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Week in Review

This week’s big story was at the Vatican. Our take on the Conclave’s canny choice:

It appears that, among other qualities, he is a compromise between those still nostalgic for the long Italian stranglehold on the papacy (Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian Bishop of Rome since 1523) and those who want a more globalized leadership in the Church. He is as Italian as a foreigner can be.

With all this, though, comes political baggage. Most Cardinals from Europe these days have not had to cope with the political monsters running loose in much of the world. The selection of Benedict XVI, who came of age in Hitler’s Reich, raised some eyebrows, but generally speaking most European prelates these days haven’t had to exercise their ministries in countries run by murderous thugs. […]

Francis straddles more than just geographical divides. Doctrinally, he is as tough minded as his predecessor. Those expecting a new pope to ordain women, bless abortion, and allow gay priests to marry in St. Peter’s must brace themselves for disappointment. But what we know of Francis’s ministry in Argentina suggests that he knows that in Christianity doctrine, important as it may be, is not the heart of the matter. Christianity at the end of the day is about God’s all-forgiving, all-embracing, illimitable love. Love is the chocolate, doctrine is the box and the point of the doctrine is to protect the chocolate and keep it fresh for use, not to separate people from the feast God wants us to share. […]

Our other big essay came down hard on the ghastly collusion between urban machine politicians and Wall Street, and the high-minded progressives who look on as they fleece the poor:

…thieves like the despicable Kwame Kilpatrick in Detroit are anything but a racial phenomenon. There were Irish, Jewish, Italian, Polish and Greek Kilpatricks in their day. We can confidently expect a wave of Latino Kilpatricks as Latino voting power pushes African-American machines aside in more urban areas.

And there’s another thing American history teaches: unscrupulous politicians will find unscrupulous bankers who will float them abusive loans in exchange for fat fees.

If our so-called ‘progressives’ today weren’t so intellectually decadent and, well, historically challenged, they would be leading the charge to clean up American cities. Instead they are mostly silent — and sometimes even defend the machines.

Lots of Asian news this week. As the Chinese Communist Party-affiliated newspaper thundered that “Japan must recognize Beijing’s will”, a report was released showing that Asia is spending more on defense than Europe as a whole—including non-NATO countries. Are those the Guns of August we’re hearing?

As the world marked the two year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, we defended nuclear power as a clean and—if deployed correctly—safe energy source. We noted China’s struggles in getting its shale boom off the ground, and looked at Japan’s strides towards exploiting “fire ice,” a harbinger of another energy revolution. Meanwhile, the lame duck leaders of Pakistan and Iran agreed to build a pipeline between their countries, though we thought the move was more a PR stunt than anything else.

China’s society is changing fast. We highlighted a story about how the country’s long tradition of matchmaking is getting an update for the 21st century. And we mused that China’s newly entitled generation of “little emperors” surely must be making Beijing’s leaders nervous.

‘News’ out of Europe feels more like Groundhog’s Day with each passing week. There are no heroes in this movie, though. Only knaves and fools. Merkel gave Hollande an “F” for effort after France was unable to live up to the EU’s budget deficit rules. But at least Europe’s leaders are starting to realize that their green policies were ill-conceived: they backed down from a great green trade war, and a leaked document shows that Europe’s long-term green goals are being reconsidered in favor of pro-growth policies.

In the Middle East, Qatar cut Cairo off as the Egyptian economy continued to spiral down the toilet, just as a poll noted that Americans’ distrust of Egypt hit a twenty-year high. The UN was doing what it does best, telling those naughty Syrian rebels to behave themselves. Meanwhile, another UN report suggested that a Palestinian rocket—not an Israeli one, as originally reported—killed baby Omar last November. When it comes to the truth, better late than never, we guess.

Finally, Obamacare: the bill we had to pass in order to find out what was in it. It raises  premiums for the young. It sticks businesses with job-killing fees for insuring its employees. And it’s got a neat little adverse selection bug baked in: employers with healthier workforces are choosing to self-insure, leaving an older and sicker population to participate in the mandated exchanges.

But while we continue to struggle with the policy side of healthcare, researchers are to making strides that may very well remake the healthcare industry. Telepresence advances are giving new meaning to the words “doctors without borders.” While you’re wrapping your head around that, start getting comfortable with the idea of robosurgeons. Domo arigato, doctor roboto.

[Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

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