Flat Earth

Never say Soros

Poor little Malaysia seems to attract an awful lot of powerful enemies, according to its motormouth Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad.

Take George Soros: not content with forcing the Malaysians to devalue the ringgit last month, the international financier is now driving down Kuala Lumpur's stock market as well in search of a quick buck, or so the PM says. Both men will be in Hong Kong next month for the annual IMF/World Bank meeting, but Mahathir turned down a face-to-face encounter, calling the Hungarian-American a "moron". Golly, just think of the damage Soros could do if he were intelligent.

The fact that Malaysia's economic boom is based on exports to the West does not stop Mahathir from accusing developed countries of plotting to undermine his nation's success. It reminds me of P J O'Rourke's remark that the Third World behaves towards the US like an adolescent boy trying to attract the attention of a beautiful woman: the more she ignores him, the stupider the things he does to try and be noticed.

Western governments have learned to put up with this sort of thing - only last week Robin Cook had to smile politely while being told that his ideas on human rights had no relevance to Malaysia - but post-colonial guilt is not widespread in Western financial institutions.

Hard-nosed moneymen, called "wild beasts in a borderless jungle" by Mahathir yesterday, see no reason to humour him. "We can't do business this way," said one London-based portfolio manager after the Malaysian authorities imposed a ban on short selling of leading shares, prompting a stampede for the exit by foreign investors.

For these people it is Mahathir who is the problem, refusing to tackle the country's economic difficulties and blaming everyone else. The Prime Minister at last admitted yesterday that Malaysia was going to grow more slowly, but of course this was purely the fault of the speculators.

The trouble is that all this is beginning to have an economic cost. Ranting about "Asian values" is one thing, but it is now a case of Malaysia's intemperate premier putting his mouth where his money is.

Sac of ecole

IT MAY no longer be true that the French minister of education can look at his watch and know exactly what every schoolchild in the country is studying at that particular moment, but one thing he does know is that they are loaded down like pack-horses. Doctors regularly denounce the weight of the school bags - known aptly as cartables - strapped to the backs of even the tiniest pupils.

This being France, the ministry has now sent schools a series of guidelines to cut the loads, including the provision of lockers, authorisation of smaller writing pads - yes, it needs a central directive from Paris - and allowing students to share books in class. Since pupils have to buy their own textbooks, their parents often insist that they lug them around to avoid the possibility of theft.

Primary schoolkids regularly carry nine to 13lbs, while their seniors typically have 22lbs on their backs, even though doctors say they should carry no more than 10 per cent of their body weight. The private sector is coming to the rescue, though: one supplier is marketing a full line of school bags equipped with wheels, no doubt copied from British high streets.

Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Sport
Jose Mourinho restrains his assistant manager Rui Faria, Fabio Borini celebrates his winning penalty and Connor Wickham equalises for Sunderland
sportChelsea 1 Sunderland 2: Deafeat is extra bitter as former Chelsea player Fabio Borini scores late penalty to seal victory
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit