Qatar

Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia are very rich. According to a New York Times article this morning by Michael Slackman, the first of these boasts the second highest per capita gross domestic product in the world. It has a population of 1.6 million, with only 250,000 native Qataris. That means citizens. These Qataris rank “sixth globally for prevalence of obesity and has the highest rate of obesity among boys in the Middle East and North African region.” They will win no soccer cups.

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I have to admit that Barack Obama's last speech to the Muslim world—by telewhatever to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar—did contain one subtle reproach to the umma after a year of fawning. And it was an important one although it was only three words: “including their daughters.” The president was ever so gently urging Muslims to include girls and women in the pursuit of knowledge which he right called “the currency of the 21st century.” It is, of course, more than that. But give him his due.

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Well, a very funny thing happens.  Or at least a very funny thing happened when the Sudanese delegate to the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen conceded the reality of the Holocaust. And, no, he wasn't even talking about the "holocaust" visited by the Jews on the Palestinians. According to a Reuters dispatch he was talking about the real Holocaust. But he was comparing it to the plan agreed to by President Obama of the United States and the leaders of China, India, South Africa and Brazil to combat global warming.

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Given that there's virtually no chance a finished climate treaty will come out of the upcoming talks in Copenhagen, one might be forgiven for asking what, exactly, the world's diplomats are actually going to do these next two weeks in Denmark. Already, further talks are scheduled for next year—including yet another big climate summit in Mexico City in 2010.

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Wolff Trapped

Snuffle. Snuffle. Snuffle. The little black nose is cold and wet on my arm. "Gracie, stop that!" media writer Michael Wolff scolds the small, spastic spaniel wriggling next to me on the sofa. Gracie tumbles to the floor, but Trixie the cat soon takes her place and delivers an exploratory head butt. "No. No. No. Come on," says an embarrassed Wolff, leaning out of his high-backed red chair and waving an arm.  Wolff and I are seated in the living room of his comfy Upper East Side home.

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