Explainer Mailbag: Who's No. 8?

Explainer Mailbag: Who's No. 8?

Explainer Mailbag: Who's No. 8?

Answers to your questions about the news.
July 27 2001 5:04 PM

Explainer Mailbag: Who's No. 8?

After reading about last weekend's G8 summit, Slate readers Rachel Roberson, Julie Schlesinger, and James Thorson all noted that the G8 is usually described as "the seven richest countries in the world, plus Russia." If Russia isn't the world's eighth-richest country, who is? Answer: Brazil, which has the world's eighth-largest gross domestic product, according to the World Bank's latest figures. (You'll need Adobe Acrobat to read the link.)

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But the old Group of Seven (the United States, Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy) wasn't an association of the world's seven richest countries. They're the seven biggest industrialized countries. That's how they justify leaving out No. 7 China and No. 8 Brazil, both of which have bigger GDPs than No. 9 Canada. Russia slides in at No. 15 on the GDP list, after Spain, Mexico, India, South Korea, and Australia.

Why not use GDP per capita? Because then the G7 would be dominated by small countries like Luxembourg, which has the world's highest GDP per person. Anne Applebaum has the best idea of all for the G7/G8: Get rid of it.

Matt Gross, who kicked off last week's Explainer mailbag, has another question this week: "Are Jonathan Safran Foer, whose fiction recently appeared in The New Yorker, and Joshua Foer, Slate intern, related?" he asks. Yes Related or No Relation?

They're brothers. Joshua Foer, who wrote this morning's "Today's Papers," is a rising sophomore at Yale. His older brother Jonathan Safran Foer is a Princeton alum who just sold his first novel, Everything Is Illuminated, for nearly $500,000. It will be published in the spring. Don't forget oldest brother Franklin Foer, a NewRepublic associate editor and former Slate staffer. And you may have read quotations from their father, Albert Foer, in the press. He's the president of the American Antitrust Institute.

Several readers wondered: If the postal service breaks even over time, why can't Amtrak? Explainer directs them to thisWashington Post article. The upshot: "no passenger train system in the world makes money." Despite this, Congress has required Amtrak to become "operationally self-sufficient" by Dec. 2, 2002. If Amtrak can't get off the congressional dole by then, Congress will consider "restructuring or liquidation." Amtrak President George Warrington wants Congress to decide whether Amtrak should be run as a public service or a business.

August is the time for reruns, David Plotz noted today. But Explainer doesn't see any reason to wait until then. Sara Smith wants to know why newspapers refer to former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid as "Wahid," while they refer to his successor, Megawati Sukarnoputri, as "Megawati." Here's why. And numerous Slate readers, including David Levine, want to know why President Bush can withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty without Congress' say-so. They must have missed class two weeks ago.