Iran's Endangered Nuclear Scientists: World on a Page

Russian space agency chief Vladimir Popovkin. Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP-Getty Images

Political put-down of the week: “Viktator,” chanted by crowds in Budapest protesting the increasingly obnoxious government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Time for a Hungarian Spring?

Space cadet: Vladimir Popovkin, head of Russia’s rocket scientists, has suggested that America is zapping Russian satellites because they tend to disappear “when they are flying above the part of Earth that’s in a shadow zone for Russia.” Poor Popovkin needs a scapegoat: his agency has lost five sats in 13 months.

Naked tyranny: Impoverished Zimbabweans buy secondhand underwear so as to save money for such fripperies as food. Yet Tendai Biti, the finance minister, detected in this desperate frugality an affront to national honor. His solution? To ban the import of “secondhand undergarments of any type, form or description, whether purchased, donated or procured in any other manner.”

What’s Urdu for ‘Byzantine’? Pakistani politics, ever impenetrable, have scaled new peaks of convolution: the chief justice of the Supreme Court, doing the Army chief’s bidding, wants the prime minister to charge the president with corruption. The P.M. has refused and has fired his defense minister instead, daring the Army chief to put up or shut up. The Army chief has ... oh, never mind.

He’s come out ... of jail: Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s opposition leader, who’d been on trial for sodomy for two years (including solitary confinement), was acquitted of charges widely agreed to be bogus. Is Malaysia, at last, burying the uncouth ghost of Mahathir Mohamad?

The world’s most endangered nerds: Iranian nuclear scientists, one of whom was killed by a bomb on his morning commute in Tehran. The math is ugly: four killed in two years.

Forget cuckoo clocks: Switzerland is adept at golden parachutes, too, paying Philipp Hildebrand—who has just resigned as head of the central bank—his full pay for 2012 (nearly $1 million) though he worked only two weeks. The uxorious Hildebrand fell on his Swiss Army knife after lucrative dollar trades by his wife that gave off a whiff of inside information.

philipp-hildebrand-nb20 Philipp Hildebrand the head of the Swiss National Bank. Harold Cunningham / Getty Images

I spy with my little eye something beginning with ... ‘G’! The lobby group Stonewall named MI5, Britain’s domestic spy agency, among the country’s most “gay-friendly employers.” Within the agency, however, delight at the accolade was tempered by the knowledge that MI6 has a 60-year head start in such matters.

Confession of the week: By Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, who acknowledged that a recent finding that 42 percent of all Indian children are malnourished is “a national shame.”

manmohan-singh-nb20 Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Narinder Nanu / AFP-Getty Images

Magnanimous albion: Bravo to David Cameron, for committing to a Scottish referendum on independence from Britain. One wishes, only, that he hadn’t made an offer of a free vote on Scotland’s future sound like yet another English attempt to order the Scots about.

Not a juvenal delinquent after all: A French judicial probe absolved Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda, of involvement in the assassination of Juvenal Habyarimana, then president, in 1994. His killing turned Rwanda into a charnel house. (A previous French inquiry had found Kagame complicit in Habyarimana’s death, making him rather cross with France.)

Quote of the week: ‘No one wants to live in hypocrisy, and China is the largest hypocrisy in the world right now.’ —Richard Gere, actor

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