What is it with Britons and trains, anyway? Hardly just the title of collection of Irvine Welsh's stories of heroin and degradation, the term "trainspotting" actually refers to a real, and fervently pursued hobby; trainspotters exist, just as do birdwatchers and sports fans. In terms of obsession with the design and operational minutiae of their own trains, Britain falls second only to the even more densely rail-laden Japan. But we Americans, possessed of a train system few would call robust, can't quite bring ourselves to believe it. Perhaps we just need to hear it from the mouth of Michael Palin, writer, comedian, television host, Python -- and avowed trainspotter.
[S]ince 2008, in a complete reversal of earlier policy, which had once been to boycott Kurdistan altogether, the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been pursuing "full economic integration" with it. Meanwhile its relations with the Iraqi government have been deteriorating, with the two now on opposite sides in the great Middle Eastern power struggle that pits Shia Iran, Maliki's Iraq, Bashar al-Assad's Syria and Hezbollah against the Syrian revolutionaries, most Sunni Arab states and Turkey itself. Turkey's courtship with Iraqi Kurds has moved so far, the Kurds believe, that Turkey might soon break with Maliki's essentially Shia regime and deal separately with the other main components of a fragmenting Iraqi state, its Arab Sunnis and its Kurds.
In return, an independent Kurdistan could be a source of abundant and reliable oil supplies, a stable ally and buffer against a hostile Iraq and Iran, and even, in a policy option as extraordinary as Turkey's own, a collaborator in containing or combating fellow Kurds in the shape of the PKK - who, having established a strong presence in "liberated" Syrian Kurdistan, are seeking to turn it into a platform for a reviving insurgency in Turkey itself.
It is even said that Erdogan has gone so far as to promise Massoud Barazani, the Iraqi Kurd president, that Turkey would protect his would-be state in the event of an Iraqi military onslaught - though presumably that would never come to pass if, adopting plan B, the Maliki regime really is contemplating the seismic step of letting the Kurds go of their own free will.
The policy arguments for a carbon tax are compelling. Economists have convinced the environmental community that market-oriented systems, as opposed to inflexible commands, are the best way to regulate. The simplest and most efficient way to change people's behavior is to tax them; everyone is then encouraged to look for efficient ways to avoid the taxed activity. [...]
A benefit of consumers paying for the tax is that they would be encouraged to make important choices - such as adjusting their thermostats, changing their light bulbs, or refusing to do so and paying the tax. As with any tax on consumption, however, poorer Americans would suffer more than wealthier ones.
A simple exemption, however, could make the tax burden much lighter for poorer Americans, while at the same time encouraging even greater conservation. The idea is simple: Each household would be exempted from the tax for a modest amount of electricity per month or year; the exemption would be most effective if the system also imposed only minimal usage charges for electricity below the cutoff. The system would recognize almost all households need to use some electricity, but that consumption beyond the minimum would be taxed.
The high-level working group on growth and jobs, set up at the last EU-US summit in November 2011, will give the go-ahead to launch negotiations for a transatlantic trade agreement, said Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU.
After meeting European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in Dublin, Kenny told reporters he understands the report "is favourable" to launching negotiations towards signing an agreement that is expected to boost growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.
US Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue was particularly bullish, and at times passionate, on another long-sought goal, one not often associated with the conservative-leaning group: immigration reform.
"I have an optimistic feeling about this," Mr. Donohue told reporters after his annual State of American Business speech. "Before, everybody talked about it, everybody understood the issues, but there wasn't an energy behind it and I think there is a bipartisan group of people - we haven't got everybody, that's for sure - but I feel positive about it and look forward to [immigration reform] this year."
Google's ambitions to wire the world are expanding. The company announced on Tuesday that it will provide free Wi-Fi service to Chelsea, a New York City neighborhood where Google has its local headquarters.
In a joint press conference with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Senator Charles Schumer, Google said it hoped to keep the tens of thousands of residents, and millions of tourists, in the area connected at all times when they're outdoors. Google also will be providing indoor coverage for public housing units in the area.