How North Korea’s hushed-up economy is hindering its development


2015 : :

Andray Abrahamian

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is probably North Korea’s best chance to fix its various infrastructure woes, from transportation to its electricity supply.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is probably North Korea’s best chance to fix its various infrastructure woes, from transportation to its electricity supply. / Picture from

China has rejected a North Korean attempt to join its new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), according to a recent report, a decision which could have a significant effect on Pyongyang.

Masahiro Kawai, a professor of public policy at the University of Tokyo toldEmerging Markets that North Korea had failed to “disclose sufficient information” relating to industry, public finances, and its tax base.

“But the North Koreans were not willing to provide that information,” Kawai said. Later, a Chinese ministry of foreign affairs spokesman claimed not to have any knowledge of such a rejection.

Though much still lies in the way of mutual collaboration, joining the bank would probably be North Korea’s best chance to sort out its infrastructure problems – from transportation to electricity.

As a multilateral development bank, the AIIB demands high levels of fiscal transparency – a requirement which would force Pyongyang to share information about its economy with the outside world. But the regime has not released…continue reading

Furore after woman whose ponytail was pulled by New Zealand PM John Key says she was misled by NZ Herald


2015 : :


(“Graffiti” aside: This may be Ponygate Scandal for NZ PM)

Picture of John Key New Zealand PM from DAILYSLAVE.COM

In a follow-up post published on Thursday, Bailey claimed she was asked to meet with her employers, Hip Group owners Jackie Grant and Scott Brown, at their home on Wednesday afternoon to collaborate on a statement that would rebuff any allegations that they failed to protect her in the workplace. A friend of Grant and Brown, who Bailey says was introduced to her as “Rachel”, a public relations professional, joined them via speakerphone to advise them on the statement and write a draft.

Bailey writes that, after a conversation which she believed to be off the record with a “public relations expert working confidentially for my employer”, she alleges she learned that “Rachel” was Rachel Glucina, a gossip columnist for the New Zealand Herald. (Her brother, Henry Glucina, is identified as working for the Hip Group on his LinkedIn profile.)

Though Bailey writes that Grant and Brown reassured her that Rachel Glucina was “doing this as a favour for them … and not in her capacity as a journalist”, Bailey…continue reading

The Vizag line





BRINDA KARAT \Picture from Indian Express


If one agreed with what Oscar Wilde once famously said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”, the CPM should welcome the mediaattention it received in the build-up to the recent, successfully held national party conference at Visakhapatnam. It’s just that the supposed “power tussle” in the politburo over who the next general secretary should be, with reports using phrases such as “down to the wire”, “nail-biting finish” and “the suspense continues”, consumed much of the space in the media coverage of the conference. After the unanimous election of comrade Sitaram Yechury as general secretary, a development that has received all-round favourable comment, the next round of media speculation has started, over the “change of line” that can be expected and so on.

Such readings detract from an appreciation of the serious discussions, debates and decisions at what was indeed a historic conference. It also underplays one of the mostdemocratic exercises undertaken by any political party in the country — an election of committees and the secretary of each committee at all levels of the party. More than…continue reading

What Katie Hopkins wrote was monstrous. But save your anger for the politicians who decided to let migrants drown

It’s nice to condemn the usefully loathsome Hopkins, but what she has said is merely a frank statement of the politics our government has been enacting at our borders in our name for years now.

APRIL 20 2015 : : NEW STATESMAN Sarah Ditum


A wreath floats off the coastline of Lampedusa after a boat sank there in 2013. Photo: Getty

A wreath floats off the coastline of Lampedusa after a boat sank there in 2013. Photo: Getty / Picture from New Statesman

If we didn’t consider migrants “feral”, would we subject them to the kind of brutal controls that we do? Those who seek asylum in the UK are not permitted to work, and then we begrudge them every penny we allow them. While a claim is being processed, asylum seekers are given a place to stay plus £42.62 a week, with an extra fiver if they have a baby – which might just cover the nappies. If their claim is refused, that goes down to £35.39, which they receive on a payment card that can only be spent on certain things in certain shops. What’s the worth of that £7.23 to us? Very little, except perhaps that it feels like a…continue reading

Across the Aisle: The bugle has been sounded






P.CHIDAMBARAM /Picture from Indian Express

In a column that was published in this newspaper on March 22, 2015 (‘Equity suffers Rs 75,000 crore blow’), I had pointed out that Central assistance to State Plan(s) had been reduced by more than Rs 75,000 crore in the Budget for 2015-16 from the assistance in the revised budget of 2014-15. If one compared the budget estimate for 2014-15 and the budget estimate for 2015-16, the reduction was extremely harsh — nearly Rs 135,000 crore.

After the Fourteenth Finance Commission, it is nobody’s case that no cuts were warranted. The key question was ‘which schemes could be best designed and funded by the state governments and which schemes would still need the lead and financialsupport of the Central government’? That question was not asked and hence the Procrustean cuts…continue reading


Too Vague to Be Constitutional


From The Atlantic

Are these synthetic drugs illegal? Maybe … but the DEA hasn’t publicly published its list of banned “analogues.” (Cathleen Allison/AP) / Picture from The Atlantic

The legal philosopher Lon Fuller once invented an earnest monarch named Rex who discovered many wrong ways to make law. First, Rex wrote a detailed code of laws, but, to avoid confusing the public, kept it secret. “To Rex’s surprise this sensible plan was deeply resented by his subjects. They declared it was very unpleasant to have one’s case decided by rules when there was no way of knowing what those rules were,” Fuller wrote. So Rex refined his code even further and made it public. But its detail and precision made it “a masterpiece of obscurity.” Soon “a picket appeared before the royal palace carrying a sign that read, ‘How can anybody follow a rule that nobody can understand?’”

Next week the Supreme Court will look at cases in which two criminal defendants make similar pleas. On Monday, a violent neo-Nazi contends that he is facing 15 years in prison under a law that not only he but some of the most learned judges in the country find incomprehensible; the next day, a dealer in…continue reading

Blackwater’s Legacy Goes Beyond Public View

APRIL 14 2015 : :


Picture from NYT

Erik Prince, left, founder of the private military company Xe, formerly Blackwater Worldwide, travels by helicopter to an Xe base near the Afghan-Pakistan border for a routine visit, in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sept. 24, 2009. Credit Adam Ferguson / Picture from New York Times

He has worked in Abu Dhabi and now focuses his efforts on Africa, with ties to the Chinese government, which is eager for access to some of the continent’s natural resources. Mr. Prince’s current firm, Frontier Services Group, provides what it describes as “expeditionary logistics” for mining, oil and natural gas operations in Africa, and has the backing of Citic Group, a large state-owned Chinese investment company. The private security industry that Mr. Prince helped bring to worldwide attention has fallen from public view since the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the two conflicts sped…continue reading

Guess what’s on the menu…


2015 : :



I was jauntily planning to host a dinner party at our home before the summer holidays set in. This is not as uncomplicated and easy as it sounds. Food being a really sensitive issue these days, my menu was giving me sleepless nights and getting rather restricted. So many of my favourite dishes fell under the list of banned food items. And the list was getting longer and longer. Even items that did not feature on the list were generating a great deal of heat. But, like any good host, I wanted to make my guests feel entirely comfortable. Now there was a catch to this little endeavour as well. For example, I desperately wanted to invite a man I have had the biggest fangirl crush on for years — Girish Karnad. But he’d defiantly gone and eaten beef in public! Naughty, naughty! I was not sure whether he’d be arrested and fined if he came to our home — what if there were particles of undigested beef still in his system? Would we also face a jail term for indirect possession of beef on our premises?

I would have loved to include my neighbours, who are god-fearing Maharashtrians — they do love dahi missal and ussal as much as I do, but they prefer kothimbeer vada to vada pav, as they find the former less lethal in terms of calories. However, by…continue reading

The Roadblocks to Normalization


2015 : :



U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuba's President Raul Castro as they hold a bilateral meeting during the Summit of the Americas in Panama City April 11, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuba’s President Raul Castro as they hold a bilateral meeting during the Summit of the Americas in Panama City April 11, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters) / Picture from The Atlantic

Despite a productive meeting between President Obama and Raul Castro, fully restoring ties with Cuba will be a complex and lengthy process.

The face-to-face conversation between President Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, marked the most significant thaw in the two countries’ relationship in decades. The meeting, held Saturday at the Summit for the Americas, signaled that normalization of relations with Cuba, which President Obama announced last December, is proceeding. In the coming days, the U.S. State Department is expected to mark another tangible sign of progress. remove Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

However, the process of fully restoring ties will be long and difficult—if it succeeds at all.

President Ronald Reagan first designated Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1982, citing Havana’s support for revolutionary movements in Latin American countries such as El Salvador. The Castro regime curtailed this support in 1990. But Washington maintained sanctions anyway, ostensibly due to Cuba’s…continue reading

Gandhis, like the Bhuttos


column express column, Pakistan, military dictatorship, Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Bhuttos, politics of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, General Yahya Khan

Even today with Nawaz Sharif heading the duly elected government, his dynasty is still in the making. / Picture from Indian Express

Political dynasties in Pakistan appeared on centrestage long after they did in India because of the prolonged and periodically repeated military dictatorship there. Even when elected governments have been in power in our western neighbour, the army has called the shots, as is the case even today with Nawaz Sharif heading the duly elected government. His dynasty is still in the making. His brother, Shahbaz Sharif, has ruled Punjab, the heart of Pakistan, for long years and his daughter, Maryam, has started dabbling in politics and advising her father. The dominant dynasty in the politics of Pakistan remains the one founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was a protégé and later the nemesis of the first military ruler, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, and a collaborator of the second, General Yahya Khan, the real architect of the liberation of Bangladesh. So far, “Zulfi” has been the only civilian ruler to be in full control, until he was first overthrown and then executed by his handpicked army chief, General Zia-ul-Haq.

After Zia’s death in a mysterious air crash in 1988, a reasonably…continue reading