• Greenest Nation

    This is a trick question. What big country is, by most measures, greener than Japan and Germany and produces more geothermal energy than all of Europe combined? It might help to know that this nation is also a pioneer in environmental stewardship, having passed many of the world's toughest regulations on vehicle emissions, energy efficiency and nature conservation.
  • Obama’s People

    Readers responding to our Jan. 26 cover story on "Obama's America" were still flush with elation. One marveled that though he grew up in "bigoted" Texas, he found himself voting for Obama without a thought to race. An adopted Korean said she did not vote for Obama, yet her "heart soared as he was sworn in."
  • Setback for Secular Pakistan With Swat Peace Deal

    Score another win for Pakistan's extremists. Last week the Taliban extended their control into the country's heartland when the government signed a one-sided peace deal that gave in to the radicals' demands—not in the remote tribal wilds, as with most past bargains, but in the verdant Swat Valley, a onetime tourist destination only 160 kilometers from Islamabad. The government gets a ceasefire and a shaky promise of peace. The militants get the imposition of Sharia in the region. And secular Pakistan suffers another setback.The agreement leaves jihadist forces in control of some 70 percent of the district that once was home to 1.5 million people, ratifying gains won through a terror campaign. Over the past year, the insurgents have killed more than 70 policemen and 150 soldiers, some of whom were beheaded. They have burned some 170 girls' schools and banned the selling of DVDs, the shaving of beards and criticizing the Taliban. At least 1,200 civilians have also died in the fighting...
  • 'The Next Hundred Years' Sees Steady U.S. Power

    Forecasting is, to put it mildly, an inexact science. But George Friedman, a political analyst who launched the intelligence-gathering company Strategic Forecasting in 1996, has gotten pretty adept at it. His one- and 10-year geopolitical and economic forecasts have become hot commodities at the Pentagon and on Wall Street. For his latest book, Friedman wanted to see how far into the future he could predict —so he decided to try the entire 21st century.The idea: Ignore the doomsayers, Friedman says—the age of American power has only just begun. In the next century, the United States will fight (and win) a second Cold War with a re-emergent Russia, enjoy a midcentury age of opulence and become the world's largest energy producer through a space-based system of solar panels.The evidence: With birthrates down across the industrialized world, a 300-year population boom is ending. Going forward, power will reside with the nations that are best able to attract immigrants—such as the...
  • Going Back To the Farm

    As China's economy slows, millions of out-of-work rural migrants are being forced to return home.
  • Will Russia Help With Iran?

    To judge from the mating signals coming from both sides, you'd think a major thaw in U.S.-Russia relations was imminent. Barack Obama backpedaled on his predecessor's vow to put a missile defense system near the Russian border, and Vice President Joe Biden recently called for "pushing the reset button" in dealings with Moscow, which had also been strained by America's support of NATO expansion into Georgia and Ukraine. For his part, in a possible sign of good will, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to suspend efforts to place Iskander short-range missiles in the Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.Why the sudden turnaround? The main reason is that Washington, along with the European Union, wants Russia's help on Iran. They see Russia as a vital player in preventing Tehran from getting nuclear weapons. "It is up to Russia to decide which face it wants to show," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said earlier this month. "If it wants to be a global player, it should help us...
  • Worth Your Time: Animated Short "Oktapodi"

    Since Pixar burst onto the animated-short scene in 1986, it's always been the flashiest and funniest competitor in the Oscar category—until now. Sure, "Presto" has all the glossy panache we've come to expect from the studio. But the real gem this year is "Oktapodi," a student-made film from Paris. The plot is simple: the film opens on two octopi caressing each other with tender tentacles. Romantic violin music plays. Suddenly, one of the squid is snatched from the water (a fish tank, it turns out). As its lover watches, the creature is packed on ice and loaded into a restaurant van. The tank-bound puss's eyes bulge, in classic animated-critter style, as the fate of its paramour becomes ominously clear. But love knows no obstacles, and the little fella (or lass?) flaps and flops its slimy way to the rescue.The creators deftly exploit the comic possibilities of octopus form, with squelches and suction cups galore. And they've hit upon an apt villain in the van driver—like so many...
  • Paper Fit for the Fanciest Fountain Pens

    A fountain pen is only as good as the paper it's used on. Bleeding ink, floating stains and seepage through the page are just a few of the hazards that can befall even the most luxurious writing instrument. Fortunately, there are a number of companies dedicated to supplying a platform worthy of the pen. The London stationer Smythson, established in 1887, holds royal warrants for the queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales. Its Nile-blue "featherweight paper", copyrighted in 1916, is quite fine yet does not let ink bleed through. Smythson also makes lambskin notebooks with floppy bindings known as Panamas, just like the hats.Crane, an American company founded in 1720, features 100 percent natural cotton fiber papers—a good alternative to trees. Among its top customers: England's late Queen Mother, who sent Crane invitations for her 100th birthday party in 2000. G. Lalo, the French stationer based in Paris since 1920 and owned by Clairefontaine, also offers papers made...
  • Style: Fountain Pens for Writing the Right Way

    As someone who looks deeply beneath the surface of things, I have been obsessed for some years by the great philosophical question: when did expensive pens become "prestige writing instruments?" I trace this development to the early 1990s, when two things happened. On a macrocosmic plane, the Internet and e-mail created a seismic shift in the way we communicate. Reason would suggest that the arrival of the Internet would have pealed the pen's death knell. But the world of luxury goods operates according to an almost perverse logic, whereby the moment technology threatens obsolescence, the law of elegant futility kicks in. So the proliferation of e-mail has been fabulous for ultraluxury pens, turning them into prestige writing instruments by liberating the correspondent from the need to communicate on paper and thereby making the use of a pen a choice.On a microcosmic level, the other event occurred when Hamburg-based Montblanc, run by Norbert Platt, opened a stand-alone shop in Hong...