Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dominican Authorities Bust 2 Bulgarians with Ton of Cocaine: Dominican Authorities Bust 2 Bulgarians with Ton of Cocaine - Novinite.com - Sofia News Agency

Dominican Authorities Bust 2 Bulgarians with Ton of Cocaine: Dominican Authorities Bust 2 Bulgarians with Ton of Cocaine - Novinite.com - Sofia News Agency

A direct link between the Dominican Republic and the Balkans. Note that Dominican policemen were involved.

Cargo Theft Surged to Record in 2009 | Journal of Commerce

Cargo Theft Surged to Record in 2009 | Journal of Commerce

While the greatest number of thefts was of electronics; the greatest value was of pharmaceuticals.

Political assassination and murder in Dubai - Times Online

Political assassination and murder in Dubai - Times Online:
As the city’s once-booming real estate sector has collapsed in the past 12 months, however, business partnerships formed during recent years have splintered. Lawyers speak of speculative property investors being dangled from the windows of unfinished Dubai tower blocks by Russian mobsters whose property deals have gone sour.

Greek Shipping Woes

Shipping is one of Greece's major industries. It is in trouble; therefore, so is Greece. Here are two videos on Greek shipping's woes:



Caribbean: News in the Caribbean - Caribbean360.com

Caribbean: News in the Caribbean - Caribbean360.com:
He pointed out that the gang phenomenon is not confined to Jamaica, as other Caribbean countries are also facing the same problem, with Trinidad and Tobago having about 86 gangs and Guyana, 40. He said these gangs are well organised and sophisticated, and are involved in activities, such as drug smuggling, human trafficking, gun smuggling and money laundering.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Most hijacked ships ignored safety precautions - Navy News, news from Iraq - Navy Times

Most hijacked ships ignored safety precautions - Navy News, news from Iraq - Navy Times: "...[A]t least 25 percent of the commercial ships that pass through the Gulf of Aden continue to do so."

Honduras' new gov't finds nation 'bankrupt' - Yahoo! News

Honduras' new gov't finds nation 'bankrupt' - Yahoo! News

I'm sure the friendly drug cartels would be glad to help them out.

Pambazuka - Why the nation-state is wrong for Africa

Pambazuka - Why the nation-state is wrong for Africa:
The development challenges African countries face stem from their use of an inappropriate governance structure, the nation-state, writes Amira Kheir. The nation-state is an inherited system that does not match the continent’s needs and potential, says Kheir, arguing instead for a state that functions as an administrative centre for legislation and organisation but that remains free from ‘fictitious affiliations’ to a larger identity.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Burns' Night Bobby Burns' 250th Birthday Anniversay

Burns' Night
This Homecoming year – the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns – tributes to the bard resounded across the world as the record was broken for the greatest number of Burns suppers ever held, proving the poet is more popular than ever before. We look back at the history of this annual celebration of Burns and explore its continuing popularity.

The most powerful law in the scientific world is the law of unintended consequences! In 1801, on the fifth anniversary of the death of Robert Burns, nine men who knew him met for dinner in Burns Cottage in Alloway to celebrate his life and works. The Master of Ceremonies was a local minister – a liberal theologian and an equally liberal host. Hamilton Paul and his guests shared Masonic brotherhood with Rabbie and Paul devised an evening which looked a bit like a lodge ceremonial, centred on a fine fat haggis; with recitation and singing of Burns's works and a toast (in verse) to the memory of their friend and hero.

It was such a jolly evening, all agreed to meet again the following January for a Birthday Dinner for the bard, little knowing that they had invented a global phenomenon that we know as the BURNS SUPPER – which still broadly follows the Reverend's original plan.

Burns's popularity grew rapidly after his untimely death and the idea of meeting annually to share his poems and songs in the bonds of friendship caught the public imagination. Some Ayrshire merchants in Greenock followed with the first Burns Club Supper in January 1802 and the West coast towns with strong links to Rabbie reached out and joined in the new festival: Paisley, Irvine, Kilmarnock and Dumfries.

Typically, a dozen or more men sat down to dine – as often working men as the middle classes – sometimes in a bar Rab had frequented. But the real link was his poetry with its message of love, freedom and the essential value of humanity. Many early suppers were organised by Burns Clubs who exist today, but a big boost in participation came with the big literary Burns Suppers, the original organised by Sir Walter Scott in Edinburgh in 1815 with Hogg the Ettrick Shepherd giving the Immortal Memory.
Going Global

The first Supper outwith Scotland was at Oxford University in 1806 (hosted by a few Glasgow students) with London seeing its first Bard-day party in 1810. Wherever there were Scots merchants trading in the English county towns, festivals sprung up over the next twenty years.

The format was popular – whether as part of a wider club or an annual combination of party and poetry. In those days many Scots received a good education at home then packed off to foreign climes to seek a fortune (or at least build the empire) and the Burns Supper followed them. Army officers held India's first supper as early as 1812; traders travelled about the same time to Canada and were Addressing the Haggis in a colder January wind than they'd remembered back home; merchants and ministers (and maybe even a few convicts) carried Burns's works to Australia with Festivals from 1823 and the first formal Burns Supper in 1844; while the poet's own nephew helped found the city and Burns Club of Dunedin in New Zealand.

It would be wrong to see the Burns Supper as a purely imperial story. From the early publication of Rabbie's works in Philadelphia, America had warmed to his talent and a philosophy which chimed with the new-born Columbia thus bringing the Burns Supper to a wider range of people than just the Diaspora. Similarly, in the twentieth century, Burns and his supper jumped the wall into the two communist superpowers as China and particularly Russia embraced a herald of the poetical red dawn. Even today, Russian Januaries abound with exuberant Burns Suppers! And in terms of cross cultural fertilisation, the modern invention of Gung Haggis Fat Choy combining the Scots and Chinese heritages of Vancouver would be a party that Burns would certainly smile at!
The Legacy of the Burns Supper

It's a unique legacy. No other poet is fêted across the world on his birthday and it is spontaneous – no central body writes the rules, or organises the speakers, or sets the tone. Like Rabbie, the Burns Supper is totally open to all.

This Homecoming year – his 250th anniversary – sees hundreds of Burns Suppers as an important part of the programme so visitors and residents can join in the fun and festival which is the basis as the First Minister said: 'to honour Burns himself as well as those who keep his legacy alive in Scotland and across the world today'.

So however you celebrate, whether you host a grand banquet, or even just have a few friends around the kitchen table: take your haggis, relish his poems and, of course raise a generous toast to his genius and you're sharing in a gift that Scotland has given the whole world – which started simply with nine men in a cottage and now resounds throughout the globe!
Clark McGinn comes from Ayr but has been speaking at Burns Suppers for what his audience often says is a long, long time. He is the author of the popular 'The Ultimate Burns Supper Book' based on his experiences internationally and has just published 'The Ultimate Guide To Being Scottish'

Favela Rising | A Film by Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary


Favela Rising | A Film by Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary:
FAVELA RISING documents a man and a movement, a city divided and a favela (Brazilian squatter settlement) united. Haunted by the murders of his family and many of his friends, Anderson S�is a former drug-trafficker who turns social revolutionary in Rio de Janeiro’s most feared slum. Through hip-hop music, the rhythms of the street, and Afro-Brazilian dance he rallies his community to counteract the violent oppression enforced by teenage drug armies and sustained by corrupt police.

At the dawn of liberation, just as collective mobility is overcoming all odds and Anderson’s grassroots Afro Reggae movement is at the height of its success, a tragic accident threatens to silence the movement forever.

Bosnian Serb Leaders Say They Will Hold Census :: BalkanInsight.com

Bosnian Serb Leaders Say They Will Hold Census :: BalkanInsight.com

At issue is whether the effects of ethnic cleansing cold be ratified.

10-008.pdf (application/pdf Object)

The State Department cannot account for $1 billion it has paid to Dyncorp.

Summary of Report: SIGIR 10-008
Why SIGIR Did this Study

The Department of State (DoS) Bureau of
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement
Affairs (INL) contract with DynCorp
International includes task orders to support the
Department of Defense’s (DoD) Iraqi police
training program. Under the task orders,
DynCorp has provided police advisors and
in-country support for those and other advisors.
INL’s Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan Support
Division is primarily responsible for oversight
of the DynCorp contract. The Special Inspector
General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR)
examined INL’s oversight of the task orders
because they cost over $2.5 billion and INL has
had a history of weak oversight of the task
orders. Specifically, SIGIR examined: (1) the
costs, funding, and award process for the largest
and most recent task orders; (2) DoS oversight
of the task orders; and (3) the status of INL’s
implementation of SIGIR’s prior
recommendations.

What SIGIR Recommends

Because weak contract administration and
oversight have been long-standing issues that
INL has not corrected, SIGIR recommends that
the Deputy Secretary of State for Management
and Resources direct an immediate examination
of the Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan Support (AIJS)
Division’s personnel and operations to
determine if the Division is structured, staffed,
and managed to effectively and efficiently
oversee the contracts under its responsibilities.
Until such an examination can be conducted,
SIGIR recommends that the Assistant Secretary,
INL, direct the Chief of AIJS to develop
detailed guidance for ICORs, assign specific
responsibilities to each ICOR, determine how
many ICORs are needed in Iraq to accomplish
assigned responsibilities, and staff the invoice
reconciliation effort to validate historical
invoices within the next 2 years.

Management Comments and Audit
Response


INL agreed with SIGIR’s recommendations.
It did not agree with SIGIR’s position that
$2.5 billion in U.S. funds are vulnerable to
waste and fraud. Because of the serious
control weaknesses identified in this and prior
audits, SIGIR maintains its position.

BBC News - Tenacity and risk - the Lebanese in West Africa

BBC News - Tenacity and risk - the Lebanese in West Africa

Hezbollah is often accused of operations in West Africa.

Whatever the truth of these accusations, there is a strong Lebanese / West African connection. This link details it.

The Myth of Mondragon andother co-ops.... - RevLeft

The Myth of Mondragon andother co-ops.... - RevLeft

The dark side of Mondragon is explored in this thread.

Dubai's dark side targeted by international finance police | Business | The Observer

Dubai's dark side targeted by international finance police | Business | The Observer:
Fears are intensifying that the emirate has become a global centre for terror funding, money-laundering, drug money and mafia cash


Apparently financial authorities are "shocked, shocked that gambling is going on" in Dubai.

Four die as pirates squabble over ransom : MADAALE.COM

Four die as pirates squabble over ransom : MADAALE.COM

Unusually violent dispute amongst pirates over an unusually large ransom payment.

Reformers: Court Decision Creates 'Huge Opening' For Foreign Companies To Sway Elections | TPMMuckraker

Reformers: Court Decision Creates 'Huge Opening' For Foreign Companies To Sway Elections | TPMMuckraker

Some of you folks might still think that somehow Walmart and Goldman Sachs are somehow "us" while Toyota and Deutsche Bank are somehow "them."

If so, with all due respects you need to snap out of it. Walmart and Goldman Sachs are as much "them" as Toyota, Deutsche Bank or any other foreign company.

It will be interesting to see if Arab corporations now attempt to use campaign contributions to offset AIPAC's undue influence.

And will sovereign owned Chinese corporations be allowed to contribute? If not, how about their Delaware corporation subsidiary? Would a contract by a Chinese corporation requiring a US business vendor to make certain campaign contributions be enforceable? In Chinese courts? What about the US corporation that receives the informal but serious message that it had better make certain contributions or risk losing business?

And we have not even begun to consider front corporations for the drug lords.

The possibilities are endless....

FT Alphaville � Goldman caps, Barclays defers

FT Alphaville � Goldman caps, Barclays defers:
The 100 top employees at Goldman Sachs in London will have their total pay capped at �1m when the bank reveals its 2009 bonuses this week.


Coping with such a pay cap is a problem I'd like to have.

FT Alphaville � Bankers take ’soft’ approach

The problem with the National Enquirer and similar rags is not that they provide juicy gossip on movie stars and - increasingly - failed or failing politicians.

Rather, the problem is that they fail to provide juicy gossip on episodes like this:

FT Alphaville � Bankers take ’soft’ approach:
Top Wall Street bankers attending the World Economic Forum this week in the Swiss town of Davos will use the meeting to lobby regulators against Barack Obama’s plan to curb banks’ size and trading activity and break-up big institutions.

Op-Ed Contributor - Italy’s African Heroes - NYTimes.com

Roberto Saviano, the author of Gomorrah, states that the recent African riots in Italy had resulted from the state's failure to protect those immigrants from organized crime. Unless the state finally does protect them, these immigrants may be forced to defend themselves by forming their own criminal networks.

Op-Ed Contributor - Italy’s African Heroes - NYTimes.com

Saturday, January 23, 2010

It wasn't us: Somali militants disavow Kenya threat / The Christian Science Monitor - CSMonitor.com

The situation between Al Shabab and Kenya has become confused.

It wasn't us: Somali militants disavow Kenya threat / The Christian Science Monitor - CSMonitor.com

Al Shabab, the Somali militant group with ideological links to Al Qaeda, says the threat to attack Kenya – posted on its website this week – is fake.

Contract Enforcjement in Non-State Situations

The blog, A World View, speculates that the current reported violence amongst Somali pirates, which has apparently resulted from a dispute over who gets ransom proceeds, may undermine the pirates' recently emerging stock exchange:

The pirate stock exchange basically runs on the honor system – investors give pirates money and equipment with the understanding that they will receive a portion of the prize should the pirates successfully capture and ransom a ship. But if the pirates refuse to share the wealth, the whole system falls apart. And with essentially no functioning government in that portion of Somalia, the Puntland pirates and Haradheere locals will have to sort this dispute out themselves.

One role that mafias have played is to enforce such contracts when courts will not or cannot. Eg, regarding the mafia in Italy:
He essentially advances an economic theory of the mafia: they are entrepreneurs and firms who collude and compete; the good they sell is not violence, or stolen property, but protection. That is, they enforce contracts in places the government can't or won't, like illegal and illicit markets, or areas where the police and courts are weak. They actively compete with the police to provide protection, and this good is in high demand. Every transaction done under the table cannot seek protection from the courts, and the mafia step naturally into this gap.

Which suggests, in turn, that the pirates will evolve such a mafia.

Victoria and Albert Museum - The Metropolitan Police Service's Investigation of Fakes and Forgeries

Victoria and Albert Museum - The Metropolitan Police Service's Investigation of Fakes and Forgeries
23 January – 7 February 2010

Rooms 17a & 18a
Free admission

In this display, The Metropolitan Police Service's Art and Antiques Unit will showcase some of the investigative methods involved in detecting and preventing the increasingly sophisticated crime of art forgery. Using historical and contemporary criminal cases, the broader financial and cultural impacts of art forgery on modern society are considered. Exhibits will include the diverse body of work assembled by the forger, Shaun Greenhalgh, who executed such fake "masterpieces" as the Egyptian Amarna princess and paintings purporting to be the work of the English artist, L.S. Lowry.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mexican ruling party proposes banning drug ballads - Marin Independent Journal

Mexican ruling party proposes banning drug ballads - Marin Independent Journal

If Mexico suppresses narcocorridos, then drug lords will be celebrated some other way.

Guinea-Bissau: UNODC to support set up of a police academy

Guinea-Bissau: UNODC to support set up of a police academy

22 January, 2010 - Facing chronic political instability during the post-civil war period, Guinea-Bissau has been trying to rebuild the pillars of peace, human rights, security, justice and integrity. To support this, the UNODC Regional Office for Brazil and the Southern Cone has facilitated an agreement between the Government of Brazil and the Government of Guinea-Bissau to construct a training centre for the country's security forces.

During the late 1990s, Guinea-Bissau faced a civil war resulting in political instability, which led to the destruction of infrastructure and drastically reduced the local gross domestic product. The civil conflict also resulted in thousands of refugees fleeing Guinea-Bissau to different countries in Africa. The atmosphere of insecurity became an obstacle to the country's economic and social development, discouraged investment by diverting limited resources to unproductive expenditure and fostered crime.

In addition, a recent report by UNODC Drug Trafficking as a Security Threat in West Africa demonstrated how Guinea-Bissau is under siege by drug traffickers. The country has become the hub of a new cocaine trafficking route from South America via West Africa to supply growing demand for illegal drugs in Europe. There is an urgent need to tackle organized crime - in the broader context of security sector reform - and to strengthen administration of justice and the rule of law.

The creation of a police academy will boost the country's police forces and support the Government to implement the National Plan to Fight Drugs and Crime, supported by the UNODC Regional Office for West and Central Africa. With an investment of US$ 3 million from the Brazilian Agency for Cooperation, the project will, over a three year period, build the technical capacity of local police and help regulate the police force according to internationally recognized standards. The Government has designated 30,000 square metres for the academy in Bissau, the capital.

UNODC will be working with the Brazilian Federal Police Department, which will coordinate activities for the new police academy. Since 2008, that Department has been carrying out a training programme for foreign security officials, supported by UNODC. In two years, 158 officers from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and African Portuguese-speaking countries were trained at the Brazilian Police Academy. Guinea-Bissau sent 66 participants - more than half of its entire judicial police.

According to Bo Mathiasen, UNODC representative for Brazil and the Southern Cone, organized crime operates on several fronts and does not respect borders. "We must then face crime locally and globally through international cooperation," said Mr. Mathiasen during the graduation ceremony for one class of foreign officials.

By strengthening cooperation between Brazil and Guinea-Bissau, UNODC reinforces its commitment to improve South-South cooperation, in which developing countries with common historical and cultural traits help each other to find development solutions and share successful experiences on how to boost the living conditions of their citizens.

The agreement represents a firm consolidation of South-South cooperation and recognizes UNODC as the first United Nations agency in Brazil to implement a cooperation project in this context.

From spas to banks, Mexico economy rides on drugs | Reuters

From spas to banks, Mexico economy rides on drugs | Reuters

"Mafia capitalism" in a country that earns more from drugs than it does from petroleum.

New Vision Online : The Nairobi rioters were rebels without a cause

New Vision Online : The Nairobi rioters were rebels without a cause:

However, if rebels with a cause were to disrupt Nairobi, then significant spillover would result:

Let us face it; Nairobi is East Africa’s most important commercial city. The whole region depends on it. International agencies depend on it even to reach lawless Somalia. Disrupting its operations and allowing terrorist insurgents to infiltrate it is an act of recklessness of the highest order. It is the kind of negligence that many governments have been punished for over and over in recent history.

Japan Also Has Problems

‘Ndrangheta ‘most insidious’ mafia State, region must step up, says Napolitano

‘Ndrangheta ‘most insidious’ mafia State, region must step up, says Napolitano:
However, he stressed that this cannot be done as long as ‘Ndrangheta is seen as a major provider of jobs in a region with one of Italy’s highest unemployment rates.

allAfrica.com: Kenya: Al Shabaab Threaten to Attack Kenya Capital

allAfrica.com: Kenya: Al Shabaab Threaten to Attack Kenya Capital

The Somali uprising is spreading.

Piracy rise in Asia not as bad as feared

Piracy rise in Asia not as bad as feared

Despite hard economic times, Asia has not had an upsurge in pirate attacks.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Defiant Mesic Defends Threat to Send Troops to Bosnia :: BalkanInsight.com

Defiant Mesic Defends Threat to Send Troops to Bosnia :: BalkanInsight.com

Croatia's Prime Minister, comparing today's Bosnia to that of the 1990's, continues to threaten war.

A Decade of Supply Chain Management

Over at Global Guerrilla's, John Robb has posted an article about Brands and Hollow Nation-States in which he discusses how the nation state is becoming a brand, much has many corporations have so become.

This corporate movement toward placing an emphasis on branding did not emerge in a vacuum. Rather it is related to recent developments in corporate logistics. As A Decade of Supply Chain Management, in their overview of the last decade's developments in supply chain management, states:

# Offshoring and outsourcing see dramatic growth. Percent of “value added” by final seller of manufactured goods drops into the 15-25% range for many companies. Virtual supply chains go from vision to reality. It was early in this past decade when companies like Levi’s jettisoned their own plants to become brand companies.


This movement toward branding is closely integrated with a parallel movement toward tightly integrated global supply chains, which this article outlines.

These supply chains, in turn, are coming under increasing stress.

Hugo Chavez tries to show he's serious about drugs | Reuters

Hugo Chavez tries to show he's serious about drugs | Reuters

The only people who are genuinely serious about drugs are those who favor legalizing it. This article presents no evidence that Chavez is so attempting to proceed.

North Africa poses greatest terrorist threat: Italian minister

North Africa poses greatest terrorist threat: Italian minister

Citing illegal immigration into Italy, Italy's foreign minister stated that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) poses as Italy's greatest threat.

Looting Sparks New Economy in Haiti - WSJ.com

Looting Sparks New Economy in Haiti - WSJ.com

An informal economy is appearing amidst Haiti's ruins.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Billions laundered through innocent parties | The Australian




Billions laundered through innocent parties | The Australian:
Cuckoo smurfing is a new laundering technique employing functionaries, or 'smurfs', to deposit black money into the bank accounts of unsuspecting individuals or companies.

BBC News - The dark side of Greece's economic ills

BBC News - The dark side of Greece's economic ills

Greece is not merely improvident; it is corrupt.

Tax haven risks corruption, OECD warns Ghana | Business | guardian.co.uk

With all the current stir about West Africa and organized crime, somebody is apparently getting the idea that Ghana's plan to develop a tax haven may not be the best idea.

Tax haven risks corruption, OECD warns Ghana | Business | guardian.co.uk:
Wilson Prichard, a researcher at the Institute of Development Studies who has closely followed Ghana's development as an offshore centre, said: 'Aside from the general social costs associated with the operation of tax havens globally, in the absence of a very strong regulatory framework and very strong standards of transparency there's a particularly high risk that a tax haven in west Africa, which is home to major oil wealth and high levels of corruption, could facilitate large-scale corruption and tax evasion, and pose a correspondingly large risk to good governance and economic growth in the region.'"

EUobserver / Greek experience to spur EU request for audit powers

EUobserver / Greek experience to spur EU request for audit powers:
Frustrated by the ongoing story of Greece's public finance problems, the European Commission has indicated it will seek audit powers for the EU's statistics office, Eurostat, in order to verify elements of national government accounts.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bulgarian Withdraws Candidacy for EU Post - WSJ.com

Bulgarian Withdraws Candidacy for EU Post - WSJ.com

Her husband has alleged ties to organized crime.

Bulgaria Interior Minister: 300 Mafia Bosses Plague Our Society: Bulgaria Interior Minister: 300 Mafia Bosses Plague Our Society - Novinite.com - Sofia News Agency

Bulgaria Interior Minister: 300 Mafia Bosses Plague Our Society: Bulgaria Interior Minister: 300 Mafia Bosses Plague Our Society - Novinite.com - Sofia News Agency

Croatia's President: 'I Would Use Army against Bosnian Serb Secession' :: BalkanInsight.com

Mesic: 'I Would Use Army against Bosnian Serb Secession' :: BalkanInsight.com:
Outgoing Croatian President Stjepan Mesic said he would intervene militarily if Milorad Dodik, the leader of the Bosnian Serb dominated Republika Srpska, made a move to secede from Bosnia, a Croatian daily reported on Tuesday.

Citizen leader: Dominican Republic’s problem is its “damned impunity” - DominicanToday.com

Citizen leader: Dominican Republic’s problem is its “damned impunity” - DominicanToday.com:
Chamil added that drug trafficking hasn’t been confronted as it should and has permeated everything. “The time has come to give the country results or we are going to regret it.”

Photos of the informal economy in Buenos Aires

Photos of the informal economy in Buenos Aires

MinnPost - Revived street market helps relieve Haiti food crisis

MinnPost - Revived street market helps relieve Haiti food crisis

Haiti's informal economy is providing Haitians with what food they now have.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bosnia - An Economy in Search of a State - Domovina

Bosnia - An Economy in Search of a State - Domovina

Overview of Bosnia's uncertain economy.

Spouse of renegade former Guinea Bissau Navy Chief arrested

Spouse of renegade former Guinea Bissau Navy Chief arrested:
Many people in Guinea Bissau believe that the arrest of Ms Na Tchuto is a settling of scores that may further complicate the search for a solution to the case of the former Navy Chief of Staff. While some unconfirmed report say the UN has since handed him over to the Bissau government, reports from other quarters say he is still hiding in the United Nations premises and refuses to surrender without a guarantee of safety for himself and his family.

Latest on the drug trade through West Africa | Africa | Global Dashboard

Latest on the drug trade through West Africa | Africa | Global Dashboard

Despite official denials, all signs suggest the drug trade remains active in Guinea Bissau.

The recent return of the former head of Guinea Bissau's navy further complicates matters.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Looting matters: Italy: Looting decreased dramatically

Looting matters: Italy: Looting decreased dramatically:
There were only 59 reports of looting on archaeological sites in 2009, a significant fall from 238 in 2008

African Immigrants in Italy: Slave Labor for the Mafia - TIME

African Immigrants in Italy: Slave Labor for the Mafia - TIME

Pambazuka - French nuclear power fed by uranium from Niger

Pambazuka - French nuclear power fed by uranium from Niger: "=
Niger exports enough uranium to France to generate 80 per cent of the latter’s electricity supply, writes Khadija Sharife. But ordinary Nigeriens reap little benefit from France’s control of their country’s uranium resources, with over three-fifths of the population living below the poverty line and reports of radioactive contamination of water, air and soil by multinational mining operations.


Much of the Tuareg unrest in Niger, which some assert is linked to Al Qaeda, results from their opposition to this French uranium mining.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

West African Criminal Networks of Illegal Immigration | Hot Political News

West African Criminal Networks of Illegal Immigration | Hot Political News

This overview of West African drug trafficking focuses on the role that African criminal networks play. It places a greater emphasis on Nigerian gangs than most articles we see.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

EUobserver / EU report slams Greece over false statistics

EUobserver / EU report slams Greece over false statistics:
Written up at the behest of EU finance ministers, the document talks of 'deliberate misreporting of figures by the Greek authorities in 2009.'


Six times the report states "This is to be considered as a case of deliberate misreporting of figures...."

According to the report:

The reliability of Greek government deficit and debt statistics has been the subject of continuous and unique attention for several years. In 2004, Eurostat produced a comprehensive report on the revision of the Greek government deficit and debt figures, showing how the Greek statistical authorities had misreported figures on deficit and debt in the years between 1997 and 2003. On five occasions since 2004 reservations have been expressed by Eurostat on the Greek data in the biannual press release on deficit and debt data. When the Greek EDP data have been published without reservations, this has been the result of Eurostat interventions before or during the notification period in order to correct mistakes or inappropriate recording, with the result of increasing the notified deficit. Other elements of this continuous attention are a high number of visits, including four methodological visits, and an action plan agreed with the Greek authorities, addressing the statistical problems that could be diagnosed by Eurostat. That action plan was regularly reviewed by Eurostat. Though eventually an overall level of completion was achieved, given that Eurostat is restricted to statistical matters in its work the measures foreseen in the action plan were mainly of a methodological nature, and did not address the issues of institutional settings, accountability, responsibility and political interference.The 2004 events led to amendments of the EU legal framework for fiscal data in order to strengthen that framework and to improve the monitoring by the Commission of data provided by Member States in the context of the EDP notifications exercises. The existing legal framework and the governance system for government deficit and debt data at EU level are in general functioning well and produce fiscal data of a generally high quality. It is important to acknowledge the overall efficient and loyal cooperation between national authorities and the Commission that characterises this governance system.

The events which have occurred in Greece, as described in this report, are therefore not considered as systemic and relate to individual, country-specific problems. The most recent revisions are an illustration of the lack of quality of the Greek fiscal statistics (and of Greek macroeconomic statistics in general) and show that the progress in the compilation of fiscal statistics in the country, and the intense scrutiny by Eurostat since 2004, have not sufficed to bring the quality of Greek fiscal data to the level reached by other EU Member States. Even if the existing governance framework for fiscal statistics at EU level functions satisfactorily and enables improvements of a statistical and methodological nature, it cannot prevent deliberate misreporting of data.

Microfinance not in the red, despite crisis | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Microfinance not in the red, despite crisis | Radio Netherlands Worldwide:
While major international banks have collapsed in these times of economic crisis, small microfinance institutions are still performing well. Poor women - until recently regarded as totally non-creditworthy - are paying back their loans while large companies fail to meet their repayments.

Al Qaeda linked to rogue aviation network - 1450 WHTC

Al Qaeda linked to rogue aviation network - 1450 WHTC

This article provides an overview of the flow of cocaine via air transport from South America to West Africa.

Although it mostly reviews points previously covered in this blog, it ends with the interesting point that these air flights are round trip - so it is quite possible that illicit commerce is not only flowing out from West to East, but also back from East to West.

Problems facing regional integration in West Africa – Loomnie

Problems facing regional integration in West Africa – Loomnie
Then there is the informal type. Nigeria, for instance, imposes bans on, well, almost everything that is of interest to someone of power in Nigeria. But that does not stop the importation of those things. Importers simply divert the trade to Benin and then smuggle them from Benin to Nigeria. Rice is a particular case in point. In 2007, for instance, a Nigerian newspaper reports that the total import duty on rice in Nigeria came to about 100%, while in Benin it was 38%. In the same year, it was estimated that about 2,000 tonnes of rice was re-exported (smuggled) from Benin into Nigeria per day. If you are a smart importer you simply divert your rice to Benin, pay the import duty – and those guys are pretty well organised so you WILL pay the duty - and then smuggle it into Nigeria. While I was researching these issues in Cotonou in 2008, someone mentioned that she could almost believe that the Beninese government bribes Nigeria to prohibit the importation of some goods into the country so that Benin can make some money off it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

balticbusinessnews.com - What is different about transactions in Central Europe?

balticbusinessnews.com - What is different about transactions in Central Europe?

In Central Europe, expect the following:

  1. Poor information
  2. Uncertain regulation
  3. Gray economy
  4. Smaller market
  5. Transactions take time

allAfrica.com: West Africa: Moon Predicts Region's Hell

allAfrica.com: West Africa: Moon Predicts Region's Hell:

According to UN Secretary General Ban ki- Moon, drug traffickers are shifting their use of West Africa from a transit hub to a production center for narcotics.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The East African�- Guns, drugs and terror: Somali pirates morph into poly-criminals

The East African�- Guns, drugs and terror: Somali pirates morph into poly-criminals:
Investigations have revealed that these super-pirates have turned into transnational poly-criminals. They circumvent and adapt to the naval presence, and in their continued quest to expand their avenues for making money, the pirates are now engaging in vast criminal activities including money laundering, arms and human trafficking, paying bribing, extortion, training terrorist organisations such as the Al-Shabaab and more recently, protecting international drug cartels.

The Tuareg Movement for Independence





The Butlins for billionaires: In Marbella, Piers Morgan discovers a world where discreet billionaires, ruthless gangsters and, well, Gary Lineker's brother collide | Mail Online

The Butlins for billionaires: In Marbella, Piers Morgan discovers a world where discreet billionaires, ruthless gangsters and, well, Gary Lineker's brother collide | Mail Online:
But Marbella is much harder to define. Before going there to film an ITV1 documentary, I assumed it was a rough, tough Costa del Crime kind of town where villains hung out with boozed-up glamour models, hookers and footballers, snorting cocaine and avoiding the police. And to a certain extent it is. But there's another, quite extraordinary side to Marbella - one of staggering wealth and discretion that acts as a fabulously opulent secret haven for super-rich Saudi princes, Hollywood stars, European royalty and billionaire tycoons.

It's hard to think of anywhere on the planet where two such disparate worlds live within the same couple of square miles together.

Kenyan bus operators strike against the police

The decay of the legitimacy of the Kenyan state is being illustrated by a recent strike by its public transportation operators, called Matatus, who are highly irregular entrepreneurs. They are protesting their being shaken down by Kenya's notoriously corrupt traffic police.


Last week’s strike by public transport operators was yet another stark reminder of what happens when a country allows corruption to rule the roost in any of its organs.

At some point in time, a nation comes to a moment of reawakening when it must confront the tragedy of its shame.

Matatus went on strike over complaints of “police harassment”, a euphemism for demand of bribes. Without an alternative public transport system, thousands of commuters, including school going children, were stranded and precious man hours lost.

Blame irascible matatu crews and a traffic police brigade with many corrupt faces in its ranks. The two are joined in the hip by their singular lack of public accountability and contempt for ethic duty.

The matatu industry, an avenue for investment and employment for many, represents the best and worst of the true spirit of enterprise. Self-regulated by often competing interests, the industry has largely degenerated into a by-word for disorder and indiscipline – a Kenyan wild west.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fault Lines - Rio: Olympic City



Germans trace Hezbollah coke smuggling profits - The Local

Germans trace Hezbollah coke smuggling profits - The Local:
German investigators are uncovering the drug-smuggling business of the Syrian-backed Lebanese militant organisation Hezbollah, moving cocaine from Beirut into Europe via Frankfurt airport.

UN agrees to hand over Guinea-Bissau coup suspect

UN agrees to hand over Guinea-Bissau coup suspect

Ross Kemp Kenya Special:meeting the mungiki















Business: Investors skittish on Kosovo (SETimes.com)

Business: Investors skittish on Kosovo (SETimes.com):
Corruption and the grey economy are among the reasons cited for the continuing decline in foreign investments in Kosovo.

Outside The Walls: Kosovo: Parallel To What?

Outside The Walls: Kosovo: Parallel To What?:
Seems like most everyone is talking - somewhat ominously - about 'parallel' illegal institutions in northern Kosovo. Kosovo's government is calling for international assistance to 'dissolve' them. KEK (the Kosovo power company)- which cut electricity to the north in October in order to bully the Serbs into accepting it as their supplier of electricity - is now asking for international help to stop the Serbian provider, EPS, from 'illegally' collecting bills in the north. And now, most worrisome of all if the press reports are accurate, the NATO Commander for southern Europe, Admiral Fitzgerald is claiming that the Serb municipal councils in the north are illegal and a threat to security because they are in violation of UNSCR 1244. When the Albanians ask for international help to dissolve the so-called parallel institutions in the north and the NATO command agrees they are illegal and a security threat, its seems a good cause for worry.

Organized crime in Central Europe - International Analyst Network

Organized crime in Central Europe - International Analyst Network:
Central Europe and especially the Czech Republic and Hungary, are used as centers for coordination, communication and conciliation between very powerful international crime syndicates, which have managed to install their HQs of their operations and gain access in the heart of the EU.

Although it has not been a subject of special reporting by the media in Europe, when assessing organized crime activities in Europe, one should take into serious consideration the situation in this region.

Friday, January 8, 2010

International Terrorism and Transnational Crime: Security Threats, U.S. Policy, and Considerations for Congress

International Terrorism and Transnational Crime: Security Threats, U.S. Policy, and Considerations for Congress
Summary:

The involvement of insurgent and extremist groups in criminal activity is an issue that has been a concern of U.S. administrations for decades. In recent years, some observers have claimed that interactions between international terrorists and criminals are increasing. If true, expanded links between criminal and terrorist networks could increase U.S. vulnerability to attack by terrorist groups with enhanced criminal capabilities and financial resources. An expanded range of combined criminal and terrorist activity could also affect the global economy and U.S. foreign policy goals, undermining licit international commerce and the promotion of good governance and rule of law. Threats posed by a crime-terrorism nexus may be particularly challenging, as the scale and nature of their cooperation are believed to vary widely and limited anecdotal evidence largely serves as the basis for current understanding of the problem.scale and nature of their cooperation are believed to vary widely and limited anecdotal evidence largely serves as the basis for current understanding of the problem.

U.S. efforts to combat the relationship between crime and terrorism are a subset of broader policy
responses to transnational crime and international terrorism individually. While numerous U.S. strategies and programs are designed to combat international terrorism and transnational crime separately, fewer efforts focus specifically on addressing the confluence of the two. Those efforts that do exist focus mainly on (1) human smuggling and clandestine terrorist travel, (2) money laundering and terrorist financing, and (3) narcoterrorism links between drug traffickers and terrorists. Many of these efforts, including the creation of the Human Smuggling and Trafficking
Center, the reorganization of the Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, and the expanded extraterritorial jurisdiction authority to investigate and prosecute international narcoterrorism cases, occurred in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Congress played a large role in such efforts, holding at least eight hearings specifically on some aspect of criminal-terrorist interactions between the end of 2000 and 2005. Legislation that has expanded and adjusted agency authorities, resources, and responsibilities related to the crimeterrorism nexus includes the USA PATRIOT Act (P.L. 107-56), the Intelligence Reform Act and Terrorism Prevention Act of2004 (P.L. 107-458), the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-177), and appropriations-related legislation through the 111th Congress for various U.S. agencies, including the Departments of State and Defense.

This report provides a primer on the confluence of transnational terrorist and criminal groups and related activities abroad. It evaluates possible motivations and disincentives for cooperation between terrorist and criminal organizations, variations in the scope of crime-terrorism links, and the types of criminal activities—fundraising, material and logistics support, and exploitation of corruption and gaps in the rule of law—used by terrorist organizations to sustain operations. This report also discusses several international case studies to illustrate the range of crime-terrorism convergence and non-convergence, including Dawood Ibrahim’s D-Company; the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); the 2004 Madrid bombers; the Taliban; Hezbollah; Al Qaeda; the 2005 London bombers; Al-Shabaab; as well as known or alleged crime-terrorism facilitators such as Viktor Bout, Monzer Al Kasser, and Abu Ghadiyah. Policy considerations
discussed in this report include possible tensions between counterterrorism and anti-crime policy objectives, implications for U.S. foreign aid, gaps in human intelligence and analysis, the value of
financial intelligence in combating the crime terrorism nexus, impact of digital and physical safe havens and ungoverned spaces, implications for nuclear proliferation, and effects of crimeterrorism links in conflict and post-conflict zones. Unless otherwise noted, this report does not address potential crime-terrorism links in the domestic or border environment.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Spain Cracks Down On Institutional Corruption�-�RTN Costa Blancas Free Newspaper - Round Town News

Spain Cracks Down On Institutional Corruption�-�RTN Costa Blancas Free Newspaper - Round Town News:
Police Investigators have suggested that institutional corruption has generated more ‘black’ money than drug trafficking, the country’s second major black market.

Kenya Shipping Container And Freight Truck Corruption Allegations Persist - Latest industry shipping news from the Handy Shipping Guide

Kenya Shipping Container And Freight Truck Corruption Allegations Persist - Latest industry shipping news from the Handy Shipping Guide:
Now certain sections of the media have even hinted at possible links between the port and the increasing number of pirate attacks launched from neighbouring Somalia.


Here are television reports alleging that, through corruption, one can evade Kenyan import duties on goods shipped to Kenya from Dubai:









Kenya's Mungiki

John Robb has written extensively and well about the role MEND guerrillas have played in Nigeria.

So much for West Africa. Some of you may be wondering whether East Africa has any groups analogous to MEND.

The answer is either a definite "Yes," or a "there very well could be." Kenya has an urban-slum based group with a messianic ideology comprised of alienated youth known as Mungiki, who could tomorrow become in Kenya what MEND is in Nigeria today.

Kenya is incredibly corrupt. I don't blog about Kenya much because apparently nothing happens there. It just festers. The New York Review of Books has an article about Kenya's corruption. But Kenya abouts Somalia; so the question is not whether it will boil over, but when.

Here is a backgrounder on Kenya's Mungiki.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Puerto Rican fugitive deeply infiltrated the Dominican narcotics agency - DominicanToday.com

Puerto Rican fugitive deeply infiltrated the Dominican narcotics agency - DominicanToday.com:
The senior official didn’t have any idea then that Figueroa had infiltrated the two agencies to which he belongs, the National Police and the DNCD.

At first he thought the escape was fruit of the criminal’s audacity, but today it appears that he had internal help who tipped him off from the inside.


Personally, I am amazed that the situation in the Dominican Republic receives so little attention.

Bulgaria: Killed Bobi Tsankov Claimed He Helped Bulgaria's Top Drugs Boss Vanish - Novinite.com - Sofia News Agency

Bulgaria: Killed Bobi Tsankov Claimed He Helped Bulgaria's Top Drugs Boss Vanish - Novinite.com - Sofia News Agency

Judges won’t bow to drug traffickers’ pressure, Chief Justice says - DominicanToday.com

Judges won’t bow to drug traffickers’ pressure, Chief Justice says - DominicanToday.com:
Supreme Court (SCJ) president Jorge Subero Isa affirmed Tuesday that the judges have never neither received or accept pressure from drug trafficking and the Judicial Branch doesn’t fear it either.


You really have to wonder about a country whose chief justice needs to issue this sort of reassurance.

Somalia: Al Shabaab robs Hawala Company

Al Shabaab militants have reportedly robbed more than 100,000 US Dollars from Qaran Hawala Company in Mogadishu, witnesses said on Tuesday.

Very often, when following various reports of illicit commerce, of money laundering, of drug dealing, of terrorism, and the like, we get the message that all of these individuals are part of some "unholy alliance, as Reuters recently reported.

Well, hawala is associated with money laundering and terrorist financing ( as well as many legitimate money transfers ) while Somalia's Al Shabaab has been linked to al Qaeda.

Yet here we have Al Shabaab attacking a hawaladar.

The illicit world we are studying is vastly more complex than any Bismarkian form of alliance or James Bond SPECTRE-type conspiracy.

The chink in airports' armor - latimes.com

Western countries are rushing to upgrade airport security to meet new threats, but African countries don't have the money to even meet the old standards that Western airports now find inadequate, according to aviation analysts.

Of course, drug smugglers exploit Africa's lower airport security capabilities.

Yemen navy charges $60,000 for safe passage in pirate waters | The Australian

Yemen navy charges $60,000 for safe passage in pirate waters | The Australian
YEMEN'S navy is charging commercial vessels up to $US55,000 ($60,800) each to guarantee transit through the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden under a deal that has reaped about $US30 million over 18 months.


For an historical precedent for this sort of thing, study the castles on the Rhine, lairs of the original robber barons.

Cao Cao: Chinese archaeologists uncover vast tomb of infamous 3rd century ruler | Mail Online

Cao Cao: Chinese archaeologists uncover vast tomb of infamous 3rd century ruler | Mail Online

Machiavelli's Prince would have be a patsy compared to
Cao Cao, the ruthless warrior who dominated north China from 208 to 220 AD, following the fall of the Han Dynasty during the Three Kingdoms period.

Cao Cao's story, along with many other larger-than-life Three Kingdom era figures, has been memorialized in the great Chinese novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

Now they have found his tomb. We may have Global Guerrillas or perhaps a later day Indian Jones to thank for this discovery, for local Chinese authorities first learned of the tomb's existence after seizing stone tablets carrying inscriptions from some tomb raiders.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Inside Costa Rica - Costa Rica's Daily News

Inside Costa Rica - Costa Rica's Daily News:
Del Vecchio said that the top two countries of destination of the illegal drugs was Spain and Italy. However, police also registered drug smugglers from Israel, Britain, South Africa, United States, Guatemala, EL Salvador, Dominican Republic, Lithuania, Belgium, Holland, Portugal and Venezueal, among others.

Seized ships - Not Just for Ransom Any More

The pirates are using some of their hijacked merchant ships as mother ships for their operations far from the Somali coast (where the oil tankers head south from the Persian Gulf, some 1,500 kilometers east of Africa.) Foreign warships cannot retake these ships, because the pirates threaten to kill the crew, who are being forced to operate the ship at sea.

Pirate Attacks Raise Risks for Oil Tankers | SeafarerBlog.com

Pirate Attacks Raise Risks for Oil Tankers | SeafarerBlog.com:
The number of pirate attacks and attempted hijackings of oil tankers hit a high in 2009, an industry group reported, highlighting a geopolitical risk in the global oil market that could increase this year and push crude prices higher.

Dadis Camara Under ‘Arrest’ in Moroccan Hospital | Newstime Africa

Dadis Camara Under ‘Arrest’ in Moroccan Hospital | Newstime Africa:
As the Moroccan government comes under heavy pressure from the United States of America, Guinean Junta leader seems to have been placed under serious military protection otherwise known as indirect arrest, to prevent him from returning to Guinea.

Submersible Robotic Glider

Drug smugglers already are using submarines. It is only a matter of time before they start using these:


Douglas Farah

Douglas Farah

Even if the United States reduced its cocaine demand by 20 percent overnight, the impact upon the global flow of cocaine would be minimal.

Spain Sees Endless Season For Political Scandal : NPR

Spain Sees Endless Season For Political Scandal : NPR:
Hundreds of mayors and other officials across the country are being investigated for bribery and influence peddling, and police have seized assets worth billions of dollars. The government and the opposition agree that things have to change.

FT.com / Comment / Opinion - The west’s preaching to the east must stop

FT.com / Comment / Opinion - The west’s preaching to the east must stop:
The system that the west touted as superior has failed. Why should developing countries blindly follow its model now?

Vigilantism in Guatemala

Vigilantism in Guatemala

Indian companies buy land abroad for agricultural products- Agriculture-Economy-News-The Economic Times

Indian companies buy land abroad for agricultural products- Agriculture-Economy-News-The Economic Times
The land purchase has been done in places like Oromia, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Port Sudan, Khartoum and Suwakin in Sudan, and in Nairobi in Kenya.

Rising food prices is one of the main reasons for the rush. Food price inflation rose 19.95% for the week ended December 2 from the previous year, with prices of food products and vegetables reaching record levels due to a combination of hoarding and slow production after the country saw its worst monsoon since 1972.

“The cheap cost of land is the main driver for such a trend,” says Dileep Choksi, a leading tax and accounting consultant, who has been part of several business initiaves in Africa. “While the firm food prices in India and elsewhere are also a reason, the availability of arable land (in Africa) is a major advantage,” he added.

Ethiopian Farms Lure Investor Funds as Workers Live in Poverty - Bloomberg.com

Ethiopian Farms Lure Investor Funds as Workers Live in Poverty - Bloomberg.com
“African agricultural land is cheap relative to similar land elsewhere; it is probably the last frontier,” said Paul Christie, marketing director at Emergent Asset Management in London. The hedge fund manager has farm holdings in South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

AFRICA: Drying, Drying, Disappearing…

AFRICA: Drying, Drying, Disappearing…:
Lake Chad was bigger than Israel less than 50 years ago. Today its surface area is less than a tenth of its earlier size, amid forecasts the lake could disappear altogether within 20 years.

Climate change and overuse have put one of Africa's mightiest lakes in mortal danger, and the livelihoods of the 30 million people who depend on its waters is hanging by a thread as a result.

Land grabs in Africa: "The stakes are huge" - Afrik.com : Africa news, Maghreb news - The african daily newspaper

Land grabs in Africa: "The stakes are huge" - Afrik.com : Africa news, Maghreb news - The african daily newspaper
Many deals have little oversight, or regulation; they lack environmental safeguards and they fail to protect smallholder farmers from losing their customary rights to land.

“This is a worrisome trend,” Akinwumi Adesina, of the advocacy group Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, told a science forum in the Netherlands in June. Foreign land acquisitions, he argued, have the potential to hurt domestic efforts to raise food production and could limit broad-based economic growth, he said.

Million of hectares at stake

The sheer size of some of the land agreements has added to the alarm. A deal to allow South Korea’s Daewoo Corporation to lease 1.3 mn hectares was a key factor in the ouster of Madagascar’s President Marc Ravalomanana in March. In Kenya, the government is struggling to overcome local opposition to a proposal to give Qatar rights over some 40,000 hectares in the Tana River Valley in return for building a deep-sea port. Africa is a particular focus because of the notion that plenty of cheap land and labour is available, and that there is a favourable climate. In Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, for example, only some 12 per cent of arable land is actually cultivated.

African Agriculture: Farmer-pastoralists’ clash leaves 32 dead in Nigeria

African Agriculture: Farmer-pastoralists’ clash leaves 32 dead in Nigeria:
Clashes between farmers and pastoralists over grazing fields - common in northern Nigeria - are on the rise throughout the country as pastureland shrinks, according to environmental consultant Kabiru Yammama.


Farmer vs. herder is the oldest conflict in human history, dating back to Cain vs. Abel.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Czeck Republic Decriminalizes All Drugs For Personal Use | The Hive

The Czeck Republic Decriminalizes All Drugs For Personal Use | The Hive:
The Czech Republic now joins Portugal as a European country that has decriminalized drug possession. Drug possession is also decriminalized de facto if not de jure in the Netherlands, and actual charging and prosecution practices in some other European countries already approach decriminalization in practice, if not as a matter of law.

War Is Boring: U.S. Navy: Big Fat Failure?

War Is Boring: U.S. Navy: Big Fat Failure?:
That dismissive attitude is reflected in force structure. The Navy continues to invest its money in a relatively small number of multi-billion-dollar warships tailored for high-end warfare, rather than a larger number of cheaper vessels (such as Swift, pictured) that might allow round-the-clock coverage of vast swaths of ocean. Numbers matter.

International community analyzes case of former Guinea Bissau Armada chief accused of attempted coup - Primeiro di�rio caboverdiano em linha - A SEMANA

International community analyzes case of former Guinea Bissau Armada chief accused of attempted coup - Primeiro di�rio caboverdiano em linha - A SEMANA
"He's a citizen who was outside of the country and decided to come back. What's the problem?" said Malam Bacai Sanhá upon his arrival at Bissau's international airport after 21 days of medical treatment abroad, adding that he had followed the process and had been in permanent contact with Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr.

WAR OF TERROR: Selling Drugs to Fund Terror: al-Qaeda Linked to Cocaine Trafficking

WAR OF TERROR: Selling Drugs to Fund Terror: al-Qaeda Linked to Cocaine Trafficking:
'What this case demonstrates is that these three associates had very clear connections with AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb),' Russ Benson, the DEA regional director for Europe and Africa, told The Blotter. The three men allegedly provided protection for the large loads of cocaine that had to be transshipped through the desert to Morocco with Spain as an ultimate destination, Benson said.

War Is Boring: The War Is Boring Al-Shabab Primer

War Is Boring: The War Is Boring Al-Shabab Primer

In Sierra Leone, pop music is a beat that drives politics - latimes.com

In Sierra Leone, pop music is a beat that drives politics - latimes.com:
Today, music here is more than simple entertainment. It has become the vehicle for a decibel-busting national political debate. With the sixth-highest rate of illiteracy in the world and a deep suspicion of the ruling elite, Sierra Leone's 6 million people rely heavily on their pop stars -- often educated and well-traveled -- for an independent take on what's going on.


Eg:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Balkans in 2003 and 2008

The Balkans in 2003 and 2008

Extensive background on the Balkans - including an interesting discussion on how the United States' failure to learn from the Balkans contributed to its difficulties in Iraq.

Causes for Dubai's Boom

Causes for Dubai's boom:

  • Gold smuggling to India.
  • Re-trading center between India and Pakistan
  • Covert money operations for Western Powers

Dadis Camara Under ‘Arrest’ in Moroccan Hospital | Newstime Africa

Dadis Camara Under ‘Arrest’ in Moroccan Hospital | Newstime Africa:
As the Moroccan government comes under heavy pressure from the United States of America, Guinean Junta leader seems to have been placed under serious military protection otherwise known as indirect arrest, to prevent him from returning to Guinea. It seems the Americans are seizing this moment of opportunity to remove the Guinean dictator completely from the political landscape of the West African Country. The Moroccan government is under tremendous pressure not to release Camara from hospital and Newstime Africa has reliably learnt that the Guinean strongman is about to be moved from the hospital where he has been recouping to a villa in an unknown location in the capital, Rabat.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's OODA Loops

In his essay, "The Crack-Up," F. Scott Fitzgerald, describing his own malaise, states:

In this silence there was a vast irresponsibility toward every obligation, a deflation of all my values. A passionate belief in order, a disregard of motives or consequences in favor or guesswork and prophecy, a feeling that craft and industry would have a place in any world -- one by one, these and other convictions were swept away. I saw that the novel, which at my maturity was the strongest and supplest medium for conveying thought and emotion from one human being to another, was becoming subordinated to a mechanical and communal art that, whether in the hands of Hollywood merchants or Russian idealists, was capable of reflecting only the tritest thought, the most obvious emotion. It was an art in which words were subordinate to images, where personality was worn down to the inevitable low gear of collaboration. As long past as 1930, I had a hunch that the talkies would make even the best selling novelist as archaic as silent pictures. People still read, if only Professor Canby’s book of the month -- curious children nosed at the slime of Mr. Tiffany Thayer in the drugstore libraries -- but there was a rankling indignity, that to me had become almost an obsession, in seeing the power of the written


In this essay, Fitzgerald describes how his life in general and his career as a novelist, had lost meaning for him. The "crack-up" is his own; and he characterizes himself as a broken dish.

John Boyd's theory of OODA loops usually is understood as a military doctrine, whereby one opponent, who has a better grasp of things, is able to outmaneuver and defeat it opponent.

Discussing Boyd's theory, Don Vandergriff states:

“Schwerpunkt represents a unifying medium that provides a directed way to tie initiative of many subordinate actions with superior intent as a basis to diminish friction and compress time in order to generate a favorable mismatch in time/ability to shape and adapt to unfolding circumstances.”

....

Who is inside who's head?

Whose operations are more consistent an idea, floating around like a gas?

Who is tipping and running, striking with the smallest force at the farthest place? Who is fighting a "war" of detachment and never on the defensive or affording a target, except by accident or error?


Vandergriff is discussing military theory, more specifically the so-called War on Terror, and even more specifically recent developments regarding Yemen. But let us take these concepts and apply them instead to early 20th century literary history, more specifically, the decline of the American novel at the expense of the movies, and even more specifically, to the crack-up Fitzgerald describes in his essay.

In his essay, Fitzgerald describes how his writing career had provided him with a degree of independence, which had enabled him to act. But he was being worn down. He was loosing his literary vitality, becoming less and less able to produce. Hollywood was putting him on the defensive. According to Wikipedia:

Although he reportedly found movie work degrading, Fitzgerald was once again in dire financial straits, and spent the second half of the 1930s in Hollywood, working on commercial short stories, scripts for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (including some unfilmed work on Gone with the Wind), and his fifth and final novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon. Published posthumously as The Last Tycoon, it was based on the life of film executive Irving Thalberg. Scott and Zelda became estranged; she continued living in mental institutions on the East Coast, while he lived with his lover Sheilah Graham, a gossip columnist, in Hollywood. From 1939 until his death, Fitzgerald mocked himself as a Hollywood hack through the character of Pat Hobby in a sequence of 17 short stories, later collected as "The Pat Hobby Stories."


It appears that, applying Vandergriff's questions, that Hollywood had gotten inside Fitzgerald's OODA loops. This lead to his crackup and death.

More generally, Fitzgerald's was a generation of great American novelists, of Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald himself, and a host of others. What has happened to them? Why no great novels today? It appears that Hollywood has likewise stamped them out.

Suppose it is our project to write - and to write damn well. Whence the American writer? To be effective, he must not write a good sentence but rather it must be he - and not Hollywood, not Disney, not Time Warner, not Microsoft - that must have the inner OODA loop.

Now what does this mean?