Misplaying the Money Game Economic sanctions are starting to backfire on Washington. Last year the United States froze aid to the Palestinian Authority after elections won by the radical group Hamas. Instead of toppling Hamas, the funding gap was rapidly filled by political rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia. A recent World Bank report says Middle Eastern powers, together with some emergency support from outside the region, doubled funding to the Palestinian Authority last year, to an estimated $700 million. The aid helped cushion a local recession, and keep Hamas in power.
Although sanctions have rarely proved an effective tool for regime change, Washington's recent move to block Western bank deals with Tehran has put real pressure on Iran's ruling elites. However, most of the funds now transferred to the West Bank and Gaza go through underground agents to avoid U.S. antiterrorism regulations, so they will be tough to track, much less stop. Western aid workers say they fear that money from countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran will go directly to their respective Palestinian proxies, Fatah and Hamas, in a battle for regional influence. And with no demands for reform attached. "The risk now is that all this external assistance will be politicized," says a prominent donor in Jerusalem.
It gets worse. The United States favors Fatah over Hamas, but its sanctions effort may also backfire in Syria, another key Hamas ally. A freeze on overseas bank accounts held by suspected Syrian extremists is chasing a fortune in Syrian cash back to Damascus, fueling the fastest economic growth (better than 5 percent) in a decade. "Thank God for the American sanctions," says one Damascus trader. "Business has never been better." But sanctions have never done worse.
Internet censorship is on the rise, says a new Harvard study. Bloggers in repressive regimes like Egypt, where one blogger's jail sentence was upheld last week, are all too aware of that.
1: Estimated number, in millions, of Russian blogs. Fivethousand blog-related lawsuits were filed in 2006.
100,000: The estimated number of Iranian blogs. 20 bloggers were jailed in 2004; none were last year. Is Tehran softening?
17: Estimated number, in millions, of Chinese blogs. In 2006, 52 Internet-related offenders were jailed.
Prep for Landing The world war between Boeing and Airbus will be decided, in large measure, in China. Over the next 20 years, a boom in air travel will generate demand for 3,000 new commercial jets in China, worth an estimated $289 billion. China will become the world's second largest airplane market, trailing only America. Since Boeing and Airbus now split the market between them, with Boeing enjoying a strong lead (65 percent to 35) in China, they had reason to hope for continued dominance. Only Beijing has other plans, announcing last week that it aims to introduce its own large commercial jet by 2020.
Though still struggling to climb the technology ladder, China is coming on fast in aviation—advancing in part on skills honed as a supplier to Airbus and Boeing. It recently applied for a license to sell its ARJ-21 regional jet in the United States. And it's no secret that China aims to build global brands in every big business, by protecting its home market when necessary. That could leave Airbus and Boeing scrapping harder for a smaller slice of China sales.
Going All The Way Nude travel has become a $400 million industry—double what it was 10 years ago. And the business has increasingly gone upscale, trading rustic nudist camps for lavish resorts and extravagant cruises. Now Source Events, a Miami Beach-based gay adventure-travel company, is offering the first gay nude luxury cruise. Scheduled for mid-May, the weeklong voyage, geared toward men, will begin in Rome and continue down Italy's Amalfi coast and on to the Greek islands. Travelers can take cooking classes, mingle at cocktail parties or simply lounge on deck—all au naturel. Dress will be required, however, for land excursions, water sports and Olympic-themed soirees in which passengers are encouraged to dress up as gods or goddesses. Gay men "are looking for new ways to socialize," says Source Events president Craig Smith.
"When people shed their clothes, it's a great equalizer."
Maid to Please Ah, the perfect man. He tends the bar, serves you and even washes the dishes, all without a whimper. The only catch is that he's a robot—the latest attempt by Japanese researchers to care for their country's rapidly aging population. Twenty percent of Japanese are older than 65, and robots are quickly taking the place of human companions, pets and caretakers. The new butler robot will be able to roll from the kitchen to the living room bearing a tray of tea. Robot nannies are already in use, as are hospital helpers—blue receptionists and green hosts that guide patients to the elevators and carry their bags. Researchers at the University of Tokyo and Kawada Industries, the brains behind the butlers, say these newfangled robots are clearly the future; studies estimate that by 2025, the Japanese robot industry will exceed ¥6 trillion in sales.
Beating someone may not be the most damaging way to get the truth out. A new study conducted by a team of British scientists analyzed the stress levels of 300 torture survivors of the former Yugoslavia. Those who experienced sham executions or threats of rape were just as susceptible to developing posttraumatic stress disorder as those subjected to physical torture. And both types of victims rated their stress levels equally high.