By Brian Smith
Group of Seven
leaders have plenty to talk about. Japan's trade surplus is rising, Europe is integrating and the U.S. economy is amazing. What's likely to happen? A round of handshakes, a slew of mushy speeches and a pile of spent flashbulbs.
Of course, it's not quite that useless. Plenty of people can actually make sense of the spectacular diplomatic
pas de deux
. Ooops. Make that
pas de huit
, now that Russia has been invited to join the informal rich man's club of international leaders. For those of us on the sidelines, the informed have posted their playbooks on the World Wide Web.
There's plenty about the Italian economy on the Net, though most of it is as nutritious as a slice of
-- washed down with
. Fairly hearty meals, however, can be found at
Sistema Italia Guide to the Economy and Investments in Italy
Italian Stock Exchange
. Sistema Italia is a workhorse. Free of bells and whistles, the site is an all-purpose introduction to the Italian economy. For those looking to plunk down money in Europe's third-largest economy, the Italian Stock Exchange provides a comprehensive listing of traded companies and bonds.
No economy in Europe garners more attention than Germany's. And no German institution is more widely trusted than the
, the country's central bank. The site has all the panache you'd expect from central bankers, as long as you like your panache gray. Appearance aside, there's a lot to be learned about European Monetary Union and the state of the economy. And bring a bowl of popcorn; the site archives films of Bundesbankers' speeches.
Lastly, information on the world's second-largest economy is available at the oddly named
From Cherry Blossoms to Economic Trends
. The site is a compendium of tidbits on Japan's economic policy, ministries and key industries. (It also has information on flower arranging, rice wine and the country's numerous festivals.) About the only issue we didn't find covered (and one that would be appropriate for the big Denver love-in) is the Russo-Japanese dispute over the Kurile islands, a chain of desolate rocks so unimpressive you wonder why anyone could get impassioned over them. That, of course, makes them the perfect topic of Internet introverts. Check out
Isles of Contention
site. It also provides information on the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands, claimed by as many as four countries. Maybe the claimants can start their own group.