Monthly Archives: June 2005

Bad News on the Kyoto Protocol

Economist Robert J. Samuelson in Washington Post offers some harsh observations about progress on the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

From 1990 (Kyoto’s base year for measuring changes) to 2002, global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, increased 16.4 percent, reports the International Energy Agency. The U.S. increase was 16.7 percent, and most of Europe hasn’t done much better.

Here are some IEA estimates of the increases: France, 6.9 percent; Italy, 8.3 percent; Greece, 28.2 percent; Ireland, 40.3 percent; the Netherlands, 13.2 percent; Portugal, 59 percent; Spain, 46.9 percent. It’s true that Germany (down 13.3 percent) and Britain (a 5.5 percent decline) have made big reductions. But their cuts had nothing to do with Kyoto. After reunification in 1990, Germany closed many inefficient coal-fired plants in eastern Germany; that was a huge one-time saving. In Britain, the government had earlier decided to shift electric utilities from coal (high CO2 emissions) to plentiful natural gas (lower CO2 emissions).

On their present courses, many European countries will miss their Kyoto targets for 2008-2012. To reduce emissions significantly, Europeans would have to suppress driving and electricity use; that would depress economic growth and fan popular discontent. It won’t happen. Political leaders everywhere deplore global warming — and then do little. Except for Eastern European nations, where dirty factories have been shuttered, few countries have cut emissions. Since 1990 Canada’s emissions are up 23.6 percent; Japan’s, 18.9 percent….

“We expect CO2 emissions growth in China between now and 2030 will equal the growth of the United States, Canada, all of Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Korea combined,” says Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist. In India, he says, about 500 million people lack electricity; worldwide, the figure is 1.6 billion. Naturally, poor countries haven’t signed Kyoto; they won’t sacrifice economic gains — poverty reduction, bigger middle classes — to combat global warming. By 2030, the IEA predicts, world energy demand and greenhouse gases will increase by roughly 60 percent; poor countries will account for about two-thirds of the growth. China’s coal use is projected almost to double; its vehicle fleet could go from 24 million to 130 million.

Signing a protocol is the easiest part. Fashioning a protocol that can effectively accomplish what it claims to do is a lot harder. (And I have major doubts about this one.) Adhering to a demanding protocol is harder still.

Something for both Canadians and Americans to consider on their holiday weekend.

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Fiberoptics-dependent Economies

CRMBuyer [CRM = Customer Relationship Management] reported Wednesday on a major blow to offshore service centers in South Asia.

Damage to the undersea telecommunications cable SEA-ME-WE3 (SMW3) Monday initially disrupted most of Pakistan’s international telephone and Internet connections, but the outage spread to India, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Djibouti as repairs were started yesterday.

Call centers in India using connections through the Reliance Group, India’s largest corporate conglomerate, to SMW3 to reach customers in the U.S. were experiencing service outages for the past day, they reported to InternationalStaff.net, a company that specializes in offshore process migration, call center program management, turnkey software development and help desk management….

SMW3 provides Pakistan with its sole high speed cable access. All call centers in Pakistan serving international customers have been without their usual level of telecommunications service since Monday.

The government of Pakistan has provided satellite backup systems to international call centers in that country at no charge to those centers, in order to make them more internationally competitive, and nine international call centers in Pakistan are reportedly operating on satellite backup connections now.

Oil-dependent economies need strategic reserves; connectivity-dependent economies need strategic backup networks.

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The Japanese Emperor’s Quiet Rebellion

Japanese PM Koizumi’s uphill battles with his government’s imagination-impaired bureaucrats are not nearly as uneven as the Japanese imperial family‘s battles with the crushingly reactionary Imperial Household Agency, but guest blogger Oranckay at The Marmot’s Hole has an encouraging post about Emperor Akihito‘s quiet rebellion on a small Pacific island.

While visiting Saipan, Japanese Emperor Akihito made a surprise visit to a memorial there honoring Koreans killed during World War II, having been brought to the island as military conscripts in the Japanese military or as forced laborers. It is significant that he went to the Korean memorial at all, but also notable that he did so unannounced.

The Saipan Tribune, which naturally has the most detailed coverage of what happened, says Akihito was headed back to his hotel when his limousine suddenly pulled over in front of the memorial and that “no cameras were present.”

One might imagine two possible reasons why he chose not to let the world know he would visit the Korean memorial, and indeed both could have been a factor. According to the Guardian, some in Japan’s Imperial Household Agency opposed the emperor’s visit to Saipan altogether, but “relented when the emperor expressed a strong desire to go.” One Korean story quotes the agency as saying the decision was made to visit the Korean memorial only a day in advance and that even the Japanese consulate was unaware of what was going to happen. Then there is the issue of the island’s Korean residents association, which earlier had demanded that the Japanese emperor visit the memorial but (quite naturally) “found the Japanese consulate on the island unresponsive,” among other things. You can imagine the many Koreans, some welcoming but some there in protest, who would have been waiting had it been part of his official itinerary.

The Saipan Tribune reports a few more heart-warming aspects.

On the same stop, Akihito and Michiko also paid tribute to the Okinawan people who died on Saipan during the war.

Both the Korean and Okinawan memorials are located within the vicinity of the memorial built by the Japanese government in Marpi.

However, members of the media who are covering the emperor’s visit were not as pleased. Most of them apparently headed back to the media center at Dai-Ichi Hotel Saipan Beach immediately after the Banzai Cliff activity, thinking that it was the last stop in the imperial couple’s tour of Marpi.

Ooh! Ooh! Even better. He flummoxed the media (hardly worth an exclamation point). And that’s not all.

The fall of Saipan was a turning point in the war in the Pacific. As many as 55,000 Japanese troops and civilians died in the three-week “Operation Forager,” which began on June 15, 1944.

Early Tuesday, Akihito offered prayers at “Banzai Cliff,” which owes its name to the shouts of “banzai”–a cheer wishing long life to the emperor–by Japanese who plunged to their deaths rather than face capture by the American troops. The royal couple later visited monuments to more than 5,000 Americans, about half of them Marines, and 1,000 or so islanders who were killed on Saipan or nearby islands.

Akihito, 11 years old when the war ended, has been to China and has expressed remorse for the past during visits to Japan by South Korean leaders. But he has never made a trip to offer condolences at a battlefield overseas.

The Japanese imperial family is perhaps the last royal line on earth to see their role as 120% duty and -20% privilege, and one of the few current royals for which I have any respect at all. I wish Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako all the best in their own subtle rebellions against the Imperial Household Agency. Give the latter some imperial robots to command instead.

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Lind on Halberstam on Ho

The biases of the sixties-era liberal left are manifested most clearly in polemics written at the time of the Vietnam War by journalists such as Frances Fitzgerald and David Halberstam. Fitzgerald ended her Pulitzer Prize-winning tract Fire in the Lake with a hopeful vision of a time when “the narrow flame of revolution [would] cleanse the lake of Vietnamese society” and purge it of “‘individualism’ and its attendant corruption.” Similar undisguised admiration for the communists pervades David Halberstam’s Ho (1971). Halberstam’s book is perhaps the most sympathetic portrait of a Stalinist dictator ever penned by a reputable American journalist identified with the liberal rather than the radical left.

In Ho, Halberstam omits any mention of the repression or atrocities of Ho Chi Minh’s regime. For example, Halberstam writes that in August 1945, “the Vietminh had in one quick stroke taken over the nationalism of the country, that Ho had achieved the legitimacy of power.” From reading Halberstam, one would never guess that in 1945-46 Ho’s deputy Giap carried out a reign of terror in which thousands of the leading noncommunist nationalists in territory controlled by Ho’s regime were assassinated, executed, imprisoned, or exiled. Halberstam condemns the repression carried out by the Saigon regime: “Diem and the Americans had blocked elections in 1956 and Diem had carried out massive arrests against all his political opponents, particularly anyone who had fought with the Vietminh.” Of the far more severe repression in North Vietnam, there is not a word in Halberstam’s book. The Maoist-inspired terror of collectivization in the mid-fifties, in which at least ten-thousand North Vietnamese were summarily executed because they belonged to the wrong “class,” is not mentioned. Nor is the anticommunist peasant rebellion that followed; nor the deployment of the North Vietnamese military to crush the peasants; nor the succeeding purge of North Vietnamese intellectuals; nor the fact that almost ten times as many Vietnamese, during the brief period of resettlement, fled from communist rule as left South Vietnam for the North. The equivalent of Halberstam’s book would be a flattering biography of Stalin that praised his leadership during World War II while omitting any mention of the gulag, the purges, and the Ukrainian famine, or an admiring biography of Mao that failed to mention the Cultural Revolution or the starvation of tens of millions during the Great Leap Forward.

Halberstam is even less forthcoming when the subject is relations among North Vietnam, China, and the Soviet Union. He accurately describes Ho’s background in the French Communist party and his residence in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. But Halberstam omits any mention of Soviet or Chinese support for North Vietnam after 1949. “No matter that the superpower America was aiding the South; [Ho] realized that the Saigon government had no base of popular support.” No mention is made of the fact that the Hanoi government was aided by the Soviet superpower and China, a great power. The fact that in 1950, responding to pressure from Ho, Stalin ordered Mao to support Ho’s regime; the fact that the victory of North Vietnam against the French depended on military supplies and advice from the Sino-Soviet bloc; the fact that Ho’s dictatorship modeled its structure and policies on Mao’s China and Stalin’s Soviet Union; the fact that Soviet and Chinese deterrence forced the United States to fight in unfavorable conditions in Vietnam; the fact that hundreds of thousands of Chinese logistics troops, as well as Chinese and Soviet antiaircraft troops and Soviet fighter pilots, took part in the Vietnam War; the fact that North Vietnam would have been forced to abandon its effort to conquer South Vietnam, if not for massive Soviet and Chinese subsidies–all of these facts are omitted from Halberstam’s Ho.

That these damning facts were omitted by design rather than by mistake becomes clear when one examines the sources that Halberstam lists in his bibliography. Halberstam’s book leaves out everything critical written about Ho Chi Minh by the authors that Halberstam used as his sources. For example, one of Halberstam’s authorities, Joseph Buttinger, described the repressiveness of Ho’s government in great detail, and bitterly condemned it, in Vietnam: A Dragon Embattled (1967). The major source for Halberstam’s Ho appears to have been the book Ho Chi Minh published by the antiwar French journalist Jean Lacouture in 1968.

In an interview in the late 1970s with a Milan newspaper, Lacouture, referring to the communist dictatorship in Cambodia, spoke of “my shame for having contributed to the installation of one of the most oppressive regimes history has ever known.” … Lacouture described pro-Hanoi journalists in the West like himself as “vehicles and intermediaries for a lying and criminal propaganda, ingenious spokesmen for tyranny in the name of liberty.” In light of this confession, the fact that Halberstam is even less critical of Ho than his source Lacouture, then a supporter of Hanoi, raises serious questions….

American academic histories of the Vietnam War tend to show the same biases that are evident in the work of journalists such as Fitzgerald and Halberstam.

SOURCE: Vietnam, the Necessary War: A Reinterpretation of America’s Most Disastrous Military Conflict, by Michael Lind (Simon & Schuster, 1999), pp. 176-178

Well, I suppose it’s clear enough where most of my received wisdom about the War in Vietnam has come from. Uncle Ho is certainly overdue for the kind of debunking that Mao has been getting.

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Japundit Series on Koizumi’s Icebreaking

Japundit‘s Ampontan has posted a fascinating two-part analysis of Koizumi’s unexpectedly effective new broom in Japanese politics. Here’s the beginning of part two:

Yesterday we described Junichiro Koizumi’s unlikely selection as prime minister of Japan. It was unlikely because he ran as a reformer to lead a conservative party that had no interest in reform, but was desperate to survive as an entity. The disastrous administration of Yoshiro Mori—with single-digit approval ratings—had everyone in the party worried that they would get clobbered in the upper house election just a couple of months away.

Mind you, the LDP did not actually expect Koizumi to do too much in the way of reform; they were more interested in someone talking about a new broom sweeping clean than someone actually getting the broom out of the closet. The party elders were confident in their ability to keep things from getting out of hand.

They soon realized they had badly misjudged the situation. The long-suffering Japanese public have been subjected to politicians from the ruling party who don’t pretend to mean what they say, can’t be bothered to hide their disdain for the average voter, and save their remaining passion for their mistresses or money raising. When an eloquent politician appears with enthusiasm, energy, and ideas, and—most importantly—focuses his attention on the public’s concerns rather than trying to convince the public to focus on the politician’s concerns, the Japanese public repays that politician tenfold.

That’s just what happened with Koizumi. Desperate for a leader who acted like a real human being, still recovering from the disillusionment over the crushing of the first reform government during Morihiro Hosokawa’s term as prime minister in 1993-4, and believing that this was the last real chance to reform Japan’s political system, the public rewarded the off-beat, blunt Koizumi with popularity ratings that soared over 80%, unprecedented in Japan.

For the LDP, Koizumi was both a nightmare and a dream come true. Koizumi’s popularity also sent the popularity of the LDP skyrocketing. Under his leadership, the party won a stunning victory in the upper house election when their prospects verged on the hopeless just three months before. During the election campaign, Koizumi himself became the public symbol of the LDP; while the emphasis on an individual leading a party is the de facto standard in most Western political campaigns, it is extremely rare in Japan.

This came at a price for the party, however, and they first realized it with Koizumi’s Cabinet appointments. As we explained yesterday, the LDP is comprised of several factions. The primary objective in Cabinet appointments has been to apportion the spoils among the different factions according to their relative strength. Competence for the job is not a qualification, and neither the prime minister nor the rest of his Cabinet were selected to formulate policy—they were just asked to implement it.

Koizumi ignored these practices. He already represented a break with the past because he was the second prime minister in a row from the same faction. But he alienated the old guard in the party when he appointed to key Cabinet posts allies from his faction who shared his views instead of balancing factional interests. He even appointed economist Heizo Takenaka (second photo) to reform the banking sector and clean up the economy. (And he has succeeded; the worst is over for the banks and their bad debt problems and the stock market has rebounded).

The whole thing is worth reading. So is a recent account in the Japan Times about Koizumi taking the extremely rare step of relieving two high-ranking bureaucrats of their duties.

UPDATE: The series continues with a post about Japan’s New Generation. For many Japanese, the 1990s were a long Decade of Disillusionment after their economic bubble burst in 1989, and the dysfunctionalities of their political system became much more glaring. (The same can be said for the overly Japan-dependent economy of Hawai‘i.) For many North Americans and Europeans, however, the Great Disillusionment didn’t hit with full force until 2000-2001. By now, even the elites are beginning to grasp the dysfunctionalities of politics and economics as usual.

But no one really seems to know what to do about it yet. The major disagreement is between the “What the hell? Let’s try this, then!” crowd and the “Hell, no! You can’t do that!” crowd. In other words, those who don’t know what they can’t do, and those who only know what they can’t do. The other labels really don’t mean much anymore. The tinkerers inspire trepidation; the status quo aunties inspire resignation. Neither group inspires confidence.

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Baseball’s Performance-enhancing Cabbage

Japundit‘s JP blogs the Korean Baseball Organization’s latest attempt to clean up its act: by banning performance-enhancing cabbage! Apparently, Babe Ruth used to get away with a similar practice.

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Lind on the Continuity of Antiwar Arguments

IN ADDITION to examining the Vietnam War from a post-Cold War perspective, one of the purposes of this book is to set the historical record straight. I address the major myths about Vietnam disseminated by the radical left and liberal left at the time of the war and repeated for three decades afterward….

To a remarkable extent, anti-Vietnam War activists recycled both Marxist and isolationist propaganda from previous American antiwar movements. For example, much of the anti-Diem and pro-Ho Chi Minh propaganda echoed the left’s vilification of China’s Chiang Kai-shek and South Korea’s Syngman Rhee and its idealization of Mao Zedong; only the names of individuals and countries were changed. Various “missed opportunity” myths about U.S.-Vietnam relations were first spread in the context of relations between the United States and communist China in the 1940s. The influence of the generations-old isolationist tradition in the United States is clear in the arguments that Johnson and Nixon were treacherous tyrants whose foreign wars endangered the U.S. Constitution–arguments almost identical to those made against previous wartime presidents, including Polk, Wilson, Roosevelt, and Truman. The ease with which Francis Ford Coppola could turn Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a parable about European imperialism in Africa, into the movie Apocalypse Now illustrates the extent to which much anti-Vietnam War literature and art has been generic antiwar propaganda that could be illustrated by imagery from any war in any country in any period.

In the section of this book dealing with domestic politics, I demonstrate the extraordinary continuities between the anti-Vietnam-War movement and other antiwar movements–both earlier ones, like the movements opposing U.S. intervention in World Wars I and II, and subsequent ones, like the nuclear freeze campaign and the opposition to the Gulf War. Most remarkable of all is the continuity in regional attitudes toward U.S. foreign policy. The Democratic party’s abandonment of the Cold War liberalism of Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson for the neoisolationism symbolized by George McGovern and Frank Church can be explained almost entirely in terms of the shift in the party’s regional base from the promilitary, interventionist South to Greater New England, the region of the United States associated throughout American history with suspicion of the military and hostility to American wars.

LET THERE BE no doubt: There will be “Vietnams” in America’s future, defined either as wars in which the goal of the United States is to prove its military credibility to enemies and allies, rather than to defend U.S. territory, or as wars in which the enemy refuses to use tactics that permit the U.S. military to benefit from its advantage in high-tech conventional warfare. The war in Kosovo fits both of these definitions. Preparing for the credibility wars and the unconventional wars of the twenty-first century will require both leaders and publics in the United States and allied countries to understand what the United States did wrong in Vietnam–and, no less important, to acknowledge what the United States did right.

SOURCE: Vietnam, the Necessary War: A Reinterpretation of America’s Most Disastrous Military Conflict, by Michael Lind (Simon & Schuster, 1999), pp. xvi-xviii

This political tract aimed to drive a stake through the ghost of Vietnam in order to justify and guide a centrist Democratic U.S. administration’s intervention in the Balkans (and possibly elsewhere). It’s doubly provocative in hindsight, but its polemical tone gets a bit tiresome. After one more excerpt debunking the mythical Uncle Ho, I’ll give Lind a rest.

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Assessing Corruption in Nigeria

Nigerian expat Abiola of Foreign Dispatches notes a report in the Telegraph of 25 June 2005 about the extent of corruption in Nigeria.

Here’s why scepticism over the world-changing impact of yet more aid and debt forgiveness is thoroughly justified.

The scale of the task facing Tony Blair in his drive to help Africa was laid bare yesterday when it emerged that Nigeria’s past rulers stole or misused £220 billion.

That is as much as all the western aid given to Africa in almost four decades. The looting of Africa’s most populous country amounted to a sum equivalent to 300 years of British aid for the continent….

The stolen fortune tallies almost exactly with the £220 billion of western aid given to Africa between 1960 and 1997. That amounted to six times the American help given to post-war Europe under the Marshall Plan.

I can’t close this post without including the following excerpt, which goes to show that lots of sensible Nigerians understand all too well something a lot of foreign know-it-alls seem incapable of grasping.

The G8 has refused to cancel Nigeria’s loans, despite writing off the debts of 14 other African countries this month.

Prof Pat Utomi, of Lagos Business School, said that was the right decision. “Who is to say you won’t see the same behaviour again if it is all written off?” he said.

A lively discussion ensues in the comments to Abiola’s blogpost.

Colby Cosh has a related post that quotes John Lennon at some length:

Lennon Where do people get off saying the Beatles should give $200,000,000 to South America? You know, America has poured billions into places like that. It doesn’t mean a damn thing. After they’ve eaten that meal, then what? It lasts for only a day. After the $200,000,000 is gone, then what? It goes round and round in circles. You can pour money in forever. After Peru, then Harlem, then Britain. There is no one concert. We would have to dedicate the rest of our lives to one world concert tour, and I’m not ready for it. Not in this lifetime, anyway.

And Black Star Journal links to a new BBC World Service documentary on The Aid Trap:

In the run-up to July’s G8 summit Britain is calling for the world’s richest nations to treble the amount of development aid. But is Aid really a solution to the causes of poverty?

Many economists challenge the idea that aid offers an escape to the poverty trap. Some say it may even create a trap of dependency and corruption all its own. We visit the two poorest countries in the World, according to the United Nations, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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Peacekeeping Conditions Delta and Echo

Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures is divided into sections, each descending into a lower level of hell, from the shining idealism of Condition Alpha in 1990 to the total burnout of Condition Echo in 1998. Here are the introductions to Condition Delta and Condition Echo. The interior echoes of psychological collapse in Condition Delta don’t lend themselves to easy excerpting, and I just can’t bring myself to quote any of the representative passages from Condition Echo, where the peacekeepers themselves are brutal enough, while the young crackhead rebels are as close to diabolical as humans can get.

Bosnia, Rwanda, Haiti, 1994-96

Yugoslavia. At the end of the Cold War, Bosnia, home to Muslims, Serbs, and Croats, ignited. Bosnian Serb forces conducted a campaign of systematic expulsions, rapes, and executions, “ethnically cleansing” Muslims from their midst. UN peacekeepers were on the ground and NATO patrolled the skies, but fearing robust use of air power would endanger UN forces, the international community refused to act. The UN Security Council declared Sarajevo and four other towns in Bosnia “safe areas” for Muslim civilians fleeing Serb paramilitary attacks. In July 1995, Dutch UN peacekeepers watched as Serb forces overran the safe haven of Srebrenica. Serbs executed eight thousand civilian men and boys and bulldozed them into unmarked graves. Passive on the ground, the UN instead became aggressive in court, creating an International Criminal Tribunal–the first since Nuremberg after World War II–to prosecute war crimes throughout the former Yugoslavia.

Rwanda. Throughout the early nineties, Rwandan Tutsi rebels from the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) conducted a series of attacks against the Hutu-dominated Rwandan government from rebel bases along the northern border. On April 6, 1994, one week after U.S. forces withdrew from Somalia, a plane carrying the president of Rwanda was shot down over Kigali and massacres of Tutsis and moderate Hutus began within half an hour. UN peacekeepers withdrew while a radical Hutu militia, the interahamwe, engaged in an orgy of killing over ninety days at a rate three times that of the Holocaust. In the meantime the RPF broke out of Uganda, defeated the Rwandan Army, as well as the interahamwe, and occupied the country. But they were too late to save most Tutsis, and when it was over, 800,000 had been slaughtered. Having failed to intervene in genocide on the ground for the second time in two years, the UN again chose to prosecute it in court instead, creating the second war crimes tribunal since Nuremberg.

Haiti. In September 1994 the U.S. finally sent twenty thousand troops to Haiti in Operation Uphold Democracy, and in October Jean-Bertrand Aristide returned from Washington, reclaiming his presidency. Among the American Troops, twelve hundred U.S. Special Operations Forces operated out of twenty-seven towns and cities to maintain order and suppress paramilitary groups’ antidemocratic activity in the run up to parliamentary elections in the summer of 1995.

Somalia. On March 28, 1994, the U.S. withdrew the last troops of Operation Restore Hope from Mogadishu. The UN stayed on but slowly began to dismantle its sprawling presence.

Bosnia, Haiti, and Liberia, 1996-1998

ECOMOG: Liberia is a beautiful country on the West Coast of Africa founded by freed slaves. Bereft of its U.S. patron at the end of the Cold War, it descended into a civil war characterized by total state collapse and a relentless campaign of sadistic, wanton violence. State authority was consigned to marauding rebels, many still in their teens. Still chastened from Somalia, Clinton and the UN refused to commit troops to Liberia. So peacekeeping responsibility was relegated to an African force not under UN command, known as the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), led by the regional superpower, Nigeria, and including small contingents from West African countries such as Ghana.

SOURCE: Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story from Hell on Earth, by Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson (Miramax Books, 2004), pp. 195-196, 247

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Boxing Day Tsunami, Six Months Later

Macam-macam offers a wide-ranging overview on the state of recovery efforts throughout the worst-affected areas.

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