Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chelsea : Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions

Chelsea Clinton came up with a "snappy answer" to a "stupid question". Stupid question because anyone who really wants to know already has an answer in mind before asking. From the NY Post:

Chelsea: Don't Ask!

March 26, 2008 -- INDIANAPOLIS - Chelsea Clinton had a quick retort yesterday when asked whether her mother's credibility had been hurt during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

"Wow, you're the first person actually that's ever asked me that question in the, I don't know, maybe 70 college campuses I've now been to, and I do not think that is any of your business," Clinton said to a male questioner during a campaign visit to Butler University for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

D. B. Or Not D. B.?

The New York Post comes through with another fine headline, this time on one of my favorite mysteries, D. B. Cooper, which I wrote about before.

D. B. Or Not D. B.? FBI eyes Chute

March 26, 2008 -- The FBI is analyzing a torn, tangled parachute found by kids in southwest Washington state to see whether it was used by legendary skyjacker D.B. Cooper when he jumped from a commandeered airliner 36 years ago.

The kids found the chute earlier this month sticking up from the ground while they were playing outside their home in the area where Cooper probably landed.

FBI Agent Larry Carr said the children pulled on the fabric as much as they could, and then cut the ropes.

"It's fragile to the touch, and it's obviously been in the ground for some time," Carr told KOMO-TV in Seattle.

On Nov. 24, 1971, Cooper - not his real name - boarded a Northwest Airlines flight from Portland to Seattle and seized control of the plane, claiming he had dynamite.

He demanded and received $200,000 and four parachutes and then ordered the pilots to fly him to Mexico.

Somewhere over southwestern Washington, he jumped from the aircraft's tail exit with two of the chutes and the money strapped to his body.

He was never seen again.

The FBI first said that Cooper was an experienced jumper, but has since concluded this was wrong and he probably didn't survive the leap.

With Post Wire Services

Black Sheep Of Cuban Exile: El Hebreo

Via Review of Cuban American Blogs I found a very interesting post about Jews in Cuba, one transplanted Cuban Jew in particular. Black Sheep of Cuban Exile writes about his relationship with Chaim, and how he saw Castro for what he was, even in the early days. The post is old, but its words still hold meaning.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Rio Through The Eyes Of A "Gringa"

A fellow ex-pat American, Rachel, has used words to paint a picture of what she sees in Rio. While it is not fair or accurate to compare life in Garanhuns to Rio, there are many things she touches upon which I see on a day to day here, albeit a much smaller scale. At some point I will get around to doing a write up on Garanhuns, but for now, be sure to check out her post on Rio.

The Brazilian Economy

The Economist, which while I can read online is one of the things I miss about being able to buy when I was back in the States, and probably the best magazine out there, has an interesting article on the state of the Brazilian economy.

TAKE two neighbouring economies, both heavily dependent on commodity prices to make their trade figures look good. Give one an orthodox monetary policy, watch it embrace foreign investors and float its currency. Hand the other over to mavericks who have resorted to fixing prices, banning or taxing some of their own exports and baldly lying about the inflation rate. The result? The rascal—Argentina—continues to grow at a blistering 9% clip, while by contrast well-behaved Brazil plods along (see chart). Is it time to rewrite the economics textbooks? Argentines would like to think so. But there are signs that Brazil may yet come out ahead.

Check out the full write up here.

"I Made A Lot Of Phony Dough"

You just can't beat The New York Post for pun filled headlines and articles:

I Made A Lot Of Phony Dough

March 20, 2008 -- Any way you slice it, the dough cooked up at a Westchester pizzeria was bogus.

And yesterday, owner Frank Donato pleaded guilty to trying to get his piece of the pie by making counterfeit $50 bills in his back office at The Brick Oven Pizza Shop on Main Street in Dobbs Ferry.

In exchange for his plea to one count of first-degree forgery, a felony, in Westchester County Court in White Plains, the 39-year-old father of three will serve five years' probation.

He'll officially be sentenced June 18. According to prosecutors, Donato forged 16 phony 50s in his busy office at the 12-year-old pizza parlor.

He also owns Frankie's Homemade Ice Cream next door.

Both businesses are near the village police station.

Donato was busted Oct. 9 after a three-month undercover probe by the Greenburgh Drug and Alcohol Task Force, Secret Service and Dobbs Ferry detectives.

Neither he nor his lawyer, Bruce Bendish, would comment outside the courthouse after yesterday's hearing. But a call to the pizzeria last night found employees just a tad crusty over the matter.

"We're workers - we don't know anything," a peeved staffer said before abruptly hanging up.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Darrell Hair Reinstated

Actually first heard this while listening to BBC World Service on shortwave. The Pakistani's are not pleased at all.

Darrell Hair will return to umpiring in Tests and ODIs after the ICC decided that he had successfully completed a six-month rehabilitation period. Hair has not stood in a major match since the Oval Test between England and Pakistan in 2006 when he and Billy Doctrove penalised Pakistan for ball-tampering, which led to the game being abandoned.

It seems unlikely he will be given matches in Pakistan.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

5 Cuban Soccer Players "Missing"

This is when I do my "happy dance".

Five Members Of Cuban U-23 Team Missing From Hotel

TAMPA, Fla. -- Five members of the Cuban Under 23 national soccer team left their hotel Tuesday night and are unaccounted for, raising the possibility they may be trying to defect.The players were discovered to have left the team hotel hours after earning a 1-1 draw with the United States in the Pre-Olympic tournament.

"Jose Manuel Miranda, Erlys Garcia Baro, Yenier Bermudez, Yordany Alvarez and Loanni Prieto left the hotel", Raul Gonzalez, coach of the Cuban national team, told ESPN reporter Fernando Palomo.

Miranda started at goalkeeper and Bermudez captained the team on Tuesday night, when Cuba was able to hold on for a surprise draw in Group A action.

Together with Mexico, the U.S. starts the tournament as a favorite to win one of the two berths for the Beijing games in August.

Freddy Adu scored for the U.S. after 14 minutes, but Roberto Linares equalized shortly before halftime. The Cubans then were able to hold on for a draw despite ending the match with 10 men, as Linares was sent off with a red card in the 82nd minute.

"Cuba has plans to keep playing in this tournament and we don't want to forfeit our next two matches," said Gonzalez.

If the five players do not return, Cuba would be left with a 13-man squad, but only 12 would be available to play their next match, as Linares is automatically suspended one game for the red card.

Cuba is scheduled to face Honduras on Thursday, at 5.30 p.m. ET at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

CONCACAF officials were to meet with the Cuban delegation later on Wednesday to discuss the situation and they could ask Cuba to forfeit the tournament. Cuba was scheduled to train at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Gonzalez also confirmed that there was no security plan in place around the Cuban team to avoid defections. The team was staying at the Doubletree Hotel Tampa Westshore Airport.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sangakkara smashes 285

Haven't blogged much about Cricket after the matches at the beginning of the year. I tried to follow those matches closely but with work and the time differences, by the time I got to the news most of the blogs from Australia/ India, and England already had plenty on it. I do want to pass this along, because it involves Kumar Sangakkara which is probably my favorite active Cricketer.

Leading the run parade was top-ranked Test batsman Kumar Sangakkara who carved out the season's highest score of 285 for Nondescripts against Moors at Maitland Place. Sangakkara tore into the Moors bowling which comprised two bowlers in the national squad for the series against West Indies - Chanaka Welegedara and Rangana Herath - hitting 31 fours and three sixes in his 292-ball innings. His knock improved on team-mate Chanaka Wijesinghe's 250 made against Tamil Union which had stood as the season's highest since January. Thanks to Sangakkara's exploits Nondescripts recorded their second win of the season beating Moors by ten wickets. Despite their second defeat of the season, Moors held onto second place.

If Cricket is your cup of tea, no pun intended, check out the article here.

Clinton Link in Brazil Ethanol Probe

Is this getting much press in the States, cause it is making the rounds here in Brazil. I found this article in English:

Clinton Link in Brazil Ethanol Probe

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) — A team from Brazil's Labor Ministry found "degrading" living conditions for 133 sugarcane workers employed by an ethanol company whose investors include former President Clinton and other high-profile financial players.

At five sites inspected, workers "complained they were suffering from hunger and cold, and all of the locations were overcrowded and with terrible sanitary conditions," according to a statement issued Friday by Jaqueline Carrijo, who led the inspections last month.

The target of the probe, Brazil Renewable Energy Co., known as Brenco, apologized over the weekend and said it is fixing the problems at its rural operations, which turn sugarcane into ethanol.

Clinton's connection is via an investment in Brenco by The Yucaipa Cos., a U.S.-based fund in which Clinton was a senior advisor until last year. His investment in Brenco is valued between $15,001 and $50,000, according to a financial dislosure report submitted last year by his wife, presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Yucaipa, whose chairman is prominent Democratic billionaire Ron Burkle, holds an overall 2.8 percent stake in the initial $200 million raised by Brenco last year to start up operations in Brazil's booming ethanol sector.

Bill Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna said that the former president's investment made via Yucaipa was small but that he had been assured Brenco was "committed to the highest ethical standard with regard to the treatment of its workforce and of the environment."

"The president finds these allegations deeply troubling and expects Brenco to move swiftly to ensure that those responsible are held accountable," McKenna said, adding that Clinton is "taking steps to ensure that there is an appropriate transition for his business relationships should Senator Clinton become the Democratic nominee."

The Brazilian labor probe focused mostly on living conditions for the workers, including 17 who were paying rent to live in housing overrun by rats and cockroaches, Carrijo said. In addition, trucks lacked special seatbelts for workers who ride atop the vehicles as they throw sugarcane seedlings to the ground, she said.

Brenco chief executive Henri Philippe Reichstul traveled Monday to personally inspect the living arrangements of his company's workers. He said in an interview that the 17 workers cited by Carrijo were not living in company housing, but that the company agreed with labor inspectors that there were housing problems for the remaining 116 workers.

No workers are "in this situation any more," he said. "If there are fines to pay for it, we will pay the fines. We are not breaking the spirit or the confidence that we got from our shareholders to start a project of sustainable growth."

Details of the investigation were first reported Saturday in the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Brazil's largest.

Reichstul, the former chief executive of Brazil's state-run oil company, said the problems happened while the ethanol company was mobilizing 3,500 workers to plant sugarcane on 86,500 acres in three central Brazil states.

Many of those hired had to be recruited to move near the sugarcane plantations because they live far away, and the scramble to erect and set up living quarters coincided with weeks of torrential rainstorms.

Brenco's investors include Vinod Khosla, a venture capitalist who was one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems; America Online founder Stephen Case; Hollywood producer and Democratic fundraiser Steven Bing, another close Clinton ally; and former World Bank President James Wolfensohn.

The company is run by Henri Philippe Reichstul, the former chief executive of Brazil's state-run oil company, Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

Yucaipa spokesman Frank Quintero characterized the fund's investment in Brenco as small and said it has no management role.

"Newspapers report that Brenco has taken immediate action to remedy the situation," he said in a statement. "If that is not the case we will sell our shares in the company."

Brazil is the world's second-largest producer of ethanol after the United States, but is the No. 1 exporter. Experts say Latin America's largest nation could become an ethanol superpower because its sugarcane is more efficient for ethanol production than the corn used in the U.S.

UNICA, Brazil's association of sugar and ethanol producers, has acknowledged that working conditions in Brazil's cane fields have caused an image problem that could hurt exports.

While cane cutters receive good salaries by Brazilian standards, they spend long hours in the hot sun and suffer a litany of bone and muscle injuries and machete cuts. Their eyes and lungs are punished by ash from working in fields recently burned to facilitate cutting and to kill off rats, snakes and scorpions.

Most of Brazil's sugarcane-ethanol operations are owned by Brazilian individuals and companies, but foreign investment is increasing rapidly.

Reichstul said Brenco is committed to providing decent living conditions for workers, and that their quarters include dormitories and restaurants with areas set aside for sports fields and game and television rooms.

Associated Press writers Devlin Barrett in Washington and Peter Muello in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, contributed to this report.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Just How Did The Colombian Army Find The FARC Base?

Yesterday I linked "Swimming Against The Red Tide" when they posted about a possible shipment of Brazilian arms to Venezuela. Today Luis Alfonso writes about FARC spokesmen Raul Reyes location being exposed during a phone call. Want to know who the call was from? Anyone want to guess? Click here to find out.

Brazilian Arm Shipment Coming Up A Bit Short?

Yesterday I posted about a possible shipment of Brazilian arms ending up in Venezuela. I received an email from a blogger (Mike) who did a bit of checking into it and seems the shipment came up light, when you take into account the the total weight (31.5 tons) and the number of arms mentioned (50,000-70,000). Mike says:

Not saying that Brazil is not transferring arms to Venezuela, just that the numbers in this report don't make sense, and therefore, I question the accuracy of this specific allegation. On the other hand, Mini-me Chavez may be arming his supporters for a wild Saturday night.

Mike is not a Chavez apologist, just questioning this new allegation.

Police Blotter, Brazilian Style

A really popular type of regional show in Brazil are the "police blotter" programs. They are on the radio and on TV. If you are from South Florida or are familiar with WSVN and the sensationalistic style when Rick Sanchez was there, you have an idea of what I am talking about. Think of it as the "morning drive" program, although a similar program will run around lunchtime as well in some places. On the radio, the host will talk about all the crimes registered with the police the night before. Murder here, robbery there, man beats his wife, guy drinks at bar and tries to leave without paying, etc. Whatever happened in the region. They will have a reporter at the jail who will interview the accused for their style of the story. Many times the person will fess up, on tape, with the whole city listening. They usually blame their behavior on alcohol. Every once in a while you will hear about someone stealing a donkey or a cow. The show is also used as a public forum. People will call up to say "my neighborhood has been without water for a week" or "I pay the tax on my light bill, but the street lights in front of my house have not worked in ages". Sometimes a girl will call up saying "So and so is a skanky ho who is messing with my husband and if I see her I'm going to smash her face in". People call in with complaints about noisy bars with "working girls" that are causing trouble in the neighborhood. Everyone has "Right of Reply" and you will get the other side of the story. It's hard to keep from spitting up your coffee when you hear some of the stories they tell.

The TV shows are really something else. People complain about violence on American television. In Brazil, they show the results. They show the bodies lying on the floor, the blood dripping down the street. They show mangled cars. They show wailing, crying relatives over a cloth draped body. Sometimes they interview crime victims, usually from behind and the voice altered to hide their identity. Then, you get the type of video I included below. This is a clip from the actual type of program I am describing. In this clip, the girl is accusing the elderly gentlemen of "not paying for services rendered". I am not going to translate it because it is pretty tedious due to all the slang, or "girias" used. It is easy to follow if you speak spanish, becuase many of the words are similar, and you can figure out more or less what they are talking about. Suffice to say the girl says she is a "professional" in the S-E-C-K-S trade. I spell it out because that is the equivalent of how she mispronounces it. The man says she doesn't even deserve one cent. He offered to pay R$5 (less then US$2.50) and she took it as an insult. The reporter asks the man if she "did her job" and he replies "no, not at all". "She sucked my thingy, wanted me to stick it up her ***, sucked my thingy for over an hour, wanted me to stick it up her ***." The host asks him if he ejaculated and he says "well I stuck my thingy in there for a while, then I took it out and she sucked it for a while till she got tired". The host asks him if he thinks she deserves at least R$30 (30 reais, less than US$15) and he replies "I give R$5.00 and that is as an act of charity." By the way, this program is on in the daytime, during lunch, when the whole family can watch the fireworks.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Breaking News: Brazilian Arms secretly flown to Venezuela

From "Swimming Against The Red Tide" I copy and paste this item of note. The post seems to have an error in formatting, and the link carries over its frame so I copied over here. Great blog with informative posts on South American news/ happenings/ political coverage, with a emphasis usually on Brazil.

Breaking News: 31.5 tonnes of Brazilian Firearms Flew Secretly to Venezuela!

A friend of mine just send me this: Where are all those who claimed Lula was a "counterbalance" to Chávez in Latin America?
Lula is the creator of the Foro de Sao Paulo, the evil organisation behind the "return of the living dead"-commies to power in the region and the most perfect imposter of Brazil´s history, pretending to be "not a leftist" anymore while helping his friends in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicarágua, Colombia (FARC), Peru and Bolivia. Here you can see him in his utter ugliness, just like an uncovered "Portrait of Dorian Gray".

Many people in North America fell into this trap so naively that it is difficult to explain. Only their wishful thinking could explain such distorted opinions on Brazilian president while he always said one thing but acted otherwise.


Financial Crime Consultant, for World-Check
More about the Author
Yet another high-risk indicator for Venezuela surfaces
2 March 2008
If you remember the chaos that surrounded the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), you know that financial institutions simply cannot operate under conditions of street violence. The tenuous situation in Venezuela could soon reach that state, in light of disturbing new developments that have come to light. Read the details below, and decide for yourself whether a civil war is on the horizon in Caracas.

Here is what we know so far:

a.. Four secret flights are scheduled into Venezuela, on TAM Brazilian Airlines, transporting 31.5 tonnes of firearms made in Brazil. The first flight has already arrived, carrying 1.5 tonnes of weapons; each additional flight is scheduled to bring in ten tonnes each.

a.. Whilst the exact types of weapons are unknown, one can safely estimate that between 50,000 and 70,000 weapons will be contained in these shipments, which are not consigned for the Ministry of Defence, but are to be quietly delivered directly to the Miraflores Presidential Palace, on the orders of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez Frias. Why all the secrecy?

a.. In a country where the armed forces and the police are already well-equipped, these weapons can only have one intended use; to arm civilian supporters of the current regime, who will use it upon the opposition in an expected violent confrontation that could degenerate into a civil war.

A civil disturbance would result in the complete shutdown of the financial system in the capital. Watch for any preliminary signs of organised violence, closure of shoppes and businesses, and attacks upon civilians.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Symonds Takes Out Streaker

Andrew Symonds took out a streaker with a major league tackle. Pics and article here.

Venezuela: History Tends To Repeat Itself, Or I Hate To Say It, But I told You So

When Hugo Chavez first came into power I remember hearing a joke. The joke is not particularly funny, but it says a lot about what most people, mostly Cuban Americans, thought at the time. The joke goes like this: Two Venezuelan businessmen are discussing Chavez's rise to power. They are discussing the future of their respective businesses and one says to another "I am considering moving all my operations to Cuba." "Cuba!?! Why in the world would you do that?" says the second. "Because Communism is ending there, but it is just beginning here."

It has been quite sometime since I first heard that joke. Communism is still going strong in Cuba, Raul taking the helm notwithstanding. However, the sharp turn left (south?) for Venezuela continues. Isben Martinez writes the following in the Library if Economics and Liberty:

I live in a Latin American neo-populist petrocracy.

For the last decade, my government's economic officials have pledged themselves to the "comprehensive, humanist, endogenous and socialist development of the nation", whatever that means.

Perhaps that gobbledygook just means that in Venezuela it is much easier to fetch a bottle of premium Scotch whisky at any low-income neighborhood's supermarket than a bottle of milk, a pound of sugar or a dozen of eggs. Paradoxically, the local branch of Audi set an all-time Latin American sales record during 2007 by catching a 22% share of the region's luxury cars market.

He goes on to say:

Consider breakfast. My breakfast, to be exact. It's been months since I have had an oatmeal breakfast or a nice cup of espresso with a drop of milk because coffee and milk has literally vanished from supermarkets' shelves since last November. And that includes "Mercal", the government's supermarket network where the poor are supposed to buy food at subsidized low prices

The reason? Stiff price controls, of course, and fixed currency rates that have been going on for 5 years, too.

Be sure to read the full article.

I'm Back

Sorry for being away without sending news or word. I had a pretty busy week and just no time to blog. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.