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August isn’t what it used to be

Foreign Policy: Offshore wells are sinking Petrobras. NYT: Independent researchers find that access to Gulf oil spill is limited. The Guardian: Mideast peace talks are bound to fail.


Offshore wells are sinking Brazil’s Petrobras

Eric Lukas writes in Foreign Policy that Brazil’s push to rapidly develop its offshore oil fields is taxing the resources of state-owned oil company Petrobras, whose stock has plummeted. The extreme depth of Brazil’s offshore oil deposits, and the recent BP gulf tragedy, raise environmental concerns as well.

QUOTE: …a growing mountain of debt at Petrobras, the country's national oil company, and the BP oil spill are leading investors, economists, and other commentators to have second thoughts about the country's oil rush.

The U.K. health service denies payment for expensive treatments

In an editorial, The Telegraph writes that the British National Health Service’s decision to bar payment for high-cost drugs has created a situation in which only the rich will have access to certain treatments. A better solution would be to cut waste in the system, and share drug expense with private insurers.

QUOTE: It is hard to argue that someone should not be given life-saving treatment because the NHS does not have the money when it is spending hundreds of millions on management consultants…

Independent researchers find that access to Gulf oil spill is limited

Linda Hooper-Bui, a professor of entomology at Louisiana State University, argues in the New York Times that private researchers are being denied information on the Gulf oil spill and access to many affected sites. She fears that BP is attempting to prevent the collection of objective data on the spill to minimize its liability in the accident.

QUOTE: Some suspect that the oil company is focusing its research on gathering material to support its legal case; we can’t know for sure, though, because researchers who get money from BP must sign strict three-year confidentiality agreements.

The U.N.’s human rights report plays politics

A Wall Street Journal editorial attacks the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Right’s recent report as reflecting the political prejudices of the commission as much as actual human rights issues. The report, which allows countries to rank their own human rights records, allows Iran to praise its record while the U.S. criticizes its own.

QUOTE: For many years, the cause of human rights has been systematically corrupted by people who cannot distinguish between the rights themselves and their own political hobbyhorses.

 Mideast peace talks are bound to fail

Carlo Strenger writes in the Guardian that upcoming Mideast peace talks are likely to end in failure because Israeli and Palestinian demands remain too far apart for compromise to be reached. The most viable path to peace, writes Strenger, will be for the Palestinians to unilaterally declare independence.

QUOTE: The only scenario that could conceivably lead to positive results is the option that [Palestinian Prime Minister Salam] Fayyad has been working towards in recent years by improving enormously on Palestinian governance…After the talks fail, Palestinians will unilaterally declare a state…and seek international recognition…

 A smaller Diet won’t improve Japan’s health

In an editorial, the Japan Times argues that the push to reduce the number of Diet seats in order to reduce government expenditure is ill conceived. A smaller parliament will have less ability to interact with Japan’s heavy governmental bureaucracy, and the move would reduce the influence of minority opinion.

QUOTE: The parties calling for seat reductions have forgotten that Diet members are representatives of the voters. They should try to explain how reducing the number of Diet members would strengthen democracy in Japan.

Iran’s civilian nuclear success highlights the failure of the U.S.’s Iran policy

In Foreign Policy, Jamie Fly writes that the fueling of Iran’s Bushehr civilian nuclear reactor actually highlights the failure of the U.S. to push effective policy to address Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which appears to be advancing unabated.

QUOTE: Bushehr should remind us, however, that as Iran develops its capabilities in the nuclear sphere, we face an increasingly small window of time before an Iranian nuclear weapon becomes a reality.

The animal rights movement makes progress with the food industry

The China Post writes that the once radicalized animal protection movement has become more mainstream as it has shifted its focus towards combating animal abuse in industrial food processing, and away from a push for vegetarianism. Recent concessions by food processors in the U.S. show the strategy is working.

QUOTE: Farmers have had to accept that as people's understanding of morality changes, certain practices that are perhaps the most cost efficient have to be abandoned.

Pakistan faces a void of leadership

The Telegraph’s Con Coughlin writes that Pakistan’s military, which has historically seized control of the country in times of crisis, has chosen to stay on the sidelines even as the government’s inadequate response to flooding has caused discontent to rise. The military is showing caution following the recent ouster of Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

QUOTE: In a country where most of the agricultural wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few feudal landlords, the misery being experienced by millions of dispossessed and impoverished citizens is inevitably going to stoke the fires of dissent.

August vacation isn’t what it used to be

Chris Patten, the last British Governor of Hong Kong, writes in Project Syndicate of the conflicting forces of progress and nostalgia. Even as urban dwellers flock to old rural towns to vacation, they increasingly use technology to remain attached to their workaday lives.

QUOTE: Defining progress in ways that make it sustainable and allow us to maintain the best of the past is difficult. Opposition to globalization and market forces has often been the preferred way of trying to hang on to an idealized view of what life used to be like.