A few months ago, I received an offer to get the Economist for airline miles. Since I an unlikely to use them for anything else, I signed up. The Economist offers two things that I find interesting:
- A very distinct take on US politics, from a point of view that is quite different from either of the US political parties -- very pro-market, but without the social conservativism of the Republicans.
- In depth coverage of world news.
That said, I have to admit that I often find myself skimming past many of the international stories -- oh, there are protests in Albania, who knew?-- but not really caring a whole lot about the details.
The world news story that I'm following most closely right now is the elections in Zimbabwe. With no official results 4 days after the elections, it's hard to believe that Mugabe's people aren't cooking the books. (The opposition is claiming that they've won, but the government says that just saying that is an attempted coup.) And today some journalists have been arrested. I don't have any particular insight into how it's going to turn out, but I'm watching with my fingers crossed.
Why do I care about this story? Like Becca at Not Quite Sure, I've been there. For two days, which doesn't make me any sort of an expert. But I know how desperate people were then for our American dollars, and I just can't wrap my head around what a million-fold inflation since then means. It's a heartbreaker of a story, and a reminder that much (most?) hunger in the world is political, not (just) the result of natural disasters. (And yes, we all had serious misgivings about our tourist dollars going to support Mugabe's government, but we went anyway. I don't know if we did net harm or good.)
But I think I'd care about Zimbabwe even if I hadn't been there. I wrote a report about it in 6th grade, shortly after it achieved independence. I can't remember many of the details, but I know that I wrote to the embassy asking for information and they sent me a thick envelope with newspapers and other material. At the time, I think I was most intrigued by all the cities whose names were changed.
One concern I have about The Economist as my source for international news is that I don't know enough to know where their biases and blind spots are. For example, they had a story about Zimbabwe last month, in which they argued confidently that Simba Makoni is "no joke for the incumbent." But it looks like he's a distant third, getting less than 10 percent of the vote from the unofficial figures that have come out so far. Morgan Tsvangirai is the candidate who appears to be leading.