Since its founding in 1962, Walmart has chalked up an impressive corporate history. Missing from the company mantelpiece, however, has been a trophy that it could well pick up in the coming weeks: the bringing down of a national government. After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed off on a flurry of economic reforms—including a decision to let foreign supermarkets like Walmart invest in India—key partners in his rickety coalition withdrew their support, leaving his government vulnerable to collapse. Walmart has been a particular focus of Indian ire, allowing many to give vent to the anti-Americanism that is ingrained in Indian politics. “The tragedy is that our prime minister has begun to worship the U.S.,” said Sitaram Yechury, a veteran Communist Party leader, striking a somewhat hysterical note. “Congress [Singh’s party] wants Indians to be slaves and foreigners to be our masters. We will not accept foreign direct investment in retail. We will protest this decision till our last breath.”
Hardline American Republicans tasted a blast of buckshot from Down Under after Wayne Swan, Australia’s deputy prime minister, declared them responsible for the global economic malaise. In a speech to financial-services executives in Sydney, the feisty Aussie from the left-leaning Labor Party made it clear that he had no stomach for Tea Party types: “Let’s be blunt and acknowledge that the biggest threat to the world’s biggest economy are the cranks and crazies that have taken over a part of the Republican Party.” While the conservative opposition was swift to condemn Swan for his “immature contribution” and, perhaps hyperbolically, for “peddling hatred,” Australia’s prime minister, Julia Gillard, stood by her man. “America is, of course, a global economic giant and what happens in the U.S. economy matters to the world economy and it matters to us,” she said. “Wayne Swan was making that very common-sense point.”
For years, the Egyptians mediated between the Israelis and the Palestinians, trying to coax a peace agreement out of implacable opponents. When those efforts bore no fruit, they applied themselves next to the equally futile task of trying to reconcile Hamas and Fatah, the two competing power centers of Palestine. Having failed at that, too, Cairo is now peeling yet another layer off the Palestinian onion—trying to repair a rift within Hamas itself. Set to visit the Egyptian capital are Ismail Haniya, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, and Khaled Mashal, Haniya’s main Hamas rival, currently exiled in Qatar. Will it be third time lucky for the indefatigable Egyptians?
Ms. Precocious, M.P.
Proscovia Alengot Oromait, all of 19, has become the youngest legislator in the world. Alengot, who belongs (not surprisingly) to Uganda’s ruling party, was elected to Parliament in a by-election for the Usuk seat, previously held by her father, who died in July. (The New Vision, a Ugandan daily, reported titillatingly that he “is said to have died of natural causes.”) The teenage lawmaker may yet regret not going to university instead: according to the Associated Press, Usuk, Alengot’s parliamentary district, is “thoroughly impoverished, even by Uganda’s standards.” So much so that a senior politician from her own party observed that “this is not a constituency you want to give a child of that age to shoulder.”
A former first lady of Germany has sued Google for defamation because the search engine’s “auto-complete” function—by which Google attempts to surmise what a searcher is looking for when he types in a word—consistently offers “prostitute” in response to her name. Enter “Bettina Wulff” and you will get, in German, the word “prostituierte.” Other Google prompts are “escort,” “rotlicht” (or red-light), “tattoo,” and “escort service.” Frau Wulff, married to Christian Wulff, Germany’s president from 2010 to 2012, does indeed sport a tattoo; but the other nouns, she contends vehemently, are simply slanderous. The New York Times reports that the rumor of a seamy past was spread by opponents of her husband in 2006, the year in which he met her.
With Luke Darby and Jane Teeling