Earlier this month, the documentary version of FP Editor in Chief Moisés Naím's bestselling book Illicit aired on the TV channel PBS in the United States. The film and book documents how -- as the book's subtitle says -- "smugglers, traffickers, and copycats are hijacking the global economy."
Those copycats who profit off pirated DVDs had better be careful, though. The doggy duo of Lucky and Flo are out to get them. The black Labs are the first canines to have been trained to sniff out the polycarbonates found in DVDs and CDs. Although they can't differentiate between legit and pirated discs, their noses lead human investigators to discs that are hidden in cargo that has been declared as having other items, such as clothing. Lucky and Flo have been so successful that they've even received death threats from crime syndicates.
Check out a video of the furry crime fighters here:
Where In the World Is Osama bin Laden?, a documentary by Morgan Spurlock -- the man who ate McDonald's cuisine for 30 days straight for Super Size Me -- took on the task of finding al Qaeda's leader. As Spurlock explained in a Seven Questions interview with FP last week, sometimes a comedic film can get an audience to pay attention to a serious topic.
This week, Harold and Kumar -- those two guys from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle -- take on the subject of Guantánamo Bay, though their purpose doesn't seem to have anything to do with prompting serious discussion about the controversial prison. In Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, debuting this Friday, the pair board a flight to Amsterdam with a bong. That gets them sent to Gitmo. The duo make a wild escape, of course. Politically incorrect humor is abundant.
Some reviews say the movie falls short of White Castle's charm, but it currently has a 78 percent on the tomatometer. So, if you need something to do this weekend, you have two choices: Gain a bit of enlightenment with Spurlock, or lose a few IQ points with Harold and Kumar.
Language purists in France are fuming. The country's entry in the Eurovision music contest has English lyrics! (OK, two lines are in French.) Of the 43 countries participating, more than half -- 25 -- submitted songs in English. It sounds like there's a new linga franca.
Uruguay and its 3.4 million people entered the big leagues of culinary feats Sunday by organizing the world's largest barbecue. Snatching the title away from Mexico, Uruguay has triumphed -- at least for now -- in a global cookout war that has been raging for years.
Namibia tried but failed in 2006 to beat Australia for the world's largest sausage. The Philippines set up the world's longest barbecue in 2003, though I believe Uruguay just showed them up by about half a kilometer.
The small South American country pulled off the stunt to highlight its beef exports (at least $800 million worth in 2007). To give you an idea of the size and scope of the operation, army personnel set up the grills, firefighters lit 6 tons of charcoal, 1,250 people cooked up a storm, and roughly 20,000 people watched as 13.2 tons of beef were prepared.
When all was said and done, Uruguay had beaten Mexico's record by 4 tons. One of the grillers told Reuters: "I'm very proud to be Uruguayan. We have the best beef and now we have the world's biggest barbecue." National pride can be tied together by many things -- even apron strings.
This week’s Tuesday map comes to us from a billboard controversy south of the border.
Created by advertising agency Teran/TBWA and launched a few weeks ago in Mexico, the Absolut billboard ad depicted pre-1848
The campaign was obviously intended for a Mexican audience, as Favio Ucedo, creative director of a top Latino advertising firm, explained:
Many (Americans) aren’t going to understand it. Americans in the East and the North or in the center of the county -- I don’t know if they know much about the history… Probably Americans in Texas and California understand perfectly, and I don’t know how they’d take it.”
But Absolut quickly learned just how some Americans would take it: not well. Although the ad never appeared in the U.S., it was picked up by American media outlets, causing a flurry of complaint from
As of Friday, Absolut’s maker Vin & Spirits had decided to withdraw the apparently offensive advertisement even though it "was based upon historical perspectives and was created with a Mexican sensibility... [and was] in no way was meant to offend or disparage, nor...advocate an altering of borders..."
In a speaking engagement today at my alma mater Skidmore College, former Attorney General John Ashcroft confused Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden while talking about the importance of the Patriot Act. The former attorney general then waited patiently as students booed and jeered:
Beware folks, Skidmarks--as the locals in mostly conservative Saratoga County call Skidmore students--are a tough crowd.
U.S. Secret Service agents perform a security sweep on Ukrainian cultural performers before Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko and U.S. President George W. Bush arrive at St. Sophia's Cathedral in Kiev, April 1, 2008.
(Hat tip: On Deadline)
U.S. President George W. Bush (L) pauses to embrace a person dressed as the Easter Bunny during the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House. The annual event was started by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878.
Just so we don't have to go through this whole resignation thing again," one ballsy reporter asked, "Have you ever patronized a prostitute?"
Paterson thought for a minute. "Only the lobbyists," he said.
Mohammed Abbas of Reuters reports on the ever-expanding influence of Chuck Norris:
Norris' appeal is not restricted to U.S. troops either. At an Iraqi police graduation ceremony in Falluja, graduates called out for their "Chuck Norris" to pose with them for photos.
"Truthfully, I didn't know who he was. I asked the Americans, and they said he was a great fighter, and that's why they named me after him. They showed me a video, and it's true, he's a great fighter" said police trainer Mohammed Rasheed. With his handle-bar moustache, Rasheed has a vague resemblance to Norris.
Another police trainer said Chuck Norris was a role model for the police in Falluja, which until 2007 was an al Qaeda stronghold and the scene of fierce battles with security forces. "I've seen his videos, he's a hero. He saves the city, he protects women and children and he fights crime wherever it is. We should all be like Chuck Norris," Khaled Hussein said.
Former British prime minister wait-listed, encouraged to reapply next year:
Yale University is pleased to announce the appointment of Prime Minister Tony Blair as the Howland Distinguished Fellow for the next academic year. Mr. Blair will lead a seminar at Yale and participate in a number of events around the campus. The course in which he will participate with Yale faculty will examine issues of faith and globalization."
UPDATE: On a serious note, check out Passport contributor James Forsyth's comments on why giving Blair a sinecure at a U.S. university would be bad for America.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may think they have their hands full with NAFTA, but just wait until it's time to renegotiate DSFTA, the Deep Space Free Trade Agreement. In the latest issue of Astropolitics, political scientist John Hickman thinks where no social scientist has thunk before in his new article, "Problems of Interplanetary and Interstellar Trade."
Hickman believes that interplanetary trade could be one of the primary economic drivers for space exploration in the future. The potential problems are by no means minor, however. First of all, the vast distances between solar systems would probably prohibit the transportation of tangible goods. (Though, as Hickman points out, transatlantic trade probably seemed just as fanciful to traders in renaissance Europe.) There may however be potential for trade in non-tangible goods such digital entertainment, or scientific information with newly discovered alien species. But even this is not without dilemmas that would give Austan Goolsbee a migraine.
How will we enforce contracts or copyright laws on a civilization 20 light-years away? How will we set up a banking system or transferable currency without any tangible goods to trade? How will we protect ourselves from strange new ideas and ideologies that may destroy the fabric of our society? Worst of all, how will we trade with a species that may not even have a concept of trade?
Economic exchange itself might be "alien" to the aliens. Members of an alien species may not experience the same intense sense of self that is exhibited in rationally self-interested economic exchange among humans. Instead, a collective identity could be dominant. Money might not exist and without it neither would complex markets or banking. If they do engage in economic exchange it might take a form akin to potlatch, the competitive gift-giving for status solely among members of the same tribe traditional among societies in Melanesia and the Pacific Northwest. Moreover an alien species might not live in separate societies and could thus have no conception of trade between different societies with different cultures.
Can we maintain our free-market values and still trade with these hippie space communists? Hickman proposes establishing a "solar system monetary union" or publicly administered "planetary clearinghouse" under which interplanetary merchants could operate. The good news is, even after discovering alien life, we would still need to decode their language and acquire a basic cultural understanding before we can even think about initiating trade. This should give us enough time to bone up on all 285 Ferengi Rules of Acquisition.
Travis Daub contributed to this post.
UPDATE: Tyler Cowen weighs in --
[R]eciprocal, tit-for-tat exchange would work just fine, provided that a) relativity did not slow down the exchange of information too much, and b) not too many Ohio voters watched that movie where the aliens send us their genetic information, embedded in an apparently innocuous transmission, and trick us into downloading those instructions and then cloning them en masse... In other words, we probably cannot trade with aliens.
I'll bet you thought Nepal's glory days as a hippie destination were over:
A Sadhu (Hindu holy man) smokes ganja (marijuana) in a chillum (traditional clay pipe) as a holy offering from lord Shiva, Hindu god of creation and destruction during celebrations of the Maha Shivaratri festival at the Pashupatinath temple area in Kathmandu, on March 4, 2008. Thousands of sages and holy men visit Nepal's biggest hindu temple Pashupatinath during the Maha Shivaratri festival each year.
There's a long tradition of news organizations borrowing titles of popular films for use as headlines. Just recently, Newsweek used There Will Be Blood for its cover story about John McCain's troubles with the Republican base. But we can expect more such wordplay as the year progresses. Here's a sneak preview of how editors will be using and abusing movie titles in the weeks and months ahead:
There Will Be Blood
Stories about infighting among Hillary Clinton's advisors, the Democratic and Republican conventions, various controversial bills before Congress, Zimbabwe's elections, the fight to publish Bush's memoirs, etc.
No Country for Old Men
Stories about John McCain's age (oops, too late), demographic and social trends in various countries around the world, various sports teams, etc.
Stories about Dmitry Medvedev's impending crackdown on dissent and Hillary Clinton's campaign strategy.
Stories about John McCain's astonishing stamina on the campaign trail.
The Golden Compass
Stories about Barack Obama's political antennae or those of his advisors.
The Dark Knight
Stories about advisors to the Democratic and Republican nominees or various corrupt oligarchs around the world.
Horton Hears a Who
Various egregious puns involving The Wharton School, Hu Jintao, and/or the writings of Edith Wharton.
Town officials said they believed the letter was genuine, although they had not verified it. They said they were concerned that it would be impolite to ask the candidate's office.
Launched as a cheap, safe alternative to illicit home brews, a beer nicknamed "Obama" (real name Senator Keg Lager) has proven popular in Kenya, the country where U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama's father came from.
Meanwhile, when asked by Us Weekly about whether he wears boxers or briefs—the same question asked of Bill Clinton when he was a candidate in 1992—Obama decided to keep his undies a secret, responding:
I don't answer those humiliating questions. But whichever one it is, I look good in 'em!
During the chaos, one
The video, posted on Youtube as "Kosovo for sneakers," has been a huge hit among Serbian speakers. With more than a million views before it was taken down and resubmitted, it has drawn thousands of comments from Serbs angry at the behavior demonstrated in downtown
The video has also spurred on a series of mock Kosovo/Nike ads such as this one that is making the e-mail rounds:
The top reads "Kosovo is
Serbs may have a rocky future ahead of them, but at least they haven't lost their sense of humor.
The world's best-selling board game is finally going global. Hasbro, the makers of Monopoly, are creating a version wherein instead of snatching up the deeds to Atlantic Avenue or Park Place, players can build up property in global cities such as Moscow or Tokyo.
The company is letting people vote online through Feb. 28 on what cities to include. Originally, the cities listed on the game's Web site included the countries where they are located -- "Dublin, Ireland," for example.
An early version of the site listed "Jerusalem, Israel" as a potential place on the board. But then pro-Palestinians wrote in to complain, because Jerusalem, they hope, will be the capital of a future Palestinian state. So, a mid-level employee dropped the word "Israel" from Jerusalem's place name. Then pro-Israelis complained because of the inconsistency, since other country names were still there.
In a truly Solomonic feat, Hasbro decided to drop all country names (though the company claims they were only there in the first place "as a geographic reference to help with city selection"). And now capitalism is free to run amok without any borders. At least in Monopoly.
Check out this offering from Operationcheckpoint.com, a Web site devoted to "airport security education for children":
Scan It®is an educational and creative play toy that helps children become acclimated with airport and public spaces security. The device is both a fun toy and an educational tool. It detects metal objects and simulates an X-ray scan via a functioning conveyor belt that glides articles over its metal detector path. When metallic items are present the unit beeps and lights up.
(Hat tip: Boing Boing)
But wait, there's more. Playmobil has a security checkpoint on Amazon.com:
Here are a few customer reviews:
I think this was good. I use it with my Playmobil getaway car al the time. I hope that they make a Playmobil Enemy Combatant Detention Center soon. That would be great!
One little oddity to point out is that the xray monitor displaying the bag contents shows what appears to be a fire extinguisher, a duck and several brown poo-shaped objects.
I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger's shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger's scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up.
As more people all over the world -- mostly notably in China and India -- enter the ranks of the middle class and are able to afford the calorie-rich diets of the Western world, their increased appetites have helped drive up prices of foods such as bread, milk, and chocolate, notes FP Editor in Chief Moisés Naím in his latest column, "Can the World Afford a Middle Class?"
Chocolate companies such as Nestlé, Mars, Ferrero, and Hershey are eager to satisfy the cravings of budding chocoholics in Asia, where consumption of the sweet stuff lags far behind that of Europe, as shown in the following table, based on numbers from a recent BusinessWeek article. To boost sales, these companies have sometimes had to adapt flavors to Asian tastes, such as with green-tea Hershey Kisses and azuki-bean Kit Kats, which the slide show here details.
|Chocolate consumption, per capita annually||24 lbs. (11 kg), in Britain and Switzerland||3.5 oz. (99 g)||5.8 oz. (165 g)|
|Annual sales||$35 billion||$813 million||$394 million|
|Sales growth||1-2% annually||nearly doubled in past 5 years||64% in past 5 years|
Photos: SEBASTIAN WILLNOW/AFP/Getty Images; MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images; SEBASTIAN D'SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
Over the weekend, a vanity license plate with the single digit "1" (mentioned by Passport two weeks ago) sold for a record $14 million at an Abu Dhabi charity auction to raise money for traffic-accident victims.
Meanwhile, in Delaware, where the law lets people transfer license plates, the tag with the single digit "6" was just auctioned off for a relatively paltry $675,000 to the family that bought "9" in 1993 for $185,000. (The number "1" is reserved for the state's governor.)
I'm not thinking to cut my beard, because I'm accustomed to my beard and my beard means many things to my country. When we have fulfilled our promise of good government I will cut my beard."
— Castro in 1959, interviewed by CBS's Edward Murrow
The new world champion in the Full Beard Natural Category, Jack Passion holds hiswinning prize mug during the World Beard and Moustache Championships at the Brighton Centre on September 1, 2007 in Brighton, England. The World Beard and Moustache Championships is a biennial event participated by beard and moustache wearers from all over the world.
Contestants are presented to the audience in the sideburns category.
All photos by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
A neatly cut beard is of enormous importance in life, believe me. It produces an extraordinary effect. Look at me. I have my beard cut regularly twice a week and I am certain that a great deal of my popularity is due to it." - King Edward VII
I found the above quote on the blog of Phil Olsen, founder of Beard Team USA and the World Beard and Mustache Championships. I've never been a fan of shaving, so I find these photos from the 2007 WBMC in Brighton, England to be... well, inspirational.
Mark your calendars for May 23, 2009, when the the next championships will be held in Anchorage, Alaska. It's the second time the 6-year-old competition has taken place in North America.
(All of these extraordinary photos are by Daniel Berehulak of Getty Images.)
A Japanese town shares the same name as the U.S. presidential candidate:
As fanciful as it may seem, leaders in Obama — which means "Little Beach" in Japanese — are serious about forging a relationship with the candidate.
The mayor, Toshio Murakami, sent Obama a letter a year ago with a gift of lacquerware chopsticks, a DVD introducing the city, and a guidebook, but no one knows if the package arrived because they never received a response.
The town 250 miles west of Tokyo is undaunted. Murakami plans to send Obama another care-package, this one with a fist-sized lacquerware good-luck "daruma" doll with the word "victory" written across the chest in Japanese calligraphy.
"We want to ask him to stop by Obama as president if he visits Japan," Sadakazu Tsubouchi, an official at city hall.
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov seems mighty pleased with himself for negotiating a mutibillion-dollar nuclear energy deal with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh:
Got your own suggested caption for this photo? Send us your one-liners and we'll print the best one below.
First, he accused her of not being American. Now, he's trying to recruit her to run for president!
Comedian Stephen Colbert has long had a (fake) antagonistic relationship with Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington, DC's representative in Congress. Last year, he accused her of not being a citizen of the United States, because she was born and lives in the District of Columbia. He accused her of being ineffectual because as the representative of D.C., she's not allowed to vote on the final passage of legislation in Congress. You can watch the hilarious segment here:
But Colbert has changed his tune. Last night, he interviewed Norton on his show and suggested that she run for president. After all, she's black AND she's a woman AND she doesn't have a voting record that anyone can hold against her. But here's the rub: If she wasn't born in the United States, since she was born in a district, then she's not eligible. Sorry, Colbert. You're going to have to find another candidate to support.
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