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Amy Davidson in The New Yorker on comparing Paul Ryan's father to Al Smith's Many have noted the significance of the early death of Ryan's father, how it made him grow up. Davidson compares Ryan's experience to that of Al Smith, a former governor of New York and the Democratic presidential candidate in 1928. Unlike Smith, Ryan had the benefit of the social safety net. He received social security benefits as a kid, which he was able to save up for to pay for college. Child labor laws made sure Ryan stayed in school even as he spent summers working, giving him more time to explore the philosophies that so impact him today. "Ryan and his mother would not have had to make the wrenching choices Smith and his mother did."

Bartle B. Bull in The New York Times on what Syrian rebels need President Bashar al-Assad's rule will end soon, and tyrannical minority regimes will also fall out in Syria, Bull writes. But that's not enough to stop violence. Assad's supporters will stay strong with the help of Russia and Iran, while rebels struggle without enough weapons or rations. The rebels aren't taking al Qaeda money, but the lack of American military help "provides extremists with their only opening" and emasculates pro-America Syrians. "The balance of power that currently favors Mr. Assad could easily be overturned," Bull says. "It is not beyond our capabilities to aid these men in bringing down a despicable regime."

William Pesek in Bloomberg View on state-sponsored business in Japan The upcoming $8.5 billion initial public offering of Japan Airlines Co. is a blow to Japan's status as a meritocratic economy, Pesek writes. JAL got a $4.5 billion government bailout, and that sort of "public coddling" signifies much of what is hurting Japan's economy. JAL's rival All Nippon Airways Co. has rebound without a bailout, and now the company is in trouble. JAL, meanwhile, has not adapted to the market. "The unseen costs of publicly financed corporate favoritism riddle Japan's economy," Pesek says. "Someday Japan will have a finance minister with the courage to tell companies to stop bellyaching about the strong currency and learn to adapt the way the Germans did."

John Lough in The Telegraph on how Pussy Riot won over Russian bureaucracy Punk rock band Pussy Riot will get their verdict this week for performing a political song at a Moscow church earlier this year. The three women "have been part of a Kafkaesque drama that provides evidence of how the Putin system can lose control when confronted by unexpected challenges," Lough writes. The band's song mentioned Putin and told Russian bureaucrats to take action at different levels though no orders had been given. "Working on autopilot, the machinery below Putin improvised and overcompensated, producing unplanned actions and results." The band will probably be found guilty, but "a new political Rubicon has been crossed in Russia," Lough says. "The Putin model could quickly start to look shaky if others follow Pussy Riot’s example and exploit the vulnerabilities inherent in its decision-making process.

Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post on empty Medicare debates Marcus does a fact-check on the talking points in political Medicare debates. With talk of bloods and guts, the core of the issue is absent. Both Obama-Biden and Romney-Ryan actually have many of the same Medicare cuts. Instead, Marcus says bigger questions at stake: Will voucher-incited competition among insurance companies actually lower rates? Will Medicare still be a viable option? And, to Democrats, "What's your plan? They haven't offerend one." The Ryan pick could move the healthcare discussion forward. "But I worry, as I think responsible politicians in both parties should, that it could serve instead to reaffirm the danger of the third rail."

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