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Misc.

So much to link to, so little time

Lots of good Economist and WSJ stuff to link to, and so little time. But here goes:

  • A fantastic Thailand story from the WSJ: “How to Make a Croc Look Cuddly: Paint It Like a Panda; Bears From China Are a Hit in Thailand, Prompting Makeovers of Local Animals.” Contains a wonderful image of a baby croc painted like a panda.
  • The Economist has a good story about Iran’s growing influence in Latin America: “Iran and Latin America: Ayatollahs in the backyard.” Ecuador watchers won’t want to miss this snippet:

    To see how Iran’s foreign policy works in smaller, ideologically sympathetic Latin American countries, take Ecuador—a country that has such dire problems raising money after defaulting on its debt that it can easily be swayed by cash from foreign governments. Ecuador is thinking of joining Nicaragua and Venezuela in recognising the independence of the breakaway Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the hope of getting Russian government loans.

    This month an Iranian delegation was in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, to discuss loans for hydroelectric power plants, one of the 25 bilateral agreements signed when Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s president, visited Iran last year. Ecuador badly needs the plants: it was forced to start rationing power this month.

  • And speaking of the Andes, here’s the WSJ on what appears to be Bolivian President Evo Morales’s re-election: “Evo Morales Appears to Win Bolivia Vote; Second Term Expected to Bring More Ambitious Economic Changes; Ruling Party Poised to Take Over Senate
  • And finally, the Economist has an obit for Thai PM Samak Sundaravej, whose passing I mentioned earlier.

More soon. Don’t think the draw for World Cup 2010 has escaped my attention…

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Misc.

Bolivian voters approve a new constitution

Bolivian voters have approved a new constitution designed to empower the country’s indigenous people, who make up a majority of the Andean nation.

The new constitution also allows president Evo Morales, who was elected in 2005, to run for another five year term. The new document will replace the 1967 charter.

You can find more info in stories from AFP (“Bolivians approve sweeping constitutional reforms,”), the New York Times (“Bolivians Ratify New Constitution“), and CNN (“Bolivian vote on constitution could help president“). Bolivia expert Miguel Centellas has also been blogging on the subject.

I’m interested in Andean politics because I spent 2003 living in Ecuador. And I was in Bolivia during the fall of 2003, when president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (a k a “Goni”), was forced to resign amid the Bolivian gas conflict. (Morales would take office just two years later.)

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Misc.

Official: Morales assassination plot foiled

CNN has this brief item: “Official: Plot to kill Bolivian president foiled

A top Bolivian government official said Monday that the country’s intelligence services had uncovered a plot to assassinate President Evo Morales..

“A few weeks ago, the state organizations of intelligence received information about plans in relation to an assassination, and that those plans came from the far-right opposition,” Minister of Government Alfredo Rada told reporters in La Paz.

Rada said the plan was to be carried out by an indigenous person while Morales was in a crowd.

Wire accounts of the story are pretty limited so far, but you can monitor the story via Google News.

UPDATE: I suspect that Bolivia watcher Miguel Centellas will weigh in on this at some point. And you can search Twitter for news, as well.

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Misc.

StateStats: Analyzing Google search patterns

Now that the airports have re-opened here in Thailand ((The latest news from Bangkok: The revered Thai King — the world’s longest reigning monarch — failed to deliver his annual birthday eve speech on Thursday. There was a huge amount of anticipation regarding his remarks, as he was expected to weigh in on the ongoing Bangkok protests. The King, who turned 81 yesterday, was apparently too ill to speak. And yesterday, exiled prime minster Thaksin Shinawatra’s ex-wife returned to the country. For an overview of the situation in Thailand, I suggest this recent AP story: “Travelers leave behind a Thailand still in crisis“)), I wanted to point out an intriguing tool: StateStats.

The site allows you to compare Google search patters for various US states; the terms are also linked with other demographic data ((But take the demographic info with a grain of salt. From the site: “Be careful drawing conclusions from this data. For example, the fact that walmart shows a moderate correlation with “Obesity” does not imply that people who search for ‘walmart’ are obese! It only means that states with a high obesity rate tend to have a high rate of users searching for walmart, and vice versa…”))

Some search terms that caught my eye include:

Thailand
Thailand (popular in Hawaii)
Thai cuisine (big on the west coast)

Food
In searching for Southern food, I noticed that fried chicken is a popular search term in the south, as is pecan pie. And it’s no surprise to note that South Carolina is the clear winner in searches for grits, shrimp and grits, and Frogmore stew ((Here’s more info on Frogmore Stew.)). On the other hand, vegan is a popular query in Oregon and Vermont.

Media and the Internet
The Wire is a popular search term in Maryland (the show is based in Baltimore), while Sopranos is big in New Jersey, New York, and surrounding states. Various Web/tech-related search terms, meanwhile, are especially popular in the West and in New York. Twitter is big in the Pacific region, in New England, and in Texas (though the more generic microblogging is huge in California, as is WordPress); Flickr is big on the West coast and in New York; and Tumblr is especially popular in New York.

Misc.
Other terms worth a look: Soccer is a popular term in the Northeast, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington, while Real Madrid and Barcelona are both popular terms in California and Virginia. And in other long-running football (soccer) derbies, Virginia is also prominent: check out River Plate and Boca Juniors.

Dogs are big in the south and mid-west, while cats are extremely popular in New Hampshire. Saab is also a popular term in New England, while Volvo is a popular query on both coasts.

Searches for some of the Andean nations reflect an interesting pattern: Bolivia is a popular term in Virginia and Florida, while Ecuador is big in New York and the mid-Atlantic. (New York is home to many Ecuadorian immigrants.)

And, last but not least, Newley (pictured above) is a popular search term in New York, Texas, and California. ((I suspect that these are not searches for newley.com, but for Anthony Newley. Or perhaps they’re misspellings of the adverb newly.))

(StateStats link via Kottke, where you can find a list of other revealing queries.)

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Misc.

“Thaksin to receive award from Bolivian president”

Today’s Bangkok Post has this strange story: Thaksin to receive award from Bolivian President

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales was considering giving Thailand’s deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra the Order of Simon Bolivar after he aided Thai people in the grass-root level, improved their living conditions, and settled the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.

Mr Thaksin was scheduled to receive the award at Plaza Murillo in Bolivia’s La Paz.

In addition, President Morales was expected to approach former premier Thaksin to become his advisor to overcome the economic problems in Bolivia.

The award was named after Simon Bolivar, a historical figure who freed many South American countries from Spanish rule.

I was going to bold certain sections that seemed especially odd. But then I’d just be highlighting the entire article…