Choco-Pies: The various KIC working groups and subcommittees have begun meeting and a key item on the agenda is the allowable Choco Pie distribution limit. With hiring and pay practices tightly regulated, firms operating at KIC had resorted to using rations of these Moon Pie knock-offs, which double as a parallel currency outside the KIC gates, as a means of recruiting and retaining workers. Back in November 2011, North Korean authorities brokered an agreement among South Korean firms to limit Choco-Pie bonuses with the intent of restraining wages. Contrary to some news reports, the current discussions on limiting Choco Pie bonuses are nothing new—they are simply updating the November 2011 employers’ agreement. Another reason why we need unions in KIC.
China: Through the first eight months of the year, bilateral trade between North Korea and China was basically flat. North Korean exports of minerals (particularly coal) have increased in volume terms, but this has been offset by falling prices–an ongoing source of vulnerability for the North.
Iran: Back in May, Steph Haggard had a post in which he bemoaned the policy of the US government prohibiting American owned scientific journals from accepting submissions from Iranian scholars employed by the Iranian government or associated entities (which could be interpreted broadly to include the university system): “this is a pointless and gratuitous sanction. If there is anyone we want to connect with in Iran, North Korea, and other disconnected countries, it is precisely those seeking to communicate with the reality-based universe. Beating up the intellectuals is not what we should be doing; we should be taking every opportunity to engage them.” This past week we received a copy of a letter Elsevier’s lawyers have sent to the Treasury asking for review and clarification of their broad interpretation of this rule. The problem, of course, is that the Treasury officials have been furloughed. Maybe while they’re sitting at home they can watch “The Iran Job.”
Jazz: At the risk of wandering off-topic (when has that ever stopped me?) Brooks Spector passed along notice of an 8 October event in Cape Town which regrettably we were not able to flag before it occurred (my bad): the re-launch of the Chris McGregor biography, Chris McGregor and the Brotherhood of Breath, written by the late pianist and composer’s widow, Maxine McGregor, and re-issued by Rhodes University Press. McGregor, as you will recall, was a member of the Blue Notes, a band basically forced into exile by the apartheid-era South African government. If you’ve run out of books like Witness to Transformation about North Koreans forced out of their country by a repressive government to give to your loved ones for birthdays and Christmas, consider a book about a South African forced out of his country by a repressive government.
Rasheed Wallace: As part of our ongoing Rodman Roster contest (and don’t forget its companion, the Dennis Rodman “Starting Five Dictators, Living or Dead” contest), I used my penultimate roster pick to select Rasheed Wallace. Not that I thought that Ambassador R could actually recruit ‘Sheed to play in Pyongyang, but just that I started laughing every time I thought of him trying to yell at refs in Korean. Maybe Worm foreign policy adviser Dan Pinkston could teach him “Ball don’t lie!” in Korean on the flight in from Beijing. Anyway, breaking news out of Detroit, which still has a surplus of feral pooches, is that the Pistons have hired ‘Sheed as a coach. That’s right, folks, Rasheed Wallace is going to be supplying adult supervision!
(OK, for readers who are completely mystified by the above paragraph, Rasheed Wallace is a retired American basketball player who at one time led the National Basketball Association in technical fouls (i.e. fouls given for unsportsmanlike behavior). He is most famous for yelling “Ball don’t lie!” when an opponent would miss the free throw awarded after what he considered a poor call by the referee. “Ball don’t lie!”—a sort of cosmic proof of the correctness of Rasheed’s position. Anyway, he as always struck me as a decent, if misunderstood, guy, and it should be noted that in the infamous brawl in Detroit instigated by Ron Artest (aka Metta World Peace–we appreciate irony here at Witness to Transformation), Rasheed is clearly a peacemaker, wading into the crowd to break up the fighting. An analysis of his technical fouls indicates that the majority were assessed for his overly demonstrative objections to what he regarded as bad calls against teammates—not pleading his own case. I am not a hater.)
Anyhow, if ‘Sheed is coaching, he ain’t going to Pyongyang. But then that opens up a roster slot for Bill Laimbeer, who Worm can trade for Kenneth Bae.