Pope Benedict XVI greeted the Catholic masses in St. Peter's Square Wednesday for the last time before retiring on Thursday. He made several rounds of the square as crowds cheered wildly and stopped to kiss a half-dozen children brought up to him by his secretary.
Now that a budgetary doomsday scenario has been laid out for the world’s largest military, you might think China would see this as its golden opportunity to assert itself regionally. Think again, says Jin Canrong, International Relations Professor at Beijing’s Renmin University.
"In the coming years the defense budget will be cut, but the military power of the United States is far ahead of China," says Jin.
But China’s catching up. Last September, Beijing revealed the country’s first aircraft carrier. Ten years ago, the U.S. spent 19-times what China spent on defense. This year, it was down to 5-times.
Shen Dingli, Dean of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, estimates in 10 years, the U.S. will spend $500 billion a year on its military while China’s defense budget will be close behind at $300 billion.
"That’ll certainly have a serious impact on military power in the Pacific." says Shen, "The U.S. won’t have enough money to support its naval forces at that point and China will."
But China has benefited from the global stability provided by a strong U.S. military. For example, U.S. intervention in Iraq in 1990 helped China, says Shen, by stabilizing global oil prices. And for China, a big military could mean big responsibilities and bigger expenditures.
"I think China should actually decrease military spending alongside the U.S.," says Shen.
In other words, says Shen, cuts in military spending could be good news on both sides of the Pacific.
This final note today, which we'll file under the heading: Things that kill mere mortals only make JPMorgan Chase stronger.
CEO Jamie Dimon was speaking at an investor conference yesterday. Turns out, he's not so worried about things. "Well, we have a battleship. We were a port in the storm in the last storm, we will be a port in the storm in the next storm. And I read this thing by the guy who talked about "anti-fragile" -- I think our bank is anti-fragile, we actually benefit from downturns. That's how we like to run the company."
Downloading stuff illegally online? Say hello to Internet piracy rehab. Instead of 12 steps, users get six warnings. That's part of a program that begins this week dubbed "Six Strikes". Under Six Strikes, Internet Service Providers send out warnings to users suspected of pirating online content.
Some of the participating ISP's include Comcast, Time Warner and AT&T. Jill Lesser, executive director for the Center for Copyright Information, the group leading the program, says a lot of those who share illegal content don't realize it's wrong.
"We are hopeful that the vast majority of people engaging in this behavior will change their behavior when they're informed in a way that's useful," she says.
So part of the new copyright alert system includes tips like how to secure your wireless connection and where to find legal downloads. If users keep pirating content online, ISP's can slow their Internet connection dramatically. Or users might have to watch a five-minute video on copyright infringement.
Benjamin Lennett, policy director for the Open Technology Institute, warns that content owners can ultimately use the program to cut off users' Internet connections.
"There's no cost for the content industry to submit as many requests to ISP's as they want," he says. "And this will all happen with very little transparency for the public."
Lennett says the new program offers no checks and balances for the content industry, so even if it seems weak on the surface, the copyright program can easily spiral out of control against users.
Critics also say the move can hurt small businesses like coffee shops that offer public WiFi, or people with unsecured WiFi networks at home, as anyone can jump on and download content illegally.
And if a consumer feels wrongly accused? There is some recourse. Appeals cost $35. But only then, Lennet says, does the burden of proof shift from the consumer to the content companies.
Cablevision is suing content provider Viacom. The cable company says it shouldn't have to pay for channels that aren't popular with subscribers.
The way it works now, Cablevision can't get Viacom's popular channels -- like Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon -- without also paying for its less popular ones, such as VH1 Classic and CMT. Some media companies have called this payment structure "bundling."
Cablevision is now arguing that bundling is unfair to subscribers, especially as the cost of cable is on the rise.
To hear and how and when this could impact the way you pay for cable, click on the audio player above.