Tuesday, March 09, 2004

OK, MAYBE HE IS THE REAL DEAL. At the beginning of the NBA season, I expressed some doubts as to the worthiness of the 24/7 coverage of LeBron James. Among other things, I said the following:
I don't grudge this obviously talented kid his fame or his shoe contracts. Who wouldn't take the money and adulation in his place. I just wonder, though, why it doesn't seem to matter to anyone that Cleveland lost both games. Will the love last if the Cavs continue to stink?
Well, the Cavs aren't tearing up the league, but if the playoffs were to start today, Cleveland would squeak in at 8th in the East. Granted that this is in the pathetic East (the Cav's 28-36 record would have them fighting for 10th in the West) and granted that the Cavs have enjoyed the benefits of a healthy Zydrunas Ilgauskas and a surprisingly effective Carlos Boozer, but in the end, you have to hand it to the kid. He's taken his team to the playoffs (maybe), which is more than I can say of my beloved Utah Jazz.

The Korean National Red Cross said Wednesday (February 25) that its North Korean counterpart asked for fertilizer assistance for use this spring.

Jang Jae-eon, chief of the North Korean Red Cross society, called his Seoul counterpart Lee Yoon-ku, asking for fertilizer assistance this year as in last year out of humanitarian spirit.

The North, however, did not specify the amount or the timing of delivery. North Korea had requested provision of 200,000 tons of fertilizer for use in the spring during the 13th inter-Korean ministerial talks held in Seoul February 3-6.

The Associated Press ("N KOREA THREATENS NEW DEMANDS IN NUCLEAR STANDOFF," Seoul, 03/08/04) reported that the DPRK said Monday that it may insist on the withdrawal of US troops from the ROK as part of a nuclear disarmament deal. The DPRK said it would push the new demands if the US failed to drop its own insistence that the DPRK "completely, verifiably and irreversibly" dismantle its nuclear weapons programs. The DPRK has said it is willing to give up its nuclear program in return for energy and economic aid, as well as a US guarantee that it will not invade the communist country. In a dispatch carried Monday by the country's official KCNA news agency, the DPRK said if the US continues to insist on complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement, it would offer its own counter demands. "The DPRK cannot but demand the US completely withdraw its troops from South Korea in a verifiable way and make the 'complete, verifiable, irreversible security assurance,"' the report said.
That's very cute. Of course it is a little harder to verify the presence or absence of clandestine nuclear programs than it is to verify the presence or absence of 37,000 Americans in South Korea.

HUB OF NORTHEAST ASIA? The total volume of trade of China, Japan and South Korea topped $2 trillion in 2003 (that's 15% of the world's trade). Of the three, South Korea is, for obvious demographic reasons if nothing else, firmly in third place:
China, the world's fastest growing economy, ha's driven the rapid hike in Korea-Japan-China trade. China's trade rose by 37.1% to stand at US$851 billion in 2003 over the previous year, overtaking Japan. The total of Japan's imports and exports rose by 12.7% to US$849 billion in the same period. Korea's trade volume reached US$373 billion last year, up from US$315 billion in 2002.
This is all well and good. But why exactly do established economic power Japan and up and coming economic power China need Korea to serve as a "hub"? What's in it for them, especially considering that they seem to be doing quite well (in terms of foreign trade at least) without all of the critical hub infrastructure in place?

Perhaps it is because South Koreans have lots of websites and a "corporate e-business mindset" unparalleled in the world:
In 2003, Korea ranked first in the world in its corporate e-business mindset and in the website ownership rate of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), while placing sixth in information and communication technology (ICT) utilization level.
I'm still not clear on exactly how this helps though.

TOO MUCH SPAM? I mentioned my own experience of being deluged by unprecedented amounts of the unwanted stuff lately. One wise reader has some possible explanations:
I can't conclusively answer the question about why you
are receiving more, but I have an idea. Since January 1, when Can-Spam went into effect in the USA and PIPEDA went into effect in Canada, ISPs have decided to crank up their SPAM filters, blocking a good deal of traffic. This has had two effects: 1. Americas-based spammers have moved offshore in order to avoid prosecution; 2. Spammers who have stayed in business have increased their volume in order to overcome the effect of ISP SPAM filters and ensure that the number of recipients remains the same. I suspect that whoever is managing your mail server has not been blocking much of your SPAM.

Spamming is a numbers game. The spammers know that they have to reach a certain number of people in order to generate sales. However, it's getting harder and harder to reach that same number of people for the aforementioned reasons. Hence, the volume of SPAM being sent has to go up.

This is probably the opposite effect from what the Congress intended with Can-Spam, but if you've read the law, you realize how poorly thought-out it is, and how ineffective it is at achieving its stated purpose. Net-net the effect of Can-Spam is to make doing business more difficult and expensive for legitimate, law-abiding businesses. Small companies who can't afford dedicated legal counsel and privacy staff will be most hurt by this act. Meanwhile, spammers will continue to thrive.
There oughta be a law . . . Wait, that apparently didn't work out too well. What next?

SHOULD ROH MOO-HYUN APOLOGIZE FOR FUND-RAISING SCANDALS? Some certainly seem to think that this would be a politically expedient choice.
"It is an extremely simple matter," said political science Prof. Kim Young-il of Sungkyunkwan University. "All Roh has to do to escape impeachment and national chaos is to apologize for violating the law, as was ruled by the constitutional organization (National Election Commission), and it is exactly what the public wants.

"What the president is misinterpreting is that he should be apologizing to the people, not to the opposition parties, which he is refusing to do. Roh must admit to the fact that he has made many mistakes in his remarks, and apologize in order to take ethical responsibility."

Recent surveys show the majority of South Koreans are against the impeachment but agree Roh needs to apologize officially for his breach of law.
So why not do it? Well, there is the matter of that pesky promise:
Roh on Dec. 14 confidently told the country he would step down if his illegal campaign funds during the 2002 presidential election campaign exceeded 10 percent of those of the GNP.

The prosecution this week revealed its numbers. Roh's campaign took in about 11.4 billion won compared to the Grand National Party's 82.3, prosecutors revealed.
Maybe Roh just wants to be impeached.

The highest-ranking North Korean official ever to defect to the South suspended his participation in public events yesterday, a day after receiving death threats.

Hwang Jang-yop, 82, canceled a speech at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency upon announcing his decision, according to police and a North Korean defectors' organization.

Each week, Hwang has delivered several unofficial speeches, most condemning North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and the communist country.
I wonder who would want Hwang silent (or dead)?

UPDATE: Here are some details concerning the nature of the death threats:
Agence France-Presse ("NKOREA'S TOP DEFECTOR RECEIVES DEATH THREAT," 03/08/04) reported that the DPRK's top defector was depicted with a blood-spattered meat cleaver piercing his skull in a graphic death threat posted in the ROK capital, police said. A photograph of Hwang Jang-Yop mounted on a board with the meat cleaver buried in his forehead was found outside the offices of a DPRK defectors group which Hwang leads. A message under the photograph that was covered in fake blood named Hwang and two other prominent defectors and contained the words, "I will kill you all." Printed leaflets scattered nearby warned Hwang of an imminent attempt on his life. "Brace yourself, Hwang Jang-Yop, traitor of the people," the leaflets said. Hwang, 81, the former secretary of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party and former mentor to dictator Kim Jong-Il, defected to the ROK in 1997 and has been an outspoken critic of the DPRK. In 1997 DPRK agents allegedly gunned down another prominent DPRK defector Lee Han-Young, who said he was the nephew of Sung Hae-Rim, a former actress who became Kim Jong-Il's mistress.

FISK FISKING FISK. Link courtesy of the peripatetic Instapundit.
Robert Fisk, March 2, 2004:

Odd, isn't it? There never has been a civil war in Iraq. I have never heard a single word of animosity between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq.

Al-Qa'ida has never uttered a threat against Shias - even though al-Qa'ida is a Sunni-only organisation. Yet for weeks, the American occupation authorities have been warning us about civil war, have even produced a letter said to have been written by an al-Qa'ida operative, advocating a Sunni-Shia conflict. Normally sane journalists have enthusiastically taken up this theme. Civil war.

Somehow I don't believe it.

Robert Fisk, August 30, 2003:

General Ricardo Sanchez, the US commander in Iraq, said only 24 hours earlier that he needed no more troops. Clearly, he does if he wishes to stop the appalling violence. For what is happening, in the Sunni heartland around Baghdad and now in the burgeoning Shia nation to the south, is not just the back-draft of an invasion or even a growing guerrilla war against occupation. It is the start of a civil war in Iraq that will consume the entire nation if its new rulers do not abandon their neo-conservative fantasies and implore the world to share the future of the country with them.
There's more if you can believe it.

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