I am back and scatterbrained. However, in my absence, such nuggets of goodness have accumulated in the browser and inbox that I have much to share. Thanks to April and the Scrivener especially. While I was narrowly focused on the trivia of local landscapes, the international world blazed with interest.
1) British expats who've retired to the cheap, sunny eastern coast of Spain are losing their patience for being repeatedly gassed in their homes and robbed by feuding international criminal gangs while unconscious. Do tell. Vigilante patrols are the result. (Registration to the Telegraph may be necessary to read this, but the process isn't too intrusive and worthwhile since their content is reliably provocative.) Do you think that Europeans might ever become concerned enough with the condition of their own communities that they stop ignoring decay or fainting into the spindly arms of the Barney Fife-like state at every sign of lawlessness?
2) Since you've already registered, you can read this piece by Mark Steyn on the fascinatingly and innately camoflaged nature of Chinese society and how the Communist Party may yet puncture the illusion of the industrial powerhouse. This reminds me of a friend from Hong Kong who described to me how schoolgirls from the wealthiest families had special silks and even fur sewn into the linings of their uniforms. The richness was for secret and personal delectation, not public knowledge. This canny reticence about revealing the true nature of things is inculcated from childhood, and only underscores how confident prediction about the future of this world power defies the prudent.
3) HA! And HA again! It's unkind to dwell on I-Told-Yous while people suffer needlessly, but I applaud the Canadian Supreme Court's landmark decision slamming their national health care. George Zeliotis of Quebec, a patriot in my view, was denied replacement of a painfully arthritic hip for a year (shades of Sweden's Prime Minister anyone?) and was also informed that it was illegal to leave the coutry for health care or to pay for surgery through private insurance. Instead of quietly skirting the system as so many do- including Canada's Prime Minister who visits a private clinic- Zeliotis took a stand and sued. Canada is the only nation besides Cuba and North Korea to ban private insurance. You'd think the company alone would give the Canucks pause. Noting the deficiencies of quality and timely treatment endemic to their system, the court determined that "access to a waiting list is not access to health care." Three of the seven judges actually wanted to declare the entire national health-care system unconstitutional. This is progress.
As an exercise in contrast, read Michael Barone's article about how in the current American marketplace, HSAs (Health Savings Accounts) are being rapidly adopted by businesses despite Congress' impotent wrangling over absolutely everything. I suppose we should be grateful that while they're deadlocked, they can't make anything worse. Meanwhile, affordable, self-directed health coverage, especially for serious conditions, is quickly and measurably increasing for Americans while overall costs have begun to drop.
4) What would a newscast be without ending on a wacky kicker? In that spirit, I give you an international update from Nigeria where local businesspeople attended seminars at the new Abuja Sheraton ("the running water was a nice touch!) to enhance their effectiveness in e-mail marketing. Topics included:
Are 10 Million e-mails a day Too Many?
Grammatical Errors: What's the Optimal Number?
The effectiveness of using all UPPERCASE letters
With a continental breakfast of two slices of bread, a hard-boiled egg, and a cricket, this five-star event was a slam dunk. More details here.