Thursday, December 29, 2005

The United States and Burma

Apparently George Bush spent 50 minutes with a Burmese refugee called Charm Tong back in October, according to the Washington Post. What a brilliant follow-up to yesterday's WP article on the 'capital' move from Yangon to Pyinmana. that's a lot of time. He must be taking the issue very seriously then. Right?

Overall, little has changed in the US policy towards Burma (I don't like the name Myanmar, since it doesn't make any sense in its original language). What's new, is that the Bush administration is considering Burma a "test case", for whatever that means. But how can you test something without being involved in the experiment?

In my opinion it just means: "We know it's a problem, but we're stretched too thinly to do anything about it!"

Article Link

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Burma's New Capital: Part II

"The government's crazy" ... "This Pyinmana, I wish I could blow this place up". Those are the word of a Burmese deliveryman who appears in an interesting Washington Post article about the "capital" move, in a newspaper that mostly features US domestic reporting.

Burma’s new capital Pyinmana is located approximately 200 miles north of Yangon (Rangoon) in an area with little infrastructure (roads, houses, hospitals, etc.) and is located in a region with one of the highest rates of malaria, according to the Alan Sipress of the Washington Post.

Quite amusingly the article quotes a government official who states "You know there’s no psychiatric hospital…they’ll need one because everyone is going to go crazy". I love this article. I wish the paper would write more of these!

The article raises the interesting question of why the government has decided to move its capital from the well-established city of Yangon to the completely remote Pyinmana. Many theories exists, but this blog must emphasize the defensive maneuver behind it all. Partly, international opposition to the SPDC junta and the detainment of Aung San Suu Kyi. But also due to increasing threats from US foreign policy which has played hardball with other countries, while invading others deemed "undemocratic". Burma would definitely fit that profile.

All in all, this raises the issue of whether playing hardball with Burma is the best way to go. There’s the school of thought that argues that pressing a country against the wall would force it change. This has been partially successful for the US in Afghanistan, but less so in Iraq (and perhaps also North Korea). The other ethos is that of reaching out -- or the more sophisticated term -- engagement. Talking to the "enemy" and casting sunlight (a short homage to Mr. Kim Dae Jung) could also have positive results, but realists keep reminding me of the Munich Agreement (or appeasement) between Nazi Germany and ‘The Allies’. An ill-fated decision by particularly UK PM Neville Chamberlain. Yet, success with keeping Israel and Palestine in continuing negotiations has been through positive and constructive engagement -- not violence or confrontation.

But has the US played hardball? In words, perhaps, but in action? Perhaps there’s simply a lack of sympathy…

This blog called for a new front, or policy, vis-Ă -vis Burma in a previous post, but nothing has changed since (but I thought Condi was reading my posts?). It’s simply not at the core of any US/EU sphere of interest (the way Iraq and Israel are), at least if you ask Mr. Kissinger. People are in pain all over the world, the skeptic may argue --- why worry about Burma? … Because we can, the Clintonite replied!!!!!

Article Link

Thursday, December 22, 2005

WP: China Promises Not To Be A Threat To Other Nations

But that's only militarily speaking.
I bet China will cause of lot of economic harm to competitors and friends alike.

A war of cheap toothpaste and t-shirts -- not guns and ammo!!

What do you think?

Washington Post Article

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tea DOES Work In the Fight Against Cancer

Tea may not fight cancer directly (the way antibiotics fights bacteria), but research from Sweden now concludes that by drinking at least 2 cups of tea a day, the risk for women to develop ovarian cancer is cut by 50%. Please note that the research conducted by Karonlinska Institute was on a female population, although the medicinal functions of tea are likely to have a positive impact on men as well. So tea is much healther than other hot beverages. I'm convinced. This is not a TEAse..

Is this the beginning of the coffee wars? If a typical person only will drink a fixed number of warm drinks per day, then it is the beginning of a battle of the hot-drinks. If tea can complement our coffee drinking habits, then the two can live side by side. Overall, tea is much better for you than coffee, and besides having the option of a wider range of caffeine contents (from black to herbal teas), there is also a much greater variety of tastes in tea. It's a bit like comparing wine and beer, where tea is much more like wine.

Many of our habits are constructed by society and the way our neighbors/friends/family behave. If we can somehow kick-start the passion for tea and create a culture for this wonderful drink, we would be much healthier (and with much better teeth and less stinky breaths).

Let's hear your tea story. How much tea do you drink? What are your arguments against drinking tea/coffee? What can we do to promote a healthier intake of hot beverages?

Next time a photo is being taken, try saying "Teaasee"

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Another Bird Flu Case in China: Guangxi Sheng

Is this another SARS? Or Worse? Hype?

A young 10-year old girl was diagnosed with the Avian/Bird flu on Tuesday night in the province of Guangxi. This is the fourth case of bird flu in China, with another case marked "suspicious."

Disclaimer Note: This is not a medical blog, and we do not have the knowledge and capability to give advise or warnings about such issues. But make sure to talk to your doctor before going to counties that have been affected by the Flu.

We desire to inform people about the continuing problem of Avian Flu and would like to investigate whether it is a clear and present danger to global health or just a lot of spin. Keeping the information flowing is the best way to keep any governments from 'covering up' any developments in this arena.

LINK to article.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

North Korea Demand US Lift Sanctions

In a move to gain bargaining power, North Korea demanded that the US eliminate its financial sanctions against the Hermit Kingdom.

Am I surprised? No.
Are the 6-party talks in peril? Yes.

For more information, click here

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Justice in Singapore: Part II

In what has been called "a most unfortunate barbaric act" by Aussie Attorney General Ruddock, Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong has refused to grant clemency for a Australian national convicted of drug trafficking. The convicted, Mr. Nguyen Tuong Van, is to be executed by hanging later today (Thursday, Dec. 1), despite petitions and pleas from particularly the Australian Government, according to AP.

This issue again raises the issue of harsh punishments in the southeast Asian island nation. The first question that comes to mind: Is death penalty justified? Secondly, has Singapore handled death penalty cases with transparency and moderation? Thirdly, is hanging a humane form of death penalty (relatively speaking). Lastly, is it helping?

While Governor Mark Warner of Virginia yesterday granted clemency for a death row inmate, the US is still not in the position of criticism since it has more death penalties than any other Industrialized country (not counting China). According to Amnesty International, only China, Iran and Vietnam saw more executions in 2004 than the United States. Other developed countries, however, have banned the use of death penalty including all members of the European Union. Even the UN is against it. So death penalty a sunset endeavor.

Going back to the specific case in Singapore, the issue of death penalty seems to have taken precedence over the issue of the particular crime. Is it fair to completely forget that Mr. Van broke the law in Singapore, and give him all the support in the world just because he has been granted the death penalty? Perhaps the way we do things ( the means ) are more important than what we actually do ( the ends )? This raises the issue of how death penalty, with its strong opposition, is actually helping criminals as sentiments against this type of penalty clears from our mind the issue we all want to solve: crime. So perhaps we could spend more effort on fighting crime if authorities didn't have to spend so many resources on defending the death penalty. Besides, I'm pretty sure that it's more expensive to have a death row inmate for 5-10-15 years, than to have someone imprisoned for life.

Then again- what about deterrence? Would crime explode in Singapore and the United States if they were to overturn the death penalty overnight? Who thinks Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City Bomber) deserves better than death penalty? Vengeance is one of the oldest feelings, which have prevailed all throughout human history. But does that justify it?

I hope this entry raises more questions than it answers. I hope the debate will live on. And personally, I hope it one day will limit the number of death penalties. As theclichehé goes: an eye for an eye leaves all blind.

More info on Amnesty Intl's website. :
AP Article