Global News Blog
One of the clearest illustrations of “brain gain” in Poland comes from the southern city of Krakow which is experiencing a mini-boom in information technology – at a time when much of Europe’s tech scene is in a windless ocean.
The global reverse migration – turning brain drain to brain gain in many countries – is obvious here: Some 70 IT and multinational firms have opened, employing 20,000 skilled workers – Poles and foreigners alike. Cisco opened in May, and its 90-person staff will soon climb to 500. Google moved an R&D office here. State Street, Capgemeni and Lufthansa, Shell, Brown Brothers, and Philip Morris, to name a few, are all present.
The hopeful call Krakow a small Silicon Valley of Central Europe. And the buzz here is a magnet for brain gain: It’s a small oasis of Polish bohemia with 14 colleges and universities, and a bar-arts-and-film scene, and – not destroyed like Warsaw in World War II – it retains its Austro-Hungarian architectural charm. ( Continue… )
The US presidential campaign kept a laser focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs” that left environmentalists wondering if anyone still cares about the condition of the planet. A remarkable photo essay in the Daily Mail puts the need for economic development versus the preservation of wild places in high relief. Aerial photos of the mining of tar sands in northern Alberta – the world’s third-largest oil reserve – reveal how a landscape of what was once lush green forests, an area larger than England, is being turned into an oily, nightmarish desert.
Boreal forest in Canada is disappearing at a rate second only to that of the deforestation of the Amazon. The operation provides thousands of jobs, huge tax revenues for Canada, and a potential oil supply for the United States from a friendly neighbor. But the photos are a reminder to those who live far from this strip mining of what is being lost. “The tar sands should be classified as an act of ecocide and rendered illegal under international law. This is, in effect, a crime against humanity,” argues one environmentalist.
Where is the environmental proof?
Environmentalists decry how climate change skeptics ignore or try to discredit copious scientific evidence indicating that human-induced climate change is taking place. But environmentalist Fred Pearce says that on other issues the environmental movement needs to make sure it isn’t itself turning a blind eye to scientific evidence.
Many environmentalists strongly oppose genetically modified crops, nuclear power, and shale gas development (so-called fracking) but can’t show solid science to back up their opposition, says Mr. Pearce in an essay at Yale Environment 360, a publication of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “[T]he voices of those with genuine environmental credentials, but who take a different view [on these issues], are being drowned out by sometimes abusive and irrational argument,” he says.
“[T]he environmental movement has done more harm with its opposition to genetic engineering than any other thing we’ve been wrong about,” he quotes Stewart Brand as saying. While many people have a visceral fear of invisible nuclear radiation, nuclear power has a better safety record than many think. Fracking to release natural gas presents significant environmental hazards, but it is far preferable to burning coal, Pearce says, and natural gas can serve as a valuable bridge until the use of alternative fuels can be ramped up.
Kindness found in creatures
Animal lovers have no trouble attributing acts of kindness, selflessness, or compassion to nonhumans. But scientists and philosophers have been skeptical, worrying that these attitudes are one example of “anthropomorphism,” attributing human characteristics to animals or inanimate things.
In an essay titled “The kindness of beasts” in Aeon, a digital magazine of ideas and culture, Mark Rowlands, a professor of philosophy at the University of Miami says, “A growing number of animal scientists, however, are going over to the dark side, and at least flirting with the idea that animals can act morally.”
Among the cases he cites is that of Binti Jua, a gorilla who lived at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago. In 1996 she “came to the aid of a three-year-old boy who had climbed on to the wall of the gorilla enclosure and fallen five meters [15 feet] onto the concrete floor below. Binti Jua lifted the unconscious boy, gently cradled him in her arms, and growled warnings at other gorillas that tried to get close. Then, while her own infant clung to her back, she carried the boy to the zoo staff waiting at an access gate.”
Even lab rats won’t push a lever that delivers food to them if it causes a painful electrical shock to other rats, Mr. Rowlands says.
“When a chimpanzee gives what appears to be a consoling hug to its fellow ... then, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the working hypothesis should be that the chimpanzee is motivated by the same sorts of emotions as a human would be in the same sort of situation,” he says.
We can relieve you of that
Ken Cage had quickly grown tired of being an ordinary “repo man,” taking back cars and TVs from blue-collar folks hit hard by the economic downturn. So he went upscale and decided to take on deadbeat rich folks who had made a killing in finance and real estate but could no longer pay for their expensive toys.
“The Luxury Repo Men,” by Matthew Teague, in Bloomberg Businessweek tells how Mr. Cage and his team have taken back everything from yachts to a $20 million personal jet to a racehorse from the once nouveau riche. The work can be hazardous: Cage and his crew took back a jet from a former pro football player who body-slammed Cage’s pilot when he tried to enter the cockpit.
Cage’s high-end repo company, the International Recovery & Remarketing Group, expects to recover items worth a total of $100 million in 2012. Perhaps his strangest case? Finding a missing 1953 Tri-Pacer airplane. He tracked it down to a steakhouse in Cleveland – where it was hanging from the ceiling.
The people who run the “Wuxi 530” program said they were happy enough to show me around and talk about their work, but they needed permission from the city’s (Communist Party controlled) Foreign Affairs Office.
And that, strangely, was not forthcoming. The Foreign Affairs Office, which oversees city officials’ contacts with foreigners, told my would-be hosts that “it is not suggested to arrange this planned visit in a sensitive moment.” It was “strongly recommended” that I change my schedule.
The “sensitive moment” could only refer to the ruling Communist Party’s 18th Party Congress, even though that meeting was not due to be held for at least a month after my planned visit, and in Beijing, 1,000 kilometers (some 621 miles) away from Wuxi. But I knew from experience that this was not the sort of ruling that you bother to challenge outright, even if it made no apparent sense.
I went to Wuxi anyway, of course. If a reporter in China did only what the authorities suggested he do he would never write anything. I could not meet the people running the returnee program – they would have got into trouble if they had seen me – but I could talk to independent businessmen who had benefited from it.
And it was while I was talking to them that I got an inkling of why, perhaps, city government officials had wanted to keep me out of Wuxi.
Because it transpired that a large proportion of the companies that returnees have set up in Wuxi have failed. And if there is one thing that Chinese officials hate to acknowledge, it is failure.
No matter that large proportions of start-up companies all over the world fail. As many as 40 percent of startups in the United States quickly go bankrupt, according to Harvard Business School research.
The big difference is that in the US this is not a cause for shame, but regarded as a natural result of the risks that small entrepreneurs take. In China it is seen as a reflection – and a poor one – on the officials who sponsored the entrepreneurs.
I could not find out exactly how many of the businesses launched through the Wuxi incentive program had gone bust. The program managers were not allowed to talk to me, and the city government refused to do so. The businessmen with whom I talked suggested, anecdotally, that around half of their peers had given up within a year or two.
This is not surprising to anyone anywhere in the world familiar with the pitfalls of starting a small business. But the official Chinese attitude is indicative of a deeper mindset that may prove an obstacle in the long term to the country’s ambitions to boost innovation by tempting home people with experience abroad.
Cutting-edge scientists and hi-tech entrepreneurs in the US and Europe are accustomed to taking risks, and accustomed to shrugging off initial failure as par for the course. Their funders and their investors share that outlook.
In China, failure implies a shameful loss of face; only in rare circumstances will an official risk it. And that may explain why the very best Chinese scientists, and the very brightest entrepreneurs, are not coming home.
• The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting funded travel in China for this project. Multimedia and reporter blogs about the project can be found on the Pulitzer Center website.
US President Barack Obama’s reelection bid is preoccupying the people in Nyang’oma Kogelo, his Kenyan father’s home village, as challenger Mitt Romney’s run is invigorating Mormons in the East African country.
Mr. Romney’s candidatcy has thrust the Christian group into the spotlight here, with its leaders on Monday unveiling a website called Kenya Mormon Newsroom to help answer questions ignited by the American political process. Leaders say the church maintains a firm political neutrality.
“In the most recent past, questions have been asked about who we are. The reasons is we have a member of the church running as president of the United State of America,” said Elder Hesbon Usi, an official here with the Mormons' Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. “Since people do not have the right source of information and truth they are looking for, a lot tend to go to other websites that are misleading. They get information that is not correct.”
Elder Thomas Hatch, a former Utah state senator who now serves as the church’s deputy director of public affairs for the region, said questions the church has encountered have prompted leaders to share more through a network of websites.
Hatch says Mormons would relish the idea of a Romney presidency, hoping it would bring the church out of obscurity. However, he cautioned that there could be many downsides as well as upsides, since presidents have to make tough decisions.
“If Mr. Romney is seen as a Mormon president, there could be retaliation by other countries against our church and missions,” he says.
Meanwhile, in Nyang’oma Kogelo, the western Kenyan village that is home to the president's step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, the community is organizing daily prayers for Obama, with special prayers reported in churches and mosques. Often gathering in small groups to listen to news and discussions on FM radios from mobile phones, the residents say they have learned Obama was facing a stiff challenge.
“We would like to organize bigger meetings to show support, but we fear the security is not good. Terrorists may attack us because of our Obama links. The threats and attacks in Kenya make use very cautious,” says Vitalis Ogombe, the chairman of a community group called the Obama Kogelo Cultural Committee.
For them, the interest in the American election is driven by pride more than economic or material gains, since Obama is viewed as a grandson there.
“We are proud because we have seen he can make a good global leader. People now know us globally because of him. We are praying that he continues,” says Mr. Ogombe.
But since Obama’s election in 2008, Kogelo can also count material gains. Electricity has been installed in the area and infrastructure improved. Micro-finance organizations and nongovernmental organizations have also moved here to help improve the community’s living standards. The local people say they are better since he became president.
For Jesse Mugambi of the University of Nairobi, America foreign policy on Africa remains the same, irrespective of whoever is the "boss."
“The voters out there will decide what is good for them, and Kenyans will put up with whoever wins. That is what democracy demands,” he says.
Some analysts have also considered an Obama loss. Charles Onyango-Obbo, in an opinion in the Daily Nation today, analyzed why an Obama loss would be good for him and the world.
“Obama has the energy and smarts to be an influential international citizen and non-state actor to join Clinton and Gates as the non-white face at the top of international NGO priesthood. To do that, he has first to lose the election,” wrote Mr. Onyango-Obbo.
IN PICTURES: Campaign photography: the art of standing out
Take me back to the days of carrier pigeons and cleft sticks.
I have just spent an entire day wrestling with my computer and my Internet connection, and I have a strong suspicion that I have been wrestling too, at a distance, with an agent of the Chinese government who has been doing his or her best to frustrate me.
In order to access the Web freely from China, you need what is called a Virtual Private Network, which jumps the Great Firewall erected by Chinese censors. Mine expired the other day, so I needed to re-install it.
That proved unusually difficult, even with online help from the company selling me the VPN, and it became clear that something was just not right.
My suspicions were heightened by the fact that I, like many other journalists, have recently received emails with Trojan horse malware (malicious code that looks like a legitimate file but in fact gives a hacker access to a computer) in their attachments. Cyber analysts who inspected them have warned that the attachments appear to come from state-sponsored hackers.
The last time this happened to me was during the Tibetan riots in 2008, when the authorities were very, very nervous about foreign journalists and began interfering directly with our communications. (That is over and above the normal surveillance to which our emails and phone calls are subject.)
Today we are at another highly sensitive political juncture, 10 days away from the 18th congress of the ruling Communist Party, which is due to anoint a new generation of leaders. But there are signs of a continuing power struggle at the very top of the party, suggesting that the government system is a good deal less stable than Beijing would like us to believe.
There came a moment this afternoon, when the VPN would not install, when a Microsoft update would not install, and when a virus detector would not install, that I came to believe I was in direct contact with my persecutor.
I was on the “Sophos” virus detector’s webpage, seeking to download the tool. Each time I clicked on “download,” I got the standard message when the censors have banned a site: “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage.” But the page itself was not blocked and after a few tries I found I was being cut off even before my cursor reached the “download” button.
It was just as if somebody was watching my screen and interrupting me as I was on the point of doing what I wanted to.
I have no idea how possible this is, but tend to take the advice of my Chinese assistant. “There is nothing a hacker cannot do,” she has decided. “Why don’t you try again when ‘they’ have gone off duty?”
So I’ll be back in the office at midnight, and hope that “they” do not work 24/7…
Some five years after the dawn of the Great Recession, the global economic landscape is still sorting itself out. In a casual survey of the world horizon, Foreign Policy magazine takes stock of winners so far.
Some samples: The net worth of the average Canadian surpassed that of the average American this past summer. (Think real estate.) Poland – not Germany, not Norway – grew 15.8 percent from 2008 to 2011 while the overall economy of the European Union actually shrank slightly. Turkey has become Europe’s biggest carmaker, and family incomes have tripled over the past decade. (Turkey is mostly not in Europe, but that’s a technicality.) South Korea was the first developed country to emerge from the recession. Its manufacturers from Samsung to Hyundai have been conquering global market share, and government R&D spending, already among the highest in the world, was increased. Sweden used the lessons it famously learned surviving a financial crash in 1992 to ride out the 2008 version with low debt levels and strong government finances, and last year it had the fastest-growing economy in Europe after Estonia. (And hey, Go, Estonia!)
But all of these are mere nations, small potatoes compared with the truly global hegemony of those Golden Arches. McDonald’s stock has risen by a factor of five in the last decade, powering right through the recession, notes author Frederick Kaufman in Foreign Policy.
With 33,500 restaurants in 119 countries, the chain is in the process of opening 700 new outlets in China this year alone. To fashionable Americans, the McDonald’s brand signals an obesity epidemic. But, writes Mr. Kaufman, “[t]he sad truth is that in most of the world, the McDonald’s menu doesn’t scream antibiotic-addled livestock and high-cholesterol death diets; instead it whispers of middle-class aspiration.”
Europe’s detached capital
The Great Recession has been a huge setback to the aspirations of the European Union. Its Mediterranean members are especially stressed. But the city of Berlin is looking like another winner. In 1946, barely a quarter of its buildings were habitable. Now, writes Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times, it has become “the de facto capital of the European Union.” Brussels is still the headquarters. “But Berlin is increasingly where the decisions are made.”
This means that Germany is where the money is and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is Europe’s unrivaled power player. Though Germans are now making the financial rules for the EU, Mr. Rachman writes, they tend to be less arrogant than serious-minded, patient, and committed to the European project.
The problem may be that Berlin is pleasant, prosperous, and feels worlds away from the struggles of Greece and Spain, he explains. “That detachment from the rest of the eurozone – rather than any ‘will to power’ – is why Berlin remains a peculiar capital for Europe.”
Location, location, conversation?
Is all of this really about geography – weather, terrain, position on the planet? Author Robert Kaplan argues that ideas and politics get far more credit than they deserve.
In the end, history’s hand is guided by the lay of the land. Mr. Kaplan’s book “The Revenge of Geography” is reviewed by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker. Kaplan argues for the influential role of the desert in the Iraq war, water sources in Middle East politics, the marshes that protected Venice in the Middle Ages, the historic German drive for territory to grow, Russia’s exposure to invading hordes from the east, Afghanistan’s field position in the Great Game of Central Asian commerce.
All interesting, but ultimately Mr. Gopnik isn’t buying it. “Once, the sight of a Viking prow coming down a river was as terrifying a sight as any European could imagine. Now the Scandinavian countries are perhaps the most pacific in the world. Whatever changed, it wasn’t the shape of Scandinavia.” Rather, it was the shape of Scandinavian civilization. “Conversation shapes us more than mountains and monsoons can.”
Let students grade the teachers
Most agree that a key to prosperity is the quality of education, and a key to education is the quality of teachers. But how do we know who the good teachers are? That question is politically fraught. But it turns out that we may have been making it too hard. Amanda Ripley in The Atlantic probes research on one simple strategy: Ask the kids.
With stunning consistency, it turns out that students as young as 5 can answer questions about their teachers that assess the effectiveness of teachers more reliably than any other measure.
The right questions matter. This is not a popularity contest like the rate-the-professor websites at colleges. The questions that track successful teachers ask whether students in class behave, respect the teacher, stay busy and don’t waste time, learn a lot almost every day, and learn to correct their mistakes. Some school districts are trying out such surveys. What matters, in the end, is what they do with that information.
Much ink has been spilled over the breezy incompetence of the Bush administration’s post-invasion management of Iraq – some of it by then-Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks. But the civilian leadership was not the whole problem, argues Mr. Ricks.
In The Atlantic, he argues that the ineptitude of the Army’s generals themselves is part of the picture. He contrasts the current culture of mediocrity in the most senior ranks to the culture of accountability during World War II. Then, failing generals were quickly relieved of duty, and that happened often. It almost never happens any more, and not for lack of incompetent generals, in Ricks’ view. In the Iraq war, there was never really a strategic plan or a grasp of the nature of the war the US was fighting, he writes. And the generals who should be providing that strategic view were busy micromanaging and thinking tactically like sergeants.
The good news, ironically, is that the “tactical excellence” of enlisted soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have given some cover to the “strategic incompetence” of their general officers.
The Syrian cease-fire pegged to the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha has put the annual observance in the spotlight, bringing it to non-Muslims attention for reasons that have nothing to do with the holiday. But the “Feast of the Sacrifice” is one of the most important holidays on the Muslim calendar, actually trumping the better known festival holiday Eid al-Fitr in importance.
Eid al-Adha is celebrated at the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, or hajj, which each Muslim is supposed to undertake once in his or her life. It is welcomed at daybreak on the first day with a communal prayer and lasts three days.
The holiday commemorates the day when Abraham was commanded by Allah to sacrifice his son, Ishmael. Abraham’s willingness to obey led Allah to permit him to sacrifice a ram in his son’s stead. (In the Judeo-Christian recounting, it is Abraham’s other son, Isaac, who is almost sacrificed.)
Eid al-Adha is celebrated with the sacrifice of an animal, part of which is kept for the family for a feast, part of which is distributed to friends and the poor. It also includes the distribution of gifts and sweets, visits with family, and, for those not in Mecca for the hajj, visits to local mosques and relatives’ graves.
Today, much like Christmas, Eid al-Adha is also often marked in commercial ways. Gulf News reports that Dubai shopping malls are holding 24-hour “shopping extravaganzas” in honor of the festival holiday.
Incompatible with modernity?
In this video interview with StandAloneMedia (scroll to bottom of page), Reza Aslan, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of California, Riverside, and author of "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam," shares his views on the misperceptions that abound about Muslims, modernity, and democracy.
Russian officials claim they are tired of being criticized by the US government for Russia's alleged human rights abuses, democratic deficiencies, and systemic inadequacies, in many cases from a standpoint that's less than objective, often ignorant of cultural relativities, and sometimes downright hypocritical.
So, the Russian Foreign Ministry, at the behest of Russia's State Duma, has decided to give the United States a blast of its own medicine – and, its main author claims, hopefully spark a dialogue – by issuing a well-documented 50-page report on the state of civil rights, electoral democracy, and judicial independence, among other things, inside the US.
It's a professionally written report, based largely on the work of US nongovernment and academic sources, that covers a gamut of social problems that will mostly be familiar to any well-informed American. But the Russian purpose, argues its main author Konstantin Dolgov, is not necessarily to tell Americans anything new but to urge them to change their angle of view and learn to do without the harsh judgements that he sees lurking behind many official US pronouncements on Russia.
"Nobody likes to be hectored," Mr. Dolgov says. "We are a young democracy. We have our problems, but we also have serious achievement that we hope won't be overlooked."
Dolgov, the Foreign Ministry's special representative for human rights, insists it's not an attempt to copy the US State Department's annual reports on human rights around the world, but simply an effort to broaden the conversation by inviting Americans to see that they have plenty of problems in their own country, and should deal with them before lecturing to others.
"They criticize and judge everyone except themselves. We think the US should not try to monopolize the role of leader, teacher, and mentor in the field of human rights," Mr. Dolgov says. "If they want to do this, they should be aware that they are also being monitored."
Dolgov says Russia isn't judging the US, or denying that it's an established democratic state, just that Americans should be aware that they're living in a glass house.
"Nobody is rejecting the historic accomplishments of the US, but at the same time they should be aware that serious problems continue to exist, and some of them are growing," he says.
His preference would be for the US and Russia to discuss differences behind closed doors, in intergovernmental committees that already exist but have fallen into disuse, such as the US-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission.
As for human rights violations in Russia, that's not his department, he says. The Kremlin has a human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, who deals with domestic matters and produces annual reports of his own.
The idea of trying to induce Americans to look at their own country through the same kind of critical paradigm that their government and media subjects Russia to, was a standard – if spectacularly unsuccessful – method of the former Soviet propaganda machine. But under Vladimir Putin it's back in vogue, with Russians feeling this time that American perceptions of their country are truly unfair. The Kremlin spends vast amounts of money on Russia Today, or RT, an English-language satellite news network with studios in Washington, D.C., and an assertively alternative approach to news coverage of the US and the world.
The official US response to Dolgov's report, expressed by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland Tuesday, was: Bring it on.
"[The US] is an open book, and we have plenty of nongovernmental organizations of our own that make assessments about our human rights and that represent to the government what they think needs to be done," Ms. Nuland said. "So from that perspective, whether it’s a US NGO watchdog or whether it’s an international watchdog, bring it on."
The Russian report details several different types of discrimination in the US (though, perhaps tellingly, it makes no mention of abuses against LGBT persons), as well as racial profiling, police brutality, Internet censorship, capital punishment, attempts to disenfranchise minorities, violence and abuse within the prison system, and rising right-wing extremism.
It slams the US for "extrajudicial" killings abroad in the drone war, by US forces in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, for CIA "renditions" and "black sites" in other countries, and for keeping suspects incarcerated "perpetually and without charges" at the Guantánamo Bay facility.
The US is also criticized for failing to sign and ratify a raft of international treaties and conventions on human rights; the report lists 17 such documents going back 80 years.
It also veers into Soviet-style criticisms that will sound contentious to many Americans. For example, it cites high unemployment, rising poverty, and growing social inequality in the same context as alleged government abuses. But economic unfairness is widely perceived in the US as a consequence of the free-market system and, however unpleasant, not akin to human or civil rights violations.
It's also all a bit rich coming from officials of a country whose own human rights record has been deteriorating rapidly in recent months, and which was just cited in Credit Suisse's prestigious annual Global Wealth Report as the country with the greatest wealth inequality in the entire world.
"It's understandable that every country wants to look good," says Dmitry Oreshkin, head of the Mercator Group, a private Moscow-based political consultancy.
"But our authorities, surrounded by a sea of problems, are trying to shift the accent to other issues, preferably how bad the US is. To divert public attention from persistent evidence of electoral fraud in Russia, why not switch their attention to all the awful violations that occur during elections in the US?"
In last night's US presidential debate on foreign policy, Mitt Romney once again stated his belief that Russia was a "geopolitical foe" of the US, echoing similar comments he made in March of this year.
When he has accused Russia of being a "geopolitical foe" in the past, Moscow reacted with confusion and irritation, but little expectation of a change in US-Russian relations.
Mr. Romney first called Russia "our No. 1 geopolitical foe" during the Republican primaries in March, soon after an open mic caught President Barack Obama asking Russia's then-President Dmitry Medvedev to dial back their objections to US missile defense plans until after the November elections, when "I'll have more flexibility." ( Continue… )
Activists in South Korea claimed victory today in their battle to launch tens of thousands of balloons carrying propaganda material to North Korea.
The activists, almost all defectors from North Korea, said they had to skirt South Korean policemen blocking them from their intended launch site and drive to a much less conspicuous site 20 miles south of the border village of Imjingak, the historical tourist area from which they had earlier planned to launch the balloons.
The activists had chosen Imjingak, which includes a Buddhist shrine, a peace bell, and memorials to those who died in the Korean War, because it is a highly visible site where they could obtain maximum publicity. Local residents objected, however, after North Korea promised “merciless strikes” on the area, several miles south of the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas.
The alternative site was on Ganghwa Island, at the mouth of the Han River about 30 miles northwest of Seoul. North Korea’s barren countryside is clearly visible on the other side.
The activists said they avoided policemen in their quest for a new launch site, but left the impression that authorities wanted to let them launch their balloons after having put on an appearance of frustrating their first plan. If the police had really wanted to stop them, one analyst noted anonymously, they would have followed them closely and set up new roadblocks.
There were no signs today of any North Korean effort to fire on the site from which balloons laden with about 120,000 leaflets on human rights abuses and dynastic rule under new leader Kim Jong-un were launched. The balloons, wafted northward on wind currents, also dropped off assorted other items – including dollar bills, candy bars, and socks.
Free North Korea Radio, one of several short-wave stations operated by activists that broadcasts from here into North Korea, carried several news stories announcing and then justifying the launch.
“We are keeping our promise to the public,” said a statement on the station’s website. “For the love of our brothers and sisters in North Korea, we cannot postpone this launch.”