November 2006

I think it is interesting that, while the underlying themes in the diplomatic dance between the U.S. and Iran over nukes all revolve around oil, the export of oil, the development of oil fields and the like, the underlying themes in the diplomatic dance between the U.S. and North Korea seem to revolve around . . . jet skis and iPods:

In a novel effort targeting the lifestyle of North Korea’s eccentric president, the Bush administration wants to make it tougher for him to buy iPods, plasma televisions, Segway electric scooters and more.

It is Washington’s first-ever attempt to use trade penalties as a way of personally aggravating a foreign leader. They target items believed to be favored by Kim Jong Il or presented by him as gifts to the roughly 600 loyalist families who run the communist government.

Kim, who orchestrated a secret nuclear weapons program despite international efforts to stop him, has other options for obtaining high-end consumer electronics and other luxuries.

But the list of proposed U.S. penalties, obtained by The Associated Press, aims to make Kim’s swanky life harder: No more cognac, Rolex watches, cigarettes, artwork, expensive cars, Harley Davidson motorcycles or even personal watercraft, such as Jet Skis.

Full article here.

Christmas is coming soon — and Kim Jong Il and his 600 loyalist families are gettin’ nothin’ but coal in their stockings. Coal and cheap knock-offs of luxury goods from somewhere other than the U.S., apparently.


NEW YORK ( — Stocks slumped Monday, with the Dow industrials posting its biggest one-day percentage drop since July, as investors eyed higher oil prices, a weaker dollar and a cautious outlook from Wal-Mart and decided to head for the exits.

Full article here.

Ali Al Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, has said that further cuts in oil output would be on the agenda at next month’s Opec meeting, reported Arab News. Al Naimi said the impact of the recent 1.2m bpd cut on oil price stability would be studied. One major concern for oil exporters is the healthy stockpiles in countries such as the US, the world’s biggest user.

Via AMEInfo.

BAGHDAD, Iraq — The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, corrupt charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to prevent, a classified U.S. government report has concluded.

The report estimates that armed groups responsible for many of the insurgent and terrorist attacks across Iraq are raising between $70 million and $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says between $25 million and $100 million of the total comes from oil smuggling and other criminal activity involving the state-owned oil industry that is aided by “corrupt and complicit” Iraqi government officials.

As much as $36 million a year comes from ransoms paid to save hundreds of kidnap victims in Iraq, the report said. It estimates that unnamed foreign governments — previously identified by senior American officials in Iraq as including France and Italy — paid Iraqi kidnappers an estimated $30 million in ransom last year.

See full article here.

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans packed a major highway Saturday in a rally for opposition presidential candidate Manual Rosales, one of the largest demonstrations against President Hugo Chavez in years.

Shouts of “Dare to change!” rose up from the dense crowd filling the highway for several miles and spilling into nearby overpasses and streets in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas. The rally came eight days before the country’s presidential election on Dec. 3.

Rosales, speaking from a stage, promised democracy for a country he said was sinking into Cuba-style authoritarianism under Chavez.

“I don’t want to be a president who controls all the branches of government,” Rosales shouted to thundering applause. “Let there be true democracy in Venezuela!”

Hey, is it just me or does Caracas smell like sulphur? Full piece here.

1. Sweden 9,88
2. Iceland 9,71
3. Netherlands 9.66
4. Norway 9,55
5. Denmark 9,52
6. Finland 9,25
7. Luxembourg 9,10
8. Australia 9,09
9. Canada 9.02
10. Switzerland 9.02

. . . according to the Economic Intelligence Unit Index of Democracy. See summary report here.

See a Flash version of the end of the world, explained with elegant simplicity, here.  Prepare for a long download.

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