World on a Page: Bolshie Bolivia, Truculent Turkey

Article excerpt

Byline: Tunku Varadarajan

'Utterly Unprepared'

These words sum up Osama bin Laden's unflattering view of Joe Biden's readiness for the White House. In a letter he wrote to an associate--published by scholars at West Point as part of a larger bin Laden trove--the late terrorist advocated the killing of Barack Obama so that vice president Biden would assume the presidency ... "which will lead the U.S. into a crisis."

All About Evo

Days after Argentina seized control of a Spanish company's stake in YPF, the Argentine petro behemoth, Bolivia sent in armed troops to kick down the doors of a Spanish-owned electricity company in its capital, La Paz. In a somewhat florid speech on May Day, Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, declared that the expropriation of Spain's Transportadora de Electricidad was a way to "pay homage to the workers and Bolivians that have fought for the recovery of natural resources and basic services." Watching events from London, the CEO of a British power company whose assets had been seized by Morales two years ago told the Financial Times: "It's the first of May, he's got to nationalize something. It's become an annual tradition." (When he seized those British assets, Morales had said he was "fulfilling the thunderous request of the people.")

You're Standard, I'm Poor?

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has developed a reputation as a bit of a bruiser in his years in office, quick on the draw when slighted and unstinting in his scorn when addressing an adversary. The latest recipient of a prime-ministerial tongue-lashing is Standard & Poor's, the ratings agency, which had the temerity to revise Turkey's outlook on long-term sovereign credit from "positive" to "stable." Dismissing the downgrade as an "entirely ideological approach," Erdogan threatened "not to recognize" S&P as a credible ratings agency. "You cannot fool anybody," he huffed. "You cannot fool Tayyip Erdogan." (For the record, S&P's downgrading of Turkey coincided with a slight upgrade for Greece.)

Adage Attack

You know you're in trouble when Far Eastern institutions--the North Korean government, for instance, or a Chinese state newspaper--reach into their quivers for a poisonous aphorism with which to wound you. This last week, it was the turn of Gary Locke, U.S. ambassador to Beijing, to say "ouch," when the Beijing Daily, a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, attacked the envoy for his role in the drama surrounding blind dissident Chen Guangcheng. …