Facebook can spark a revolution or quell one; England’s males-first monarchy to go; Sandwich generation; America’s daughter, Pakistan’s wife

1 San Francisco Chronicle saying Obama lost many donors from the 2008 presidential race. An Associated Press analysis found tens of thousands of supporters who gave Obama cash in the early stages of his last campaign have held out this time. And a handful have given to Republican candidates. Obama’s re-election effort is hardly hurting for cash: His campaign and the Democratic Party has raised more than $70 million for his re-election since July, and the campaign boasts a million contributors. At the same time, one Republican front-runner, Mitt Romney, has closed in financially in areas of the country that gave a solid stream of checks to Obama in the 2008 campaign, including Southern California, Florida and New England.

2 San Francisco Chronicle on the dark side of ‘Facebook revolution’. Sοmе observers dubbed thіѕ year’s well Ɩονеԁ uprisings throughout thе Middle East thе “Facebook Revolution,” celebrating thе role thаt social media played іn organizing аnԁ amplifying thе demonstrations. Bυt Facebook took οn a very different connotation іn Bahrain, whеrе thе repressive government employed thе social network fοr іtѕ οwn purposes, posting photos οf protesters аnԁ calling οn Bahrainis tο reveal thеіr names аnԁ workplaces. At Ɩеаѕt one young woman wаѕ arrested аѕ a result, according tο аn Al Jazeera documentary. Thе incident highlights thе plain fact thаt whіƖе social media іѕ аn incredibly powerful tool, іt’s аn incredibly powerful tool fοr everyone, whatever thеіr agenda.

3 The New York Times on China reining in entertainment and blogging. Political censorship in this authoritarian state has long been heavy-handed. But for years, the Communist Party has tolerated a creeping liberalization in popular culture. Now, the party appears to be saying “enough.” Whether spooked by popular uprisings worldwide, a coming leadership transition at home or their own citizens’ increasingly provocative tastes, Communist leaders are proposing new limits on media and Internet freedoms that include some of the most restrictive measures in years. The most striking instance occurred this week, when the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television ordered 34 major satellite television stations to limit themselves to no more than two 90-minute entertainment shows each per week, and collectively 10 nationwide. The ministry said the measures, to go into effect on Jan. 1, were aimed at rooting out “excessive entertainment and vulgar tendencies.”

4 BBC quoting Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis saying “Greece is in the middle of the storm, but it is not the source of the problems of European debt and deficits. We see this with Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy. So it doesn’t help to scapegoat a particular country when you’re dealing with a European problem.” In a TV interview on Thursday, French president Nicolas Sarkozy said admitting Greece to the eurozone had been “a mistake” because the country had “entered with false [economic] figures. It was not ready”.

5 The Guardian on the impending end of the males-first monarchy in England. Royal equality act will end succession of first born male- rather than older sister. Commonwealth leaders will pledge to amend legislation dating back to the 17th century to allow daughters of the monarch to take precedence over younger sons in the line of succession. David Cameron will hail the agreement of the 16 Queen’s realms, the Commonwealth countries where the queen serves as head of state, to amend “outdated” rules that also prevent a potential monarch from marrying a Catholic. The prime minister will introduce legislation in Britain before the next general election to ensure that the changes will apply to any children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Officials say the changes will apply even if a child is born before the new legislation is passed.

6 BBC on protests in South Africa demanding more economic power to black people. Several thousand protesters in South Africa’s main city, Johannesburg, have demanded greater economic power for black people. The demonstrators waved placards calling for the nationalisation of mines in order to reduce the influence of white-owned businesses. The governing party’s youth wing organised the protest under the theme “economic freedom in our lifetime”. White minority rule (apartheid) ended in South Africa in 1994.

7 BBC’s Stephanie Flanders on Germany’s Fiscal union with a capital F. The missing details in last night’s statement from eurozone leaders have been much discussed. But we know two key things today that we didn’t know at the start of this week. One is short-term, but welcome. The other is very long-term, and will be troubling to some. The first thing we have learned is that the European Central Bank will remain in a position to buy the government debt of countries like Italy and Spain, even now the enhanced rescue facility, the EFSF, has been ratified. Second, and most important, we know that the eurozone is on a path towards fiscal union – and it will indeed be Fiscal union with a capital F. All the talk about closer coordination and surveillance in the statement comes down to one thing: more centralised control of national budgets and tax policy. Outside Germany, “fiscal union” has increasingly been code for “getting hold of Germany’s money”. Inside Germany, it means having the power to make sure other members never overspend again. It’s just one of the areas of disconnect that has made this crisis so exciting. But non-Germans reading this statement should be in no doubt as to which version of fiscal union they are signing up to.

8 Khaleej Times on the Sandwich generation. I heard a nomenclature at a party the other day that really inspired a spirited conversation. Someone said that we, particularly South Asians in their early fifties to mid-sixties, are the “sandwich generation”. I was intrigued. What do you mean? I asked. Well, said the person, with justifiable pride at having captured an audience. “We desis, in our fifties and sixties, are really the bridge between two generations. The older generation, which believed in saving for the future and all the rites and conventions of our Asian culture and the younger generation which is wired completely differently, more attuned to western lifestyles and multicultural norms of behaviour. The older generation is trying to keep our eastern values alive. They want us to speak the native language to preserve it, they want their kids and grandkids to observe all the rituals of religious festivals and they want us to continue the traditions of saving for a rainy day, building up a nest egg, and having children while our bodies are able to bear them easily. The younger generation, on the other hand, is the wired generation of social networking geeks, with a thirst for making as much money in as short a time as possible. This new breed lives on credit card debt, parties hard and works hard. Marriage is not a prime goal in life and kids are often being borne to women in the mid to late thirties because of career aspirations”. So, said the person at the party, we people are the sandwich generation.

We “sandwiches” are concerned about family values and we tend to look after our parents in their old age. We still respect authority figures like bosses and teachers and are uncomfortable with the informality of these relationships in the west. Our kids have no such compunctions. They are comfortable calling authority figures by their first names, they are not awed by a person’s venerability or experience and they have the courage to voice their opinions no matter what. Our kids will not look after us when we are old, the person at the party said mournfully. They might pay to keep us in a retirement home, but they will not let us board with them. So is it hard being one of the sandwich generation? Yes, most of the party people agreed. We are neither here nor there, like the dhobi’s donkey.

9 Khaleej Times asking if Mukesh Ambani’s home is a towering waste. Mukesh Ambani is billed to be the world’s richest man with a net worth of $62 billion by 2014, when the ongoing financial crisis in Mexico will have shrunk the fortunes of the current incumbent, Carlos Slim. But even that achievement might not bring much cheer to Ambani, who currently finds himself facing a tough predilection: he owns the most expensive home in the world but is yet to have the pleasure of living in it!

While Ambani himself has managed to avoid talking about the 27-storey, $ 2 billion Antilla, speculation is rife that the reason behind the family’s hesitation in moving is, perhaps, because experts are now saying that the house does not conform to basic requirements of Vaastu, the ancient Indian architectural doctrine regarding directional alignments required to make a house a home where peace, good health and prosperity is bountiful. With Ambani now well aware of his potential to be the world’s richest man, we are fairly sure he is unlikely to wave a red flag under destiny’s nose and move in, risking any threat to his fortunes. We are curious to see how Mukesh, a chemical engineer, will face this issue. Will a scientific mind prevail over matters of belief? Or will superstition prevail? (The story is datelined Dubai, which means people from other parts of the world are also casting scornful glances at Antilla.)

10 Straits Times on Formula One drivers being stunned by Indian poverty. They screech in on private jets and party with the rich and famous, but Formula One’s pampered drivers admitted India’s grinding poverty had given them a jolting reality check. Although the brand new Buddh International Circuit appears, against many expectations, to be ready for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, the plush facilities cannot hide the sheer squalor of the country outside. Britain’s Jenson Button said coming to India was ‘difficult’ for the drivers, who have been stunned at the living conditions glimpsed outside their luxury hotels. ‘You can’t forget the poverty in India. It’s difficult coming here for the first time, you realise there’s a big divide between the wealthy people and the poor people,’ he said. (You won’t get to read this in Indian media. On the contrary, it can also be argued that foreign media have a penchant to highlight the ugly side of India.)

11 The Dawn article, ‘America’s daughter, Pakistan’s wife’. During a press conference hosted by the US State Department in Lahore, a participant explained that America was like an insatiable mother-in-law who was never satisfied with the work of her child’s spouse. While the speaker was alluding to the stereotypical relationship between a Pakistani man’s wife and mother, Mrs Clinton’s uproarious laughter was based on an opposite archetypal American relationship between a daughter’s husband and her mother. The question then becomes if the US is a never-satisfied mother-in-law to Pakistan, then who is America’s daughter and Pakistan’s wife? The answer comes in the form of the following parable:

In the days when people were busy rebuilding from the ravages of the Second Great War, the spoils of victory were being divided by the Great Powers. Out of many, two powers emerged: one from the capitalistic West in the name of Lady America, and the other as an eastern Soviet Communist empire. Neither had grown tired of the Great War, because they saw the world for their taking. Both moved with swiftness to convince their neighbors that their ideologies and weapons were better than the “other guys.” So began the Cold War, and when Lady America needed a weapon to battle her Soviet arch-nemesis, she became Mother America after giving birth to a daughter. This daughter was a strategy deployed by the CIA throughout its history: to depose governments by secretly funding and training guerrilla groups.

Thereafter, Mother America may have come to a real awareness: that her daughter was no good and was a cancer spreading across the world threatening everyone’s future, especially her own. Since the Soviets were destroyed, America no longer benefited from the intolerance and violence spread by their rebellious daughter. Now Pakistan’s mother-in-law needs the country to divorce itself from its Taliban wife, but Mother America does so while capitulating to the demands of her daughter in the form of negotiating with the Taliban and allowing them to be part of the future government in Afghanistan. However, what the mother-in-law does not understand is that divorce can be quite a painful drawn-out process. Though the US wants to break the marriage, they are not involved in the complex relationship directly. So while the world can suggest that Pakistan divorce their Taliban bride, this cannot happen until the nation’s leaders critically examine the worth of their relationship to terrorist groups and the intolerant environment established to incubate them.

12 The Dawn on Indian models being out of fashion overseas. For top Indian model Apoorva Vishwanathan, the difference between success on the catwalks of her own country and an international modelling career can be measured in inches – two of them. “I wish I had endless legs. I could be cat-walking with the Heidi Klums of the world,” said the Bangalore-based Vishwanathan who stands five feet nine inches (175cm) in her bare feet. “But you’ve got to be at least 5’11” for any international fashion house to come near you,” she told AFP. Only a handful of Indian models have tasted success abroad, with the likes of Lakshmi Menon and Ujjwala Raut modelling for Gucci and Yves Saint-Laurent. The financial pay-off for those who do break out of the relatively low-paid domestic scene can be enormous. Vishwanathan believes the main barrier is the natural body shape of Indian women. “We are genetically more voluptuous and curvaceous,” Vishwanathan said. “Agencies abroad want girls who are really thin, almost skinny. It is tough for us to fit into their requirements.

13 Sydney Morning Herald asking whether manners are dead. Spitters, swearers, armrest hoggers and interrupters be warned: there is a growing gang of radicals coming after you. Taking aim at what he sees as the demise of good manners, demographer Bernard Salt and his increasing army of followers want to eradicate rudeness. Affronted by bad manners at business functions Mr Salt recently formed a Facebook group called the Society for Normal People as a place where people “who feel aggrieved by the bad manners of others can publicly, but ever so politely express displeasure”. “We are a group of normal people and we intend taking over the world with our radical ideas of manners and respect for everyone,” Mr Salt said. “This all flowed from an article I wrote maybe two months ago, where I said I was sick of … people not returning phone calls, not returning emails, people who hog the armrest on a plane. “People who go to functions and they talk to each other in tight little circles, so that if you don’t know anyone you’re effectively excluded.

14 Reuters story in The Economic Times on India’s poor sex ratio leading to wife-sharing. When Munni arrived in Baghpat, a fertile, sugarcane-growing region of north India as a young bride years ago, little did she imagine she would be forced into having sex and bearing children with her husband’s two brothers who had failed to find wives. “My husband and his parents said I had to share myself with his brothers,” said the woman in her mid-40s, at a village community centre in Baghpat district in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. “They took me whenever they wanted — day or night. When I resisted, they beat me with anything at hand,” said Munni, who had managed to leave her home after three months only on the pretext of visiting a doctor.
Social workers say decades of aborting female babies in a deeply patriarchal culture has led to a decline in the population of women in some parts of India, like Baghpat, and in turn has resulted in rising incidents of rape, human trafficking and the emergence of “wife-sharing” amongst brothers. Just two hours drive from New Delhi, with its gleaming office towers and swanky malls, where girls clad in jeans ride motor bikes and women occupy senior positions in multi-nationals, the mud-and-brick villages of Baghpat appear a world apart. According to India’s 2011 census, there are only 858 women to every 1,000 men in Baghpat district, compared to the national sex ratio of 940.

15 The Economic Times editorial stating that the National Manufacturing Policy is a waste of time and a fine example of a policy for the sake of a policy. What the country needs is a coherent plan for planned urbanisation, to house ever-growing numbers of industrial and service sector enterprises and migrants from villages who man these enterprises.
16 The Economic Times editorial, “Subsidy for the elite’. Borrowers who can afford home loans of Rs 15 lakh do not need interest sops. (Many of ET’s readers fall in this group, yet the paper has the guts to make an economic point.)

17 The Hindu editorial, ‘Recycle the bulb’. India consumes a few hundred million energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps every year and the volumes are growing. This is welcome news not just for the lighting industry, which places the number of pieces manufactured in 2010 at around 304 million, but also for climate change mitigation efforts. Yet this also presents a waste management challenge. The problem with fluorescent lamps is that they contain small amounts of mercury. Unfortunately, India has not evolved a good system to recover this hazardous heavy metal from end-of-life lamps.

18 The Hindu story about state legislatures seeking clemency for death-row victims. Former Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha, PDT Achary, has warned that the recent resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly seeking the President to commute the death sentence of three of Rajiv Gandhi’s killers and a similar attempt made by the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in favour of Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru might result in “unintended consequences.” Mr. Achary said neither the State government has constitutionally-sanctioned powers in this regard nor can the Assembly perform that role. “In other words, the Legislative Assembly of a State has no power to request the President to consider a mercy petition in a particular way,” he pointed out. Commenting on the powers of the State legislatures to pass such resolutions seeking mercy for the convicts even after the President has rejected them, Mr. Achary said: “Passing a resolution by an Assembly seeking Presidential pardon for someone who did an act of terrorism is tantamount to saying ‘He is our terrorist, therefore, please spare him.’ This message goes across the world.”

19 Deccan Chronicle quoting Forbes on India’s rich getting poorer. India’s richest are getting poorer, according to Forbes, as falling stock prices, corruption scandals in Asia’s third-largest economy and a global slowdown wiped 20% off the total value of the country’s 100 wealthiest in the last year.

20 Eavesdropper column in Financial Express on Congress party leader Digvijay Singh tweeting for Rajat Gupta, “What a sad news. May God be with him”. In the past Singh has played devil’s advocate to “Osamaji”, “Kalmadiji” and “A Rajaji”.

About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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