Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Update: FIFA investigates abuse of DPRK players

Surprising, no. (see my previous post)

FIFA is opening an investigation into the abuse of players from the North Korean World Cup soccer team for their losses in the World Cup tournament. At first glance, it may seem like a ridiculous notion that an international soccer agency would be able to glean any information from the communist country's tight control of it's image and secrets (that include widespread abuse of citizens). North Korea, for many international aid agencies, is a black hole of information on the well-being of it's people. Nevertheless, if FIFA were to uncover anything that might give the organization cause to ban North Korea from playing in future events that would be a moral victory, in some sense. The bigger issue at hand is that any time you exclude or punish the DPRK, you provide ammunition for the ruling party's propaganda machine to further convince it's people that the world is against them.

FIFA opens inquiry into alleged abuse of North Korea's World Cup team (Globe & Mail)

Monday, August 2, 2010

On finding adventure

Life is full of adventures, if you choose to challenge yourself.

Rob Lilwall definitely challenged himself beyond what would normally be considered sane. 
"In September 2004 I began this journey by flying with my bicycle as far away from home as I could think of: to the Far Eastern side of Siberia. My intention was to cycle back to England via the most interesting route I could find. As it turned out, I took a detour to Australia and was on the road for over three years, cycling 30,000 miles through 28 countries, and catching 16 boats to cross the various stretches of water along the way."
He wrote a book about his 3 year journey. Buy @ Amazon.

Here is a video of only one part of his trip:


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Red Shirt Protests

Thailand is a ticking time bomb of political tensity.

The Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts were (and still are) in a tug-of-war, attempting to define what a defines a democratic state and a state's legitimacy in the eyes of its people. In late March 2010, while travelling through Thailand, Heather and I made time to visit the protests that were strangling the country.
Background: 
In September of 2006, in a coup d'├ętat, a group of military leaders overthrew the government of Thaksin Shinawatra (who enjoyed the support of Red Shirts) and in doing so was successful in "abrogated the constitution, dissolved Parliament and the Constitutional Court, detained and later removed several members of the government, declared martial law, and appointed one of the king's Privy Counselors... as the Prime Minister (ref.)." The overthrow was an effort to achieve a "brief intervention in order to restore peace, unity, and justice in the country." They claimed that "rampant corruption, malfeasance and widespread nepotism" had eroded legitimacy (ironic, isn't it?). In the following years, the junta called new elections and political control was assumed by the People's Power Party (PPP) in defeating The Democratic Party.
The National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), also known as Red Shirts, are composed of both rural and urban supporters. My understanding is that the Red Shirt campaign is comprised of what could be known as "the working class of Thailand." 
To sum up the situation (thank you, Wikipedia):
The UDD claims that Abhisit Vejjajiva's government took power 'illegitimately', backed by the Thai Army and the judiciary. It calls for the Thai Parliament to be dissolved so that a general re-election can be held. They accuse the country's elite — the military, judiciary, certain members of the Privy Council, and other unelected officials — of undermining democracy by interfering in politics.[1]
Our experience of the protests were limited because Heather and I were on vacation with a group of friends. Nevertheless, I wanted to learn more about the protests and who was involved. I asked one of our taxi drivers, "what is going on in the city? Protests?" He responded, although his english was rough, "Yes, protests. Tuk tuk, farmers, poor." It was only after our vacation that I learned of the sheer scale and intensity of the protests. At the time, I felt as though it was one of those times that I wish I were a foreign correspondent for an international news agency covering breaking news but alas I was on vacation and kept my journalistic tendencies to a minimum.

Update: Thai protest leaders warn of more troubleThai Divisions Shift to Voting Booth2,000 police deployed for by-election

Our photos from March 2010 (click here to see photos):