Updates: Mullen/Obama in US, old/fat in China

1) I mentioned recently Charles Stevenson's observation that when Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the JCS, testified yesterday about the Afghanistan decision, he was much more detailed and positive in describing how President Obama made the decision than he had indicated in his prepared testimony. By the time I put up the item, the relevant Pentagon site showed only the "as delivered" version of Mullen's comments, not his prepared testimony.

Thanks to reader E. Rossi, here is a PDF of Mullen's prepared remarks, from the Senate Armed Services Committee's site. It indeed confirms what Stevenson said. The prepared testimony had only one line about the process. ("I support fully, and without hesitation, the President's decision.") The "as delivered" version, reflecting Mullen's actual comments to the committee, went on in quite some detail. "I have seen my share of internal debates about various national security issues -- especially over the course of these last two years. And I can honestly say that I do not recall an issue so thoroughly or so thoughtfully considered as this one." Etc. This is just to close an open loop.

2) I mentioned last night a report from a long-time foreign teacher in China, who has been told that his and his wife's visas won't be renewed and therefore that they will have to leave the country, because they are now over age 60. Many readers have written in to emphasize the (true, and widely known) fact that large Chinese organizations generally have "low" mandatory retirement ages, at least by U.S. standards. Typically for government offices and big companies it would be age 60 for men and 55 for women. As with everything in China, there are of course exceptions. The issue here is the foreign-teachers' argument that mechanistic application of the rule is self-defeating, since it will make it that much harder for their provincial university to maintain the English program they have built up.

The "news" aspect of the story is whether the government is enforcing the age limit, particularly for foreigners, in a way it hadn't before -- or whether this is yet another instance of varying decisions being made by varied officials across the vast country. On that front I have queries out.

3) In the same account I mentioned that calling someone "fat" in Chinese, like calling someone "old," was at worst neutral and more often positive.  A reader pointed out that I needed to be more precise about such terms. To my comment, "I don't remember anyone calling me 胖方-- Pang Fang, "Fat Mr. Fang" -- but if they had that would have been complimentary too," Paul Camp of Atlanta says:

"If so, shouldn't that be 'Phat Mr. Fang?' Nuances count in translation."  Good point.