For the Global Thinker

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Monks Lose Relevance as Thailand Grows Richer

“Consumerism is now the Thai religion,” said Phra Paisan Visalo, one of the country’s most respected monks. “In the past, people went to temple on every holy day. Now, they go to shopping malls.”

The meditative lifestyle of the monkhood offers little allure to the iPhone generation. The number of monks and novices relative to the population has fallen by more than half over the last three decades. There are five monks and novices for every 1,000 people today, compared with 11 in 1980, when governments began keeping nationwide records. 

Although it is still relatively rare for temples to close, many districts are so short on monks that abbots here in northern Thailand recruit across the border from impoverished Myanmar, where monasteries are overflowing with novices. 


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Subway by Bruce Davidson

"I wanted to transform the subway from its dark, degrading and impersonal reality into images that open up our experience again to the color, sensuality, and vitality of the individual souls that ride it each day."  Bruce Davidson

See more incredible images here...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Syria's Raging Conflict

War Photography at its finest...


The World's Poorest President

Great story...

It's a common grumble that politicians' lifestyles are far removed from those of their electorate. Not so in Uruguay. Meet the president - who lives on a ramshackle farm and gives away most of his pay.


Uruguay, Your Gov't Drug Dealer

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — Uruguay came one step closer to turning the government into the country's leading pot dealer on Thursday, as lawmakers formally introduced to Congress a framework for regulating the production, sale and consumption of marijuana.
The proposal is much more liberal than what Uruguay's government initially proposed months ago, when President Jose Mujica said only the government would be allowed to sell.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Pfizer Outsources Human Medical Testing to India, Nigeria

In the last decade, there has been a surge in human medical testing done overseas in impoverished countries like Nigeria, India, Romania and Tunisia.  Is oversight even possible?

Excerpt from Vanity Fair article "Deadly Medicine"

"from the point of view of the drug companies, it’s easy to see why moving clinical trials overseas is so appealing. 

For one thing, it’s cheaper to run trials in places where the local population survives on only a few dollars a day. It’s also easier to recruit patients, who often believe they are being treated for a disease rather than, as may be the case, just getting a placebo as part of an experiment. 

And it’s easier to find what the industry calls “drug-naïve” patients: people who are not being treated for any disease and are not currently taking any drugs, and indeed may never have taken any—the sort of people who will almost certainly yield better test results. (For some subjects overseas, participation in a clinical trial may be their first significant exposure to a doctor.) 

Regulations in many foreign countries are also less stringent, if there are any regulations at all. The risk of litigation is negligible, in some places nonexistent. Ethical concerns are a figure of speech. Finally—a significant plus for the drug companies—the F.D.A. does so little monitoring that the companies can pretty much do and say what they want.


Outsourced: Clinical Trials Overseas

20 min documentary on one of the largest "human testing grounds" India...

Pfizer Compensates Nigerian Medical Trial Victims...


Sunday, November 11, 2012

China's Economy to Overtake US in Next Four Years, says OECD

China will overtake the US in the next four years to become the largest economy in the world, says a leading international thinktank.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said China's economy will be larger than the combined economies of the eurozone countries by the end of this year, and will overtake the US by the end of 2016.

Global GDP will grow by 3% a year over the next 50 years, it says, but there will be large variations between countries and regions. By 2025, it says the combined GDP of China and India will be bigger than that of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US and Canada put together. Asa Johansson, senior economist at the OECD, said: "It is quite a shift in the balance of economic power we are going to see in the future."


Developing economies to eclipse west by 2060, OECD forecasts


"But by 2060, as the chart below shows, the combined GDP of China (27.8%) and India (18.2%) will be larger than that of the OECD – and the total output of China, India and the rest of the developing world (57.7%) will be greater than that of developed OECD and non-OECD countries (42.3%).

United StatesJapanEurozoneOther OECDOther non-OECDChinaIndiaUnited StatesEurozoneOther OECDIndiaChina

Developing world growth will continue to outpace the OECD, but the difference will narrow over coming decades. From more than 7% a year over the last decade, non-OECD growth will fall to around 5% in the 2020s and to about half that by the 2050s. Trend growth for the OECD is forecast to be 1.75% to 2.25% a year.

Until 2020, China will have the highest growth rate among the countries included in the report, but will then be overtaken by both India and Indonesia.


Map: How the Age of the World Will Change by 2025...

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mexican police charged in attack on CIA officers

There are two Mexicos.
There is the one reported by the US press, a place where the Mexican president is fighting a valiant war on drugs, aided by the Mexican army and the Mérida Initiative, the $1.4 billion in aid the United States has committed to the cause. This Mexico has newspapers, courts, laws, and is seen by the United States government as a sister republic.
It does not exist.

There is a second Mexico where the war is for drugs, where the police and the military fight for their share of drug profits, where the press is restrained by the murder of reporters and feasts on a steady diet of bribes, and where the line between the government and the drug world has never existed.

Mexican police charged in attack on CIA officers

Fourteen officers in Mexico’s federal police force have been formally charged with the attempted murder of a pair of American CIA operatives who were attacked in their armored SUV in August on a road south of the capital, federal prosecutors said Friday.
In a statement, prosecutors said the officers’ actions were deliberate, alleging that they “intended to take the lives of two functionaries from the United States Embassy in Mexico,” as well as a member of the Mexican navy who was traveling with them through dangerous country on their way to a Mexican military training facility.


Mexican Official:  CIA "Manages" Drug War

The US Central Intelligence Agency and other international security forces "don't fight drug traffickers", a spokesman for the Chihuahua state government in northern Mexico has told Al Jazeera, instead "they try to manage the drug trade".
Allegations about official complicity in the drug business are nothing new when they come from activists, professors, campaigners or even former officials. However, an official spokesman for the authorities in one of Mexico's most violent states - one which directly borders Texas - going on the record with such accusations is unique.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

The World is Safer Now. But Who Cares?

The world is safer now, but no one in Washington can talk about it...


Obama says terrorist networks remain the greatest threat to the United States. “We have to remain vigilant,” he warned recently. But global terrorism has barely touched most Americans in the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, with 238 U.S. citizens killed in terrorist attacks, mostly in war zones, according to the National Counterterrorism Center’s annual reports. By comparison, the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that 293Americans were crushed during the same stretch by falling furniture or televisions.

Beyond the United States, global statistics point undeniably toward progress in achieving greater peace and stability.

Why is the Mexican Drug War Being Ignored?

 Neighbors and family of slain Alberto Rodriquez, 28, watch and cry as the authorities descend on the crime scene. Rodriguez was killed in his car outside his house while his family watched. See more here.

Why is the Mexican Drug War Being Ignored?

Killings continue to rise, and hardly a week passes without a new report of grisly acts south of the border. Portions of several key cities, especially Ciudad Juarez and Monterrey, are now virtual war zones. The Mexican government’s control is becoming precarious in major swaths of territory, including the crucial northern states of Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua, and Tamaulipas. Several of the cartels, especially the Sinaloa cartel and the ultra-violent Zetas, pose a threat to the integrity of the Mexican state.

 Equally troubling, the turmoil in Mexico is spreading to Central America and beginning to seep over the border into the United States. One would think that such a national security problem would merit some attention from the incumbent president and the man who aims to replace him.
Indeed, Mexican opinion leaders were justifiably miffed at the failure to address the drug war. Prominent journalist Leon Krauss’s widely circulated tweet summarized the frustration. “Mexico, facing 100,000 deaths, neighbor to the United States, didn’t deserve a single mention tonight. A disgrace.”


Meet Mexico's New Cartel Boss...Z-40

More blood and more death. Mexico’s drug wars seem to be getting crueler and more sadistic by the year. Of all the players involved, probably no one is more responsible for the increasing violence than Miguel Angel Treviño, a.k.a. ‘Z-40,’ who has just taken over control of the notorious Los Zetas cartel following the killing last week of kingpin Heriberto “El Lazca” Lascano.
Mexican authorities confirmed the leadership change, as have rival cartels, which are urging a unified approach to face Treviño head on.


Mexico's New Deadly City


Once enticing U.S. firms like Caterpillar and John Deere and Japanese auto parts maker Takata to open plants, Torreon has not attracted any other big names since the Zetas swept in.

"It's a powder keg," said a former mayor, Guillermo Anaya, who ran the city from 2003 to 2005 and is now a federal lawmaker.

Many people in the arid metropolis about 275 miles (450 km) from the U.S. border believe if Torreon cannot defeat the Zetas soon it may need to reach some kind of agreement with their arch rivals, the Sinaloa Cartel, and let them do the job.

Widely seen as the most brutal Mexican drug gang, the Zetas have so terrorized Torreon and the surrounding state of Coahuila that some officials make a clear distinction between them and the Sinaloa Cartel, for years the dominant outfit in the city.

"They (the Zetas) act without any kind of principles," Torreon's police chief, Adelaido Flores, told Reuters. "The ones from Sinaloa don't mess ... with the population."


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is the US Provoking a War between Japan and China?

Ex-Envoy Says U.S. Stirs China-Japan Tensions


Mr. Chen accused the United States of encouraging the right wing in Japan, and fanning a rise of militarism. 

“The U.S. is urging Japan to play a greater role in the region in security terms, not just in economic terms,” he said during his speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong. That “suits the purpose of the right wing in Japan more than perfectly — their long-held dream is now possible to be realized.”
The United States has said that, in the event of conflict, the disputed islands are covered by its mutual defense treaty with Japan, a position that China has severely criticized since the latest dispute flared last month. 

Mr. Chen described what he called the intervention of the United States in territorial disputes in the South China Sea — where China has been at odds with another American ally, the Philippines — as a way for the United States to expand its influence and restrain the influence of China. 

“Will these countries misjudge and draw China and the United States into a confrontation?” Mr. Chen asked. “The danger is apparent, and China needs to be aware of that.” 


Thursday, October 25, 2012

The CIA Burglar who went Rogue

Great article, real cloak and dagger stuff...

"This unit was so secret that few people inside CIA headquarters knew it existed; it wasn’t even listed in the CIA's classified telephone book. Officially it was named the Special Operations Division, but the handful of agency officers selected for it called it the Shop.
In Doug Groat’s time there, in the 1980s and early ’90s, the Shop occupied a nondescript one-story building just south of a shopping mall in the Washington suburb of Springfield, Virginia. The building was part of a government complex surrounded by a chain-link fence; the pebbled glass in the windows let in light but allowed no view in or out. 

The men and women of the Shop made up a team of specialists: lock pickers, safecrackers, photographers, electronics wizards and code experts. One team member was a master at disabling alarm systems, another at flaps and seals. Their mission, put simply, was to travel the world and break into other countries’ embassies to steal codes, and it was extraordinarily dangerous. They did not have the protection of diplomatic cover; if caught, they might face imprisonment or execution. The CIA, they assumed, would claim it knew nothing about them."


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Japan Gets Phone Call Translator

An app offering real-time translations is to allow people in Japan to speak to foreigners over the phone with both parties using their native tongue.

Read More Here...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Story of Amanda Todd

A heartbreaking, yet amazing story of a Vancouver teen who is driven to suicide after experiencing years of bullying both on and offline.  Definitely, worth sharing...

The mother of a teenager who died Wednesday of suspected suicide wants her daughter’s anti-cyber-bullying video to be used to help other young people.

Fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd was found dead in a Port Coquitlam home at 6 p.m. Wednesday, five weeks after she posted a heartbreaking video on YouTube detailing how she was harassed online and bullied.
“I think the video should be shared and used as an anti-bullying tool. That is what my daughter would have wanted,” Carol Todd, Amanda’s mother, told The Vancouver Sun in a message on Twitter.

See full video and story here...

Or here... 


The internet vigilantes: Anonymous hackers' group outs man, 32, 'who drove girl, 15, to suicide by spreading topless photos her...



Monday, October 1, 2012

44% of Americans Support Domestic Drone Policing

This whole drone thing is getting way to scary.  You can kiss any freedom you thought you had in the first place goodbye if this program goes through...

Nearly half the public, 44 percent, supports allowing police forces inside the U.S. to use drones to assist police work, but a significant minority — 36 percent — say they “strongly oppose” or “somewhat oppose” police use of drones, according to a survey last month.


A Dangerous New World of Drones

When President George W. Bush declared a "War on Terror" 11 years ago, the Pentagon had fewer than 50 drones.  Now, it has around 7,500.



Friday, September 28, 2012

The Dynamic Duo

Two of the most amazing comedians of are time...

Louis C.K.

HBO Special- One Night Stand

George Carlin
HBO Special-You Are All Diseased

Lastly, here is an excellent tribute to the late George Carlin by Louis...
Louis C.K. honors George Carlin

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kim Jong-eun prepares balancing act

Downtown Pyongyang, North Korea

Insightful article on the current situation in North Korea...
Of course it won't be easy. Even though the North Korean leadership is aiming at the low-hanging fruits of authoritarian state capitalism, there are myriad obstacles in the way. Kim Jong-il bequeathed his son a rotten hand of cards: a population disillusioned by any form of government intervention in the economy, a state and party apparatus riven with corruption, and a bloated military that represents a million-man barrier to meaningful change. And that is without getting started on the industrial, legal, financial and communications infrastructure in North Korea, all of which will be highly inadequate for years to come no matter what policy is unveiled on October 1.

However, Kim Jong-eun is not yet 30 years old. What is his alternative? He clearly recognizes that grassroots marketization, increasingly uncontrollable information flows and the steadily declining power of the North Korean state mean that it would be futile to carry on with his father's politics for another half century in the implausible hope that he might get to pass on power to his own favored son.  Economic liberalization is a proactive way to break out of this doomed spiral, and even if the regime falls off the tightrope, collapse following an honest attempt at change will likely earn him and his handbag-toting young wife a softer landing than yet more full-blooded repression.

In other words, Kim Jong-eun already knows that even if you can't be a Deng Xiaoping, it's better to be a Mikhail Gorbachev than a Muammar Gaddafi. 



National Geographic: America Before Columbus

Fascinating documentary...
History books traditionally depict the pre-Columbus Americas as a pristine wilderness where small native villages lived in harmony with nature. But scientific evidence tells a very different story: When Columbus stepped ashore in 1492, millions of people were already living there.

America wasn't exactly a "New World," but a very old one whose inhabitants had built a vast infrastructure of cities, orchards, canals and causeways. But after Columbus set foot in the Americas, an endless wave of explorers, conquistadors and settlers arrived, and with each of their ships came a Noah's Ark of plants, animals—and disease. In the first 100 years of contact, entire civilizations were wiped out and the landscape was changed forever. 



Lastly, this is a great article from the Atlantic Monthly...