Shanghai

What the Great Lakes region exports to the world now is, mostly, cars. But its rich network of universities and medical complexes may be one of the best bets for its export future. A recently released University Research Center report documents how Michigan’s leading universities are helping to move its manufacturing base to more diverse and higher end advanced products in energy components, pharmaceuticals, sensors, circuits and robotics.

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Emissary of the Doomed: Bargaining For Lives in the Holocaust by Ronald Florence (Viking, 336 pp., $27.95)  I. March 18, 1944 was an unusually pleasant spring day in Budapest, with crowds filling the outdoor cafés: it was difficult to tell that Hungary was at war. Rumors were spread about the government’s secret negotiations with the Western Allies, and all surmised that an unspoken agreement existed according to which the Hungarians would not fire on American and British aircraft overflying the country and the enemy aircraft would not drop any bombs.

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Emissary of the Doomed: Bargaining For Lives in the Holocaust by Ronald Florence (Viking, 336 pp., $27.95)  I. March 18, 1944 was an unusually pleasant spring day in Budapest, with crowds filling the outdoor cafés: it was difficult to tell that Hungary was at war. Rumors were spread about the government’s secret negotiations with the Western Allies, and all surmised that an unspoken agreement existed according to which the Hungarians would not fire on American and British aircraft overflying the country and the enemy aircraft would not drop any bombs.

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Regular readers of the Avenue have seen this blog more than once make the case for a national infrastructure policy, focused on strategic investments that boost our competitiveness in a global economy. We recognize that repetition doesn’t necessarily make the national infrastructure debate seem any less wonkish or abstract.

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NG-Uh-O

In the wake of Israel’s sanguinary assault on the MV Mavi Marmara, much of the debate has focused on the question of whether those aboard the Free Gaza flotilla were humanitarians, peace activists, or Hamas supporters. The benign, and, crucially, the depoliticized interpretation was that they were humanitarians bringing aid to a besieged people desperately in need of it.

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Dunhuang, China—Is there more to China's low-carbon efforts than renewable power? Well, yes, of course. A lot more. Yet that's all people here ever seem to want to talk about. Maybe that shouldn't come as a shock: The country gets a ton of warm, fuzzy press for its enormous new wind and solar farms, and it's true that the scale of construction out deserves an impressed whistle or two.

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Jiayuguan, China—My first question to the mayor, naturally, is about the porpoise. On the outskirts of Jiayuguan, an industrial city of about 300,000 smack in the middle of the Gobi Desert, there's a 15-story-tall steel dolphin, standing erect, balancing a giant ball on its nose. After dusk, the structure is set ablaze in bright neon, its flashing flippers visible from miles away. "That's not a, uh, native species around these parts, is it?" Nope.

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Kevin Drum asks why China's visitors are invariably blown away by the changes taking place in the country: "China is big on a macro scale. It's big on a statistical scale. It's growing fast. But on a ground level scale? It's just a place. It's no bigger or denser or busier than lots of other places. So why is everyone always so awe-stricken about it?" Having been in China for a few days, I'd say the size of the place is less impressive than the sheer rate of change.

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Shanghai, China—This week, I'm traveling around China trying to get a better sense for the country's energy and environmental policies (the trip is being sponsored by the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation). On a very broad level, there are two big, contradictory facts about the country to consider. One is that China is working far more frantically than we are to rein in its greenhouse-gas pollution and promote cleaner energy sources.

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The nuclear order seems to be falling apart. Gone is the uneasy balance between the cold war superpowers. We now face a slew of new nuclear actors. North Korea has reprocessed enough plutonium for perhaps ten bombs, in addition to the two it has already tested. Iran’s centrifuge program seems poised to produce weapons-grade uranium. And Syria was apparently constructing a clandestine nuclear facility, before it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in 2007. It’s not just enemies that pose a problem.

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