Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010



For those of you who just read my blog and get no other sources of news: There has been massive flooding in Pakistan. An "Act of God" has unleashed deluge after deluge on the country, destroying everything in its path. The statistics are staggering. The most rainfall in 80 years. 2,000 people dead. 1.4 million acres of farm land destroyed. Eight million people displaced. A fifth of the country is still underwater. Even TEN THOUSAND COWS HAVE DROWNED!!!

But...no matter how loudly we scream about the misery in Pakistan...NO ONE seems to care. Which is unlike other natural disasters. In fact, earlier this year I blogged about how impressive private American response was to the earthquake in Haiti. (Remember, even one of the JONAS BROTHERS went to Port-au-Prince to help?) Trust me, no one from the DisneyChannel hit series CAMP ROCK is flying to Karachi to help this crisis. Don't believe me? Let's check the statistics. So far, US relief agencies have raised $12 million dollars to help Pakistan. These same organizations donated $500 million to Haiti...some 40 times more!

Why the big disparity in aid? Well, let's face it, some countries just are popular and some are not. Everyone loves the JAMAICAN BOBSLED TEAM. No one loves terrorist camps in the TORA BORA MOUNTAINS. Everyone loves happy kids playing at DISNEYLAND. No one loves seeing brainwashed children chanting in fundamentalist Islamic MADRASAH SCHOOLS. Get my point? So when we get news that the cave where OSAMA BIN LADEN lives might be wrecked, we tend to celebrate instead of writing a check to OXFAM.

And it's not just Americans. Pakistan's neighbor INDIA hasn't sent much aid either. The two countries have severed relations after Pakistani nationals were convicted of killing 100 people in a downtown Mumbai hotel. And while other Islamic nations like Iran and Indonesia have 'observer status' in the ARAB LEAGUE, Pakistan's turbulent politics have ruined this relationship as well. The bottom line is: Pakistan has no friends.

However, SAMUEL WORTHINGTON of the charity InterAction disagrees with this notion. It's wrong to view a nation only through the eyes of skewed media. He reminds us that Pakistan's population is now at 170 million, making it the sixth largest nation on earth. More people live in Pakistan than in Russia, Japan or Mexico. Yet the whole nation "tends to be labeled through a very small subset of terrorists." Worthington asserts that the vast majority of Pakistani people, "Whether they are lawyers or farmers, they are just people who simply want to live in peace. Their story doesn't get told, but it needs to be told, especially when they're suffering."

Friday, August 20, 2010



It's been RUMORED to happen for years, but the official stats are now in: According to a Japanese government report, the nation's GNP growth grew a measly 0.4% in the last financial quarter. This puts the island nation's nominal GNP (a figure not adjusted for price and seasonal variations) at $1.286 trillion. China, who's quarterly growth was ten times of Japan's, now has a nominal GNP of $1.335 trillion. This means that for the FIRST TIME EVER China's economy is the second largest on earth!

Now this many seem trivial to some...but let's face it...this list doesn't change very often. The last time a nation in the top two spots switched was way back in 1968, when Japan nudged WEST GERMANY out of the #2 spot. And, unless Europe manages to merge into one country, it likely won't change for another 42 years either. How has this bombshell affected world economies? The Dow Jones fell 73 points. The French CAAC and German DAX stock markets also dropped sharply. The Japanese Nikkei naturally fell the most, hitting a thirteen-month low. Ouch!

While the Japanese mourn, the Chinese can celebrate. After all, China can truly now claim that the boisterous, robust nation is the main reason for the world's slow, but steady, climb out of massive recession. With 10% growth, it is indeed a global beacon. But, amongst the top five economies, China is definitely a black sheep. With an average personal income of just $3,600, it has a huge gap between rich and poor. China relies heavily on other nations purchasing their exports, which...as we all know...aren't always the best products. On the other hand, Japan is the world's largest producer of cars and technological products. When this sector sees slow growth, it is much more alarming to the world economic machine. It shows how demand, particularly in Asia, is cooling considerably.

Naoto Kan, Japan's prime minister, knows the heat is on. But he's trying to downplay it as mere statistical nonsense. Or, as Kyohei Morita, the chief economist as BARCLAY'S CAPITAL in Tokyo said: "We should be more concerned about per-capita GDP. This this just symbolic. It's nothing more than that." Let's hope he's right, or we'll all be driving some pretty cheap Chinese cars real soon!

Friday, August 13, 2010


Earlier this week, a 34 year old former English Army Captain named became the first known human to walk the entire length of the Amazon River. It took ED STAFFORD a total of 859 days (two-and-a-half years) to complete. But today, the tenacious man from Hallation, Leicestershire can boldly state that he has done something NO MAN HAS EVER DONE BEFORE. And...something no one will likely ever do again!

During the course of his journey from the tiny APURIMAC RIVER (the source of the Amazon, high in the Peruvian Andies) to the sandy beaches of the ATLANTIC OCEAN, Ed encountered obstacles that would baffle ordinary people. The Brazilian government has little control over the indigenous peoples who live in the heart of the world's largest rain forest. So in order to cross large patches of jungle, he had to negotiate with tribal chiefs for permission to walk across their lands. He soon learned that leaders communicated with other villages using short wave radios. It was wise to ask neighboring villages ahead of time to avoid conflict. However, once this planned backfired. A chief had replied "No gringo may walk on our soil" and really meant it. When he arrived, poor Ed was imprisoned in a cage for two days before things got worked out!

While PEOPLE were could be negotiated with, the AMINALS could not. As everyone knows, the largest carnivores in the world are found in the Amazon Basin. The most ferocious are the CAIMAN CROCODILES. The largest one Ed saw was a whopping EIGHTEEN FEET LONG. However, Ed blogged that they were not very interested in humans. Neither was another obvious foe, the giant ANACONDA snakes, who also eschewed eating British explorers. No, the worst natural enemy Ed had to face were the giant colonies of LEAF-CUTTER ANTS. These voracious insects have extremely sharp teeth. Within seconds, they could lacerate his legs or suddenly rip his tent to shreds. However, there was one enemy that Ed managed to turn the tables on: the mighty schools of man-eating PIRANHA FISH. Ed caught them, smoked them, and ate them with sea salt for dinner!

Although he raised the $100,000 to fund the expedition mostly through non-profit corporations, Ed insists he no left-wing-eco-warrior. He says he loves adventure and the thrill of exploration. But, through his blog, he does want to bring awareness to the real situation occurring in the rain forest. While he believes the average Amazon resident is acutely aware of the dangers of de-forestation, many renegade, corrupt tribal leaders are not. They operate in areas federal governments cannot reach and are to blame for much of the illegal logging. However, Ed 'keeps his fingers crossed' that the next generation of Amazon leaders will be 'more in tune with the delicate situation' and will work with outside help to best preserve the earth's largest producer of live-giving oxygen.

How does Mr. Stafford feel about his accomplishment? He said: "It's been an incredible journey with some amazing highs, but also some pretty horrendous lows as well. But I just couldn't consider giving in." Another question reporters asked: What's next? Stafford replied that he does indeed have another exploration planned, but he wouldn't divulge any secrets. He didn't want anyone else beating him to it!

NOTE: Watch Ed's videos and read his blogs at ManWalksTheAmazon.com