Switzerland

The Richard Burton DiariesEdited by Chris Williams (Yale University Press, 693 pp., $35)   JUNE 14, 1969, and for a dawn moment he was calm, remembering Wordsworth and Dylan Thomas: “I love my wife. I love her dearly. Honest. Talk about the beauty, silent, bare.... Sitting on the Thames with the river imitating a blue-grey ghost. My God the very houses seem asleep.

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Do America's tech giants have anything to fear?

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Tonight, President Obama will accept the Democratic Party nomination with a speech in which he will lay out the case for a second term. The context, of course, is the volatility of the past four years in the U.S. economy and the entire global economy, marked by deep recession and weak recoveries in the developed economies and cooling growth in emerging markets. What about the long term? After all, the long-term game on jobs is competitiveness.

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Hardly anything could have been more damaging to Mitt Romney’s perpetual quest to relate to the average American than the recent revelations in Vanity Fair that he maintains personal finances in a sophisticated network of institutions across Europe and North America. Among the entities that Romney relies upon is a limited liability corporation in Bermuda and a “blocker” entity in the Cayman Islands.

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One week ago, scientists in Switzerland announced that they had likely confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, an elementary particle long hypothesized to imbue other particles with mass. And as soon as scientists had completed their work, science journalists began doing theirs: A scramble ensued among commentators to explain for the general public just what the Higgs boson is. We couldn’t help but appreciate the lurid metaphors they came up with. Here are some of our favorites.

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Thirty-five years ago today, Vladimir Nabokov died in Montreaux, Switzerland. The acclaimed entomologist and prose master had a habit of believing in fortuitous coincidences—he famously took pride in sharing a birthday with Shakespeare and being born a century after Pushkin. Nabokov’s interest in these concurrences was more than petty fascination; it was inseparable from his love of fondling details.

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According to Sellar and Yeatman, authors of the alternative history of England “1066 and All That,” every time the English came close to solving the Irish Question the Irish bamboozled their colonial overlords by, cunningly, changing the Question. This neatly reflects the way England’s neighbors confound her. As in history so in soccer. The Scots and Irish and Welsh are quick to catalogue any example of overbearing English arrogance.

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“Keep politics out of sport” went the slogan of the old guard back in the days when campaigners tried, successfully in the end, to stop England playing cricket and rugby against apartheid South Africa. But the truth is that politics and sport have been inextricably mixed up since the Roman arena, or since the Blues and the Greens competed in Byzantine Constantinople. Any idea that an international soccer tournament can be staged today without political implications is far-fetched.

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Right around the time that Rick Santorum was making up his mind to end (or “suspend”) his campaign for the Republican nomination, it was reported that Mitt Romney’s campaign was pulling a harsh anti-Santorum ad from the Pennsylvania airwaves, out of deference to the fact that Santorum was having to tend to his 3-year-old daughter, Bella, during yet another visit to the hospital for the girl, who was born with the rare chromosomal disorder trisomy 18.

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Yesterday the Government of Canada announced it was eliminating the penny from Canada’s coinage system. The provided reasons: Its declining spending power, rising production costs (1.6 cents per penny), and the harsh reality that “some Canadians consider the penny more of a nuisance than a useful coin.” Likewise, other countries have been re-evaluating their lowest-denomination coins, with Australia, Norway, and Switzerland among those that have already stopped circulating them.

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