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Week in Review

Europe loomed large in the news this week amid all sorts of economic and political turbulence. Whoever wins the presidency in France will likely be at the head of the anti-austerity and anti-reform movement, which looks to be a political winner across much of the continent. But the triumph of the rejectionists may be pyrrhic, as the economic consequences won’t be pretty. The other Europeans can pass all the resolutions they want saying Germany should give them more walking around money, but none of that can force Angela Merkel to write checks that her voters oppose.

Otherwise, the news for Europe was bleak. Witness how American companies continue to outperform their European counterparts, and how the Chinese have already shifted their focus from Brussels to Berlin.

The Chinese, for their part, have their hands full in their own back yard. Secretary Clinton is preparing for a trip to Beijing for what could end up being an unusually momentous ministerial meeting coming on the heels of a spring of discontent for China’s leaders. And China’s Spring of Horrors continued. It was revealed that Bo Xilai (whose son recently gave an unhelpful statement to the Harvard Crimson), was running massive wiretapping operations which included top Party officials among its targets. A report by the International Crisis Group suggested that China’s policy in the South China Sea is more shaped by bureaucratic infighting than geopolitical calculations. And China’s sole remaining ally in the region, to whom President Hu Jintao just reaffirmed his country’s support, may be severely bluffing when it comes to military prowess.

Things were getting heated between Turkey and Iraq this week, as the two countries’ leaders exchanged pointed barbs. The proximate cause was an emboldened and increasingly independent-minded Iraqi Kurdistan, which has been cozying up to neighboring powers. Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr visited the region, ostensibly to calm the crisis, but also perhaps as a signal to Maliki that his days in power may be numbered.  Also of note in the Middle East: President Obama expanded the drone assassination program in Yemen, following through on the formerly-known-as-GWOT program of his predecessor. And the inconclusive talks with Iran were given a cautious stamp of approval by Thomas Pickering, one of America’s most experienced diplomats, but nobody was saying the crisis is over.

Back in the USA, we ran long essays on the return of the death panels in health care, on academia’s analysis of the blogosphere, and on the troubling new trend of internship-selling. As the campaign season continued to ramp up in earnest, we saw both Obama and Romney pander to students by promising to keep student loan interest rates artificially low for another year. The real problem is inflated college costs that force students to over-borrow in the first place; it’s this kind of cynical micro-politicking which is contributing to Americans’ disillusionment with both parties.  Two interesting politics-related poll results caused us to prick up our ears: Half of America thinks that regulation makes society less fair. And Gallup found that Americans expect to retire later and have insufficient funds when they do. This can’t be welcome news at the White House.

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