The Editor’s Note - We are prisoners of destiny

There are geopolitical absolutes that are nearly permanent fixtures of history and change little over time even as governments shift from policy to policy.

Britain is located on a large island and is hard to invade, Italy will always want a special relationship with Albania because the two countries between them control the narrow access to the Adriatic Sea.

The U.S. will always care about Panama as long as the Isthmus is the shortest way from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean.

We deal in this issue with several other policy constants, more intangible, perhaps newer, but no less real. One is Europe’s millennial distrust of the Turks; somehow the Ottoman siege of Vienna has crept into the Continent’s marrow.

Germany has not got over the appalling Weimar inflation, which ninety years ago destroyed the wealth of generations and set the stage for the Second World War – and for today’s European austerity.

France, having never quite obtained the Empire she so badly wanted, but never really achieved, simply cannot forget about Africa. Iran cannot shake its own imperial – Persian – past and will always attempt to box above its weight: sometimes successfully, as in the recent ‘5+1’ nuclear negotiations.

In this issue we look beyond simple destiny to other intriguing themes. We have an expert’s view of the surprising expansion of the Chinese mafia(s) across the globe, something on why Turkey has decided to legalize the use of three new letters in its alphabet and a note on dolphins trained for war - and the chance that they will be sent into combat against robot drones. It turns out too that a country where the news is always bad – Pakistan – has, for the moment at least, the hottest stock market in the world. India’s Hindus instead apparently view their country’s Mars space mission as a chance to shake off an ancient curse, while Japan – desperately short of energy – is exploring the enormous, if risky, potential of undersea frozen methane ‘fire ice’ as a way of powering its industries.

There is much more, including our cover story about an entire nation – Japan, again – that seems to be losing its taste for making love. Elsewhere, some experts suspect that PowerPoint presentations, and the mental state they induce, may present a real danger for World peace. But then, it was once thought that reading without pronouncing the words aloud was bad for the mind too.