all the stories to be a) factually correct, b) significant, and c) preferrably not something I knew or would be reasonably expected to know already. How many stories fit all three criteria? One, namely the story on President Bush's law revision which extends the number of domestic situations where POTUS can send in troops, etc. The remaining nine either fell on being:
1) Something I knew already (or would expect people to know):
- 10. Hackable Passports. The RFID insecurity scandal reeks with incompetent faith in whatever technological solution seems at hand. Wired has covered this story in depth and it would easily qualify for the years best story on technology-meets-politics. Hey, even I wrote about RFIDs and that before Wired (albeit on a different subject concerning Pentagon incompetence). That story has been pretty well covered all over, then.
- 8. Petro Powers Drop the Dollar. I may be no macro economist, but I don't think the effect of moving US$ 5 bn from dollars to euros could move the rate significantly. Moreover, ever since the euro was created, there has been a larger structural -- i.e. politically neutral -- incentive for third nations to diversify their currency holdings into euros. If this is what we see now, then it is perhaps less dramatic than the FP would suggest because the markets would have known of the incentive for a long time.
- 5. United States Funds the Taliban. No they don't. Incompetence in reconstruction prgrammes have led money to sieve into Taliban hands. The real story related to this subject is the troubling level of Pentagon incompetence in overseeing outsourced contracts, including e.g. the training of the Afghan police force (NYTimes article). Moreover, see this MountainRunner post on a new GAO report on the subject.
- 9. What’s Worse Than Bird Flu? The Cure. Uh, Tamiflu might have some sideeffects?! Well, as long as it a) works against a possible human bird flu-strain, and b) the death rate of the sideeffects was pretty low, which it seems since only 10 Canadians died suspsiciously, then this is a non-story. In case of bird flu anyone would take Tamiflu.
- 7. The Gender Gap Gets Smaller. The story is here that some development programmes are working: There are more girls in developing world class rooms than there used to be. Great. But that is hardly surprising: why else would we do this? The story doesn't trump the real hidden and more disturbing story of the loss of the boys in the developed world on all levels of education, but increasingly at high school and college levels to a degree where females dominate completely. What is to become of Western man?
- 6. Iran and Israel Hold Secret Talks. Sure they do: Iran wants the money. This is a non-story because it does not belie Iran's possibile negative intentions. Iran might well want both to a) negotiate a deal and get some money from Israel, b) nuke Israel after getting paid. So why the fuss about the story?
- 4. Russia Fuels Latin American Arms Race. Fuels in the sense that they sell stuff? The South Americans are grown up: If Brazil wants to buy Russian gadgets in order to obtain Russian support for a UNSC seat, then so be it. Yes, they ought to better their countries instead of buying weapons for an internal arms race; but Russia should hardly be blamed.
- 2. China Runs up African Debt. The real story here is not the cheap Chinese lending, but rather the bigger story oif which it is part, namely the emerging African proxy war over good governance between the West and China. China doesn't give a damn about human rights, and is fundamentally opposed to the 1990s UN-paradigm of outwards state accountability. See my post "China's African Policy: Proxy Wars Over good Governance".
- 1. India Helps Iran Build the Bomb, While the White House Looks the Other Way. The accusations are true in the sense that the mentioned incidents did happen as e.g. mentioned in this CRS report,. But there is no reason to believe that India's government actively supports Iran getting the bomb. Ultimately, India would gain very little from helping Iran, and just as India stand to gain a lot from a good relationshsip with the US, they could lose a lot if the country appeared to have been instrumental to an Iranian bomb. The real concern is whether evidently weak and problematic export controls and general anti-proliferation measures in India will be the result of the US-Indian Joint Statement process.