walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Week In Review

The big news last week was the death of Kim Jong-Il. Fond of speculating on North Korean politics, the media was of course in high gear trying to figure out what comes next for the Hermit Kingdom. No one knows, though a week after the Great Leader departed this world, he seems to have left his house in order. Certainly everyone who disagrees is immediately shot.  As choreographed grief rituals testified to the continuing horror and weirdness of the regime (“Cry, or we’ll give you something to cry about”), the Outstanding Leader seems to be following the Dear Leader in the footsteps of the Great Leader on the road to Hell.

Other important events took place in Asia last week. The Wukan protestors vowed, then canceled, a big march as Chinese officials wisely bowed before the winds, for now. What Beijing does seem to be struggling with, on the other hand, is the economy. There is trouble on the horizon. Plus, the long-predicted housing bust might have already occurred. The biggest, though most underreported, news from Asia last week was the meeting in Washington between representatives of the US, Japan, and India. A new entente has emerged to promote security and cooperation in the Pacific. Elsewhere, Pakistan’s political leaders are at each others’ throats, while Japan chose the American-made Lockheed F-35 to revitalize its air force.

In the Middle East, Egypt is struggling with little food and a bad economy. As one Via Meadia contributor noted on a recent trip down the Nile, there are very few tourists in the country and many workers in that industry are nostalgic for the stability of old. Meanwhile, as international concern about the Iranian nuclear program continues to rise, Leon Panetta strongly indicated that President Obama won’t back down if push comes to shove. The Assad regime continued what looks more and more like its death spiral, with the country increasingly spinning out of control. Political trouble also returned to Iraq, with an uncomfortable bang.

French citizens, it turns out, aren’t fat because they are dead; a popular prescription weight loss drug widely used there has been causing heart failure and other problems for years. Paris also made an enemy in Anatolia when the French government made denial of the Armenian genocide a crime. Elsewhere in Europe, the ECB embarked on huge lending spree, and Scots nationalists are pushing with renewed vigor to break up. South Carolinians are jealous. Perhaps the most depressing news from Europe last week are the reports on the fascist-leaning government in Hungary.

Here in the US, the foxes write the chicken house rules: Congress and Wall Street insiders scratch each others’ backs, and Congress writes laws to make sure the whole dirty game stays legal.  So that’s all right, then.

In education news, e-textbooks and online classes are changing American schooling, while No Child Left Behind melts down.

There was also some religion news: Italian researchers announced the Shroud of Turin must have received its image of Christ from a supernatural source, while Christianity becomes a global religion superpower. Despite this, Egyptian Christians are in trouble.

Merry Christmas to most (78 percent of US residents tell pollsters they are Christians) and happy holidays to the rest.  Via Meadia will be posting its traditional Yule Blog during the holiday season, a kind of Introduction to Christmas as Christians have historically understood it.

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