Distant disasters

Here in southern Spain, we're going on about our lives as though everything were normal. Japan is far away, and we haven't yet felt the effects of radiation, of a health disaster for millions, of the crash one of the world's most potent economies and a significant importer of our local products. We will feel all these things, though.

The convulsions in northern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula are much closer, but not our problem, say the European leaders. Except for Italy, faced with the floods of refugees from Tunisia, the humanitarian consequences so far have not registered in Europe. The main concern (as Gadaffi well understands) is the price of oil, and for the leaders in the European Union a few hundred or a few thousand deaths, while lamentable, are an acceptable cost for market stability.

But the political earthquake in North Africa and the geological one in East Asia have changed the world, even if we don't know how. Gadaffi may survive, and his clients will still be eager to buy his oil, but his power must surely be weakened by this civil war. If Tunisia and Egypt can continue deepening their democratic unions, their weight will continue to push other Arab states to go beyond their timid reforms. What will happen in Japan and its neighbors and competitors in Asia we can hardly guess — but my bet is that Japan will come roaring back, because its people are so determined and so educated. But at least for a time, Chinese and South Korean manufacturers will have a competitive advantage.

And the future of nuclear energy? Up for debate.

Goodreads readers and A Gift for the Sultan

I was happy to see that 871 people participated in the drawing I set up in Goodreads for five copies of A Gift for the Sultan (paperback edition).

I've just let the five winners know that the book will be on its way to them next week, and I also want to thank the other 866 people who put the book on their wishlist. I hope that many of them do read the book (even though they didn't win a free copy). To encourage you all, I've also made it available in a Kindle e-book edition at a price that probably suits your budget.

If you haven't yet discovered Goodreads, check it out. You'll meet lots of other interested and interesting readers.