Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today:
Thailand's babe brigade.
The generals running Thailand want Thais to be happy -- or at least supremely distracted. Among other steps, the junta is rolling out a small army of scantily-clad ladies donning camouflage chic to entertain onlookers. Also, according to this Wall Street Journal piece, it's opening a bunch of "reconciliation centers" around the nation that will organize street events featuring female dancers and free food and drinks. I guess it's their way of saying we've taken away your right to vote, but not your right to party.
Case against climate change progress.
Ezra Klein is a climate-change skeptic -- not the science, but man's ability to muster the will and resources to reverse its effects. Much as I'd love to disagree with the Vox.com journalist, it's hard to refute his seven reasons why American politicians and voters alike will fail the biggest challenge of the 21st century: keeping our planet inhabitable. Klein is right that "we've waited so long that what America needs to do is really, really hard and maybe impossible," "we're bad at sacrificing now to benefit later" and Republicans have "gone off the rails" on this issue. But equally compelling, the international cooperation needed may be impossible. Without China and India on board, Washington's efforts will be small beer.
A Chinese Monroe Doctrine?
China's numerous territorial disputes have Jaswant Singh thinking back to the Monroe Doctrine, America's keep-out-of-our-backyard warning to Europe in the early 19th century. To Singh, a former Indian minister of finance, foreign affairs and defense, China's land grabs echo that period and pose leaders with unprecedented challenges in the age of live television and heightened military capabilities. That goes, too, for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faces his own sovereignty troubles with Beijing. "Subordination to China is certainly not Modi’s goal," Singh writes. "The question is whether he can work with China and other Asian actors to design an alternative framework for regional peace."
Japan finally says kiddie porn is bad.
Hard as it may be to believe, Japan is only now getting around to banning the possession of child pornography, one of the last industrialized nations to do so. For the last 15 years, it's been illegal to produce and distribute kiddie porn, but okay to amass reams of it at home. This is a victory for the United Nations Children’s Fund, which since 2008 has denounced Tokyo's out-of-step failure to act. Less so for the very young victims of a thriving industry Japan tolerated for way too long.
Setback for Jakarta's anti-graft push?
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's appointment of Lukman Hakim Saifuddin as new religious affairs minister isn't sitting well with anti-corruption activists. According to Indonesia Corruption Watch, a ministry thought to be among the dirtiest in the fourth-most populous nation deserves a more qualified appointee than Lukman, a politician who hails from the United Development Party. A sign Yudhoyono's anti-graft push has fizzled as he leaves office this year? I certainly hope not.
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