Kevin Rudd's Unintentional Chinese Orgasm

Noticed chilly relations between Australia and China recently? According to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the problem may have deep roots. As he recounted yesterday to university students about an early experience in his diplomatic career:"Apparently, what I'd said as I sought to elevate his expression into a more classical form, was that China and Australia are currently experiencing fantastic mutual orgasm," he said, delivering a speech late Thursday."Ever since then, our Chinese friends have...

On Berlusconi Libel Suit, a Modest Suggestion

Say what you will about him, but Silvio Berlusconi is a man of his word. This morning, the 72-year-old Italian prime minister's lawyer announced that Berlusconi is making good on his promise to pursue legal action against the myriad media outlets that have delighted in publishing photos and accounts of sexual antics that would make Jean-Claude Van Damme blush.

Bernie Madoff, Little Man in the Big House?

Just imagine the rumors swirling around a certain medium-security prison in Butner, NC right now. This morning, via the New York Post, we learned that legendary Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff is dying of cancer, befriending the prison's "homosexual posse," and stripping off his shirt to participate in Native American religious purification ceremonies at a "sweat lodge." We also learned that some prisoners are regularly cooking sandwich wraps for him.Then this afternoon we learned via the federal...

The Rise and Fall of the Mercenary Formerly Known as Blackwater

Poor Blackwater. They've tried a name change. They've kept a low profile. But still, they can't seem to keep themselves out of trouble.Just when you think our days of howling over the misdeeds of private mercenary armies are behind us, the New York Times goes and exposes even more of their failings.

Mike Huckabee, the Settlements, and the One-State Crowd

Just call him Huckabee the Macabee. That's the nickname former (future?) Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee earned himself this week, after he essentially nixed the widely accepted goal of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine dispute.

High Marks for U.S. in Africa, But Clinton's Trip No Cakewalk

If she felt so inclined, Hillary Clinton could probably take it easy in Africa this week. That's what the numbers seem to imply, anyway. U.S. leaders enjoy some of their highest job performance ratings there, up even further from their dizzying heights during the Bush administration, according to a Gallup poll released Monday.In Kenya, for example, where she kicks off her seven-country tour of the continent on Wednesday, 93 percent of the population approves of U.S. leadership.

Eliot Spitzer on the Cuomo Report: Serve Subpoenas

You might have heard about a little report from New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo this morning. With all the subtlety of a sledgehammer─it's titled No Rhyme or Reason: The 'Heads I Win, Tails You Lose' Bank Bonus Culture, for chrissakes─it gives the most detailed accounting to date of the Wall Street bonus fiasco, showing that, as they were losing billions, a whopping 4,793 lucky folks took home bonuses of $1 million or more last year.It's grist for the rage mill, to be sure, but is it...

UNDP to Arab World: Make Stuff, Not War

Generally speaking, the UN gets low points for shock value on the Arab Human Development report it released today, the gist of which can be reduced to war = insecurity = bad for business.

What's Behind Those Mysterious Billions in Bank Profits

These last couple of days, my inbox has been filling up with news alerts announcing glistening second-quarter profits at the banks everyone loves to hate: $3.4 billion at Goldman Sachs, $2.7 billion at JP Morgan, $3.2 billion at BofA.I like a good economic recovery as much as the next guy, but it seems a little too good to be true, doesn't it?

Roubini to the Street: Chill Out

Even Dr. Doom seemed to be all sunshine and lollipops yesterday. Nouriel Roubini, one of the few economists to accurately predict the magnitude of the economic crisis, told a Chilean investors' conference in New York that "the freefall of the economy" is over. "There is light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "And the light at the end of the tunnel for once is not the one of an incoming train." You can probably guess what happened from there.

Word on the Street: Summers at Peterson on Friday

The White House has a release out this morning announcing that Larry Summers will take the stage at the Peterson Institute for International Economics this Friday to deliver a progress report on the economic crisis.

First They Came For the Economists...

But in China, it seems, a few hundred people are saying something. A 39-year-old Uighar scholar named Ilham Tohti vanished from his home last week after officials accused his website, Uighar Online, of serving as a platform to stir up civil unrest.

Why Kenya's Political Violence Tanked Its Prostitution Sector?

As both Rana and Barrett have written in the past few days, there are plenty of good reasons to keep an eye on the Uighar protests in China. At the top of our list is the hunch that political unrest, even in an economically isolated area like western China, can have a delayed but distinct ripple effect on a country's economic stability.

Confessions of an Econoholic

Building models one does not really believe to be useful or relevant. Making simplifications that obscure or omit important things. Using data one does not really believe in.

Argentina's Next Power Brokers?

Francisco de Narváez is not the sort of person you'd expect to build a political platform around the idea of normalcy. He's a Colombian-born businessman with a big black tattoo on his neck who inherited the family supermarket chain back in the '90s, then built it into a business empire, with stakes in agriculture, clothing stores, and even Argentina's leading newspaper, Clarin.

BofA Refinancing: Bank Lending Goes Meta

The good news? The credit markets are loosening up and banks are lending again. The bad news? They're lending to themselves. Bank of America and other banks are pumping $1.28 billion into the ailing bank's state-of-the-art ultra-green skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, more than the original amount secured for the building's construction.

Economic Recovery? CEOs May Be Selling It, But They Ain't Buying It

Add this bit to the mounting evidence against the green shoots theory: corporate executives are dumping their share holdings faster than they can say "we've hit bottom and are poised for growth."According to a new report from California-based investment research firm TrimTabs, corporate insiders--the bigwigs required to disclose their personal finances to the SEC--bought less and sold more in April, May and June alike.

Basta on the Argentine Coin Stories

I love the story about Argentina's mysterious shortage of coins, or . It's a fun little tale about a bizarre trend, complete with quirky subplots; governments fudging inflation data, coin-rich metro bus companies, which only accept payment in coins, supporting a whole black market.