Archive | January, 2009

Today’s Hong Kong Photo

31 Jan
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Left Behind, originally uploaded by Edmond417.

Bad News for the Other White Meat

31 Jan

In a boon for vegetarians, epidemiologists are pondering a link between pigs and Ebola in The Philippines.

…experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) had been asked to determine the source and risk of the Ebola-Reston virus in pigs and impact on food security.

It is the first time the virus has been found outside monkeys and the first time it has been found in pigs. The virus had previously jumped from monkeys to humans but it is the first case of a jump from hogs.

Ebola-Reston virus was found in the Philippines as early as the late 1980s and 25 people were found infected after contact with sick monkeys. But only one developed flu-like symptoms and later recovered.

Last week, the government said at least 50 workers in the two farms were exposed to the virus but only one person tested positive. This person has not shown any symptoms and has remained healthy.

Duque said four new cases had been found and these people possibly had direct contact with sick pigs. Three of them were farm workers while one was a butcher, he added.

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Light Amid the Korean Gloom

31 Jan

How convenient! It’s hardly a stretch for a South Korean minister to blame anyone else without taking responsibility for his own policies.

So, is the Cold War back in Korea? Only by mistake – in the form of “a shot across the bow” by some anxious commander – not by design. And, of course, both sides will blame the other – and probably a foreign government for the benefit of the people at home.

Lest I sound polyannish, Pyongyang’s saber-rattling rhetoric is always an unwelcome surprise, even if with a longer view it’s just plain annoying – and sarcasm is a healthy rejoinder. But, IF the sentiment sticks, ratings agencies are finally discounting North Korean chest-slapping in their evaluations.

Reaction in financial markets was sanguine.

“Market participants are sick and tired of the North’s rah rah,” said Y.S. Rhoo, an analyst at Hyundai Securities. “Investors remain pretty much unmoved now.”

Major ratings agencies said they saw no reason to adjust their view on South Korea following the threats.

Some government officials say privately they worry that a sharp escalation in tension could add pressure to the South Korean economy just as the global downturn drags it toward recession.

It’s good news for a South Korean economy beleaguered with enough global and domestic trials already. The hysterical Korean diplomatic space rivals even the irrational exuberance of stock market analysis, and the two together, Pyongyang and markets, is emotionally draining. Considering the opacity of Pyongyang’s political workings, the thin gruel that constitutes “Pyongyangology” is even more wanting. Another Reuters report chronicling this past weeks’ North Korean-related events offers a snapshot of the limits even of apparent facts. McClatchy offers this brief synopsis.

North Korea is prone to strident outbursts to gain attention, and its actions Friday may be aimed not only at Seoul but also at Washington, where, it fears, it won’t be a diplomatic priority for the new Obama administration in its early days as the Middle East seizes attention. North Korea also may seek to intimidate the South into offering more financial support.

NKEW gets the prize for sunny conjecture, where even I dare not go.

If this is true, then the South Korean government is not under any pressure from financial markets to resolve the situation quickly…which is not good news for the DPRK. Could it be that the DPRK is now unable to credibly project itself as a military threat to the South?

What an interesting scenario that would be.

Actual threat or not, Pyongyang could still make a mangled mess of the peninsula. On days when I’m shocked that I do indeed live in a foreign country, I immediately fall into a reverie depicting what little I see – the buildings, cars, and people – I believe could be salvaged from a unified – in whatever way that occurs – Korea. I hope this South Korean episode is not an illusion. I’ll take what good news – sans any finger-pointing blather – I can get.

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