News from Asia this week was dominated by the trial of Bo Xilai, who surprised observers by denying the charges against him and claiming before the court that he was framed. Yet despite the initial shock it appears the the Communist Party still has the situation under control. Elsewhere, Chinese President Xi Jinping continued his turn toward Maoism in a leaked document decrying “constitutional democracy” and “human rights.” Meanwhile, China appears to be running out of clean water, stoking a crisis that could have serious implications for the rest of the region. Japan was also feisty this week, flexing its muscles with military exercises at the foot of Mt. Fuji while a nationalist group sailed a flotilla around the disputed Senkaku Islands. India, meanwhile, has been beset with economic difficulties as the rupee hit record lows while the price of onions skyrocketed. In Pakistan, former President Pervez Musharraf was indicted on murder charges.
News from the Middle East focused on the chaos in Egypt, where the foreign minister’s remarks have touched of a debate in Washington over whether America should cut off aid to the country. At home, however, the military’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood appears to have been quite effective, and the military remains relatively popular with the Egyptian public. Meanwhile, Christians in Egypt continue to be persecuted in large numbers. In Syria, a chemical weapons attack in Damascus is the latest sign that Assad is testing the resolve of the US and other western powers, whose response thus far has been indecisive. Meanwhile, the Syrian conflict continues to spill into Lebanon, where two mosques were bombed in the northern city of Tripoli. Israel spent much of the week debating whether to send is natural gas through a pipeline through Turkey, but Erdogan’s antisemitic comments aren’t doing his country any favors.
On the home front, New York, California and Illinois are leading the nation in income flight as working people leave these states for greener pastures elsewhere, taking their tax dollars with them. And despite one year of high investment returns, pension liaiblities continue to be a massive problem for cities: Detroit’s pension funds are still betting their future on keeping the city out of bankruptcy, while 200 New York cities and towns are being sucked into the pension crisis.
Obama released the outlines of a new higher-ed reform plan this week, and while it has many promising ideas, the finished product ultimately misses the mark. Meanwhile, student loan debt continues to be a massive problem: Matt Taibbi wrote an alarming exposé of the abuses of the federal loan system, which is no small matter as over half of all college students now receive some form of federal aid. In elementary schools, the Vietnamese education system suggests that we could be doing much more to teach children programming at a younger age.
The biggest energy news of the week came from Mexico, where President Peña debuted the country’s new energy reform. The plan has already stirred up some opposition, but it’s looking more and more likely that some sort of change is imminent. Elsewhere, Ohio has become the next front in the US shale boom, California’s carbon market has hit some speed bumps, and one of the largest wind turbine producers in the world has fallen on hard times.
It’s been a rough week for Obamacare—on account of the law, local governments are cutting back on employee hours, UPS is cutting back on coverage for employee’s spouses, and California appears set to miss its deadline for the rollout of its online exchanges. And September is poised to be even worse. Even the one bright spot, the slowdown in health care price increases, seems to have more to do with high-deductible plans than Obamacare itself. Not all health care news was bad, though: the NHS has given non-doctors the ability to prescribe medicines to their patients without a doctor’s supervision.
[Supporters of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak chant slogans and wave his portrait outside the Police Academy ahead of his trial on August, 25 2013 in Cairo. Photo courtesy Getty Images.]