The Best of the Economist, March 2013

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Once they start laughing at you, you’re throughIt has not been a good couple of weeks for the Office québécois de la langue française, the Quebec government body charged with ensuring that French remains the dominant language in the largely French-speaking Canadian province. Over-zealous application of the law by its inspectors, known in English as the language police, subjected the office to so much international ridicule that on March 8th its head was forced to step down.

The end of Google ReaderSpring cleaning has a lot to commend it. But when Google announced that it is binning its Reader, which aggregates information from websites’ news feeds, tech types around the world erupted in righteous fury. Many websites which have come to depend on the service to power their news feeds now fret that Google’s decision will cost them millions of readers—and with that lots of advertising revenue. Users, meanwhile, worry about impending newslessness.

Barack Obama in Israel: A corker of a speech“A speech is just a speech,” one particularly blasé Israeli peacenik remarked in the wake of Barack Obama’s address to Israeli students in Jerusalem on March 21st. Her hard-nosed observation was incontrovertible. But so was the fact—as this writer ascertained in unscientific polling—that the American president’s elegant, empathetic rhetoric brought tears, literally, to the eyes of many other Israelis who yearn for an end to the conflict with the Palestinians. Just a speech, yes. But a corker of a speech.

Small island, big fingerCall it the cussedness of an island nation. Beneath the cheeriness of Aphrodite’s sun-kissed island lies the intransigence of the Balkans and the Middle East. On the eve of its accession to the European Union in 2004, the Greek-Cypriot republic rejected a UN plan to reunite with the Turkish-Cypriot north, where the plan was supported. Within the club the Greek-Cypriot government has used and abused EU institutions to wage its feud with Turkey and to lend support to Russia.

The Real DisneyIn 1996 Warner Brothers released “Space Jam”, a film starring Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan, a basketball star. It drew sniffy reviews from curmudgeonly critics but made pots of money. The plot was wildly implausible: Mr Jordan and Mr Bunny beat a team of evil aliens at basketball, thus saving everyone from having to work at an alien theme park called Moron Mountain. But that’s fiction. In real life, sports stars and cartoon characters would never work well together.



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