June 26, 2019  

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus


(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)



Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler



CARTOON: Peter Broelman, Australia/BROELMAN.com.au)


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World Bank President challenged by angry Beijing protestor

(PHOTO: WB President Robert Zoellick/THE HINDU) The President of the World Bank was challenged during his presentation of the "China 2030" dossier today.  As reported on agichina24.it, a few minutes after the start of the news conference, the "independent researcher" stood up to hand a brief note to Robert Zoellick &  then started yelling about the World Bank. The man shouted words to the effect that the World Bank carries no guarantees for the Chinese people & will damage China's interests; saying "China does not want to end up like the United States" & "Wall Street Bankers are cheats & parasites. They have damaged the US and now they want to ruin China." (Read More @ AGI.IT)


Are You Ready For One of the Biggest Changes on the Internet in a Decade? (PERSPECTIVE)

By Judy Shapiro

What's Really At Stake In ICANN's Coming New Top-Level Domain System.   Tic Toc …

ICANN's New Generic Top-Level Domain Program is just about to kick off and I bet most of you are wondering what the heck those are anyway (don't feel bad if you don't know – neither did I until recently). Then, you are also probably wondering why you should care.

First, the basics. A "generic top-level domain" is the part of the domain name to the right of the dot, e.g. in "http://www.ICANN.org" - the "org" is the top-level domain (TLD). There are 22 generic TLDs (gTLDs) such as .COM, .ORG and .NET, and around 250 country-code TLDs (ccTLDs) that are specific to certain countries, like .JP for Japan and .MX for Mexico.

With ICANNs New gTLD Program to commence January 2012, the doors will be thrown wide open and virtually any word can become a gTLD if the company or organization meets certain criteria:

  • They can pony up the hefty application fee ($185,000)
  • They can prove they can afford to run a gTLD year after year
  • They can justify why they should own a particular word as a gTLD – e.g. a travel company is unlikely to be successful at justifying buying ".Apple" as a gTLD but they can justify buying "adventure"

If a company can meet these criteria - then congratulations – they've just become a registry. Amazon can buy ".books" and JetBlue can buy ".fly". And if two companies want the same word and can't reach an agreement on their own, an auction commences with the word going to the highest bidder.

The application process itself also has significant impacts because, by default or design, it seems optimized to drive a gTLD land grab within a very short, four month time frame. All applications are closed and not publically disclosed until after the brief application period is over (on April 12, 2012). With no assurances of another application period, many companies will feel compelled to take advantage of this possible 1x only event.

As to the "so what" of all this - well - there's a long list:

From an industry perspective: The leading marketing trade organizations like the ANA and IAB have been vocal and consistent critics of this initiative. Other critics have questioned the motives of former ICANN members who voted this initiative through and who subsequently left ICANN to start or join companies that sold gTLDs.

From a marketer's perspective (and their agencies): Here's the bad news. If you're at a Fortune 300 company, it is likely your IT/ legal department will advise you to purchase multiple (possibly a dozen) gTLDs.

Now even if you manage to avoid getting hit directly with that cost (for now), you will still have to spend a hefty chuck trying to figure out what to do with these new "marketing assets." Unquestionably, there will be many [expensive] experiments to explore useful applications of gTLDs - from SEO optimization to new types of customization programs, e.g. personalized "judyconsumer.books" URLs for a highly customized experience.

In the end, it's likely you may have to redirect active program dollars into this experimental space. This adds yet another layer of complication to an increasingly complicated marketing environment.

From a consumer's perspective: Just when we thought it was kinda safe to go into Internet waters because we had a basic understanding of what a safe URL should look like … now anything's possible. With hundreds of new gTLDs likely to be introduced starting next year, consumer confusion is virtually guaranteed. There's little doubt fraudsters intend to exploit this new window of vulnerability.

From an emerging country or company perspective: The stakes get even grimmer for an emerging company or country. If you don't/ can't qualify today – chances are you are locked out for a very long time – maybe forever.

Now you can see why there is a lot at stake. Yet, when I spoke to my IT and marketing peers at the largest companies, there was a near universal lack of information on this topic! So somewhat spontaneously (driven by timing urgency) and with the help of CADNA (the not-for-profit Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse), I helped create an industry conference called "What's At Stake" for November 1 in NYC that is open (free) to ANY brand marketer needing to understand this space. The conference was created as an industry service and includes keynote speaker Esther Dyson, founding Chairman of ICANN, HUM News, FairWinds Partners and Friends of the U.N. among others.

The goal for this discovery conference is to drive a productive change to the current process by presenting a balanced view of the new gTLD Program with an emphasis on exploring the impacts, and proposing to ICANN alternate processes we believe are not too late to implement (read full recommendation to ICANN here).

There's a lot at stake for marketers and consumers globally. Find out more about the coming changes to the internet at www.whatsatstake.com.

About the author:  Judy Shapiro is CEO of engageSimply, a digital marketing agency pioneering `Many to Many’ platforms; chief brand strategist at CloudLinux and has held senior marketing positions at Paltalk, Comodo, Computer Associates, Lucent Technologies, AT&T and Bell Labs. Her blog, Trench Wars, provides insights on how to create business value on the internet.


Brazil: Minister says economic crisis will not affect PAC (News Brief)

by Marli Moreira

(São Paulo, August 12, 2011)  – Minister of Planning, Miriam Belchior, says that the international economic crisis that affects the United States and some countries in Europe will not mean alterations in planned investments in the Accelerated Growth Program (“PAC”). Belchior declared that the government does not intend to make changes in decisions already made for PAC spending, “under any circumstances."

The PAC is the Brazilian government’s showcase development program that began during the Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva administration. The second stage, which continues under Dilma Rousseff, and runs to 2014, has a budget of R$ 955 billion, explained Belchior.

“These are fundamental investments. Among other things, they will help us ward off problems from the international economic crisis,” said Belchior, as she assured an audience at a construction conference in São Paulo that planned 2011 outlays for the low-income housing  program (“Minha Casa, Minha Vida”) of R$30 billion would occur.

Belchior declared that even though the PAC would move ahead unchanged the government was well aware of what was going on in the rest of the world. “We are concerned, but well prepared to deal with the situation, just as we did in 2008,” the minister said, referring to the US mortgage bubble of 2008. “We are closely following events on the international scene in order to determine whether or not other measures will be necessary.”

-  Agência Brasil August 12, 2011 under Creative Commons Licensing  



Eurogeddon? (Report/Blog) 

By Alan Fisher 

Euros PHOTO CREDIT: Fernando D. Ramirez/flickrFor the last 18 months, the euro has been in trouble. There have been a series of emergency meetings, crisis summits and rescue attempts but still the stench of death hangs around the currency. Its future should become clearer in the next month or so.

Just two weeks ago, eurozone leaders were patting themselves on the back for creating the European Financial Stability Facility, a mechanism to help countries who found borrowing on the open markets much too expensive. The problem is that Italy is now in trouble and the EFSF simply is not big enough to bail out the world’s eighth largest economy.

Italy has been in trouble for a while – but things started to get substantially worse in June when its credit rating was put on watch by global credit agencies. Slowly the cost of borrowing ticked up. Italy refused to do much about it. Panic spread. The cost of bonds hit a 14-year high of 6.189 per cent, which essentially means Italy was shut out of the international financial markets.

At that point Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi finally took action.  He announced a round of austerity measures – spending cuts and tax rises – and brought forward the date when Italy’s budget would be balanced to 2013.  

That was enough to secure support from the European Central Bank. It announced it would step into the market on Monday and buy up some of the debts of countries that were struggling, steadying the markets in the short term at least. It did, however, leave the impression that the ECB was dictating policy in exchange for financial support.

Four of the 23 ECB governing council members – including the key vote of the German Central Bank chief – are against bond purchases.  

And it’s divisions like that which have been exploited by the markets.  

The options for the euro are now becoming clearer.

First the countries backing the EFSF can pour more money into it.  It is expected to have a fund of around $630bn but it needs around $2.8 trillion if it’s to cover the debts of Italy and Spain, which is also considered at risk.  That is thought to be unpopular and unlikely.

Or there can be full fiscal integration across the eurozone. The euro was always a political project rather than a financial one. Full integration would mean a centralised financial policy implemented across the continent, a loss of sovereignty over financial matters for many capitals and in the current climate, severe austerity measures which would be deeply unpopular.

This would create a new European finance ministry and as the strongest economy, Germany would have to pour huge financial resources into it and give it enough clout to guarantee the debts of eurozone countries. Getting all 17 members of the eurozone to sign up to that seems highly problematical.

Another alternative is scrapping the Euro altogether.  That would be extremely expensive and have huge implications for the banking sector which has massive exposure to eurozone debts. A huge injection of funds would be needed to stop a run on the banks. Some analysts believe the Germans regard this as the less expensive long-term option.

For 18 months, every decision taken to safeguard the euro has been largely a political one as leaders and finance ministers try to decide how far they can go without losing massive support at home. And that had led to fears about Europe’s ability to get ahead of the crisis and deal with it rather than react to events. It’s become known as "kicking the can down the road".

The austerity cuts, so beloved by central bankers and financial institutions, almost always mean higher taxes, a more expensive cost of living, poorer public services and job losses; millions of job losses. That hits the prospect of growth in economies, which in turn generates fears of recession or depression. Macro economics is about large numbers and large concepts – and it’s easy to forget it affects real people and real lives.

Originally published by Al Jazeera on August 8, 2011 under Creative Commons Licensing 


East Timor: Why The Economy is Key (Report/Blog) 

By Andrew Thomas

Photo by Andrew Thomas

I never thought I would stand in a battery-chicken farm and think, what impressive progress!. 

But however unpleasant for the birds - cooped up, two to a shoe-box sized wire cage - its owners show off the Railaco farm with pride.

Its eggs are replacing ones that would otherwise have been brought in from abroad; it employs people and operates for profit. It is an East Timorese business success story.

They are becoming more common. Tony Jape - East Timorese but of Chinese descent and fresh from a fortune made as an émigré in Australia - is building the country’s first ever shopping centre.

Though still not quite finished, it is, he says, already 60 per cent let. And Timor Corp - one of the country’s two big coffee producers - is proud it exports beans right around the world.

These are little examples of a country whose economy is flying: a poor place, recently ravaged by conflict, it now has one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

But the pace of growth is controversial. Examples of private enterprise are the exceptions, not the rule.

The boom is mainly publicly funded, and is only possible because of big oil and gas reserves. A government that had a budget of just $68m in 2002 has $1.3bn to lavish this year.

Having spent a decade being frugal - building up $9bn in the national bank account - they’re now beginning to spend, spend, spend.

There are two motivations.

First, the still-pressing needs of the country. Half the children in East Timor are undersize because they are malnourished; diarrhea remains a big killer.

And in most rural provinces, running water and power are rare.

So, tapping into the fund, Xanana Gusmao, the prime minster, has started the biggest single development project in East Timor’s history: bringing electricity to all.

The second motivation is that the money sitting in the bank or invested in questionable assets is no longer growing at rates it once was.

As President Ramos-Horta told me, “It would be silly - silly - to keep the money in US treasury bonds. The dollar is depreciating fast. We are losing money. And President Obama, members of the US congress, they do not even know that we are contributing to pay for the US debt.

“So it is absolutely ridiculous that we would keep the money in US treasury bonds, paying us 2-3 per cent; once you deduct inflation, depreciation of the dollar, we are losing!”

I have just spent 10 days in East Timor, in advance of elections next year and the tenth anniversary of independence.

I was making four reports for Al Jazeera which, together paint a picture of the state of the tiny nation.

Ostensibly, each report stands alone:

1- One about whether there should be justice or an amnesty for those indicted by the UN for their part in 1999’s violence;

2- Another about the wisdom of spending down the oil fund;

3- A third about the threat to the marine environment as the country matures and;

4- A fourth looking about the extent to which foreign aid has been well-spent.

All the reports, though, have the theme of rapid development at their heart. Should a friendly economic relationship with Indonesia be prioritised above justice?

What will happen when the oil and gas and their revenues run out? Are damaged coral reefs a price worth paying for power? Can a country that has relied on foreign aid for a decade, now truly stand on its own two feet?

Peace has been a struggle for East Timor. There was a relapse of violence in 2006 and the president was shot in 2008.

Today, the country is entirely peaceful, and a very relaxed place to visit. That, though, could change. Keeping the economy on the straight and narrow is key to ensuring it does not.

Originally published by Al Jazeera on July 27, 2011 under Creative Commons Licensing