Introducing the 2013 Gelber Prize finalists: today's nominee, S.C.M. Paine

Over the next few days, we're going to be featuring one interview per day with the authors of the books nominated for this year's Lionel Gelber Prize, a literary award for the year's best non-fiction book in English on foreign affairs. The award is sponsored by the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto in cooperation with Foreign Policy. The interviews are conducted by Rob Steiner, former Wall Street Journal correspondent and director of fellowships in international journalism at the Munk School. 

Today's author is S.C.M. Paine. Here's the jury's citation for The Wars of Asia: 1911-1949:

"The Wars for Asia: 1911 - 1949 brings a valuable sense of proportion to our understanding of the defining conflicts of the period, including Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour and the ultimate victory of Mao Tse Tung in China in 1949. S. C. M. Paine pulls our gaze away from the European theatre to the intense and extensive wars on the Chinese mainland which set the stage for Japan's entry into the Second World War, bringing the United States to the fronts, and creating the conditions for Mao's success. The ‘logic' of Japanese imperialism is deftly documented, and its consequence for the outcome of the Second World War itself clearly illuminated with sobering implications." 

Listen to the interview here.


Netanyahu's ice cream budget causes national uproar

Israelis are in an uproar over the recent news that their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, spends a whopping $2,700 per year of public funds on ice cream. The story dominated Israeli headlines over the weekend, causing outrage in a country that has faced large-scale unrest over soaring food prices and cuts in government spending. Particularly controversial was the lack of transparency surrounding the ice cream dealings:

Originally this expenditure wasn't included in the Netanyahu family's maintenance budget, but his aides managed to bypass the bureaucratic procedures - transferring one budget item to another normally requires a tender - and get the go-ahead to buy his favorite ice cream flavors from a neighborhood ice cream parlor.

Netanyahu tried to spin his penchant for ice cream -- pistachio in particular-- as being for official entertainment purposes, but the Israeli press isn't buying it. Uzi Benziman, in an editorial for Haaretz, offers a few pointed questions against the prime minister. If the ice cream really serves diplomatic purposes, why should Bibi backtrack now? Also, how could the PM possibly know his guests would prefer pistachio?

...if  Netanyahu not only knows who'll be visiting him in the coming year, but also that their favorite flavors also happen to be vanilla sorbet and pistachio, then what do we need the Shin Bet and the Mossad for?

So what does the prime minister's love of pistachio say about him? One not-so-scientific look at ice cream flavor as personality test, describes pistachio people:

You are a highly individualistic and straight-to-the-point person. No one should mess with you. ...You seek to distinguish yourself from everyone else and take pride in being distinctive and exclusive. You are usually both smart and good-looking and are loved by many, even if you don't know it. However, you can be quite intolerant of certain things in life and you do not like change. You are a diligent planner and seek comfort in the routine things. Perhaps you should loosen up a little and do something spontaneous and totally unplanned - you might surprise yourself!

Ideal Partner: You get along well with banana and vanilla fans

Incidentally, Mrs. Netanyahu's preferred flavor: Vanilla. President Obama, on the other hand, is a fan of chocolate, perhaps explaining the two leaders' rather frosty relationship.