A full-time brother

Growing up, my brother Billy and I shared a bedroom. We slept on a bed that folded into a futon. When we weren’t asleep or at school, he followed me everywhere. If I locked myself in a room, he’d try to pick the lock or figure out another way to get in.

I hated it at the time, being shadowed wherever I went. I was five and a half years older than Billy, and having your younger brother around was a liability. If I was with friends and we got into trouble and needed to run, he was usually the slowest in the pack. I felt like Billy was holding me back, sometimes literally.

But I also knew he needed me, and so when my friends weren’t watching I tried to teach Billy the difference between right and wrong, helped him with homework and showed him how to field a ground ball. I had to fill the void of our dad, who died when Billy was 4 and I was 10. Continue reading

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Performing America’s toughest job alone

I was riding in the back of a cab on a recent afternoon when the driver looked up and said he had a message for me.

“The 21st century belongs to China,” the man, in his 50s, said in Mandarin. “For every 10 cents we earn, we save 9, that’s why the Chinese were not really affected by the global financial crisis … Foreigners are now coming here to learn how to save money.”

I smiled and kept my mouth shut, as I often do when I’m told that China will pass the United States as the world’s top economy. It’s a common belief these days, not only here but in the rest of the world. The reason? As Bill Clinton would say, “It’s the economy stupid.”

“This is especially the case in Western Europe, where the percentage naming China as the world’s top economic power has increased by double digits in Spain, Germany, Britain and France since 2009,” Richard Wike, associate director of the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, said last month in a discussion on US-China public opinion.

A luxury hotel under construction beside the gleaming China Central Television tower in downtown Beijing. Construction projects can be seen in many large cities in China, the world's second-largest economy.

Meanwhile, the Chinese, by almost a 2-to-1 margin, still rate the US as the world’s top economy, Wike said. Continue reading