Australia-based Macam-macam has been doing yeoman work digging up underreported stories from Southeast Asia--something I made a few stabs at before falling into a pattern of excerpting regularly from the books I've been reading. Some recent highlights include: new movement toward peace plans in Aceh (one of the few positive outcomes of the tsunami), Australia's new willingness to split oil and gas revenues with Timor Leste, and possible Burmese military plans for defense in depth.
London-based A Step At a Time has been translating a lot of stories from Russia: about a Finland-Swedish businessman on Chechnya; about a trip to Grozny:
I soon got the jitters. The driver was talking in Chechen, and rather rudely, too, shouting something, waving his hands. Then I understood what the matter was: he was asking who hadn’t paid. It was me, of course. The whole minibus turned round and looked at me as though I were an enemy of the people – by now they had realized that I knew no Chechen.and about campaigning around Russia with Garry Kasparov:
At the end of the last day of our trip they finally let our airplane land in Rostov - so that Kasparov and Co. could hurry off back to Moscow. "Can you believe that only five days and four nights have passed since we left Moscow?" Kasparov asked. "It feels like a month and a half." Most importantly, it was hard to believe that five days ago we were an excited group from Moscow, content, smug, traveling in a chartered plane (by the way, the VIP room in Stavropol we reserved in advance was suddenly closed on the day of our arrival for "failure to conform to regulation"). Now we presented a pathetic picture: exhausted, dressed in clothes ruined by eggs and ketchup.New York City-based Pearsall's Books has been doing an enlightening series of demographic studies, two recent examples being an analysis of census statistics on the ethnic make-up of Young America and a fascinating comparison of two U.S. drug epidemics, crack cocaine and crystal meth. Here's a sample of the latter.
What started out as a local problem on the West Coast has slowly begun to make its way east, with major meth epidemics springing up all throughout the Midwest and the Southeast, particularly in Appalachia, but not yet in the Northeast, at least outside of the gay community, where meth use is now a truly national crisis....
For the most part, the typical meth addict is a member of the white working-class, usually living in rural areas or small towns (hence the occassional nickname of "trailer park crack"). The spread of methamphetamine addiction has led to steep increases in crime rates in many formerly peaceful and safe communities. Meth-related crime has also, in parts of the country, been the main factor behind steep increases in the number of whites going to prison. This can be seen in, among other places, Minnesota and Arkansas, where meth-related crimes have been responsible for a surge in the white prison population, such that for the first time in decades both of these states have white majorities within their corrections systems....
What I find interesting is that, despite the explosion of meth addiction in recent years it seems to have taken far longer than crack in the 1980's to really make an impression on the national consciousness, and it seems to have made little impact on popular culture. I have a couple of ideas as to why this is so. For one thing, it has not really touched the East Coast yet, where most of the news media is based. All of the tv networks are based in New York, as are most of the big news magazines and the most famous paper in the nation, The New York Times. The major media, for the most part, only really focuses on the rest of the country as it needs to, and meth, happening as it does in fairly out-of-the-way places, is not really the sort of story that is easy to tackle from a New York mindset.