Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today.
Indian men found guilty in fatal gang rape.
So far, 2013 has been a year of discontent for India's 1.2 billion population: the rupee is in free fall; politics is gridlocked; one of the nation's most sophisticated submarines exploded and sank; and tensions with Pakistan are heating up anew. But what has really sapped India's sense of confidence is a rash of brutal gang rapes that have made female tourists wary of visiting the country. Today, four men were found guilty of the fatal December attack on a student on a moving New Delhi bus -- a case that caused national outrage and drew attention to a surge in violence against women. India needs to do more to protect rural women who move to urban centers for a better life. That dynamic is, after all, a cornerstone of the India growth story.
Tokyo property gloom meets Olympic buzz.
It always was going to require an Olympian effort to end Tokyo's real estate funk after 20 years of steady declines. Even the Bank of Japan's move to double the monetary base did little to enliven property. So perhaps it is no surprise that it took Tokyo winning the 2020 Olympics to dispel some of the gloom. Prices in the Tokyo Bay area, where about 90 percent of the competition venues will be located, should lead the pack. Property valuer Sanyu Appraisal thinks prices could jump as much as 20 percent. Let the games begin!
Crafty China thwarts Obama's Asia pivot.
U.S. President Barack Obama's much-ballyhooed pivot toward Asia isn't just getting lost in translation, but bumping up against a formidable foe: Beijing. Granted, the White House has been distracted by events in the Middle East and navigating a recalcitrant Congress. But it’s time the U.S. proved its renewed focus on the world's most dynamic region is more than a hollow marketing campaign. Otherwise, China's 7 percent-plus growth and deep pockets will continue to keep Washington as far away from the Asian Century as it possibly can.
Asia is both too fat and too thin.
As economic paradoxes go, Asia's unhealthy relationship with food is a standout. Governments in the region tend to focus on the quantity of food. This narrow focus is missing a surge in obesity in a region that's also plagued with malnutrition. "Many developing countries in the region face the twin burdens of both under and over-nutrition," Asian Development Bank economist Cyn-Young Park argues in a new report. "Improving nutritional standards rather than just boosting calorie intake is essential if the region wants a secure and healthy food future."
Indiana Jones offends Indonesian minister.
Harrison Ford isn't making many friends in the world's fourth most populous nation. The "Indiana Jones" actor met with Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan in Jakarta as part of documentary on global warming in heavily-forested regions. Zulkifli took exception with Ford's contention that widespread logging was occurring in protected national parks. "He was emotional," Zulkifli told the Jakarta Post. "During the interview, his emotions ran high. I can understand his love for animals, the environment and rain forests, however." Still, you can bet the Hollywood star won't be the last on this crusade.
(William Pesek is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)