WINDOW ON AFRICA: In the course of reporting today's story about the G-8 summit (page 1), the Monitor's Danna Harman visited the Website of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). "It was an exercise in frustration. The site was professionally designed, with lots of pictures. But it was slow. Click on 'energy development,' and there would be a long list of documents, but after waiting 10 minutes to download one, you'd get a message like 'document not available now.' Sure, NEPAD is just getting off the ground. And I hope it succeeds. But from this tiny window, it seemed like a metaphor for past grand African development plans. Impressive on the outside, but don't look too closely."
Still, Danna adds that expectations of donor nations are changing, and that creates a different climate. "A human rights activist in Sierra Leone told me that, in the past, corrupt governments got money if they were on the right side of the cold war. Today, outside donors expect good governance of African leaders. That's a different paradigm."
ACADEMIC POVERTY IN RUSSIA : Correspondent Fred Weir has seen the effects of the decline in Russian academia (this page) firsthand.
His mother-in-law is Tatiana Shaumian, director of the Centre for Indian Studies in Moscow. During Soviet times, she had a good salary and a nice apartment, and traveled to India two or three times a year on state-paid research trips. But after the USSR fell, travel budgets dried up, and her pay began to erode. "President Putin's grand statements praising science as the intellectual infrastructure of Russia have not resulted in any concrete changes to shore it up," Fred says. His mother-in-law has sought new sources of income Oxford University recently published a book she wrote. "But that's not enough to live on," says Fred. "In a field that's esoteric, the state has to help."
David Clark Scott