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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Media Watch World: March 15, 2008

Nobel laureates join world record juggler to win more converts to mathematics - Tom Kington

John Nash, the Nobel prize-winning mathematician who fought schizophrenia and inspired a Hollywood biopic, can now take credit for doing something really hard - making Italians like maths.

The 79-year-old is back in Rome for the second edition of a maths festival that drew 60,000 visitors last year and is, according to organisers, fuelling a maths boom in Italy that has seen university applications double in two years.

At the four-day event which ends on Sunday, the man who heard imaginary voices for years and was played by Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, heads a line-up including five Nobel winners as well as writers and musicians all seeking to explain in a lively way why art, business and music exist thanks to numbers.

A play about the US activist Rachel Corrie,
who was killed at the age of 23 by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza, will be performed for the first time in Israel tomorrow, on the fifth anniversary of her death.

The single-actor play My Name is Rachel Corrie will be performed in Arabic in Haifa, northern Israel, before touring the country and the occupied West Bank.

The play is based on Corrie's diaries and emails edited by the actor Alan Rickman and the Guardian journalist Katharine Viner. It has been translated into Arabic and adapted by the director Riad Masarwi and the actor Lana Zreik, who most recently appeared in the film Lemon Tree, which won the audience award at last month's Berlin Film Festival.

Western governments must talk to terror groups including al-Qaida and the Taliban
if they hope to secure a long-term halt to their campaigns of violence, according to the man who for more than a decade was Tony Blair's most influential aide and adviser.

Jonathan Powell, who served as Blair's chief of staff from 1995 to 2007 and is widely regarded as having been instrumental in negotiating a settlement in Northern Ireland, said his experience in the province convinced him that it was essential to keep a line of communication open even with one's most bitter enemies.

Powell said: "There's nothing to say to al-Qaida and they've got nothing to say to us at the moment, but at some stage you're going to have to come to a political solution as well as a security solution. And that means you need the ability to talk."

When the second international conference on Financing for Development (FfD) takes place in Qatar come November, women activists are planning to pitch their tents in the capital of Doha in an attempt to demand concrete commitments for "gender equality" and "gender empowerment" from the 192 U.N. member states.

"Yes, women's groups are organising for FfD," confirms June Zeitlin, executive director of the Women's Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO), an international activist group, whose founding members include Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai of Kenya.

The wax is still melted on to the chalk pillar which served as an Easter Sunday altar for the men of the Suffolk Regiment more than 90 years ago.

Old helmets are scattered around the floor. A heap of cans, including a tin of Turnwrights Toffee Delight, lies alongside a collection of old stone jars - flagons of rum, perhaps, to numb the fear of the battle ahead.

The word "Latrine" is still written above an arrow on a 30ft chalk pillar. Next to it, two large rusting buckets sit beneath wooden holes.

The reason many newspapers rely so heavily on editors—a reason rarely spoken—is that some reporters can't write. Their copy isn't edited as much as it's rewritten. Bennett has a message for them: "Reporters who can't write are a dying breed."

Improving publications by eliminating meddlesome editing is a regular theme of my Slate colleague Mickey Kaus, who will do cartwheels when he learns of the Post initiative. Alan D. Mutter, who blogs at Reflections of a Newsosaur, started a ruckus on Romenesko last month when he saluted the idea of throwing a few newspaper editors overboard.

The Rise of American Incompetence Daniel Gloss
The dollar plunged to new lows against foreign currencies this week. There are plenty of reasons for its plunge, but at the most basic level, the dollar's weakness reflects the world's collective, two-thumbs-down verdict about the ability of the United States—businesses, individuals, the government, the Federal Reserve—to manage the global financial system and the world's largest economy. Countries that outsourced their monetary policy by pegging domestic currencies to the dollar are having second thoughts. Kuwait last year detached the dinar from the dollar, and Qatar government officials last week said they were considering doing the same with their currency. International financiers are unnerved by the toxic combination of "misplaced assumptions about housing, a lack of necessary regulation and irresponsible use of debt with sophisticated financial instruments," said Ashraf Laidi, currency strategist at CMC Markets.


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