Honey, You Shrunk The Kids
Mario Monti took time off from his duties as prime minister of Italy last week to moonlight as a child-rearing guru—a sort of transnational Dr. Spock. Speaking in Tokyo, he blamed the current euro crisis on bad parenting by Germany and France. Recalling their fiscal laxity in 2003, a time when he, as a member of the European Commission, had called for sanctions against Berlin and Paris, Monti said, “If the father and mother of the euro zone are violating the rules, you could not expect [countries such as] Greece to be compliant.” Poor widdle Gweece!
American foreign policy promises to be a festival of fireworks if Mitt Romney wins the presidential election. Weeks after characterizing China as a “prosperous tyranny” (which followed an earlier promise to sanction Beijing for currency manipulation), the Republican contender for the White House trained his ire on Russia, calling it “our No. 1 geopolitical foe.” Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, dismissed these words as “smacking of Hollywood,” setting up the match nicely for Romney’s return of serve.
“Atithi devo bhava,” goes an ancient Sanskrit aphorism—a guest is like God. Eager to make Hu Jintao feel as much at home in New Delhi as he does in Beijing, India rounded up hundreds of Tibetan activists on the eve of the Chinese premier’s visit. There are 100,000 Tibetans domiciled in India, the most famous of whom—the Dalai Lama—sought refuge in the country in 1959. In recent years, however, India has been unable to locate its backbone on the matter of its resident Tibetans, arresting them in numbers whenever a Chinese dignitary sets foot on Indian soil.
King Versus Queen
There’s no killjoy quite like a disgruntled central banker. Speaking before a parliamentary economic committee, Sir Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, warned that celebrations for Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee could retard growth and harm the economy. “We will lose an extra day’s work,” King grumbled, pointing a picayune finger at the special holiday in June to mark Her Majesty’s longevity. (He did allow himself some wishful thinking: “It doesn’t necessarily follow that we will lose that whole day’s output.”)
Brazil dropped some IQ points this week with the death of Millôr Fernandes, Rio’s answer to Saul Steinberg. Millôr was a cartoonist, artist, author, and irrepressible translator (his Portuguese renditions of Shakespeare, Molière, Sophocles, and Chekhov are Brazilian staples). A limpetlike nuisance to dictators and democrats alike, his political parodies and sketches were routinely censored. Millôr was best known, perhaps, as a phrasemaker: “A picture is worth a thousand words, but try to say that in a picture” was a classic “Millôrism.” He was 88.
French women, as the phrase has it, “don’t get fat,” but French children ... ooh la la! That, at least, is the view of the French College of Physicians, which has imposed a disciplinary hearing on Dr. Pierre Dukan, the country’s most famous dietitian. Best known for helping Kate Middleton and Gisele Bündchen stay svelte with his Atkins-like diet, Dukan fell foul of his peers after suggesting that children who were thin should get extra credit on their baccalaureate exams. The physicians’ body, fearing his remarks could harm teenagers already struggling with anorexia or obesity, decreed this to be an ethical breach for which he could be struck off: “A doctor must be aware of the repercussions his views can have on the public.”
Argentina’s government has imposed restrictions on the import of books, citing the risks that foreign publications could pose to Argentine citizens. The danger lies not in the ideas—perhaps subversive—contained in foreign books, but in the lead content of the ink. Trade regulation No. 26/12 establishes that a book’s ink must be certified as containing less than 0.06 percent lead for it to be eligible for sale in Argentina. “If you put your finger in your mouth after paging through a book, that can be dangerous,” said an official. The great Borges must be spinning in his grave—with his finger in his mouth.