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."
Saturday, June 12, 2004

Trade conference becomes more pragmatic

Delegates to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) this weekend in São Paulo will be surprised by the shift in focus from the anti-establishment rhetoric of yesteryear to pragmatic, free-market economics.

Representatives, mostly from developing nations, will learn how to combat poverty by slashing capital costs and meeting consumer preferences in wealthy nations. Forty years after its foundation, Unctad is preaching supply-side economics.

"We don't have the least problem with the idea of [a] market economy but for it to work you need to create a supply-side capability," Rubens Ricupero, secretary- general of Unctad, told the FT. "Unctad is still seen as a 1970s organisation but we have changed a lot. Today we are more pragmatic and emphasise export-led devel opment."

This week the Group of Eight summit said it accepted that developing countries should be allowed to liberalise at their own pace.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004
"American interrogators can legally violate a US ban on the use of torture abroad as part of President George W. Bush's fight against terrorism, US government lawyers have said.

The lawyers concluded in a draft report drawn up last year at the request of senior military commanders overseeing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay that legal statutes against torture could not override Mr Bush's inherent powers.

The revelations are bound to increase international concerns about how the US has conducted its interrogation of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq and Afghanistan, and at what level any abuses may have been authorised."

Financial Times
Saturday, June 05, 2004
Bad news outweighs the good for Brazil,

Brazil's financial markets lost ground after Opec announced a lower-than-expected output increase, heightening fears that rising oil prices could derail a worldwide economic recovery.

Currently high oil prices took the shine off approval by the lower house of Congress of a conservative rise in Brazil's minimum wage. The vote was seen as a test of the government's legislative clout and ability to keep to a fiscally sound package.

Civil servants' pensions are pegged to the minimum wage and any rise has a direct impact on public coffers. Investors were paying close attention to the vote for assurance that IMF-agreed budget goals would not be put at risk.

Sunday, May 30, 2004
Is poverty an injustice or a misfortune?

The misfortune of being born poor becomes an injustice if the government does not attempt to remedy this situation when it can. The question of disadvantaged birth is already incorporated into many welfare systems. But these systems are often not available to citizens of the third world. Instead, many if not most people in the “first world” will simply consider themselves fortunate and argue that it is a misfortune to be born into more precarious conditions. Likewise, even those in the upper classes in third world nations many times prefer to contend themselves with marveling at their own “fortune” and be thankful that they were not born into the misfortunate that most of their compatriots endure daily. Most of the people born in these countries do not have any chance for upward mobility, and must simply accept their condition. The misfortune of those born into lower positions becomes an injustice as those who can do nothing to help them.
What surprises me the most is that even a Pakistani was killed -- after all, Pakistan is known for breaking with India mostly along Muslim-Hindu lines.

"Saudi siege ends after Briton's body dragged"
"At least nine Saudis and seven foreigners have been killed.

A statement purportedly from Saudi-born Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network was posted on Islamist Internet sites claiming responsibility for the attack, the third on foreigners in less than a month in the birthplace of Islam.

An American, a Briton, an Egyptian, two Filipinos, an Indian and a Pakistani were killed in the initial attack, along with two Saudis and seven security force members, the security sources said."
Saturday, May 29, 2004
Coug has a pagewith several links to incidents of reported torture currently taking place
"India's new government 'committed'"
Friday, May 28, 2004
For those of you who may have been wondering, the lack of posts in the past couple of weeks were due to the fact that I was travelling. But now I'm back, and back to blogging...

It's hard to believe the economy is getting better. Sure, Bush & Co. are quite busy advertising what we all know simply isn't true. But the global recession doesn't seem to be getting any better, and it goes far beyond US gas prices -- probably the main concern of most Americans right now.

Unemployment soars, especially in the third world. In Sao Paulo alone, 20% of the population is either unemployed orunable to find work. Recession also reaches the first world, and Europe is taking a hit. Inflation rates have reached a two year high. This is significant because the whole of the EU tries to keep strict regulations on inflation so that the individual countries can each keep relatively comparable and compatible economies. Especially with the recent enlargement, further recession could create tension among the 25 member states
Friday, May 14, 2004
In an original post I agreed with the fact that sixty+ universities are complaining to the White House about its strict isolationist policy towards other countries, and how that is hurting universities in the US.

Yet I believe I may have failed to justify my claim. I think I have grown used to a liberal audience, and have begun to make the mistake of assuming that my readers will share the foundational claims behind the issues I discuss. I may have started to focus more on the "how" of what's happening, and less on "why" it is significant from a liberal perspective -- that last part being assumed. Thankfully, the diversity of opinion even among us liberals is still enought to keep me challenged to defend my position at all times...

So, following a reply from Michael, I decided to go more in depth about why having international student and cultural exchanges is consistent and necessary with a liberal position...I'll admit my personal bias upfront: having been a foreign student many times, I can't possibly think that cutting back on international students is a good thing. Nonetheless, there is still a lot to be said from a less personal point of view.

If it weren't for the opportunities for students to go abroad, cultural exchanges (already rare) would be nearly non-existent. Moreover, most students born in third world countries would never even get a chance to get a better education. Some countries, like Colombia, hardly even offer Master's programs at all. That said, were it not for the brain flow coming from Europe during WWII, some of the greatest "progress" the US has made would not have happened.

These foreign students are often made to pay 3x to 4x (10x in Canada, as tuition there is highly subsidized to local students) the amount of tuition of other students, and as competition is fierce these are often the brightest minds of their own countries (though not in all cases, as you can see yours truly got in anyways). It is a known fact that it is a lot harder to enter a university as an international student than as a local one (thanks to quotas, international students have the entire world as competition, whereas local students have more of a chance of getting in). Visa and money requirements are already too strict, ensuring only the upper-middle class gets to travel. If anything, the US and other first world countries need to ease these requirements, as the university group is demanding. Its currently strict position is not only hurting the university life of the US, it is diminishing the already too narrow possibilities for cultural exchanges.

There is also another side to it. I have to admit that in many ways I'm a renegade centrist. Not the irrational, fundamentalist rightwing kind, but the right-of-center in economics kind. I started out extremely liberal, then travelling around made me both consider the opposite point of view, and return to my original one with more conviction as a result of experience.

Spending time in Quebec, one of the most socialist places in the world, and seeing some of the administrative shortcomings of that system made me start to think that perhaps the economic conservatives had it right (pun intended). Then I travelled more -- and suddenly I started to realize what it's like to really put yourself in the shoes of people who are born without any benefits at all. I started to realize that behind the principle of right-of-center economics (along with xenophobia, of which I was never guilty) is a profound apathy for anyone else's condition. I started to realize that poverty is not only a misfortune -- it is an injustice, as long as we perpetuate it by caring only about the size of our tv screen.

I now admire the Canadian system, and fully understand just why Canadians defend their healthcare so much. In fact, I've even noticed a pattern among the kinds of destinations my friends pick when they do exchanges or travel -- the conservatives usually go to Europe and try to avoid the third world entirely (unless it's to stay in some secluded resort where the only natives they encounter are service staff)!!

Europe itself has started to recognize the benefits of cultural exchanges (although it has in many ways restricted itself to pan-European programs only). The EU has created many programs like Erasmus (anyone seen the French movie L'Auberge Espagnole?) to promote student travel and exchange, precisely out of the belief that these exchanges can lead to more of a high-quality, standardized level of education, and to a greater respect and understanding for other cultures (European, in this case). I think if anything the US should be encouraging more of its students to study abroad -- if only in one year exchanges -- to end the isolationism of which it is so often accused.

So shouldn't the US be saddened indeed at losing international graduate students? What do you guys think?
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Applications from international students to US graduate programs is down 32 percent this year. This comes at a time of economic recess, when the opposite trend is usually expected. As the economy goes into recession, young professionals return to universities for more advanced degrees. So why are international students shunning US schools, preventing a "brain flow" (as opposed to a brain drain) into the US? The recent changes in US visa requirements and restrictions are exaggerated, to say the least. In a letter from over 60 universities and colleges to the White House, university professors are requesting the US to ease those restrictions.

Financial Times story:

"A broad coalition of American academics warned on Wednesday of a crisis in research and scholarship caused by tighter controls on visas for foreigners.

The 25 organisations, claiming to represent about 95 per cent of the US research community, say urgent reform is needed if their institutions are to remain a favoured destination for the world's brightest international students and researchers.

In a letter to the White House, FBI and state and homeland security departments, they warn: "The US cannot hope to maintain its present scientific and economic leadership positi on if it becomes isolated from the rest of the world." The signatories include organisations representing 60 universities and more than 20 leading scientific bodies.

The Bush administration has signalled it is prepared to reconsider aspects of visa policies. Colin Powell, secretary of state, said on Wednesday that if the US lost foreign students and other scholars because of the delays, "we risk losing their goodwill and that is a priceless thing to lose".

The academics urge the adoption of six reforms to cut bureaucracy created by security checks, which they say has created "the misperception that the US does not welcome international students, scholars and scientists". They say about 14,000 visa applications were flagged for special review in 2002 - up from 1,000 in 2000, before the new rules were enacted.

Foreign applications to US graduate schools have declined 32 per cent this year."
Monday, May 10, 2004
Via Coug

"Several hundred foreign students at Norwegian universities are being monitored by the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST). The PST claims they must have intelligence on students that gain knowledge that could be used to develop weapons of mass destruction, student newspaper Studvest reports.

In Bergen alone over 500 foreign students are registered by the PST. The lists pertain to students from nations outside of the Schengen area and North America.

Students from countries run by totalitarian regimes or from nations that had not ratified treaties against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are of special interest."
Want to understand better why the latest European offer is significant? Checkthis post on the WTO rulings.
Two weeks ago the World Trade Organization ruled in favour of Brazil against US subsidies of agricultural products. This was a landmark decision where for the first time a third world nation successfully challenged a first world country.

Now, Europe has offered to eliminate its agricultural export subsidies. Europe has been one of the most obstinant opponents to the end of subsidization, leaving many third world countries angered that they had to comply with rules that first world countries did not. So there is hope...

Financial Times:

The European Union will on Monday offer to eliminate its agricultural export subsidies and soften its demands for controversial new trade rules in an attempt to revive progress in the Doha world-trade round.

The offer, in a letter to trade ministers from all 148 World Trade Organisation members, is intended to show that the EU is committed to pushing ahead with the stalled round and is willing to take a more flexible stance.

Signed by Pascal Lamy, EU trade commissioner, and Franz Fischler, agriculture commissioner, the letter comes before important meetings of trade ministers in Paris this week, at which renewed efforts will be made to agree by July a negotiating framework for the round.

Sunday, May 09, 2004
Sorry I've been away from blogging, won't happen again (I hope).

I confess I got a little discouraged when key events like the EU enlargement and the WTO ruling against US subsidies didn't even merit an article in most leftists blogs, let alone a mention...I felt like I was trying to fight a thunderstorm alone by trying to spread the world. But that, after all, is the purpose of the New World Blogger -- to bring attention to issues that are not appropriately discussed and covered in the mainstream media, even the mainstream blogosphere.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with the newest sign that the US really is going insane (if we're not there already) -- the newest reality show, I nearly died. Here contestants get to fake their own death and watch their relatives' reactions as they jump out of the coffin. Lovely. Just when you thought the world couldn't get more absurd.
Friday, May 07, 2004
But he doesn't step downFull story here
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
"George W. Bush and his military commanders humbled themselves before the Arab world on Wednesday, addressing what the president called the “abhorrent” US treatment of some Iraqi prisoners.

Mr Bush stopped short of apologising, but promised that those people responsible for humiliating and torturing Iraqi prisoners "will be brought to justice".

For a president notoriously averse to admitting mistakes and an administration generally reluctant to apologise, the concerted appearances of Mr Bush and the US military leadership before the Arab and US media marked an unprecedented display of contrition."
Sunday, May 02, 2004
Due to the lack of coverage on this topic in North American blogs, the NWB has decided to post a special about EU enlargement.

European Union enlargement -- what is it? what is the history behind it? why is it significant? All your FAQs answered....


Q: How has the European Union changed since its creation?

A: Since its original establishment as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1952, the European Union has seen four (five as of yesterday) enlargements, the abolition of all trade tariffs and barriers, the establishment of a Single Market, and the adoption of a single currency, the euro.

Q: Why is the EU significant?

A: Many areas of high politics have been increasingly put under the supranational scope in the EU.
It is indisputable that in its progression from the original ECSC to its present form, the European Union has grown considerably in both the scope and influence it holds over member states. Member states have been advancing towards a project of integration, giving up areas of national sovereignty to the European Union to achieve greater cooperation. In fact, the growing impact of the European Union has been so significant, the term “Europeanization” has been coined to refer to this phenomenon.

Q: How has international politics been affected by the EU?

A: Previously European foreign policy cooperation had been restricted to the European Political Cooperation (EPC) council, a broad institution established in the 1970 Luxembourg Report where “European Community (EC) member states sought to consult one another on foreign policy issues and, where possible, to co-ordinate respective national positions.” Since the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the plan for a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) has been launched. While member states still retained sovereignty under the new CFSP, since Maastricht increased cooperation has been established than had previously occurred under the ECP.
However, as the European Union’s official words on the topic explain, “the Union has made less progress in forging a common foreign and security policy over the years than in creating a single market and a single currency.”

Q: Why can't people just agree about what the EU is?

A: The thing is, the EU has been interpreted in several ways. With perhaps what was notable foresight, Ernst B. Haas wrote in 1961 that “The established nation-state is in full retreat in Europe.” Haas’ interpretations were to spark a controversy still in place today about the extent to which European states retain their sovereignty in the face of increasingly influential supranational, European institutions. Nonetheless, while it can no longer be regarded simply as an intergovernmental organization, the extent to which the European Union has succeeded in developing its own authority and autonomy is highly contentious.

As a response to this controversy, several schools of thought have offered different interpretations of the foundation and influence of this institution. These have focused along two axes of debate, mainly realism vs. functionalism, and intergovernmentalism vs. supranationalism. Accredited as the founder of the Functionalist school, Haas had argued as early as 1958 that European governments were increasingly taking part in a process whereby cooperation supplanted competition and heeded the “invisible hand” of integration. Since then, various theorists have come forth attempting to explain and predict the phenomenon of European integration that is taking place.

Q: What is happening right now?

A: As of May 1, 2004, the Eu now has 25 rather than 15 member states. This is a very big deal because the impact of this could have major economic and political consequences not only for the region but for the world.

Q: Where can I find out more?

A: The main European Union site,, has a wealth of information on the topic.
Saturday, May 01, 2004
It seems all of the US one-time strong allies are slowly backing away. First Germany criticizes the US for the war. Then, Spain decides to pull out its troops. Now, Korea shows a strong preference for China rather than the US. Who is next? What else before a change of foreign policy will finally happen?

Financial Times story:

"More than 63 per cent of South Korea's ruling party lawmakers believe China is a more important diplomatic and economic partner than the US, showing Seoul's 50-year alliance with Washington is threatened by Beijing.

The poll came as fresh data showed China was extending its lead over the US as the top destination for South Korean exports and investment.

Lawmakers of the pro- government Uri party revealed their attitudes in an internal survey, conducted two weeks after the left-leaning party won control of South Korea's National Assembly. Uri's election victory was viewed as a shift in power from South Korea's pro-American establishment towards a younger generation of leaders who are less loyal to the US.

Any shift in Seoul's allegiance would alter the balance of power in north-east Asia, because the US military presence on the Korean peninsula is an important counterweight to Chinese influence in the region.

The US decision last year to relocate its troops from positions along the border with North Korea to more southerly locations has increased the sense of disengagement between the allies - although Washington insists it has no plans to withdraw completely."
Here is the
President George W. Bush on Friday denounced the brutal treatment of detainees in Iraq as he sought to contain a growing international outcry at the conduct of coalition troops. "I shared a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated," he said. "Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people."
The images of torture and mistreatment, aired by CBS on Wednesday and later seen around the world, drew strong condemnation in Europe and across the Arab world.

Somehow I cannot bring myself to comment.
Thursday, April 29, 2004
Which country are you?

You're Madagascar!

Lots of people don't really know anything about you, making you
buried treasure of the rarest kind.  You love nature, and could get lost in it
whenever possible.  You're remote and exotic, and the few people who know you
value whatever they share with you a great deal.  For some reason, you really
like the word "lemur".

the Country Quiz at the href="">Blue Pyramid

Wednesday, April 28, 2004
This list is supposedly circulating around the blogging world. One is supposed to highlight or bold the books one has read. FromLatino Pundit

I don't think it's a particularly good or complete reading list, but it is the standard curriculum in most first year literature courses in North American universities. And then there is my critique of fiction per se, but I won't get into that ;)

Achebe, Chinua - Things Fall Apart

Agee, James - A Death in the Family
Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice
Baldwin, James - Go Tell It on the Mountain
Beckett, Samuel - Waiting for Godot
Bellow, Saul - The Adventures of Augie March
Bront�, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
Bront�, Emily - Wuthering Heights
Camus, Albert - The Stranger
Cather, Willa - Death Comes for the Archbishop
Chaucer, Geoffrey - The Canterbury Tales
Chekhov, Anton - The Cherry Orchard
Chopin, Kate - The Awakening
Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness

Cooper, James Fenimore - The Last of the Mohicans
Crane, Stephen - The Red Badge of Courage
Dante - Inferno

de Cervantes, Miguel - Don Quixote
Defoe, Daniel - Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles - A Tale of Two Cities
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment
Douglass, Frederick - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy
Dumas, Alexandre - The Three Musketeers (movie)
Eliot, George - The Mill on the Floss
Ellison, Ralph - Invisible Man
Emerson, Ralph Waldo - Selected Essays
Faulkner, William - As I Lay Dying
Faulkner, William - The Sound and the Fury
Fielding, Henry - Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave - Madame Bovary

Ford, Ford Madox - The Good Soldier
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von - Faust
Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The Scarlet Letter
Heller, Joseph - Catch 22
Hemingway, Ernest - A Farewell to Arms
Hugo, Victor - The Hunchback of Notre Dame (movie)
Hurston, Zora Neale - Their Eyes Were Watching God
Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World Homer - The Iliad
Homer - The Odyssey

Ibsen, Henrik - A Doll's House
James, Henry - The Portrait of a Lady
James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kafka, Franz - The Metamorphosis

Kingston, Maxine Hong - The Woman Warrior
Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird
Lewis, Sinclair - Babbitt
London, Jack - The Call of the Wild
Mann, Thomas - The Magic Mountain
Marquez, Gabriel García - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Melville, Herman - Bartleby the Scrivener
Melville, Herman - Moby Dick
Miller, Arthur - The Crucible
Morrison, Toni - Beloved
Proust, Marcel
O'Connor, Flannery - A Good Man is Hard to Find
O'Neill, Eugene - Long Day's Journey into Night
Orwell, George - Animal Farm
Pasternak, Boris - Doctor Zhivago
Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar
Poe, Edgar Allan - Selected Tales
- Swann's Way
Pynchon, Thomas - The Crying of Lot 49
Remarque, Erich Maria - All Quiet on the Western Front
Rostand, Edmond - Cyrano de Bergerac
Roth, Henry - Call It Sleep
Salinger, J.D. - The Catcher in the Rye
Shakespeare, William - Hamlet

Shakespeare, William - Macbeth
Shakespeare, William - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare, William - Romeo and Juliet

Shaw, George Bernard - Pygmalion
Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein
Silko, Leslie Marmon - Ceremony
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Sophocles - Antigone
Sophocles - Oedipus Rex
Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath

Stevenson, Robert Louis - Treasure Island
Stowe, Harriet Beecher - Uncle Tom's Cabin
Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver's Travels
Thackeray, William - Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David - Walden
Tolstoy, Leo - War and Peace
Turgenev, Ivan - Fathers and Sons
Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnVoltaire - Candide
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. - Slaughterhouse-Five
Walker, Alice - The Color Purple
Wharton, Edith - The House of Mirth
Welty, Eudora - Collected Stories
Whitman, Walt - Leaves of Grass
Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Williams, Tennessee - The Glass Menagerie

Woolf, Virginia - To the Lighthouse
Wright, Richard - Native Son

Tempting as it was, I refrained from counting the books I've started (but didn't finish) on this list. I do think we should be allowed to highlight the name of the author only if we have read (and finished) something else by them not mentioned on the list, and I've done that ;)
KickAas has mentioned the WTO ruling in this article:kickAAS: The WTO slams cotton subsidies:

"But hang on – isn’t this the same US administration which, according to an exclusive story in the Guardian today is claiming $1.8 billion through the WTO in compensation for the loss of exports to the European Union because of the latter’s ban on genetically modified crops? What was that about having your (subsidized) cake and eating it?"

At least some of us are addressing this issue. A general silence pervades over this issue in much of the leftist blogging out there. It would seem that either many leftist Americans do not follow international trade enough to comment on this, or do not consider world poverty an important enough issue to address. The impact on world poverty from unfair trading has been well documented and well discussed (see, for example, any report from the UN Economic Committee on Latin America and the Caribbean); but many private individuals do not seem to have understood the impact this has on average citizens throughout the world.

Talking about it is the only way to counter this lack of information.

Do most leftists concentrate only on domestic policies?
International criticism would make it seem so. After all, many international observers have pointed out that whether democrats or republicans are in power, American foreign policy remains much the same. And most Americans remain unaware of this.

This is a decision that affects millions of lives of people in the world, and has the potential to help fight world poverty in the long run. But international issues like this seldom figure in leftist American blogs. All too often, attention is directed at domestic issues only, and foreign policy -- the major qualm the world has with the US -- remains in obscurity.

Several wonderful sites have surged as a response to this. Some examples are American Amnesia or Kick Aas.

But overall this information gap when it comes to international politics has yet to be bridged
The True Colours of Benetton
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Brazil has won a contention in the WTO that could force the US to remove or lower its subsidies on products like cotton.

"Brazil won a preliminary ruling at the World Trade Organization on Monday night that could force the United States to lower the subsidies it pays farmers to grow cotton and, eventually, most subsidized crops.

The decision supports Brazil's contention that the subsidies paid to American cotton farmers violate international trade rules. A final ruling against the United States could lead to stiff penalties if it fails to change its practices. In another recent case involving steel, President Bush chose to remove subsidies and therefore did not have to face the penalties.

The ruling also puts the Bush administration in a tight bind in an election year, when Republicans are counting on support from the Farm Belt. The largest American farmers have grown dependent on the $19 billion they receive in annual subsidies.

If the final decision in June goes against the United States, the administration is expected to appeal, if for no other reason than to delay action until after the election. Nearly all preliminary opinions are eventually upheld by the W.T.O.

As the first successful challenge of a wealthy nation's domestic agricultural subsidies, the Brazilian case could also force the United States, the countries of Europe and other well-to-do nations to act this summer and offer new compromises at global trade talks that have been blocked over this agriculture issue for more than a year."
(Story from the New York Times via the Financial Times)

Perhaps the most important effect of this ruling is that it is a first step against the unfair demands made by many first world nations in trading with the third world. Often the first wolrd nations demand that third world nations eradicate all subsidies, only to continue subsidizing their own products. As a result, third world producers are left unprotected and cannot stay adequately competitive in a market where only first world produces are "allowed" (behind the scenes) to subsidize.

Part of the problem originates with lending institutions like the International Monetary Fund. It is no secret that the IMF, guided by the Washington Consensus forces third world countries to comply with harsh free market rules that not even their first world proponents are willing to live by. This has generated much of the anti-FTAA and anti-globalization movements, in criticism of unfair, "un-free" trade that masks itself as pure market competition when it actually favours only first world nations.

But the decision made by the WTO shows that change is possible. In a landmark case, Brazil -- the third world nation behind much of the anti-globalization movement seen in Cancun in September 2003 during the WTO talks involving over 145 countries -- has won a case against a first world nation that subsidizes while advocating against government subsidies. The US is not the only first world nation guilty of this, but this decision may prove to be a first step towards more equal trading rules.
Sunday, April 25, 2004
Electrolite started out with some religious discussion in which I promised myself I would not participate. Nonetheless the debate touched on a very key issue which I think has some relevance here. Pz Myers commented that:

"Although I must admit that my objection to the responses to Atrios's post is that we see far too much sheep-like behavior from many Christians, who too readily identify with any old wolf (or oyster, or lichen, or mineral) that happens to have a fleece draped over it. There is a pattern of undiscriminating defense of anything labeled "Christian" that allows a lot of evil to flourish in this country."

I think that applies to a lot of people, regardless of their beliefs. A lot of people do not seem to need or care for a coherent moral foundation of their own, and would rather follow a prescribed one -- usually the one that comes in the cultural package handed down to them by their environment. If we go to Brazil, we see a lot of sheep-minded Catholics. We also see a lot of sheep-minded "spiritualists," pan-African orichas, Buddhists, etc. It's not that one religion in particular makes people more irrational -- although I've heard of some cults where the purpose is entirely to brainwash you (but that's another story).

I've come across some very intelligent, rational Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, you-name-it in my experience. But even these people do not always care to develop their theological foundation to any great extent. Religion all too often has only a functional purpose in many people's lives, and that is what they need and that is what they get out of it.

The same can be said, however, of people's philosophical convictions. How many people do you know that have formulated intricate philosophical theories to understand their world, and act accordingly? Most people, when asked, have very marked opinions about ethical issues -- often contradictory and without a cohesive moral thread. My point, then, is to say that if most people cannot be bothered even to think about their life from a macro perspective, how can we expect them to have their theological convictions any more solidly? I don't think the sheep-mentality is a good thing, I really don't like it at all. But i do think it's a human, rather than a Muslim, Christian, or atheist condition.

My $.02. I usually prefer to separate my philosophical debates from my observations on international policy, but after all, any sound normative claim about what policy should be made must always be supported by a theoretical foundation.
Saturday, April 24, 2004
Via Boing Boing, I found out that a Seattle-based company has been making luggage whose bilingual labels have the French portion read:

We are sorry that our president is an idiot. We did not vote for him

There are 30 million people in Canada. All products sold nationally must be printed both in English and in French. I know quite a few Quebequois people who must be having quite the laugh! But they are not the only ones...
Friday, April 23, 2004
In a wildly entertaining episode, character Bill O'Reilly from Fox News called the Globe and Mail a "far-left" newspaper, dismissing it as "the most ridiculous item of the day." In response, Globe and Mail columnist John Doyle responds to the charges, and to the onslaught of criticism that followed from the well-informed viewers of Fox News (via Electrolite:

"But the very idea that The Globe and Mail is "far left" only proves my point that the Fox News Channel is the most hilarious thing on American TV since Seinfeld. When we get to see it, we'll decide if, like Seinfeld, it's about nothing.

Spurred by O'Reilly's remarks, dozens of Fox News viewers wrote to me...In an nice touch, a man from somewhere-in-the-USA opened by cheerfully calling me "sonny bub" and, after some confusing name-calling that involved the word "intellectual," he rose to a great rhetorical flourish -- he asked if I had served in Vietnam!"

Hmmm...I'm glad to see that Fox News viewers are kept well informed enough of the global situation to know which countries do and do not engage in wars...

But on a serious note, I do disagree with Doyle on one thing. A rift between the comedic show Fox News and the Globe and Mail should not exemplify or embody a rift between Americans at large and Canadians. That would simply collectively dismiss the pool of intelligent and well-informed Americans out there.

And although the anti-American sentiment runs high in the world right now, it's important to remember that a people as a whole must not be dismissed, no matter what the majority of persons do. Otherwise we are making the same kind of "cultural superiority" argument that has been forced by those whom we would criticize. It's true, many Americans need to realize that the US borders are not the edge of the earth beyond which things fall apart -- although things frequently do fall apart.

But I've encountered some intelligent and well-informed Americans in my time here in the US, and while there is a very marked deficiency in awareness of global events, those of us who would call themselves "more aware" can all contribute to fighting this deficiency, rather than judge. As this blog intends to do.
The Globe and Mail
A US Midwestern marathon has decided that it will only award the $25,000 cash prize if the winner is an American citizen. This is to counter-balance "Kenyan dominance of U.S. foot races." - Twin Cities Marathon to pay U.S. winners only

I'm baffled. I suppose those Kenyans are getting just way too rich off their merit. Let's reward birthplace instead.
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
"Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu emerged defiant after 18 years in prison on Wednesday, saying he was proud of revealing secrets that exposed the Jewish state as an atomic power.
Vanunu flashed victory signs and waved as he walked through the gates of Ashkelon's Shikma Prison, where supporters cheered him as a "peace hero" and counter-demonstrators booed him with chants of "Shut up, atomic spy".

"I am proud and happy to do what I did," the grey-haired, former nuclear technician said standing before a bank of television cameras.

Vanunu's 1986 revelations to a British newspaper about the top-secret Dimona reactor led analysts to conclude Israel had amassed an arsenal of 100 to 200 nuclear warheads, one of the world's largest stockpiles.

Vanunu, 49, complained bitterly of "cruel and barbaric treatment" at the hands of Israel's security services but insisted he had no more state secrets to divulge after serving his full term for treason and espionage.

Fearing he could reveal more classified information, the government put him under close police surveillance and slapped restrictions on his movements, including a one-year ban on travel abroad."

Do I really need to reiterate why keeping hidden nuclear arms is not a good thing?

Story from Financial Times
Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Spring is finally here
Sunday, April 18, 2004

Photo from BBC News

With the election of leftist Luis Ignácio Lula da Silva (Lula), Brazilian politics looked as if they might embark on a different course from the previous neoliberalist, macroeconomic reforms of Cardoso. Yet since in power, Lula has not made any significant alterations to the macroeconomic reforms of the Cardoso era that many expected and some feared. At the same time, there is a growing sector of the Brazilian public that identifies Lula with rightwing politics. In a recent Datafolha survey, 38 percent of those asked would classify Lula ideologically as belonging to the right wing, 12 percent would place him in the centre, and only 31 percent would currently place Lula as left of centre (Latin American Weekly Report, 2 September 2003).

Despite his participation in Brazilian politics as a voice for labour and union movements since the 1970s, since the past election Lula has arguably demonstrated that he plans to continue the IMF-approved austere financial measures (Financial Times, 25 June 2002). Moreover, an increasing number of Latin American scholars have regarded Lula as a descendent of Cardoso’s right-of-center economic reforms. These authors argue that although Lula’s party, the Partido do Trabalhador (PT), has traditionally represented labour interests, there has been a shift in his politics towards neoliberalism.

From his recent alliance with the Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB), to the controversy now surrounding the PT over the expulsion of more radical, critical members like senator Heloisa Helena, there is emerging evidence to support these arguments. His previous supporters are also critic of the relationship Lula has enjoyed with the IMF, traditionally viewed in Brazil as a mouthpiece for the US in international affairs.

At the end of November 2003 Lula was close to completing his first year in office. Meanwhile, the IMF hailed the president’s macroeconomic policies and issued a press release stating that ‘As the President and his administration celebrate the first anniversary of their election, we at the Fund would like to extend our congratulations for their first year in office (Press Release No. 03/182, 5 November 2003).” While this may project a somewhat stabilizing image of Brazil to foreign investors, Brazilians feel, as the Datafolha survey shows, that their president has committed himself to right-of-centre politics.

However, analysis of some other policy areas reveals that he has not abandoned his original leftist platform entirely. For instance, Lula’s foreign policy remains distinct from that of Cardoso. Although Lula has shown signs of continuing Cardoso’s market program, his international policies, unlike his domestic ones, do not seem to be geared towards appeasement of core nations but rather toward carving out a stronger and more independent stance for Brazil in the international stage. If anything, Lula’s market and trade policies seem to be geared towards the strengthening of relations with other developing nations.

But problems are on the horizon. In order to create a strong role for Brazil internationally, Lula must maintain the support of his electorate. To lose their support could mean a loss of legitimacy. And to maintain this legitimacy, Lula must advocate greater social inclusion, and the actualization of the promises made during his campaign. Lula’s approval is no longer riding on a “honeymoon” with the Brazilian electorate, and unless these reforms begin rather soon, Lula is in danger of alienating certain groups that previously supported him. Despite the constraints on Lula’s actions, imposed both externally by agents such as the IMF and internally, by necessary cooperation from a large right-of-center PMDB presence in the legislation, Lula needs to be remain more accountable to those who elected him and more sensitive to marginalized groups so as to maintain legitimacy. And in a country that has come out of military rule only a decade and a half ago, it is all the more important for a leftist opposition to establish to the public that using the democratic system to resolve conflict can work.
I can't believe I'm blogging about this, but it's one of the funniest things I've seen out there in some time...The Subservient Chicken

Via bloggg and a few other sites out there that have found their way to the chicken as well.
Thursday, April 15, 2004
A fascinating read:

Brains drained by hidden race bias
article:"Brain implant devices approved for trials". It comes from CNN but it's worth a read anyways...a brain chip that would allow paralysed patients to give a machine commands by simply thinking of what they want
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Rio de Janeiro state plans to wall off slums/Financial Times

"The government of Rio de Janeiro state yesterday proposed to build a wall around its sprawling favelas in an effort to help control rampant crime in the picture postcard city.

"The wall won't put an end to violence [in the slums] but if we don't contain it, it will destroy the [surrounding] forest, the economy of Rio de Janeiro and the lives of the city's residents," Luiz Paulo Conde, deputy governor, said on Monday.

The proposal comes after yet another wave of violence rocked parts of the city during the Easter holidays, shutting down commerce, and killing 10 people, including civilians, police and gang members."

Globo news reported last night on television that a school teacher was killed by a stray bullet in this same favela, Rocinha -- the largest in Latin America. Deaths like hers happen nearly every day.

But isn't fighting police inefficiency and corruption a better solution? Anyone ever seen City of God?

Sunday, April 11, 2004
Canadian joke I came across at Explanada. Warning: you must have lived in Canada in order to get the joke.
Saturday, April 10, 2004
Via upyernoz I got the idea of adding some well written, intelligent commentaries that may offer a differing perspective than mine to my blogroll.

I ended up coming across some really interesting sites:

-> Moskau blog <- Weblog aus Russland, is a blogger in Germany writing about Russia. Pretty interesting content, and it's a great way to get a different perspective on Russian expatriates in Germany.

The Argus offers centrist-conservative commentary on Central Asia; it's a well-written blog to watch if you want to find out more about this region of the world.

Kandahar Chronicles is a MUST read diary of a doctor in Afghanistan, placed by the Medecins sans Frontieres program. It is a very well designed web site with detailed descriptions of his daily life. He stopped blogging in February 2004, presumably when his placement term must have ended, but his posts are worth a read!
Friday, April 09, 2004
I was reading around the blogsphere when I came across the Web Fire Escape for blog readers. It's really amusing that people have now come up with a way that readers can click a button that takes them to a "company friendly" site when their boss is around.

By clicking on this button
Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!
you are taken to a non-blogging site. They are also reader-preference friendly, so users can have the fire escape point to their own company site or a document they are supposed to work on.

I found this so amusing, I installed one on the reference bar on this blog. I don't actually blog at work, and I don't recommend reading blogs if doing so may get you fired -- so the fire escape is for entertainment purposes only.
Thursday, April 08, 2004
The international community fails to give an adequate voice to the less powerful of its members. It is no secret that the strong get their say -- and their way -- but this deficiency can become all the more exasperating when it comes to acknowledging and listening to victims as the authorities on their own conflicts. As I have argued earlier, this is also happening in Iraq, where the debate over the country's future has stayed in upper levels, and no real devolution of power to the people has occurred. Rwanda is a no less painful example.

Article: Rwanda's Latest Ethnic Cleansing;
True reconciliation is impossible until everyone's suffering is recognized.

This second one is written by a Rwandan genocide survivor. In keeping with a non "first world"-centric point of view, I believe it is important to look at what a people have to say of their own history in addition to what analysts from outside -- myself included -- would claim:

Article by Joseph K. Sebarenzi, Speaker of Rwandan Parliament 97-00

I have put these two articles side by side for a reason. The first is written by a person who has done considerable research on Rwanda, has been there, and makes a strong case for the need for truth in Rwanda. The latter is written by a Rwandan genocide survivor, Joseph Sebarenzi, who can write with more firsthand information. This is to counter what I perceive is a deficiency by the international community in acknowledging and listening to victims as the authorities on their own conflicts.

Sebarenzi lost his parents, seven brothers, and many members of his extended family in the genocide. While in parliament he fought against corruption in government, and after an assassination attempt he was forced to resign and go into exile. More on Sebarenzi here.

Sebarenzi now argues that "For the victims, the most pressing need is the truth, healing, and prevention of future violent conflict that a successful reconciliation process could provide." I agree with him, and I do think a Truth commission is very much needed in Rwanda. "Yes, I am a victim of genocide. But we cannot judge one million people -- no jail is big enough. Retributive justice will just lead to another cycle of killing," he says.

This is not to say that there isn't an opposing viewpoint, however. I have read (and will later include the link here) other Rwandan scholars who argue that it is better for Rwanda to simply move one rather than try to recount the past. While I disagree with them, I think it is important to consider genocides victims as authorities on the issues that concern them. And, as authorities in any subject are bound to do, Rwanda genocide victims disagree on how to best achieve reconciliation. But listening to them, and paying attention to what they have to say is a very important first step.

As Kavanagh says in his article,

"In Rwanda, if you question political oppression, if you criticize the widely disputed elections of August 2003, or if you inquire about the massacres the RPF itself carried out in western Rwanda and in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the wake of the genocide, you are labeled a génocidaire. Consequently, Rwandans are afraid to speak their minds...And no matter how enlightened the government's rhetoric, it seems unlikely that there can be a real, lasting conversation about "unity and reconciliation" when 80 percent of the population feels they are not part of the discussion."

For more people to speak up as Sebarenzi has done, a public forum needs to be opened. And the international community must be receptive to the idea of letting the victims give their own accounts.
Via as I live the questions I found a link to the Globe and Mail RSS news feeds, so Canadian news shall be displayed here shortly. Ultimately I'd like to have this for good newspapers from several countries -- but wil have to wait until my rss skills and the newsfeeds out there become more compatible ;)
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
BBC NEWS | Greenland's ice cap under threat

"If the ice-sheet was removed Greenland would be a lot warmer because the land surface would be at a lower altitude and reflect less sunlight.

"Unlike the ice on the Arctic Ocean, much of which melts and reforms each year, the Greenland ice sheet might not re-grow even if the global climate were returned to pre-industrial conditions," he says.

Tentative evidence suggests the icesheet has already to started to melt"

As we all know, a slight increase in sea levels could erase major world cities like L.A., Rio de Janeiro, the pays-bas (Belgium, Netherlands, countries below sea level), among others...

This is a serious issue that not only pertaining to the third world, but to the world in general. Worse, it really pertains to the first world, but little is being done:

"The only international agreement on cutting greenhouse gases is the UN's Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrial countries to make a small cut in global emissions by a timeframe of 2008-12.

But the pact is in limbo. It still needs ratification by Russia to take effect and in any case has been abandoned by the United States, the world's biggest CO2 contributor."

Yet another Bush administration legacy -- the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol.
"In Falluja, a reporter for the Associated Press saw cars carrying the dead and wounded from the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque, following the US air strike.

The US Marine colonel said his troops attacked the mosque complex because Sunni insurgents were using the site to fire on US forces with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.

'If they barricade themselves inside a mosque, we are not going to care about the mosque any more than they do' -- Maj Gen James Mattis, 1st Marine Division commander"

BBC NEWS | Middle East | US bombards Iraq mosque complex

This isn't good -- an understatement. If even during the Middle Ages someone could call for sanctuary within a church, shouldn't mosques, churches and synagogues be off limits for bombing as well? Not only do they represent relentless revenge, but they also plant further seeds for anti-US hatred among those who feel their religion has been disrespected. I think we have seen enough of what blind retaliation has to offer us.

In the words of Hannah Arendt, revenge "acts in the form of re-acting against an original trespassing, whereby far from putting an end to the consequences of the first misdeed, everybody remains bound to the process, permitting the chain reaction contained in every action to take its unhindered the natural, automatic reaction to transgression and because of the irreversibility of the action process can be expected and even calculated." (The Human Condition, p241).

I remember when I first really understood why hatreds are built into the core of identity and do not die out over the years. I was fifteen, and had just watched the movie Before the Rain, a fantastic movie about the story of retaliation and blind hatred. It dawned on me for the first time that people really did hate each other simply because they were born on different sides of a feud, here the Albanians and Macedonians. Such bitter hatred seemed so senseless at the time, and yet the more I grew up the more I started to take this concept for granted.

Revenge isn't something new to us. It's as old as humanity itself, "an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth." But if we look to history for lessons, we see that resentment goes a long way. If it is allowed to fester and escalate, it will not die with a generation, or with the memories of a past war. As in Germany after WWI, when many people feel unjustly treated, they can provide a fresh base for violent populist causes.

So what can be done in Iraq? Well, maybe -- just maybe -- giving Iraqis a public voice of their own. While the coalition has been so busy debating what is best for Iraq, no one's really asked Iraqis what they want. Salam Pax had a fantastic post on this a couple of months ago. I am taking the liberty of block quoting him:

Have you been noticing all the talk about Iraq as a federal country lately? Something made me itch every time I heard and Iraqi or CPA official talk about it, first I couldn’t figure out was bothering me, but during the long long drive to Amman I was finally able to put my finger on it. No one asked us what we thought of the idea.
I remember almost a month ago when Zibari (our minister for foreign affairs) talked about federalism and I thought “that’s nice we are starting the discussion finally”. I was wrong it was not a discussion; it was a done and made deal. It got so silly that Kurds and Arabs are having real trouble about the issue, the Kirkuk incident was . I can’t remember anyone asking me what I thought about the whole issue, neither was it put to debate openly. Someone high and mighty suddenly decided that is what’s good for you, and we are going thru the process of trying to fit into that prêt-a-porter federalism. “The Officials” are not discussing whether that system is good for us or not they are way beyond that point, they are discussing into how many pieces Iraq is going to be cut up. Along “ethnic” lines or by governorates.
Have I mentioned already that we were not asked?

Looks like the doctors should maybe ask the patient what she feels before administering their doses.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004
The Landless Movement in Brazil (Movimento dos Sem Terra -- MST) has thousands of landless protestors invade over 25 hectares of land to push for agrarian reform, the Financial Times reported. As Brazilian Globo news reported yesterday, Lula has already said the reform will come with compromise on both business and landless sides, "sem grito" -- without yelling, or great shows of dramatic display.
Monday, April 05, 2004
Since I have spent the last four years living in Canada I consider myself partly Canadian too :)

I'm very very excited to know that blogscanada likes the New World Blogger and has picked it as a top blog. Thanks!!!
Saturday, April 03, 2004
With the exception of Canadians and some Mexicans with special permits, the US will now fingerprint and photograph all foreign citizens entering the country -- including Coalition allies UK, Australia, Spain, to name a few. The change will take place by the end of September and is aimed at increased control of who enters and exists its borders.

'The move comes as a response to the failure by European and other countries to issue new passports to their citizens that include a biometric identifier such as a fingerprint by an October 2004 deadline set by the US Congress. Virtually all European countries have said they will miss that deadline, and the US too has admitted it will not begin issuing such passports by October.

The US administration yesterday formally requested that Congress extend the deadline for two years. If Congress refuses, the US would be forced to issue visas to all travellers from visa-waiver countries, creating enormous backlogs at US embassies abroad.' (Financial Times)

The biometric passports that governments plan to move towards would include a computer-readable file that contains all of the passenger's bio and can be examined upon entry into any country. How much worse must things get before they get better? Will we ever return to a paranoia-free world?

The background colour has changed in an attempt to make it more readable...let me know if you think this was a bad idea..
Thursday, April 01, 2004
After trying to figure out why my page rank has dropped literally overnight, I came across this detailed explanation of how the algorithm is calculated. Didn't really shed any light on my particular case but it's still interesting to understand how the google spider crawls its web. Or at least to try.
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Via Jesse I came across the following article:

"Well, others in the Bush administration did, apparently, make an appearance at the local Starbucks. And as the Washington Post reports today, one of them – obviously readying himself to prep Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld – left his notes on the table. Talking points, hand-written notes on spin tactics, and a hand-drawn map to the Secretary's house were found by a resident of DuPont Circle, who made them available to the Center for American Progress. The name of said resident is being withheld at his request, as he fears that he may be accused on national television of being "disgruntled."

Story from The Center for American Progress
Monday, March 29, 2004

"Rich country governments have failed to provide financing they promised under the "Education for All Fast Track Initiative" (FTI) to help fund universal primary education in poor countries, according to a World Bank report.

The scheme - intended to help countries meet the Millennium Development Goal of providing primary education for all children by 2015 - is suffering from a lack of financing, according to a report by World Bank staff." Full story Financial Times.

As bad as it sounds, it is not what it seems. The countries elligible for this program are only those who are working closely with the IMF and the World Bank, restricting elligibility only to those who will fit the endorsed education policy. But working closely with the IMF has a catch. In order to receive IMF funding, one must do as the IMF says. This, as seen in countries like Brazil or Jordan, can have dire consequences for the poorest stratum of society.

For an editorial on whether trade exploits or benefits developing countries, see this report.

Congress member Cynthia McKinney from Georgia has written a highly controversial letter asking the US to press for IMF reform over lending policies. That, as we all know, has yet to happen.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
The Maiden name debate.
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
El Salvador -- "Salvadorans gave a landslide victory to the ruling rightwing Arena party in Sunday's presidential election, turning out in record numbers to defeat a former rebel commander and ensuring the survival of the region's most loyal backer of the US." Financial Times

Brazil -- China would invest some $3.3 billion USD in railways in Brazil. Translated: "The main destination to Brazil's soy and iron exports, China would invest in the rehabilitation and expansion of Brazilian rail systems, aiming to guarantee the acquisition of these products at competitive prices...Last year China became the third major recipient of Brazilian exports, behind only the US and Argentina."

Original: "Principal destino das exportações de soja e de minério de ferro do Brasil, a China pretende investir na recuperação e expansão da malha ferroviária brasileira, com o objetivo de garantir o fornecimento desses produtos a preços competitivos...A China se transformou no ano passado no terceiro destino das exportações brasileiras, atrás somente dos EUA e da Argentina." Folha de Sao Paulo (Portuguese)

Colombia -- In a controversial editorial, the writer argues that Ingrid Betancourt's kidnap has been seen under different lights in the international scene than it has in Colombian eyes.

"The campaign for Ms Betancourt's release shows how little understanding her foreign supporters have of Colombia's conflicts. But its subject is an innocent woman who is monstrously confined, as are her fellow hostages. Her supporters should be deluging the FARC with demands for their unconditional release. Past prisoner swaps in Colombia have merely prolonged the country's agony. The hard truth is that there will be no peace in Colombia until the FARC is persuaded that it cannot take power by military means." Economist

For more information on this story, visit the Official Ingrid Betancourt site (French and Spanish versions only)
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
"Israel on Monday night faced widespread international condemnation for its assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the Hamas leader, as Palestinian militants vowed revenge and all-out war.

Ariel Sharon, Israeli prime minister, defended the killing of the 67-year-old head of the Islamic movement, describing him as an arch-terrorist who plotted attacks that killed hundreds of Israelis."

Full story Financial Times.
Monday, March 22, 2004
blogging break to write thesis...more asap
Monday, March 15, 2004
A GI has contested the orders given him while in Iraq, which he claims unnecessarily puts soldiers in danger, and threatens the lives of civilians. Questioning the morality of this war, he has refused to return. Story here.
Rwanda --In a police report reproduced in French newspaper Le Monde, evidence is claimed to have emerged surrounding the plane crash that killed then-Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, triggering the civil war that saw over 800,000 dead. The report concludes that current Rwandan president Kagame is responsible for the plane crash. It also mentions that the UN received a copy of the blackbox soon after the incident, but that it blocked an inquiry into the incident. UN secretary general Kofi Annan said he had no knowledge of the flight recorder. An internal UN investigation is to take place regarding why this key piece of evidence was not reported to senior peacekeeping officials. From BBC News.

South Africa -- President Mbeki and opposition leader Leon argue over the constitutionality of weapons sent in aid to Aristide before the latter left Haiti. From BBC News

Argentina -- Kirchner agrees to pay the $3.1 billion owed to the IMF, averting one of the largest defaults in history. Part of the reason may have been Horst Koehler's stepdown from his position as manager of the IMF after being nominated for president of Germany alongside Chancellour Schroeder. From The Economist

China -- France and Chinese navies engage in joint naval drills. France, who is also lobbying the EU to drop arms sales sanctions against China, provides a country likely to be helpful to China, according to a Shanghai based publication. "China wants to co-operate with traditional European powers, and France, as a stringent critic of the US, and a fervent advocate of lifting the arms embargo, was the country likely to take the initiative." The five-day drills are the 12th such initiative from the French navy towards China. Full story here.

China -- By a majority vote yesterday, private property declared an "inviolable" constitutional right. Full story

Brazil -- This is an interesting article on Brazilian favelas -- for those unfamiliar with the term, favelas refers the shantytowns recently depicted in the movie Cidade de Deus (City of God).
Friday, March 12, 2004
This afternoon I was reading this article via Blogs Canada:

Axis of Logic> Click around the blogosphere and you'll see a lot of ideological diversity. Bloggers are posting from left, right and center, from perspectives that range from Libertarian to Marxist. And on the surface, that diversity extends to other arenas: Men and women, recent studies show, blog in roughly equal numbers. A notable exception: Women are responsible for as little as four percent of political blogs -- "sites devoted to politics, current events, foreign policy, and various ongoing wars" -- according to the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE).

I am glad to be doing my part as one of the female political bloggers out there then. I am not American, I am not white, and I am not male. In fact, I do not come from a country where English is the primary language spoken. But I want to bring you my point of view and what's more, I want to represent just a little bit of what I have been shown in my experience.

As I explain in my Picture blog, to me the point of owning these sites is not to induce pity or compassion towards the Third World. I think guilt and pity are ineffective tools of information. It certainly works for some, but for me it is not the way to understand another person's/another culture's pointof view as your own through reason.

The point of posting my pictures on my sites is another entirely -- it's to include them as a celebration of life, a call to attention of the different types of lives that one can lead, without judgment as to the quality in which they do so. When I take these pictures I do not have evoking pity in mind -- in fact, just the opposite. It's an invitation to study the lives of others, and the photograph is but a little window, an introduction, into something that the viewers of this site might otherwise not have seen.

I cannot plant social consciousness in others, because that is something that ought to spring from their own self awareness. I can only contribute to that awareness by increasing exposure.

The same applies to my posts. I want to share what I think and what I have seen because I find that unfortunately the type of experience I have had is underrepresented out there, both in the "real world" and in the blogosphere. Aside from a few excellent Iraqi blogs, most blogs are anglo (more particularly, USA, and a few are Canada or UK) directed, and there is very little cross-reference between the anglo and the various other-language other-culture blogging communities out there.

I feel fortunate to have lived in four countries, most of which I love dearly, and to understand a couple of cultures other than my own. I love Canada, for instance, and I am very proud to have lived there. I feel very fortunate to speak five languages, and to be able to communicate with a few people out there. At times I've even considered changing this blog into another language entirely, because it is so difficult to try to appeal to an English-speaking audience without the usual content -- what's the latest in the US elections, etc. My point is to share what is outside of the usual realm of North American politics, yet unless it is coming from a country that also happens to be in the headline news (think Iraq), few people seem to care how others outside their own culture view the world -- and this is a crime of which most cultures are guilty.

How many Ethiopian blogs are in the top 100, or how many Honduran ones? How many blogs in English get read out there that are written by non native speakers? Brazil has a fairly large Portuguese-speaking blogging community -- probably second to the US. I've thought many times of blogging in Portuguese, it just might be easier. But I wouldn't be doing what I set out to do with my blog. I may be underrepresented, but I am doing what I can to keep pushing up that rock of awareness, both as a woman and a third world citizen, Sisyphus-style. If we don't, who will?

Hasta la vitoria, sempre.
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Spain suffered its bloodiest day of terrorism on Thursday when at least 192 people were killed and 1,430 injured by bomb explosions on packed early morning commuter trains in Madrid.

Thousands of Spaniards protested against the attacks in cities throughout Spain and millions more were expected to take to the streets on Friday in response to a call by José María Aznar, prime minister, and opposition party leaders for a massive show of support for the victims.

The Spanish government blamed Eta, the violent Basque separatist group, for the massacre after police investigators linked explosives used in the attack to material stolen by supporters of the group in France.

However, the interior minister later announced that a van had been found near Madrid containing detonators and an Arabic tape. He ordered the police to open a new line of investigation, but added that Eta remained the main suspect.

Subsequently, a London-based Arabic newspaper, al-Quds al-Arabi, said it had received a letter purporting to come from Osama bin-Laden's al-Qaeda network. The letter was signed in the name of the "Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades". Similar letters were faxed to the paper following last November's attacks on two synagogues in Turkey, and after last year's bombing of the UN headquarters in Bagdhad.

(Source:The Financial Times -- Full story)

Pretty bad stuff. I wanted to go study in Madrid next year. Then again, is living close to NYC any different? What's the appropriate response? Is there an appropriate response? What's so hard to understand about valuing human life -- whether it's Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Theist, Buddhist, Hindu, or you name it?

When I was seventeen I bought a pair of glasses with rose coloured lenses. I wanted to see everything around me in the most beautiful possible light. Since then I've been through different times in my life, thinking at some point that such an attitude was simply hopelessly optimistic and even a little foolish.

I hate cliches and I hate inspirational talks. Yet since those days I've come to realize that life is simply the most beautiful thing we can ever hope to have -- whether you live in Colombia, in France or in Canada. Whether one lives in abject poverty or in riches. We all have just a little bit of time, some are lucky to have more than others. I think our main preoccupation should be in how to use it wisely, how to make the most of it -- how to find happiness, how to enjoy the small things, how to enjoy the people in our lives, how to discover the world, how to discover knowledge, how to learn to see life through a different pair of cultural lenses, how to learn to see life from a different age, how to learn to give back and become involved with our surroundings. How to live and let live.

It simply escapes me why anyone should deliberately cut another person's time short. How one person can deprive another of existence.

And what's more -- the blame game starts again. Rainbow coloured warnings, politicians riding on security, mass hysteria and more media lunacy feeding fears and irrationality. Sometimes it's hard to follow it all and still keep a smile on your face.

It's time for my rose coloured glasses again.
If you can read Spanish, click this interactive map:

for visual coverage (content advisory: graphic images).
Monday, March 08, 2004
It's true! As I become quickly ensnared by my newest fascination, a.k.a. blogging, I being to wonder what will become of my unfinished theses and the rest of my non-cyber life. Don't worry, I'm still in love with blogging, but articles like this do touch a sensitive nerve for me...maybe I'll just post some bits from my theses (yes the "e" is intentional -- there are two) for the next few days as a time saving strategy until I can post some more without compromising my degrees ;)
Sunday, March 07, 2004
Nothing better than reading a blogging post that actually makes you laugh out loud. This post sure did:

This week, in the first 30 pages of US News and World Report, interspersed among reports on US politics and the economy, there are ads for:

international calling plans
Wellbutrin XL
International airline travel
Paxil CR (followed by two whole pages of fine print)

The message seems pretty clear. After reading about the state of the US, you're going to want to get heavily doped up on antidepressants, have some sex, and then flee the country

Looks like advertising agencies have caught on.
Saturday, March 06, 2004
When I first read that Bush, Blair and the Pope were being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year, I admit I was a little skeptical. Ok, make that "wow, I wonder where's the punchline."

And yet it's true:
"OSLO, Norway (AP) — The Nobel Peace Prize awards committee reported a record 173 nominations for 2004, with known candidates including President Bush, jailed Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu and the pope...those nominating candidates often announce their choices, this year including Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for protecting world peace; the European Union; French President Jacques Chirac; former Czech President Vaclav Havel; Pope John Paul II; former U.N. weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei; Vanunu, for exposing his country's nuclear weapons program; Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya; and U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and former Sen. Sam Nunn for their Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which is intended to dismantle nuclear weapons left over from the Soviet Union.."

But it makes sense.

After all, if we eventually achieve peace because of war, hey, it's achieving peace even if it is done through some questionable means, isn't it? Who's to say that a few people killed here and there matter, compared to the glorious day when the Axis of Evil has been eliminated in the name of freedom? When Bush and his Coalition of the Willing have liberated the world, complete with free trade agreements that have made us all wealthier, we will indeed look back on them as our saviours.

As for the Pope, well, he did do much for all those...those...well, I'm sure there was someone somewhere who was greatly helped by the Pope this year. Therefore he is also responsible for bringing about world peace.

In fact, I'd even extend my list to include bin Laden, who, by contributing to disaster and human casualties, has unchained the sequence of events that would eventually bring about peace.

Let's take that one step further. If it were not for imperialism, we would never have achieved world peace, since we would never see the world as it is in its present state -- and thus we would never have seen one large, benevolent nation conquer all under the name of our beneficent enlightened despot, Bush and his sidekick, Blair. So therefore, if there were no imperialism, there would be no world peace.

So it all works out in this best of all possible worlds. It's all for the best. Peace is forthcoming (or is it here already? Oops I suppose it may have passed me by while I was so busy thinking about the homeless! Silly me!), and we will all live happily ever after in our freedom. Imperialism pisses off people like bin Laden, who plan out attacks that piss off Bush, who is enabled by imperialism to wage war against evil countries, and together with his sidekick they conquer all and save the world from being taken over by the bad guys.

In fact, let's call this the Nobel War prize, as the recent war was, indeed, noble. What other word can convey the praiseworthy sacrifice that Bush and sidekick Blair underwent to free millions in Operation Iraqi Liberation (aka O.I.L.)?

Anyone read Voltaire's Candide? Do.

But still, I wonder, what shall we turn our attention to when this greatest problem of all times has been conquered? What shall we fight when we have finally achieved world peace? As an MSN advert explains, "Join the Low Carb Revolution!"

Hasta la Vitoria -- translated, "I shall see you when our victory has been achieved."
¡Viva la Revolución!
Thursday, March 04, 2004
There seems to be something wrong with opening my page in explorer...some of the pictures don't load up. I'm currently looking into this ;)

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