Thursday, July 15, 2004
As Brazil and Argentina fight over electrodomestic import taxes, the major alliance in Latin America is strained. Wouldn't it be good for the two governments to play by the same rules by which they have managed to make both the US and the EU abide? Why is Argentina straining relations by demanding that Brazilian electrodomestics have a high imports tax when entering Brazil?Article here:

THE AMERICAS: Brazil president urged to act on Argentine quotas
By Raymond Colitt in Sao Paulo
Financial Times; Jul 15, 2004

"Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, president of Brazil, came under increasing domestic pressure yesterday to take a tough stance against trade restrictions that Argentina adopted last week on selected Brazilian products.

Buenos Aires imposed a temporary 21 per cent tariff on television sets and an import licence for white goods, although it postponed their implementation pending bilateral negotiations.

Brazilian industry and labour leaders harshly criticised their southern neighbours this week, saying they were seeking unrealistic quotas on Brazilian imports.

São Paulo metal workers protested on Monday and demonstrated yesterday in front of the Argentine consulate, calling on Mr Lula da Silva to intervene.

The president, himself a former metalworker and union leader, is now caught between siding with Brazilian workers or giving in to Argentine demands as part of his aim to strengthen Mercosur, the South American trade block.

Mr Lula da Silva has been an adamant defender of regional integration and has been applauded by several neighbours for his consensus-building efforts."
Is this even a surprise?

The artickle is a bit older, but it drives home the point:Richest U.S. counties are largely white, suburban: "WASHINGTON — Very suburban and mostly white, some of the richest counties in the nation aren't very diverse.

For instance, of the 10 counties that boasted the biggest increases in median household income during the decade, seven had non-Hispanic white populations of 90 percent or more. Nationally, 69 percent of Americans are white."
Saturday, July 03, 2004
It has been very difficult to find the time to write so far since the start of the (northern hemisphere) summer, but here I am :)

A couple of weeks ago I was outraged at reading an article on The Economist that said that Americans are simply failing to see the wonderful economic recovery that is happenign right now, and that's what's keeping the country behind. I was very disappointed, as I've seen quite a few articles from the same magazine in the past that were quite objective and free of any center-right (or center-left, for that matter) slant.

I was also horrified when two days ago I read on the NYT that a man was put in solitary confinement for three months for mistakenly videotaping a building that (he didn't know) hosted some FBI is a part of the story:

In F.B.I., Innocent Detainee Found Unlikely Ally:

"He was a Buddhist from Nepal planning to return there after five years of odd jobs at places like a Queens pizzeria and a Manhattan flower shop. He was taping New York street scenes to take back to his wife and sons in Katmandu. And he had no clue that the tall building that had drifted into his viewfinder happened to include an office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Yet by the time Mr. Wynne filed his F.B.I. report a few days later, the Nepalese man, who spoke almost no English, had been placed in solitary confinement at a federal detention center in Brooklyn just because of his videotaping. He was swallowed up in the government's new maximum security system of secret detention and secret hearings, and his only friend was the same F.B.I. agent who had helped decide to put him there.

Except for the videotape — "a tourist kind of thing," in Mr. Wynne's estimation — no shred of suspicion attached to the man, Purna Raj Bajracharya, 47, who came from Nepal in 1996. His one offense — staying to work on a long-expired tourist visa — was an immigration violation punishable by deportation, not jail. But he wound up spending three months in solitary confinement before he was sent back to Katmandu in January 2002, and to release him from his shackles, even Mr. Wynne needed help.

The clearance process had become so byzantine that the officer who had set the procedure in motion could not hasten it. Unable to procure a release that officially required signatures from top antiterrorism officials in Washington, Mr. Wynne took an uncommon step for an F.B.I. agent: he called the Legal Aid Society for a lawyer to help the jailed man."

Or here you can read the article, "US economy generates fewer jobs than expected."
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Mr. Kim worked for a trading company that supplied the US army. Despite his pleas, begging for his life that appeared on television and on the internet, Mr. Kim was beheaded by Iraqi militants who demanded Korea to pull its 3000 troops out of Iraq. Is death ever justified? Can one single life ever be eliminated against its will, whether for country, or freedom, or anything? This isn't news, but both sides in this war show just how degerate humanity can be.

Too disgusted for words.
Roh firm on sending more troops to Iraq :

"South Korea president Roh Moo-hyun said on Wednesday in a televised address that his government was determined to send more troops to Iraq despite the beheading of a South Korean hostage by Islamist militants.

In his first public response to the death of 33-year old Kim Sun-il, Mr Roh told a nation deeply divided over the country's involvement in Iraq that his government condemned acts of terrorism and was determined to fight against them in cooperation with the international community.

His comments echoed those of George W. Bush, US president, who said on Tuesday night that the US would not be intimidated by Iraqi militants. "They want us to cower in the face of their brutal killings, and the United States will not be intimidated . . . because we believe strongly in freedom and liberty."

Mr Kim, a fluent Arabic speaker, was seized last week near Falluja while working for a Korean trading company supplying the US military. He was killed on Tuesday night in spite of efforts by Iraqi clerics to secure his release."

And on the other side, US approved use of dogs in interrogations::

"The White House on Tuesday released documents showing the US had for a period approved the use of dogs in the interrogation of prisoners. But it said the practice was later withdrawn and it denied ever sanctioning torture.

"I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture," President George W. Bush said from the Oval Office.

Seeking to contain a growing scandal over prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, the White House took the unusual step of releasing a trove of documents that it said reflected thorough and agonising policy deliberations over how to treat detainees in the war on terror.

White House lawyers conceded that some legal theories in the documents could be construed as "controversial"."
Monday, June 21, 2004
Pretty strong title for a Financial Times story:

UN slams US over spending Iraq funds:

"United Nations-mandated auditors have sharply criticised the US occupation authority for the way it has spent more than $11bn in Iraqi oil revenues and say they have faced "resistance" from coalition officials.

In an interim report, obtained by the Financial Times, KPMG says the Development Fund for Iraq, which is managed by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority and channels oil revenue into reconstruction projects, is "open to fraudulent acts".

The auditors criticise the CPA's bookkeeping and warn: "The CPA does not have effective controls over the ministries' spending of their individually allocated budgets, whether the funds are direct from the CPA or via the ministry of finance."

The findings come after US complaints about the UN's administration of the oil-for-food programme under Saddam Hussein."