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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Robin van Persie leaves the field at the King Power Stadium last Sunday
football
News
In this photo illustration, the Twitter logo and hashtag '#Ring!' is displayed on a mobile device as the company announced its initial public offering and debut on the New York Stock Exchange on November 7, 2013 in London, England. Twitter went public on the NYSE opening at USD 26 per share, valuing the company's worth at an estimated USD 18 billion.
news

Arts and Entertainment
tvPresenter back after daughter's Halloween accident
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch as John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock
tv

Co-creator Mark Gatiss dropped some very intriguing hints ahead of the BBC drama's return next year

Arts and Entertainment
music Band accidentally drops four-letter description at concert
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

£8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines