Nuclear Standoff
March 12, 2010

As is often the case with tales of great discovery, the details of how buried treasure came to be found beneath the rolling countryside of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, have grown a little gauzy over the last 30 years. But here is the story as the prospectors tell it. One day, in March 1979, a man named Byrd Berman, a geologist by training, was driving down a road through cattle pastures when the scintillometer sitting on the dashboard of his Hertz rental car began to beep. The device, similar to a Geiger counter, was designed to detect the gamma radiation naturally emitted by uranium.

Can Wal-Mart Use Its Power For Good?
February 25, 2010

Wal-Mart's enormous leverage over its suppliers has attracted plenty of attention in recent years. Usually, critics home in on the negative impacts. The retailer can dictate prices to factories around the world (after all, a single producer needs Wal-Mart more than vice versa), which encourages ruthless cost-cutting that, in turn, can lead to lower wages and shoddier working conditions. And that's not even the half of it. Barry Lynn wrote a long piece for Harper's in 2006 exploring the pros and cons of Wal-Mart's vast "monopsony" power. But there's a flip side, too.

Amazon’s Kindle: Symbol of American Decline?
February 24, 2010

Apple’s iPad is dominating the gadget buzz this winter, but a few years ago, we and others made a big deal about the “polyglot” iPod, turning it into a talisman of the globalized supply-chain. The point was to accent the global context in which U.S.

Learning from Number Two: Germany and Its Exports
February 23, 2010

Just weeks ago, Germany formally relinquished its title as the world’s top exporter to China. For 2009, China reported that its exports totaled $1.2 trillion as compared to Germany’s $1.1 trillion. The U.S. lost this title in 2003, when Germany surpassed our exports. What a difference a decade makes. Even on the heels of their success, Germany has been cringing at the prospect of China surpassing them in total dollars generated by annual exports.

Iran Has Us Trapped. Obama Certainly Knows It. And Hillary Does, Too.
February 17, 2010

But Mrs. Clinton is the designated canary who brings the bad news. Or, rather, the good news... at least to the mullahs. She has now told everyone who will listen that the U.S. has no plans for a military strike against Iran. And, given the 
president's deeply ideological commitment to peaceful engagement with Tehran, there is no reason to doubt her. In fact, it is reasonable to deduce that no armed strike by America has even been laid out in the 
most theoretical manner.

Obama's World
February 17, 2010

Let’s face it. America’s foreign policy is hardly healthier than its economy. Of course, jobs and taxes still dominate the politics of the day. Republicans will likely be running election campaigns on those matters. But, as foreign policy comes into focus more and more, Democrats may seek refuge from Barack Obama’s grand strategy and its consequences--or lack thereof. For, right now, Obama’s frustrated foreign policy is little more than aimlessness. His biggest decision to date has been Afghanistan.

Iran's Freedom
February 10, 2010

Freedom's faithful are right now assembling in Tehran to mark the revolution that for three decades ate away at the ever-fewer rights that they had. So this is a protest not only against the regime, but against its seizure of power three decades ago. We had always known that there was an enlightened and democratic cohort in Iran. But, for years, it was silenced and, so, remained silent. Still, the boot on the human face can not last forever. Now we know that this cohort is enormous.

I Pledge Allegiance to the What?
February 09, 2010

If you watched the Super Bowl on Sunday, you may have noticed a welcome interruption to the endless string of Bud Light and Doritos ads. Wedged between these paeans to beer and chips was a seemingly harmless commercial featuring cute elementary schoolers with their hands on the chests, pledging allegiance. But the ad soon turned a little darker: Instead of reciting the words that were drilled into all young children’s minds, they pledged their allegiance to the national debt and to China.

Bombs Away
February 09, 2010

As President Obama begins a push to impose harsher economic sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, his success will be determined largely by the answer to a single question: Will China and Russia get on board?

Are We Really In An Energy Race With China?
February 08, 2010

Nowadays, it seems like every third Thomas Friedman column is about how the United States is engaged in a green-tech competition with China—one that, much to his chagrin, we seem to be losing handily. His argument's not totally groundless. China really has put more effort (and money) into developing cleaner energy technologies than we have. So have plenty of countries, like Germany and Denmark.