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Indigenous People of South America

There have been two stories in the news recently about indigenous peoples in South America. First, Indigneousnews.org is reporting that the last remaining (previously) un-contacted tribe in Paraguay is being systematically ousted by Brazilian cattle-ranchers. In this case, it seems the land is being illegally taken from the tribe as the land had previously been purchased from the cattle ranchers by the government with the condition that it be returned to the tribe. It seems that this subgroup of the Ayoreo people was first contacted in 2004 and that since that time they have faced constant pressure from the cattle ranchers to abandon their lands. It remains unclear whether the Paraguayan government has the capability to fully protect their native people from encroachment from large farming and timber interests.

The second story of the struggle of indigenous people in South America comes from Peru where President Evo Morales has announced the construction of a trans-national roadway despite the protests of indigenous people whose land the roadway would cross. This is an interesting move for Mr. Morales. He is the first indigenous person ever elected to the position of President in Peru, and the first person of native ethnicity to be democratically elected in any Latin American country since Benito Juarez was elected President of Mexico in the 1850’s. Mr. Morales’ platform has centered on social reform and fair and equal treatment for indigenous people. Mr. Morales has demonstrated Marxist leanings greatly influenced by the political thought of Che Guevara, so to take such a strong stand against a significant part of his own constituency demonstrates that the voices of these indigenous people may be fading away.

It is almost a given that eventually there will be no more “un-contacted” people. As long as we as humans are driven to explore, contacting these native people will be unavoidable. What we can control however, is how we continue to interact with them and how we treat their rights as human beings.

All right, I’m off my soapbox. Enjoy the weekend.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The Sacred Dollar

Standard & Poor’s, the credit rating agency, downgraded the United States’ credit rating last Friday. You mat have seen the headlines. S&P claimed that despite the compromise on raising the debt ceiling, and avoiding default, the U.S. government has failed to address their core debt issues and thus U.S. treasury bills do not warrant the highest AAA rating.

The dollar has long been the symbol of safe investing. In fact, in investing, the interest rate on t-bills is called the “risk free rate”. Well it seems that with the downgrade, there is less international support for the greenback. China has renewed their call for a reserve currency that is not American. What that essentially means is that China is calling for the U.S. to either 1) address the growing debt problem, or 2) face a world in which China will no longer buy American bonds.

Either way, since the incarnation of the Euro, the dollar has seen its dominance slowly slip away. Since 2007 (and in some cases earlier) many OPEC members have quoted oil contract prices in currency other than dollars. Since dollars had been the traditional unit of measurement of oil contracts, and since every country on Earth uses oil in one form or another, accepting other currencies in exchange for oil was a huge first step in creating a multi-currency global economic system. And earlier this year, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange began denominating certain oil futures in Euros.

Despite all the negative publicity and the seemingly never-ending slide in value of the USD, it doesn’t appear that the currency of the United States will be going away any time soon. Too much business is still transacted in dollars and too many countries still hold U.S. debt. What is more likely is the dollar will no longer be allowed to dominate the currency market and we will no longer be able to simply “print money”. The dollar – and by extension the U.S. economy – will have to adapt and show that it is still a safe haven for investors in a world with more choice.

Update 9 August:

There’s a deeper discussion of the relationship between the Chinese and U.S. economies available here. [Yahoo! News]

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Crime Doesn’t Pay. But What If the Conviction is Faulty?

David Hicks is an Australian citizen who was captured by the Afghan Northern Alliance in Afghanistan where he was found training with al-Quaeda. He was turned in to U.S. forces and sent to the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was held there until 2006 when he was convicted under the Military Commissions Act. The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled in Hamdan v Rumsfeld that these commissions to be illegal under U.S. law, effectively invalidating his conviction.  Mr. Hicks also claimed that he was tortured and mistreated by both U.S. and Afghan forces. Following these allegations, and the voiding of the initial charges against him, Mr. Hicks had new charges brought against him, including providing material support to terrorists. In exchange for a severely reduced sentence, Mr. Hicks and his defense team cut a deal whereby he pleaded guilty to a single count of providing material support to terrorists. Mr. Hicks was returned to his native Australia and served nine months in prison there.

Now, Mr. Hicks has written a book detailing his experience and ordeal in Guantanamo. In the book, Mr. Hicks claims he was falsely arrested and reasserts his allegations of torture and abuse and estimates of his royalty income so far are about $107,000. The Australian government however, has sued to freeze the assets generated from the sale of Mr. Hicks’ memoir and the Court has agreed and frozen the trust account holding the royalty monies. Australia has a law, as do many other countries around the world, the United States included, that prohibits criminals from making money off of their crimes. These laws usually specifically forbid selling rights to the story or producing a film or book about the crime. In this case however, Mr. Hicks claims that his initial conviction, the one that produced the events detailed in the book, was declared invalid and therefore should not bar him from receiving the profits from the telling of these events.

At the moment it is unclear what the outcome will be; the government is still in talks with Mr. Hick’s legal team about how to resolve the situation. But Mr. Hicks’ father is claiming that this move is politically motivated and the Green Party has agreed, calling the move a “[S]how trial designed to deter authors from publishing politically sensitive material.” Whatever the outcome, perhaps it’s worth considering that we should all be entitled to tell our tale in our own words.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

New Title, New Theme

7 continents, 7 days.

Here’s how this will work. Every day will be assigned a continent. Then, each day I will post a story occurring on that continent. They may be related, they may not be, but the purpose is to draw attention to events happening all over our planet. Here’s the breakdown:

Monday: Europe,  Tuesday: Asia, Wednesday: Oceania, Thursday: Africa, Friday: South America, Saturday: North America, Sunday: Antarctica/Miscellaneous.

I’m looking forward to beginning this adventure in exploring our world and discovering stories happening across the globe.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Kansas City Royals vs. St. Louis Cardinals – Recap – May 23, 2009 – ESPN

Kansas City Royals vs. St. Louis Cardinals – Recap – May 23, 2009 – ESPN.

The Cards won 5-0 today. This is their 5th straight win and they go for their second sweep in a row tomorrow at 1:15 p.m.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2009 in Cardinals Baseball, Uncategorized

 

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Why Not Africa?

To most Americans, Africa is a continent of third-world nations rife with civil wars, epidemic diseases, and few prospects for the future. Indeed the entirety of the 20th century in Africa has been characterized by fights for independence, civil wars, and genocide. Victories have been short-lived while struggle and strife have been pervasive and long-lasting. Outside involvement in the continent has been largely limited to humanitarian aid through NGO’s or oppressive trade deals meant to strip the continent of its resources. Both angels and demons descend upon the continent with in between.

This needs to change. With the Western world in desperate need of both resources and younger populations, Africa can fill both needs. Africa, on the other hand, is in dire need of direct foreign investment and long-term economic developement deals. These are roles the Western world can fulfill to the lasting benefit of both parties.
Africa has the oldest and richest mineral deposits in the world. This fact has been exploited by the outside world for far too long. This has fostered deep mistrust in Africa of outsiders and helped to fuel hatred that has resulted in genocide of the most heinous variety. In a world quickly running out of precious metals, minerals, and other ores, Africa seems a veritable bounty. The Western world has the technological know-how and financial capability to effectively and efficiently extract ad refine these raw materials into valuable products. Investment in both the infrastructure and the people of Africa will help to increase this efficiency and foster good relations that will lead to a better, stronger world

International cooperation will become more crucial as economies globalize. Along with this economic integration comes ever increasing levels of social integration. Instant connectivity has broken down barriers and forced culture into the marketing mix. Developing ties with regions vastly different thatn our own will not only serve to bolster our economy with resources and new ideas; it will also serve as a model to the world that we are a truly open and fair society. We must use our power and influence to set a shining example for the world. We must then help others to follow in our footsteps. The world will respect us for the good we do and the prosperity we create.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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Bailouts and Ballparks

Through the years, one thing has made America’s economy unique in the world. It’s not free market capitalism – many other economic powers rely on the invisible hand. It’s not even the good fortune we have had in terms of English being the universal language of business and the dollar being the international currency of choice. Those two happy historical accidents have certainly helped immensely, however it is our relatively low avoidance of uncertainty that has helped propel us into the economic stratosphere. (The cultural assumptions are based on work done by Geert Hofstede, a Dutch writer whose work on cultural differences was very important to me in college as an international business student.) As Americans we are brought up to have firm resolve in the face of failure. Some of our greatest heroes would have never made it to the history books had we not been so willing to accept failure and give someone a second chance. (Lincoln lost several elections, Edison was called “too stupid to learn anything” by his teachers, Henry Ford went broke five times before starting his motor company, and the list goes on).

So what does this have to do with either bailouts or ballparks. Well, for more than a few decades now, ballparks and stadiums have been built partially or entirely using public money in the form of direct payments, low-interest loans, tax credits, or other such means. This has placed the burden on the tax payers and socialized risk, while allowing the sports owners to reap the majority of the profits, thereby privatizing profits. This is the core of what is being proposed with the Wall Street bailouts. The one heartening aspect of this new round of talks, is that there may be a clause in the legislation that allows a portion of any recouped costs to be returned to the government and the taxpayers. The attitude that permits this sort of arrangement, however, is the same that allowed Lincoln, Edison, and Ford to succeed. We are willing to take risks for the possibility of huge rewards. In the case of Wall Street, though the bailout plan is unpopular, a plan will be implemented because ultimately the citizens will choose economic success over increased risk.

This post is a little scattered, but let me know what you think.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2008 in Uncategorized

 

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