November 12, 2007

Rapporteurs, Happiness, and Torture

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the U.N. special rapporteur (it's real, look it up) to Burma visited prisons and other sensitive places in the country, according to the Bangkok Post:

The government claims that only 10 people died in the crackdown. Other sources claim the death toll was closer to 200. Up to 3,000 people were arrested during and after the crackdown, of whom an unknown number remain in jail.

One of Pinheiro's tasks is to verify the number of deaths and detentions, in a country that is notorious for hiding the truth.

Observers said Pinheiro, no stranger to Burma, had planned his itinerary well.

He was allowed to plan his itinerary? The U.N. is clearly interested in following up on this, and the junta is cooperating to some extent. (So let's hold off on the "surgical strikes" and regime change for now.) It's no secret that oil prices continue to rise -- close to $100 a barrel now -- and the Burmese protests started when fuel oil prices hit $72 a barrel. Given that the regime will have no choice but to raise prices again soon, what does this mean? Tough times coming for the Burmese people, basically.

A funny Reuters article on Westerners visiting India and the Dalai Lama by Michele Kambas. (Who was it who said the practice of Asia is Asia?) Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder says Merkel's meeting with the DL was a mistake because it miffed China so much -- "hurt Chinese people's feelings" was the quote. Also, the DL is said to be meeting with Burmese protest leaders in Japan.

The NYT on happiness, amazed that money doesn't bring it:

Most disconcerting, happiness seems to have little relation to economic achievement, which we have historically understood as the driver of well-being. A notorious study in 1974 found that despite some 30 years worth of stellar economic growth, Americans were no happier than they were at the end of World War II. A more recent study found that life satisfaction in China declined between 1994 and 2007, a period in which average real incomes grew by 250 percent.

And from the Harvard Law blog, the (recent) bipartisan history of torture (in the U.S.)

- Philip Ryan, Web Editor

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