And Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year Is …
( TIME )

A telling part of our modern recapping tradition is choosing “words
of the year.” In 1789, lexicographers probably would have gone with
guillotine. In 1912, iceberg surely would have been a contender. And
for 2012, Oxford Dictionaries settled on GIF.

That’s GIF the verb, derived from GIF the file extension. These
days, people often GIF snippets of movies or speeches to create funny
little moving pictures on Tumblrs like this one. “The GIF, a
compressed file format for images that can be used to create simple,
looping animations, turned 25 this year,” notes Oxford University
Press’ Katherine Martin, “but like so many other relics of the 80s,
it has never been trendier.” (You know, like Betty White.)

Last year, Oxford Dictionaries chose squeezed middle, a reference to
people between the super-rich and super-poor who are supposed to be
particularly vulnerable to financial shifts. It was, as one observer
put it, a “sober list for sober times.” The phrase told us that the
economy, and the struggles it caused, were the number-one story in
2011, at least so far as one band of wordsmiths was concerned.

So what does GIF tell us about 2012? Given that dictionary additions
and buzzword lists have been dominated by technology-related terms in
recent years, it may just be a sign that things are getting back to
normal. Of course, the runners-up bring a certain amount of sobriety
to the field. But the selection still seems to herald a post-
recession era -- a world where instead of counting pennies, we’re
free to goof off on Reddit all day.


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イスラエルのガザ強襲 攻撃はどのように外科的なのか?

The Israeli Assault on Gaza: How Surgical Are the Strikes?
( TIME )

On the day they buried Ahmed Jabari, the Hamas commander blown apart
in what Israel calls a “targeted killing,” a man named Jihad
Misharawi cradled the corpse of his 11-month-old son, killed when an
apparently errant Israeli shell pierced the roof of their Gaza home.
The father’s grief was captured in a compelling Associated Press
photograph that Misharawi might have appreciated in his professional
capacity: he works for the BBC as a photo editor, the job that
involves deciding what images to send out to the world when the story
becomes the death of civilians, as it is becoming in Gaza.

Until Sunday, the number of Palestinian bystanders killed in the
Israeli assault on the crowded, poverty-stricken stretch of sand may
have been as low as 16, barely half the number of fatalities among
militants across the first four days. That proportion, if it had
stood, would have been exceptional for any war -- some researchers
say civilians historically account for 80% of war deaths -- but
especially for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) doing battle in the
Gaza Strip. The last time the IDF went into Gaza, four years ago,
1,400 Palestinians were killed, at least half of them civilians.
Israel emerged from its victory facing a torrent of international
approbation and a U.N. inquiry alleging war crimes.

The Jewish state was not keen to repeat the experience. The rhetoric
coming out of Israel can be incendiary: Monday’s Jerusalem Post
contained an op-ed by Gilad Sharon, the youngest son of former Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon, arguing, “We need to flatten entire
neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t
stop with Hiroshima -- the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast
enough, so they hit Nagasaki too.” Earlier, Interior Minister Eli
Yishai declared that the goal of the current operation is to “send
Gaza back to the Middle Ages.” But Israel’s most senior officials
appear keen to maintain the approval of Western governments, both by
emphasizing that Gaza militants provoked the assault by firing
hundreds of missiles toward Israeli communities and by arguing their
answering offensive -- more than 1,350 air, tank and warship strikes
so far -- is both fierce and restrained. The public relations section
of the IDF is proactive on the question of minimizing civilian
deaths, posting videos from earlier operations showing the trouble
Israeli pilots take to avoid injuring bystanders while pursuing
military targets. Several show gunsight footage of pilots diverting
their bombs -- after release, in flight -- when the car they are
aiming at enters a garage, or pulls up beside a cluster of
pedestrians. The missiles explode a safe distance away.

“We are learning, and we are improving from last time,” a senior
Israeli officer told TIME late last week. “But eventually we will
make a mistake, and there’ll be an accident. There’ll be a picture
of children who have been hit, and it will be devastating for us.”

Any contrast with Cast Lead is intentional. That operation began with
a massive attack on a police graduation, cutting down dozens of
cadets standing in formation. From the start, Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu framed Defensive Pillar as a series of “surgical
strikes,” and five days later, the relatively refined approach may
be having an effect. Though Israel has called up 40,000 reserves in
preparation for a possible ground assault, attention shifted over the
weekend to the terms of a possible cease-fire, mediated by Egypt,
that would avoid a ground war neither side seems to want. Officials
say Israel’s primary demand is a total cessation of rocket fire into
its territory (900 of which have been fired since Wednesday,
resulting in three Israeli deaths). For Hamas, the primary demand is
for a promise that Israel will stop killing its senior officials and

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Meet the Men Who Will Rule China
( TIME )

In The Wizard of Oz, the ruler behind the curtain in the Emerald City
turns out to be not an imposing mystical force but a mere mortal --
and a rather unprepossessing one at that. On Nov. 15 in the heart of
Beijing, just a short walk from the Forbidden City, a line of seven
men -- all with neatly coiffed, dyed black hair -- emerged from
behind a giant screen adorned with red-crowned cranes. Thus at
shortly before noon was the world introduced to a powerful clique,
headed by Xi Jinping, that will rule China. The new Politburo
Standing Committee, as the clutch of seven is called, was unveiled at
the Communist-era Great Hall of the People, nearly an hour later than
was initially expected. First to stride the crimson-carpeted stage
was Xi, the new General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and
longtime presumed heir of outgoing leader Hu Jintao. But even if Xi
walked out first, he is only the first among equals in a country that
has traded the personality cult of the Chairman Mao days for a
collective-leadership style. In China, there is not just one wizard,
but seven.

The new men in charge are, in the order they walked onto the stage,
Xi, followed by Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu
Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli. Technically speaking, the
selection of the Standing Committee was conducted by a Communist
Party Central Committee with 205 members, itself chosen by the 2,000
or so delegates to the 18th Party Congress (representing 82.6 million
Chinese Communist Party members) that wrapped up its week-long summit
on Nov. 14. In reality, the Standing Committee’s composition was
more likely the result of intense back room negotiations between
forces loyal to Hu and his predecessor Jiang Zemin, among myriad
other factions that belie the unified reputation of the party that
has ruled China for 63 years.

Where will the seven men -- who strode carefully to seven spots pre-
marked with black tape on the stage -- take the People’s Republic?
Frankly, we don’t really know. These men have risen to the top in
part because of their ability to hide their personal quirks under a
cloak of Communist secrecy. But there are a few things we can divine
from the septet. First, the new Standing Committee is jammed with
princelings, the offspring of Communist Party elders who grew up
accustomed to the privileges of power, despite some tumultuous years
during the Cultural Revolution when the tide turned against these
coddled scions. Being a member of the crimson aristocracy doesn’t
dictate a Standing Committee member’s politics. Zhang Dejiang, who
walked third in line, is a North Korea-trained economist, while Wang
Qishan, No. 6, is considered more of a market-oriented reformer.
Still, one thing unites most of these princelings: they are acolytes
of former party chief Jiang, who at 86 years old still retains
surprising influence in party politics.

Xi’s ascension marked a break with a decade of leadership by the
ultimate colorless Communist cadre. When Hu Jintao took power a
decade ago, some hoped that he might usher in political reforms to
match China’s economic opening. Those hopes were dashed; over the
past 10 years, Hu felt more like a Party hologram than a flesh-and-
blood leader. Only twice in his tenure did he give substantive live
speeches to the Chinese people. By contrast, in his first remarks as
General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party on Thursday, the
broad-shouldered 59-year-old Xi cracked a spontaneous joke --
apologizing for keeping the assembled press waiting, a comment that
was not part of his official remarks -- and spoke naturally. His
delivery contrasted with the slow and emphatic whine of ideologically
tinged speech that mars so many Chinese leaders’ speaking styles,
most notably Hu’s.

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The Case for Barack Obama
( TIME )

Waiting in line for two-and-a-half hours is rarely an exciting
experience. But when my son and I voted early -- he for the first
time -- at a community center in Rockville, Md., both of us were
inspired by the hundreds of other people intent on exercising
democracy’s most basic right.

The sweep of the Obama coalition represented in that snaking line led
my son and me to conclude something else: The President Obama of 2012
may no longer stir the jubilation called forth by the Barack Obama of
2008. But the hope and resolve he spoke of then have not vanished.

Most relevant to this year’s choice is the fact that the economy is
in far better shape than it would have been if we had followed the
counsel of Obama’s foes. They would have allowed the auto industry
to collapse. They would have ignored history’s lesson that
government must step in to stimulate economic activity when private
demand plummets. We know from the experience of Europe that austerity
leads to stagnation. Obama made the better choice.

Obama’s decision to ignore cautious political advisers and see
through the health care reform fight came at great political cost.
Even some of his allies think the electoral price was too high. But
this is a measure of Obama’s fortitude. By bringing the promise of
health insurance to tens of millions of our citizens, Obama ended a
national scandal. No other wealthy nation allows so many to live
without basic coverage for illness or to rely on emergency rooms as a
last resort. They either arrive there long after the opportunity to
get well has passed, or they survive only to face years, sometimes a
lifetime, of debt. The Affordable Care Act is an achievement worthy
of our great reforming Presidents.

All are part of the case for Obama. But the best reason for his
re-election goes back to what motivated so many middle-of-the-road
voters four years ago. Americans who want to replace polarization
with balance, extremism with moderation, obstruction with problem
solving and blind partisanship with compromise need Obama to win
again. An Obama defeat would empower those whose go-for-broke
approach to politics is largely responsible for the distemper of our
public life and the dysfunction in Washington.

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The Case for Mitt Romney
( TIME )

Mitt Romney does not naturally inspire adulation. In school, he
should have been voted least likely to engender a cult of
personality. It is almost surprising to hear crowds at his rallies
chant his name.

A President Romney would be utterly unburdened by messianic
expectations. If he’s elected, the American public will have hired
him to do a job, not to save the planet or redeem our politics.
Thankfully. We’ve had enough self-styled heroic government to last
us a good long time.

President Romney’s task would be simple, if not easy: to reform
government for the 21st century and put it on a basis more conducive
to private-sector growth and long-term national solvency.

He and running mate Paul Ryan are the candidates of change at a time
when our future depends on it. The welfare state is in crisis around
the Western world, especially in Europe but also here at home --
acutely in such states as California and Illinois. It is creaking
under dated assumptions, aging populations and the unavoidable truth
of the age-old axiom that you can’t spend money that you don’t have.

What have been drags on Romney’s appeal as a candidate might suit
him in doing this job. He really does care about the data. He is
bloodlessly efficient and highly rational. An important player in the
transformation of the private sector at Bain Capital, he now might
get a leading role in the modernization of American government.

The President’s case for re-election has been weak, in keeping with
the weakness of his record. Let’s stipulate that he inherited a
punishing recession. But the argument that Bush’s policies “got us
into this mess” (and by extension, that Romney’s would do the same)
is better partisanship than history. In 2007, years after the Bush
tax cuts, the budget deficit was all of $161 billion. There is no
plausible economic theory by which tax cuts caused the housing bubble
and subsequent financial crisis.

The mantra that Obama saved us from another Great Depression rings
hollow since the recession officially ended in June 2009, before any
of his policies had a chance to take effect. He shot $800 billion on
the stimulus and got nothing for it except some pleased spendthrift
allies in Congress. His faith was in a simplistic Keynesianism that
said willy-nilly government spending could cure the downturn. Alas,
the economy is more complicated than that.

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25 Free Android Apps to Get You Started
( TIME )

A smart phone won’t get you too far without at least a few great
apps, and Android’s no exception. As you customize your new phone to
your liking, here are 25 of the best Android apps to get you started.


Let’s say you find a long article on the Web -- something you need
at least 10 minutes to read -- but you’re at work or otherwise too
busy to read it all right away. Just install the Pocket extension or
bookmarklet in your browser, and you can save the story for your
lunch break. Pocket’s Android app formats Web pages in a clean,
booklike view, and it stores content off-line so you can still catch
up on reading in a dead zone.


If you bought a new Android phone this year, chances are it runs
Android 4.0 or higher. Do yourself a favor and replace your phone’s
stock browser with Google Chrome. It’s smooth, it has a neat way of
showing all your open tabs, and it automatically syncs bookmarks and
open tabs if you’re using Chrome on a PC or Mac. Chrome will soon be
the default browser on all new Android devices, so you might as well
join the party now. (If your phone has an older version of Android, I
recommend Firefox as an alternative browser.)


You hear a song you like. You don’t know who plays it. You open
Shazam and press the big button, and a few seconds later, the app
tells you the title, the artist, the album and even the lyrics. It’s
basically the embodiment of what mobile apps are all about.


Now that you’ve got a new phone, and you’ve binged on strange and
exotic apps, you might want to make sure they’re not sapping the
phone’s battery life. After about a week of use, Carat generates a
personalized report about which apps are draining battery and should
be shut down (or removed). The app itself promises not to drain the
battery either, so there’s no harm in keeping it around to help find
battery-killing culprits.

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Ew La La! New Poll Sullies French Reputation for Personal Hygiene
( TIME )

It isn’t news likely to upend enduring Anglo-Saxon stereotypes
regarding the French. According to a new poll, nearly one fifth of
all French people say they don’t wash every day, with 3.5% avoiding
soap and water more than once a week. So much for obliterating the
decades-old Anglais claim that “the French don’t bathe”.

The study also found about 20% of French people surveyed admitted
they don’t wash their hands before dining, and more than 12% forego
the trip to the sink after using les toilettes. By contrast, over 86%
said they do wash their hands as a prerequisite to preparing a meal.

Findings in the BVA poll for hygiene product manufacturer Tork won’t
do much to undermine the enduring -- and outdated -- American and
English preconceptions of the French as being a tad nonchalant when
it comes to the old corporal sponge-down. That malodorous reputation
took root in the ancient French preference for dousing themselves
with perfume or cologne rather than with soap and water when body
smell began putting a hurt on the nose.

That notorious hygienic reputation was more recently reinforced by
the post-war combination of cramped spaces and slowed urban
reconstruction that forstalled the arrival of full-service bathrooms
in private dwellings until well after they’d become an integral part
of domestic life in the U.S. and U.K. That differing evolution --
and the abundant use of garlic in cooking -- produced a generation
of midcentury American and British tourists who’d return home from
their otherwise glorious continental visits to report that the French
were particularly malodrous.

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Can Japan Change?
( TIME )

One of the more frustrating tasks I regularly face in my job as an
economics correspondent in Asia is explaining (or attempting to
explain) what goes on in the Japanese economy. In many ways, the
place seems to simply defy logic, or the basic laws of human nature.
How can a society watch its economic fortunes deteriorate for two
decades and do almost nothing about it?

There is another reason, though, that might explain the situation
best, which I hear from my friends in South Korea. I covered the
Asian financial crisis in 1997 from Seoul, and I can tell you that
the Koreans know something about crisis management. At the time, the
economy seemed to plunge off a cliff. Koreans truly worried that
their three-decade economic miracle had come to a sudden, devastating
end. Yet in the aftermath, a stronger, healthier, more innovative
economy emerged.

Many Koreans I have spoken to believe that their country’s
postcrisis success could never have happened without the crisis
itself. The collapse showed everyone just how out-of-date and flawed
their economic model had become and washed away the opposition to
change. In fact, the reforms South Korea eventually adopted, at both
the national and corporate level, broke through many of the same
hurdles now blocking Japan’s way. South Korea, too, suffered from
cozy ties between government and business, too much bureaucratic
interference and a lack of entrepreneurship. Seoul addressed these
issues after the Asian crisis (though not completely); Japan never has.

That could be because Japan has never stared into the abyss. Sure,
recessions have come with depressing frequency, young people can’t
find the solid jobs they used to, corporate Japan is retreating from
industries like consumer electronics, which it once dominated. But
Japan’s fate has been something more like that story about boiling a
frog. If you put the poor amphibian into cold water and turn up the
heat, it doesn’t realize it’s being cooked to death. I’ve never
actually tried this with a real frog, but if it is true, it explains
the situation in Japan. While South Korea got tossed directly into
hot water, Japan has been poached slowly. If Japan faced a South
Korea-like crisis, my friends in Seoul say, that would finally force
Japan to change.

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