Thursday, June 28, 2007

U.S. has a new secret weapon against North Korea

Why Kim Jong-il came back to the bargaining table


Throughout the history of North Korea, the U.S. government has been at odds with its two leaders, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. George W. Bush called the rogue state a part of his "Axis of Evil" in a speech delivered in 2002, to which dear old Kim flagrantly snubbed his nose and shrugged it off. A policy of appeasement was not working, so the United States had to come up with another plan. Nothing deterred Kim and he continued to shoot off his mouth and missiles. A puzzling question that continued to linger and haunt America and most of the world was, what does North Korea have to offer? Anything? Consumer goods? Technology? Medicine? Anything at all? Well, no, nothing of a positive nature stands out. Instead, we see a regime that sells missiles, but is it enough to finance a country where the ruling party lives in splendor while the rest of its population starves? How was it able to finance trade deficits without access to international capital markets? After all, they don't sell enough weapons to stay afloat. The country is in economic chaos and ruin and in default of its debt.

There is a simple answer: crime. North Korea exports counterfeit cigarettes, illicit drugs, weapons and counterfeit "superdollars" to name a few. The list is long and profit margins are high. What could be done to stop it all and shut off the flow of cash rolling in? The answer came in as a surprise: the Department of the Treasury. Here was the new secret weapon.

Think of the regime of North Korea as the Mafia and how it is organized in a similar fashion. Since the early days of organized crime, the area where it has been most vulnerable has been finances. Several officials of the Treasury and State departments formed a group called the Illicit Activities Initiative and kept a close watch on North Korea's racketeering. It began to blossom as the Secret Service added its resources and hundreds of Executive branch officials and over a dozen foreign governments chimed in. The Bush administration learned how Kim Jong-il was living high on the hog.

A Treasury official by the name of Juan Sarate, now a national security adviser, found a relatively unknown provision of the Patriot Act, Section 311, that ultimately turned into a mushroom cloud vastly larger than any bomb North Korea could set off and it reverberated around the world, unleashing a plethora of problems for Kim Jong-il.

Section 311 amended the Bank Secrecy Act and gave the Treasury Department the power to designate suspect foreign banks as "institutions of primary money laundering concern." Consequently, Treasury required U.S. banks to impose measures designed to cut those institutions off from the U.S. banking system.

It focused on one bank in particular, Banco Delta Asia (BDA) in Macau, as a mecca of illicit North Korean activity. In September of 2005, it found the bank to be of "primary money laundering concern" and authorized a formal proceeding against it. The Treasury announcement was timed to increase pressure and coerce North Korea to return to the six-party talks, which were then deadlocked. A few days later, the North Koreans proudly stated it would fully denuclearize in exchange for economic aid and normal relations. Holy kimchi! What happened?

Well, it seems the very next day after the Treasury announcement, there was a run on the bank. Depositors withdrew over $40 million, and like a tsunami, it wiped out the entire money reserve. Fearing a collapse of that and other banks, the government of Macau took over BDA and froze over $25 million held in several dozen accounts that had North Korea written all over them. Then, the whole thing spiraled out of control and Kim Jong-il's problems began to soar higher than his best missile.

Without any nudging from the Macanese authorities, the Bank of China froze many of its accounts related to North Korea. Soon, banks around the world thought they could suffer the same fate by a quick note from Treasury and began to stifle or close existing accounts. They also refused North Korea's requests to take on new business.

In the aftermath, an extremely angered Kim Jong-il walked out of the six-party talks and for more than a year he refused to return unless the BDA problem was resolved. Meanwhile, the north began test-firing ballistic missiles again and set off a nuclear warhead. Throughout this ordeal, North Korea made demands to State Department Undersecretary Christopher Hill, who leads the U.S. delegation at the talks, to which he basically responded, "Hey, I work for State. I can't answer for Treasury. Not my yob, man." Besides, once the whole mess hit the entire world, there was no stopping it. Pyongyang could not understand that the Treasury Department could not undo what the rest of the free world market had done.

In December of 2006, Treasury deputy assistant secretary Daniel Glaser met with the North Koreans and Pyonyang agreed to return to the six-party talks and by mid-February they agreed to cease operations at their Yongbyon reactor and allow IAEA inspectors in exchange for economic aid and a U.S. promise to fix the BDA issue. Many conservative pundits squawked in outrage, but was it really a concession? By mid-March, Treasury issued a final ruling that stated BDA to be of "primary money laundering concern." It was blunt: "BDA Cut Off From US Financial System."

The North Koreans blew up. Their accounts had to be unfrozen, period! "What are we to do?" Treasury responded. "We're not the ones who froze your accounts." The Macanese authorities had done that and Macau falls under Chinese control. North Korea demanded that the U.S. help them gain access to their money. On April 10, the American response was:

Based on previous discussions with the Chinese, Macanese, and DPRK officials, as well as understandings reached with the DPRK on the use of these funds, the United States would support a decision by the Macau authorities to unblock the account in question.

Macau promptly unfroze the $25 million, but another problem loomed: North Korea couldn't do anything with it. No bank in the world was willing to take wired transfers of funds allegedly connected to criminal activity, not risking the wrath of the U.S. Treasury.

The U.S. Treasury became the best weapon America could muster against North Korea and the fallout has been irreversible in its effects. Rogue states beware. Our dollar bites harder than yours. With international securities regulations in place, globalization will guarantee that, in order to maintain a stable and reliable investment climate. North Korea found out the hard way and guess who is bailing them out? We should pay them in counterfeit won.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Coming Out" to Oakland?

After reading George Will's op-ed piece, "Speech police riding high in California" about Oakland, California's ban on the terms "natural family," "marriage" and "family values" in the government's open e-mail system and on the employee bulletin board, I felt compelled to write the mayor, Ron Dellums, via e-mail, to ask him a few questions. I will ask him here, where I don't have to worry about any legal ramifications for interfering with Oakland's delicate and sensitive open e-mail system. I'm sure it would be screened and deleted for offensive language.

Mr. (may I call you Mister?) Mayor:

Since the terms "natural family," "marriage" and "family values" have been deemed homophobic, disruptive, hostile and intolerably inflammatory, how does one apply for a "marriage" license if that is such a derogatory word to city government workers?

If you, Sir, (if I may address you in such a manner) or anyone else in local government, are "married" to a person of the (warning: non gender-neutral term ahead!) opposite sex, are you allowed to bring that spouse to official functions? I hope not. It's no longer politically correct in Oakland and you could save your government a lot of money by disallowing it.

What about (warning: more non gender-neutral terms ahead!) healthy male/female couples who want to have children by good old fashioned "natural" insemination? Can they legally start a "family" if one or both parents work for you, and can they announce the birth of their child on the employee bulletin board? Personally, I guess it wouldn't be a problem if the genders of the parents and baby are not disclosed, but how that particular child was conceived might be an issue to some. Shudder the thought.

Isn't your government inferring that same-sex couples are not qualified to have, nor are capable of believing in, "family values" by banning that term, so there can be no perception of targeting and excluding that group?

You may send me your answers through the good old U.S. Postal Service. As far as I know, it's still legal to do that.

David B. Knechel

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Florida Humor

An old time citrus farmer in Florida owned thousands of acres of orange groves that had been passed down through generations. He had a small lake in the back, set back a spell, that was well stocked with large mouth bass and catfish. Surrounding it were his best orange trees. His property was fixed up real nice-like, too, with picnic tables all about under shady live oak trees draped in Spanish moss. There were horseshoe courts and plenty of other fun things to do, plus a good sized vegetable garden. On many days, the scent of freshly caught catfish and just picked okra frying filled the air. The wafting aromas were downright friendly and inviting.

Early one evening the old farmer decided to go down to the lake, as he hadn't been there for a while, and look it over. He grabbed a five-gallon bucket to bring back some oranges from the nearby trees. As he approached the lake, he heard water splashing and voices shouting and laughing with glee.

As he came closer he saw it was a bunch of young women skinny-dipping. He made the women aware of his presence and they all went to the deep end of the lake.

One of the women shouted to him, "We're not coming out until you leave!"

The old man frowned. "I didn't come down here to watch y'all ladies swim naked or make you get out of the lake." Holding the bucket up he said, "I'm here to feed the gator."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mother Teresa's Ghost Endorses Hillary


(API) The late Mother Teresa recently endorsed Hillary Clinton for president of the United States by channeling her spirit through one of Clinton's campaign videos. How the message came to them was unclear and no explanation was given by the Clinton camp. The Catholic church is at odds with the late Mother's decision and had considered exhuming her body for a rite of exorcism until the Clinton campaign decided to partially abort what they deemed as the most inspirational part of the video by removing Mother Teresa's message. The church then said it would allow the rest to run full term and it was now a dead issue.

In the meantime, a Clinton campaign spokeswoman stated that, "In spite of the church's decision regarding this matter and our decision to remove that aspect of the video from airing, Mother Teresa stands fully behind Hillary and her message was loud, clear and unwavering."

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A Message From Paris: To My Adoring Fans Everywhere!

Do you want to know what really happened to me, boys... why they let me out? Let me tell you, it was not fun in there. The TP was like wax paper. The food was... well, I don't even want to go there. It was, like, SOOOOO bad! Back to the TP tissue issue. For 3 solid days, I couldn't poop. Beautiful girls like me don't poop anyway, do we (wink, wink)? Oh, I pee peed alright, but I had to hold in that horrible food for, like, 3 days!!! Since I never pass gas (God forbid!) it got pretty nasty back there. The guards found me all pukey like and rushed me to the jail infirmary, where the not so beautiful female nurse discovered I had become quite impacted. Hectum in the rectum, oh my!

(Memo to nurse: Cut your fingernails.)

Anyways, I was taken to the hospital where I was given an enema. Canned peas and corn went flying all over the room! They decided to send me home. My tummy can't handle that type of food. Gimme a break! Corn flakes for breakfast, bologna and cheese sandwich for lunch? American cheese? Get real. Don't ask me about the meatloaf.

My poor little rearend hole hasn't been this sore since... well, we won't go there, either, since I don't talk to him anymore.

Thank you all for your support! I will be a good girl from now on. Ouch!

Love & Toodles,

Monday, June 04, 2007


Proud of my 5.5

I have emphasized the importance of periodic tests to check your average blood glucose values, blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides), and kidney function. When I got the results back from my most recent tests, done at the end of April, I was very encouraged by what I saw. I switched to a new doctor since then and he hasn't seen the report, but I think he will be impressed too.

From previous tests, my triglycerides dropped from 222 to 128. Less than 150 mg/dL is ideal. Total cholesterol went from 216 to123. The normal range is 125-200 mg/dL. My bad cholesterol (LDL) dropped from 135 to 68. The desirable range in diabetics should fall below 100 mg/dL and <70 for those with known heart disease. Unfortunately, my good cholesterol (HDL) also dropped from 37 to 29. It should be > or equal to 40 mg/dL. I don't know what caused that, but I will research ways to improve it. More exercise will help, I'm sure.

Everything on my Comprehensive Metabolic Panel w/EGFR was fine except for my fasting glucose reference interval, which stood at 126. It should range from 65-99 mg/dL. What totally amazed me was the result of my Hemoglobin A1c test. Originally, I clocked in at 8.o%, a relatively high number. The non-diabetic range is less than 6.0%. This time, my number is 5.5%, an incredible improvement and something I am quite proud to crow about. I attribute this and the other results to several different factors: I am on a prescription medication for blood pressure and to loosen my arteries to protect my kidneys, I take a statin drug for cholesterol, and I take a sulfanilurea medication for diabetes. I do not consume processed sugar and my fat intake is way down. I exercise more than I did before I was diagnosed and I drink a lot less alcohol. I try to eat better overall. Of course, I miss pizza and fried chicken, but hey, you gots to do what you gots to do.

I did a tremendous amount of research on supplements for diabetics, primarily for those with type 2. I really tried to weed out the junk stuff and to make a concerted effort to avoid conflicts with other supplements and medications. Here are the results of what I've found and a list of what I take daily. Bear in mind, I made sure my doctor knows exactly what I'm taking and what his thoughts are on each one. Can I say for sure that these supplements have helped? Of course not. I've only been taking them for a few months. I would have to have similar test results over a much longer period of time to assume otherwise, and my tests may vary as much in myself as they will in any other individual. I would not recommend any other treatment without consulting your own physician first. OK, I do think cassia cinnamon can be a small miracle for people like us.

1.) 2,000 mg cassia cinnamon. This type of cinnamon may help promote sugar metabolism.

2.) 200 mcg chromium picolinate. May help promote insulin effectiveness and regulate blood sugar.

3.) 250 mg magnesium. I take this because of neuropathy. It may help with nerve impulses.

4.) Omega 3 fish oil/alpha lipoic acid. I alternate daily between these two for heart health and to fight against free radicals, plus antioxidant benefits.

5.) multivitamin

6.) 1 gram apple cider vinegar tablet with min. 35% acetic acid. Studies have shown that apple cider vinegar helps control blood sugar spikes in type 2 diabetics.

1.) 81 mg aspirin. Because my doctor told me to.

I take all of these supplements with my evening meal, except for the aspirin, which I take whenever I remember to.

When he looked over my list, he was amazed. He said that the only patients he ever sees that take these supplemental cocktails are diabetics and those with AIDS. Whether they help or not are subject to further studies. He approved most of them in a round about sort of way by checking them off one by one and saying they seem to be OK. He only questioned two of them. Chromium picolinate may alter DNA, but if I'm not thinking about having children at my ripe old age, it should be fairly safe. He takes it himself. His children are grown. He seems to think it might be of more benefit to help ward off diabetes, though. He was puzzled by the magnesium and when I told him it's for neuropathy, he just shrugged. That one, he was less sure of. I wonder what he'll think after reading my test results? I'm running them up to his office this afternoon, but I won't see him again until the middle of July. In the meantime, please discuss these with your doctor before going on any sort of regimen. Just because you read about them here does not mean they are right for you. Besides, I'm still exploring other supplements. It doesn't give me license to eat pizza and fried chicken, either, so watch your diet!