Ecuador: Voters Approve a New Constitution

Ecuador has a new constitution: Front page rom La Hora in Quito

CSM: “Ecuador votes to lock in its shift to the left”

The overwhelming approval by Ecuadoreans of a new Constitution that gives leftist President Rafael Correa a tighter grip on the economy puts the country firmly on a socialist track similar to Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela.

“Today Ecuador decided to found a new country,” Mr. Correa said Sunday after nearly 70 percent of Ecuadoreans voted for the new charter. “The old power structures have been defeated.”

With the passage of the new Constitution, Ecuador became the first country after Venezuela in the region to institutionalize its leftward shift, says Larry Birns, director of the Council of Hemispheric Affairs in Washington.

“This is a lurch to the left on the part of Correa,” he says.

AP: “Ecuador has new constitution; opposition worried”

Ecuador’s leftist President Rafael Correa urged his opponents Monday to join his efforts to build a more just society, saying the overwhelming victory of his constitutional referendum gives him a broad mandate.

“Thank God my triumph was so convincing and so crushing, beyond all our expectations,” he told international reporters at a breakfast. “Let’s hope they reflect and let the country advance peacefully.”

With 90 percent of ballots counted, 64 percent of Ecuadorean voters approved the measure, according to official results. Correa got the majority he needed in all but two of Ecuador’s 24 provinces.

The 20th constitution in the history of this chronically unstable nation considerably broadens Correa’s powers and will let him run for two more consecutive terms, consolidating what he calls a citizen’s revolution.

NY Times: “President Wins Support for Charter in Ecuador”

Ecuador’s president, the leftist Rafael Correa, won easy approval of a new Constitution on Sunday that enhances his power in the chronically unstable Andean country while introducing a range of other measures, including raising pension payments for the poor and prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Following a huge spending campaign by Mr. Correa’s government, voters approved the Constitution by 63 percent to 29 percent, according to early unofficial returns.

The victory reflects festering resentment against Ecuador’s traditional political class and hopes that Mr. Correa, an American-educated economist, can broaden the reach of antipoverty programs. Repeated economic crises in Ecuador have prompted more than 10 percent of the population to emigrate.

And finally, Andes scholar Miguel Centellas has some interesting observations here and here.

Image credit: yesterday’s front page from La Hora newpaper in Quito. Via the Newseum’s Today’s Front Pages feature.


61 Floors, the Hard Way: the Banyan Tree Vertical Marathon

[not my image] Vertigo Rooftop Bar, Banyan Tree, Bangkok

Yesterday my friends S and J and I participated in the 10th annual Banyan Tree vertical marathon here in Bangkok. The rules of the contest were as follows:

1. Sprint up the stairs to the top of the 61-floor hotel.

2. Go as fast as you can.

3. There is no rule three. Just run!

And I did just that. More or less. I ran up the first 10 floors and then I realized that there was no way in hell that I could maintain that pace for 51 more floors. So the rest of my ascent amounted to light jogging and brisk walking. But I didn’t stop.

I made it to the top in 11 minutes and 23 seconds, which was good enough for 184th place out of 513 participants. I finished 79th out of 159 in my category (men between the ages of 26 and 39). Here are the official results. The winning racer made it up in 6:19!

I was happy with my showing, given the fact that I didn’t train for the event. S and J, who also went in blind, did really well — they each managed top-15 finishes in their categories. (We ran separately.)

The race concluded at the Banyan Tree’s aptly-named rooftop bar, Vertigo, pictured above. Considering that it was 8 a.m., and given the state of our cardiovascular systems, we had water, not cocktails, to celebrate finishing. And then we took the elevator down.


Best Magazine Covers of 2008

Here are some of the best magazine covers of 2008.

(Via Kottke.)


American Friends Abroad: Vote Absentee

American friends who live abroad: don’t forget to register to vote or request an absentee ballot for the fast-approaching presidential election. Most states close registration in early Oct., and forms must be mailed in via snail mail. Go to the easy-to-use Federal Voting Assistance Program site for more info.

(This PSA has been paid for and endorsed by me, Newley Purnell, firm believer in participatory democracy.)


Subprime, the Credit Crisis, and Naked Short Selling

For an in-depth explanation of the subprime crisis — which has now, of course, led to the current chaos involving mortgage-backed securities — look no further than “The Giant Pool of Money.” That’s the name of a special, hour-long episode produced by This American Life and NPR News. The show aired back in May and has been widely praised. From the show notes:

We explain it all to you. What does the housing crisis have to do with the turmoil on Wall Street? Why did banks make half-million dollar loans to people without jobs or income? And why is everyone talking so much about the 1930s? It all comes back to the Giant Pool of Money.

I also suggest checking out the Sept. 12 episode of TAL. In the second part of that show, called “Enforcers,” producer Alex Blumberg looks the SEC’s decision to ban naked short selling. (Related: NPR recently launched Planet Money, a new podcast devoted to financial issues.)


Incredible Photos from India

Don’t miss “Scenes from India,” from the Boston Globe’s exceptional photo blog.

Number 19 — the pic of the Bengal tiger being returned to the wild — is one of my favorites. Number 24, the shot of the human pyramid, is also incredible.

(My own meager attempts to make compelling photos in India can be found here and here.)


“Visitors from Another Planet”

Photos of tourists in Washington, DC during the 1980s. I love it. For so many reasons.

(Via World Hum.)


Thailand Update: Samak Out, State of Emergency Lifted

Thailand Protests: Bangkok, September 2008

It’s been less than a week since I last wrote about the protests here in Bangkok.

A lot has happened since then.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has been forced from office. Thailand’s Constitutional Court found him guilty of breaking the law by continuing to host his TV cooking show. At first, Samak’s political party, the PPP, said they’d re-nominate him for PM. Then parliament met on Friday to vote on the matter, but coalition parties and even some PPP MPs boycotted the vote. So word trickled out, late on Friday, that the PPP would nominate someone different for the post. Samak is now out.

Meanwhile, the state of emergency has been lifted here in Bangkok. And the parliament is due to meet this week to vote on a new PM. (The caretaker PM, interestingly enough, is now the PPP’s Somchai Wongsawat, brother in law of…Thaksin Shinawatra.)

If you’d like to see some images of the protests, here are 35 photos I’ve just posted from my visits to Government House. Demonstrators are now occupying the compound for a third week.

Here’re the latest headlines:

AP: “Thailand lifts emergency, citing drop in tourism”

AFP: “Thailand lifts state of emergency”

NY Times/IHT: “Drop in Thai tourism leads to plea for end to crisis”

Bloomberg: “Thailand Votes on Premier This Week After Emergency Rule Lifted”

WSJ: “Thailand’s Ruling Party Abandons Bid for Samak”


Thai PM Quits (for now) Over Cooking Show


Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled Tuesday that the country’s prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, should resign from his post for violating the constitution by hosting a TV cooking show while in office.

Tuesday’s ruling against Sundaravej, who has faced weeks of violent street protests, also forces the resignation of his cabinet.

Ministers are barred from working for private companies, and Samak’s opponents filed the case hoping that a conviction will compel him to step down.

In theory, analysts say, Samak can return as prime minister in days — if the ruling coalition nominates him again and a parliament vote is taken.

As ever, for more info, I suggest The Nation, the Bangkok Post, and Bangkok Pundit.


What I’ve Been Reading

Okay. I’ll be writing more about the political situation here in Bangkok next week. But for now, let’s move on to this: Conundrums solved by MacGyver. North Korean agitprop. And dope raps about supercolliders.

Here’s a list of some links that have caught my eye over the past fortnight.

Storyboard: a profile of a profile of Charlie Kaufman

An almost-real-time, behind-the-scenes look at the assigning, writing, editing, and designing of a Wired feature.

Large Hadron Rap

…a rap about CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Some are calling it the greatest physics rap of all time.

Tales From the Cellphone Tour

Most people take a vacation to get away from their jobs. Cyriac Roeding took a vacation for his job.

Instead of relaxing on a beach, Roeding — a mobile technology expert and enthusiast — took a ’round-the-world odyssey to see how the rest of the world uses cellphones.

Monitoring the Future of Newspapers

A professor of mine used to say – a tad cryptically, I thought – that “history doesn’t happen at the same time in the same place.” Similarly, the Armani-clad “futurists” who haunt the corridors of Fortune 500 companies are fond of quoting William Gibson’s apothegm that “The future is here. It is just not evenly distributed.”

One place where the future remains unevenly distributed is the newspaper business. The country’s most successful dailies are enduring draconian cutbacks in personnel and coverage. Some of the also-rans are disappearing altogether. What no one knows is: What will the newspaper of the future look like? Maybe it will look like The Christian Science Monitor.

National Explainer: A Job for Journalists on the Demand Side of News

This American Life’s great mortgage crisis explainer, The Giant Pool of Money, suggests that “information” and “explanation” ought to be reversed in our order of thought. Especially as we contemplate new news systems.

Photo Essay: North Korean Propaganda Posters

“When provoking a war of aggression, we will hit back, beginning with the US!”

China Defends Its Reviled Soccer Team

The Olympic Games have shown that sports and national pride are still tightly intertwined, and perhaps nowhere more so than in the minds of Chinese leaders.

The evidence is indisputable: the more than $40 billion spent on the Games, the record haul of 51 gold medals by Chinese athletes, the invitations to 80 world leaders to attend the opening ceremony.

Now, the government is taking a step to shore up the reputation of that most dubious of national sports icons: the men’s soccer team.

And last but not least:

List of problems solved by MacGyver

This is a list of problems that have been solved by the fictional character MacGyver from the television series of the same name. (This list is not yet comprehensive.) MacGyver employs his resourcefulness and his knowledge of chemistry, physics, technology, and outdoorsmanship to resolve what are often life or death crises. He spontaneously creates inventions from simple items to solve these problems. These inventions became synonymous with the character and were called MacGyverisms by fans. MacGyverisms became a distinct motif of the series. MacGyver was unlike secret agents in other television series and films because he carried only a Swiss Army knife and duct tape, instead of relying on high-tech weapons and tools.