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Best of the Web: 23 July 2010

Best of the Web: 23 July 2010

Why you can't trust anyone; Scientists discover monster star; The long wait; Lebanon’s ultimate export; The world’s hottest young royals.

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July 23, 2010 11:45 by



Why you can’t trust anyone

“There’s an old joke we tell here [in Washington DC],” quips Christopher Buckley in Forbes this week. “What’s the definition of a ‘friend’ in Washington? Someone who stabs you in the chest.”

In his characteristically irreverent style, Buckley in an opinion piece this week considers the more philosophical implications of the legions of spies among us. The writer discerns an ominous vacuum of trust developing in American society, as he examines the wider implications of the FBI’s arrest some weeks ago of the US-based sleeper cell of Russian spies, “living among their American neighbors in various suburban locales, mowing the lawns, chatting amiably over the fences, exchanging casserole recipes.”

Buckley employs his usual over-the-top writing style to fret about the Stalin-esque specter of the demise of trust.

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Scientists discover monster star

Need some help getting perspective on the trivialities of your everyday worries? Then consider new astronomical data that details the scientific discovery of a “monster star.”

“Imagine a star so luminous that it would burn the Earth up if it were anywhere near, a star that outshines the sun as much as the sun outshines the moon. A monster even in the abyss of space,” CNN reported this week.

The “hypergiant,” as it is classified by scientists, is named R136a1. It is the heaviest yet discovered, with a brilliance estimated at 10 times that of the sun.

“R136a1 is rare and resides in another galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud. Its home is more than 165,000 light years away from Earth’s Milky Way galaxy,” CNN reported.

Paul Crowther, a professor of astrophysics at England’s University of Sheffield, led the study of the star cluster where the newly discovered hypergiant resides.

“”Owing to the rarity of these monsters, I think it is unlikely that this new record will be broken any time soon,” Crowther said.

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The long wait

“After three decades of economic progress but political paralysis, change is in the air, says Max Rodenbeck, in this special report on Egypt, published in the Economist. Between the worsening traffic, noise, and “fervid religiosity,” the author notes, it is hard to tell if these are the best of times or the worst.

While tourists are cheering everything from newly metered taxicabs to friendlier service, returning expats discern in Cairo “a new aggressiveness that spoils their nostalgia for a sweeter, cheerier Egypt,” the writer contends. As with most things, these opposing takes each hold their own measures of truth, leaving some Egyptians to feel “rather like driftwood on the Nile.”

With the country’s parliamentary elections scheduled for November, and presidential ones following next September, the writer considers the next big thing for this dynamic Arab nation whose “current pharaoh is 82 years old, visibly ailing, and has no anointed successor.”

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Lebanon’s ultimate export

At the risk of overusing the phrase, those of us that live here know that Lebanon has a certain je ne sais quoi. Once-called the “Paris of the Middle East,” Lebanon defies an easy categorization, exuding a dynamism and attitude of “never-say-die,” that has earned the country the undying affection of a Lebanese diaspora that dwarfs the domestic population.

And it is the growing Lebanese diaspora – the result of an ongoing “brain drain” in the country — that gets a careful treatment in this week’s story from CNN’s Business 360.

“The country’s youth go abroad for university and never come back,” Lebanese parents explain.

“Depending on who you talk to – particularly the mothers of these young adults – you get a fairly emotional response – the most predictable being that the government is not providing enough opportunity for all its talent.”

But viewed from a different paradigm, this writer suggests that Lebanon is simply “doing what it does best – exporting top-flight human capital to the world.”

“The numbers are staggering,” the writer suggests. “This population of just over four million citizens has a banking system with deposits of $100 billion dollars. Between 2007 and 2009, “$55 billion flowed into the country, just over 40 percent of that money in the form of remittances.”

The country boasts the highest per-capita income amongst 22 countries in the Middle East for non-oil based economy.

For Lebanon, the export of gifted young men and women is “a gift that keeps on giving back to the country’s bottom line,” the writer contends.

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The world’s hottest young royals

Sure, they’re rich, famous, and “titled” – but who knew they were so easy on the eyes? Check out these pretty pictures from Forbes, in a rundown of the world’s most privileged – and beautiful – young royals.



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