Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hong Kong democracy push turns violent; US growth revised up again; Leaders and one-liners

1 Hong Kong democracy push turns violent (San Francisco Chronicle) Pro-democracy protests expanded in Hong Kong on Monday, a day after demonstrators upset over Beijing's decision to limit political reforms defied onslaughts of tear gas and appeals from Hong Kong's top leader to go home.

And with rumors swirling, Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying reassured the public that speculation that the Chinese army might intervene was untrue. The mass protest, which has gathered support from high school students to seniors, is the strongest challenge yet to Beijing's decision to limit democratic reforms for the semi-autonomous city.

The scenes of billowing tear gas and riot police outfitted with long-barreled weapons, rare for this affluent Asian financial hub, are highlighting the authorities' inability to assuage public discontent over Beijing's rejection last month of open nominations for candidates under proposed guidelines for the first-ever elections for Hong Kong's leader, promised for 2017.

The protests began with sit-ins over a week earlier by students urging Beijing to grant genuine democratic reforms to this former British colony. When China took control of Hong Kong from the British in 1997, it agreed to a policy of "one country, two systems" that allowed the city a high degree of control over its own affairs and kept in place liberties unseen on the mainland. It also promised the city's leader would eventually be chosen through "universal suffrage."

2 US growth revised up again (BBC) The US economy grew at an annual rate of 4.6% between April and June, faster than the previous estimate of 4.2%, according to revised figures from the US Department of Commerce. The revision was due to larger rises in exports and business investment. Growth estimates are revised as more information about economic performance becomes available.

The strong growth - the fastest since the end of 2011 - follows a 2.1% contraction in the first quarter. This fall in economic output was blamed on harsh winter weather, which discouraged shoppers and hampered manufacturing.

Analysts said the new figures suggested the US economy was in rude health. "The data signals an even stronger rebound from the decline seen in the first quarter, when extreme weather battered many parts of the economy," said Chris Williamson at Markit Economics.

"However, the impressive gain in the second quarter looks to be far more than just a weather-related upturn, with evidence pointing to an underlying buoyant pace of economic expansion. Survey data in particular indicate that strong growth has persisted throughout the third quarter."

3 Leaders and one-liners (Neeta Lal in Khaleej Times) India’s prime minister Narendra Modi’s penchant for snappy slogans is getting increasingly evident ever since he stormed to power on May 26. “Shasak nahi sevak” (servants, not rulers) is how he described his job profile to people after taking over the reins of the world’s largest democracy.

The sexagenarian’s wit came to the fore yet again recently when Chinese premier Xi Jinping came visiting. Underscoring India-Chinese camaraderie, Modi quipped that India will “inch towards miles” of cooperation with China. In Japan, the prime minister offered the “red carpet, not red tape” to businessmen from the land of the rising sun keen to invest in India.  

In the snappy one-liners department, Modi isn’t alone. Many global leaders have used witticisms to get ahead in their careers, claw out of sticky situations or simply win the hearts of their countrymen. Just four little words helped Bill Clinton sail to victory over incumbent President George H.W. Bush in 1992: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Clinton’s campaign slogan encapsulated a nationwide concern about an ailing economy while blaming his political rival for the domestic mess.

“Campaign one-liners are sound bites…which are mental shortcuts for the audience,” says Kimberly Meltzer, a communications expert. “And the reason they work is because they usually activate ideas or phrases that we already possess in our mental frameworks…That’s why they’re so easy to remember and likely to generate buzz.”

Ronald Reagan was quite the favourite when it came to witticisms. Reaganisms like “It’s true hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?” or “Politics isn’t a bad profession. If you succeed, there are many rewards. If you disgrace yourself, you can always write a book!” have been top of the charts for years.

However, if ministers can create mirth, they can also often be at the receiving end of public scorn. One apocryphal story goes that a famous statesman once commissioned a special postage stamp which was to carry his picture. However, within days of the stamp’s release, complaints began trickling in that the stamp was not sticking properly. The leader asked the stamp makers to investigate the matter. The latter reported back to the politician: ‘There’s nothing wrong with the quality of the stamp. The problem is people are spitting on the wrong side!’

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