Opinion

The Great Debate

Harry’s still Potter-ing around, but Hermione is my true hero

 CHILDREN READ THE NEW HARRY POTTER BOOK AFTER ITS RELEASE IN SYDNEY.

Last week, Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling broke the Internet. Or rather, she broke the website Pottermore, a hub for her fans, when she posted a short new story about the boy who reshaped young adult literature and defined popular culture for a decade.

The story is set 20 years after the major events of the books and one year after the much-maligned epilogue to the final book. It updates readers on what the series’ major characters have been doing with their lives, and gives them a glimpse of how the wizarding world has and hasn’t changed since readers were last submerged in it. The excitement and interest were too great for the site’s servers to bear, and they crashed. Never underestimate the power of Harry Potter fandom.

For me, the most interesting piece of new information was about Rowling’s brainy heroine, Hermione Granger. What has Hermione Granger been doing with her life? She’s been running the world.

In February, Rowling caused a stir when she confessed that she regretted a major plot point in the final book: the eventual union and marriage of Hermione with Harry’s best friend Ron. Throughout the second half of the series, the pair engage in a lot of will-they-won’t-they before admitting in the final book that they love each other, and finding the courage to do something about it. With hindsight, Rowling said, Hermione ought to have ended up with Harry.

As a young woman who grew up with Hermione as a major literary role model — for me, she has a place alongside Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Shirley and Jo March as one of the fictional women who most influenced me as a girl — I was frustrated by Rowling’s ruminations about her characters’ romantic coupling. If I could have asked Rowling one question about Hermione, it wouldn’t have been whether or not she ended up with the right man. It would have been whether or not she made good on the professional ambition she expresses in the final book: “I’m hoping to do some good in the world.”

To keep kids from our borders, fix things farther south

Detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility, in Brownsville

Despite their differences on almost everything else, President Barack Obama and Texas Governor Rick Perry agree that the unlawful migration of more than 50,000 Central American children to the United States is a humanitarian crisis. Some members of Congress and U.S. military leaders label it a security crisis. Whatever it’s called, it is an emergency that requires immediate attention.

But the United States and the Central American countries that the children are fleeing have to address the violence and chaos they seek to escape if this wave isn’t to be followed by another one all too soon. That message is contained in the Obama administration’s urgent request to Congress for $3.7 billion to deal with this emergency, though it doesn’t say what the underlying causes are or include more than a sliver of resources to address them.

It is not hard to identify the roots of the current crisis. Most of the underage migrants come from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where living conditions are close to intolerable for much of the population. In addition to being among the most economically backward nations, the three are plagued by some of the world’s highest rates of homicide and other violence. Regular employment at living wages is scarce. Government services are woefully inadequate and scarred by pervasive corruption.

Pentagon’s big budget F-35 fighter ‘can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run’

A F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is seen at the Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River

Americans should be worried.

The U.S. military has grounded all its new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters following an incident on June 23, when one of the high-tech warplanes caught fire on the runway of a Florida air base. The no-fly order — which affects at least 50 F-35s at training and test bases in Florida, Arizona, California and Maryland — began on the evening of July 3 and continued through July 11.

All those F-35s sitting idle could be a preview of a future in which potentially thousands of the Pentagon’s warplanes can’t reliably fly.

Handout photo of three F-35 Joint Strike Fighters flying over Edwards Air Force BaseTo be fair, the Pentagon routinely grounds warplanes on a temporary basis following accidents and malfunctions to buy investigators time to identify problems and to give engineers time to fix them.

from Breakingviews:

German soccer glory was predictable – with luck

By Robert Cole

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Brazil’s World Cup was first-rate entertainment thanks to its many surprising results. For its part Breakingviews, also somewhat surprisingly, predicted that Germany would win the competition as long ago as last Christmas.

Many media pundits, and some respected financial institutions such as investment bank Goldman Sachs or global accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers, also braved the World Cup prediction challenge. They deployed a dizzying variety of sporting and non-sporting criteria. The consensus was that Brazil, the host nation, would triumph.

A missed opportunity to ease tensions with China

Chinese Premier Li speaks to U.S. Treasury Secretary Lew next to U.S. Secretary of State Kerry during a meeting at the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing

Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew traveled to Beijing this week for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue, at a time when U.S.-China tensions are running higher than at any point in the past decade. Though each country’s bureaucrats were able to put on a good face and paper over significant disagreements, they were unable to make progress on any major security or economic issue.

Unfortunately, the U.S. administration passed up a chance to advance and elevate the U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty, an agreement that sets the rules of the road for cross-border investment. Doing so could have yielded major economic benefits and had positive spillover effects on the strategic issues vexing both countries. But now, with little for the two sides to hang their hats on, the relationship is ripe for more tension.

A year ago, when President Barack Obama met with new Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Sunnylands Ranch in California, the two laid out an ambitious agenda, agreeing to discuss contentious cyber issues, the need to increase pressure on North Korea, and more broadly chart a positive course for the world’s most important bilateral relationship.

LeBron James, the best basketball player on the planet, is taking his ball and going home

RTR3TIJS.jpg On Friday, LeBron James announced his decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, spurning the Miami Heat and sending shockwaves through the NBA. For Cleveland, a sports town routinely snakebitten, it’s hard to overstate the importance of this moment. When James, famously took “his talents to South Beach” in 2010, jilted fans burned jerseys in the streets like letters from an ex-girlfriend. Traitor, they called him, and much worse. The team’s owner penned a childishly angry, all-caps Comic Sans letter condemning the Akron, Ohio, native.

None of that vitriol went away as James won two titles with Miami and became the undisputed best player in the game.

But now he’s back, and with James and rookie Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, Cleveland has arguably sports’ two most-talked-about athletes. The spotlight shines bright on Northeast Ohio, where, as James said in his announcement through Sports Illustrated, “nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.”

The politician in James understands the need to coax the community back to embracing him, but from the looks of the spontaneous public celebrations throughout Cleveland, he needn’t have bothered.

U.S. spying on Germany: Making enemies out of allies, and for what?

German Chancellor Merkel attends a session of Bundestag in Berlin

What were they thinking?

In the wake of last fall’s revelation that the National Security Agency had wiretapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone, the report of U.S. intelligence’s involvement in two other likely cases of spying on Germany is mind-boggling.

Now the story has taken a dramatic new turn, with Germany expelling the CIA chief of station in Berlin — an almost unprecedented step by an ally. This unusual action reflects how seriously the Merkel government takes these spying allegations.

What could the CIA hope to gain by infiltrating the BND, the German Federal Intelligence Service, knowing there was a chance that the operation might be exposed? What was worth this risk?

from Breakingviews:

Does Italian capitalism prove that Darwin was right?

By Rob Cox

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

A procession of Italian industrialists and financiers slipped through the alleyways behind La Scala opera house two weeks ago to discuss the legacy of the man whose name adorns the piazza outside the building where they met: Enrico Cuccia. The group, ranging from a former Treasury minister to an iconoclastic fashion mogul, shared stories of the founder of Mediobanca, who’d passed away 14 years to the day. Yet for all the nostalgia that afternoon, absent was any obvious desire to turn back the clock to the days when Mediobanca was the unchallenged puppet-master of Italian business.

That’s surprising given the parlous state of corporate Italy. The uno-due punch of the financial and sovereign debt calamities has thrust the establishment into a profound crisis, one even more sweeping than the Tangentopoli corruption scandal that two decades ago sent dozens of Italy’s top businessmen and politicians into Milan’s San Vittore prison. The uniquely Italian form of capitalism conceived by Cuccia after World War Two is at last being consigned to history.

Netanyahu hopes to avoid Gaza ground operation. Why he might order one anyway.

An Israeli soldier rests atop a tank stationed on a field outside the central Gaza Strip

To understand whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to send ground troops into Gaza, it might help to scrutinize one of his decisions from this week.

While the Islamic Hamas group pummeled Israel with rockets and took deadly hits from Israeli warplanes, the cabinet announced that it had authorized the army to mobilize 40,000 reservists – a huge force by any measure.

A large operation against Hamas would certainly involve reservists. But when Israel genuinely prepares for military campaigns, it does so quietly, often censoring information about call ups and imposing gag orders on journalists.

Want energy independence? Keep the nuclear option and limit exports

RTR3A6M6.jpg

Whether or not you follow the energy markets, it’s very likely you’ve heard the phrase “U.S. energy independence” at one time or another in recent years. Yet the very notion that the United States can be completely self-sufficient when it comes to supplying our domestic need for energy consumption is seriously flawed for a number of reasons ranging from population growth, pure economics, a lack of public policy and a dated permitting process vital to commercialize new energy projects. Collectively, this should have Americans questioning whether U.S. power production can be enough to completely eliminate the need for foreign energy sources.

[poll id="2"]The biggest use for energy is electricity. Using 2013 data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), in order to produce electricity in the United States, we used a total of 4,058,209 thousand megawatt-hours last year of which 39 percent was supplied from coal, 27 percent from natural gas, 19 percent came from nuclear, 7 percent from hydropower, 6 percent from other renewables, 1 percent from petroleum and less than 1 percent from other gases. So, despite the Obama administration’s efforts to help fight carbon emissions, coal still dominates in the United States. In fact, according to a recent EIA Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), the allure of cheaper coal has actually fostered its greater use to offset an increase in natural gas prices.

Coal, of course, releases an enormous amount of carbon dioxide when it’s burned.

  •