Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What’s causing all this trouble with the Greek economy?

In the past couple of years, stock markets around the world have plummeted with each bit of news regarding Greece’s economic woes. The economic crisis that Greece faced in late 2009 started about 10 years earlier. The records that Greece presented prior to admission to the Eurozone in 2001 as well as afterward did not show the true picture of its economic condition. The Eurozone requires that countries fulfill certain membership criteria, including a budget deficit that does not exceed 3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and a public debt limited to 60% of the GDP. Greece met these criteria but did so by leaving out certain expenses. Also, a derivatives deal that Goldman-Sachs first put in place in 2001 masked the true nature of Greece’s deficit.

When Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou was elected in the fall of 2009, he discovered the extent of the deficit and announced it. Several debt-ratings agencies then downgraded Greece’s rating to the lowest level in the Eurozone.

In May 2010, Papandreou dropped another bomb. He reported that the Greek deficit was 13.6% of GDP for 2009, higher than the 12.9% originally reported. The members of the Eurozone became very concerned that Greece’s economic situation would implode, and they would suffer the fallout. Thus, in May 2010, the European Union (EU) countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) decided to get things under control by giving Greece a loan of 110 billion euros ($139.1 billion)*, but under the condition that Greece would institute reforms. A few months later another loan package of 130 billion euros ($165.1 billion) was approved, but as of January 2012, it had not been finalized.

People became angry about the reforms instituted by the Papandreou government, which included cutting the wages and benefits of government workers and retirees and raising taxes. Demonstrations and strikes exploded around the country.

Financial experts point out that the worldwide recession, as well as graft and nonpayment of taxes, has contributed to Greece’s deficit. Papandreou ran on the slogan “Change,” which included changing a corrupt political system. Gerry Hadden, of Public Radio International’s “The World,” on a program that was broadcast on May 11, 2010, asked vegetable vendor Fotini Stavrou who she blamed for the crisis. Stavrou grabbed a potato and responded, “See this potato. If I stole it I would end up in jail. Yet our politicians steal millions and nothing happens to them.” She continued, “The two main political parties here robbed us blind, but it’s our fault. We voted for them.”

Thomopoulos' recent title The History of Greece published in December 2011.

Some economists blame part of Greece’s bleak economic picture on the use of bribes and patronage. Fakelakia (little envelopes) are part of doing business in Greece. Money is stuffed in a fakelaki and slipped to officials to help gain access to medical services, to avoid taxes, and for building permits or driver’s licenses.

Widespread tax evasion has also contributed to the deficit. In September 2011, the government used a new tactic in its approach to this problem. The finance minister named 6,000 firms that owed about 30 billion euros ($38.1 billion).

In the face of continuing economic problems, Prime Minister Papandreou stepped down in November 2011. A coalition government with Lucas Papademos as prime minister took over. The Papademos government faces rising unemployment (in September the unemployment rate was 17.5%) and a declining economy (probably more than a 5.5% reduction in the GDP for 2011).

Representatives of the EU, the IMF, and the Central Bank (referred to as the troika) are set to arrive in Greece in mid-January. The troika will determine whether or not Greece will receive the second installment of the loan. On March 20, 2012, 14.4 billion euros ($18.29 billion) are due on bonds. Without the second installment of the loan, Greece will not be able to pay what it owes.

Nicholas Paphitis of Associated Press in a January 4 article entitled “Greek PM Warns of Default without Loan Deal” reported: “Papademos said the troika has called for a re-examination of labor costs, to boost lagging competitiveness and fight high unemployment, and warned that, unless significant action is taken, the country will not receive its next vital installment.”

Paphitis continues: “Key details of the second bailout deal are still being negotiated — above all the provision under which private creditors such as banks and investment firms would take a 50 percent cut in the face value of the Greek bonds they hold.”

Greece is in a quagmire. If the second loan is not forthcoming, default may be the only option. But even if Greece declares bankruptcy, the country has the potential to emerge from the current crisis a stronger and healthier nation. Greece weathered the declaration of bankruptcy in 1932, as well as the devastation of the country during World War II and the subsequent civil war. Her people have stamina and grit. I don’t believe that they will allow their country to falter.

*The exchange rate of dollar to euro is based on the rate for January 11, 2012:1.27.

About the Author
ELAINE THOMOPOULOS, PhD, is an independent scholar who has authored local history books and is editor of Greek-American Pioneer Women of Illinois. She has published articles about Greece and Greek Americans and is curator of the Greek Museum of Berrien County, Michigan. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The "Axis of Evil" Speech and the Bush Doctrine

Ten years ago, during his 2002 State of the Union Address, U.S. president George W. Bush outlined the broad strategy, objectives, and goals of the U.S.-led war on terrorism. Bush declared that one goal was to destroy the existing terrorist networks and prevent them from launching attacks such as the 9/11 strikes again. The second objective was to keep regimes that sponsored terrorism from gaining weapons of mass destruction. He then cited Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as rogue regimes that were part of an "axis of evil" that threatened international peace and security. In this excerpt from Tom Lansford's 9/11 and the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: A Chronology and Reference Guide, the author discusses the "Axis of Evil" speech and how it led to the Bush Doctrine.

On January 29, 2002, Bush delivered a State of the Union address. During the speech, the president listed Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as part of an "axis of evil," and he accused the nations of threatening world peace by supporting terrorism, intimidating neighboring states, and seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This marked the beginning of a broad diplomatic, political, and military effort to make a case for war against Iraq if it did not comply with existing UN resolutions. Bush stated,

Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens—leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections—then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.

Fresh from toppling the Taliban regime, Bush's address declared to the world that the United States would be increasingly aggressive in seeking to counter threats to global peace. Bush announced, "I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer."

The codification of Bush's more aggressive security was the National Security Strategy of the United States, published in September 2002. The document was developed by the National Security Council and articulated a policy that became known as the Bush Doctrine. The Bush Doctrine rejected reactive security policies and embraced preemptive military strikes as a means to forestall threats to the United States. Under the Bush Doctrine, the United States declared that it would attack enemies or potential enemies in order to prevent them from harming the United States or its allies. The Bush Doctrine was the means by which the president’s 2002 State of the Union Address was put into practice. The National Security Strategy contended, "To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively in exercising our inherent right of self-defense. The United States will not resort to force in all cases to preempt emerging threats. Our preference is that nonmilitary actions succeed. And no country should ever use preemption as a pretext for aggression."

Tom Lansford is academic dean and professor of political science at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, Long Beach, MS. His published works include A Bitter Harvest: US Foreign Policy and Afghanistan; Theodore Roosevelt: A Political Life; and To Protect and Defend: US Homeland Security Policy.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Celebrating Lunar New Year – 2012 the Year of the Dragon

January 23, 2012 marked the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Dragon. People throughout China, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, and diasporic communities worldwide will celebrate the Lunar New Year during the first fifteen days. The Lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, which is different than the western Gregorian calendar based on the cycle of the sun. Lunar New Year always corresponds to the last two weeks of January or the first two weeks of February.

The dragon is the fifth sign of the Chinese zodiac. It is considered to be the most auspicious sign, thus in the year of the dragon, people born under this sign will benefit greatly from the forces of the dragon. Since the year of the dragon is an auspicious year, many will want to get married during this year. Family will want a baby born in the year of the dragon because dragons are a lucky sign; dragon people tend to be successful in life, and may potentially bring prosperity to the family. As such, women in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Chinese diasporic communities worldwide will visit fertility clinics and doctors in order to ensure the birth of a dragon baby. Towards the end of the dragon year, pregnant women may also ask their doctors to induce birth if it is safe. These activities speak to the value and importance Chinese people put into the year of the dragon.

In Asia, young people who have moved away from their parental homes and villages pack buses, trains, and planes to go back to celebrate the Lunar New Year with their families. Businesses, such as restaurants and shops, shut down. For a brief moment, big cities such as Beijing, China, or Taipei, Taiwan become quiet.

Planning for the celebration starts well before New Year's Day. Families are busy cleaning their homes, decorating it with freshly cut flowers, such as narcissus, water lilies, peonies, and azaleas, representing beauty and new growth for the new year; fruits, especially oranges and tangerines, are displayed and given as gifts to visitors and friends as they symbolize wealth and money. During the New Year season, red is the preferred color for dress as it symbolizes health and life, as blood runs through a living healthy body. Other bright colors are worn to keep the mode festive and jovial. A home that has a blooming plant on New Year's day is believed to prosper during the year. The color white is avoided as it represents death, as a dead body turns “white” when blood no longer runs through the body.

On New Year's Day, it is taboo to sweep the house as it would be sweeping away one's prosperity for the coming year. One cannot use a knife or scissors either, as it would be akin to cutting away one's prosperity in the New Year. The number four is avoided because in all dialects of Chinese, the sound for the number “four” sounds like the word for “death.” Similarly, death and dying are taboo subjects and should be avoided. Because the New Year's sets the tone for developments during the entire year, parents will not spank their children for being mischievous. Instead, they are tolerated with smiles and a positive attitude.

Traditionally, Lunar New Year in China and in Chinese communities worldwide is celebrated for fifteen days. However, due to common constraints on time and resources the fifteen day celebration may be shorten, or all activities for all fifteen days may not be observed.

On day 1, rituals are performed and offerings are made to the gods of heaven and earth.

On day 2, extended family members come together to make offerings and perform rituals for the ancestors. This includes cooking their favorite dishes while they are alive and sharing in the memories of their life. All dinners will serve a whole fish, a homonym for “abundance”; a whole chicken to represent wholeness and completeness; seaweed, a homonym for “wealth”; and lotus seeds, which symbolize fertility and a male child. Families with dogs treat their pets with extra special attention as it is considered the birthday of the dog.

On day 3 and 4, children will offer tea and well wishes to their parents, which includes in-laws. Parents will then give their children red envelopes, known as “hong bao” in Mandarin Chinese or “lai see” in Cantonese, which will contain some money.

On day 5, everyone stays in their own home to welcome the visit from the God of Wealth. It is taboo to go out on this day.

From day 6-12, people will visit families, extended families and good friends. At each visit, visitors present their host with oranges, tangerines, and flowers, and more red envelopes are given to children of the house. During this period, day 9 is reserved for rituals and offerings to the Jade Emperor, the highest ranking deity in the Chinese celestial pantheon.

On day 13, people will eat a simple dinner of rice porridge and mustard greens. On day 14, people will prepare for the celebration of the Lantern Festival by making lanterns. On day 15, people celebrate the Lantern Festival at night, writing wishes on their lanterns, lighting them up, and seeing them slowly rise to heaven. The Lantern Festival marks the end of the Lunar New Year celebrations.

While this celebration is important to people in Asia, it is also very important to Asian Americans. Cities throughout North America with large Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese communities hold public celebrations and parades in honor of Lunar New Year. The annual San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade is the largest celebration of its kind outside of Asia. Many Asian Americans close their shops or take a day off work to observe Lunar New Year.

JONATHAN H. X. LEE, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies who specializes in Southeast Asian and Sino-Southeast Asian American studies at San Francisco State University. Among his many publications, he is the coeditor of the Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife with Kathleen Nadeau (ABC-CLIO, 2010).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Censorship: The Web Goes Dark

With minimal effort even casual Web users can locate information that many governments, including at times the U.S. government, would prefer to restrict: hardcore pornography, plans for making explosives or illegal drugs, home addresses of government officials and celebrities, unauthorized copies of copyrighted songs and movies, encouragement of racist violence and terrorism, and almost any imaginable type of objectionable content. Children researching homework assignments online may stumble upon Holocaust-denial and pro-genocide Web sites, unaware that what they are reading is not fact but paranoid delusion; criminals can find co-conspirators and all the information needed to plan their crimes.

At times the presence of this harmful content leads to demands for censorship, although harmful content is only a tiny portion of total online content—and many would disagree on whether particular content is harmful. Censorship carries a negative connotation; in the United States the power of the federal government to censor is severely restricted by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, while the Fourteenth Amendment extends these restrictions to the state as well.

Even in pre-Internet times censorship was difficult. First, it was unpopular: the First Amendment is close to the core of the values lumped together under the heading "civil liberties"; censorship, in other words, is perceived as un-American. Second, the magnitude of the task was daunting even when information was published on paper. The Internet has done nothing to diminish the first problem, while expanding the second—the volume of information—by several orders of magnitude. In addition, the Internet provides new censorship challenges: encryption technology makes it easy to conceal content from government snoops; the lack of face-to-face contact provides children with access to the same information as adults; and the borderless nature of the Internet makes it easy for providers of content censored in one country to move that content to a server in another, more permissive country—while remaining accessible to web users in the first, censoring country.

This international character also makes it difficult for the government to control another type of information: content that infringes on the intellectual property of others. While the Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides measures to remove infringing content or shut down sites that promote illegal downloads, it applies only in the United States. US authorities and copyright holders can do little about Web sites that are based in foreign countries. In 2011, two bills were introduced in Congress to address this problem. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT IP Act or PIPA) in the Senate attempt to stop copyright infringement via foreign Web sites by cutting off funds and access from the United States. While applauded by many rightsholders, such as film and music industry associations, the bills have been denounced by civil liberties groups and Internet technology companies as an avenue of government censorship that threatens the Internet itself. The controversy grabbed national headlines in January 2012 as many popular Web sites staged a protest on January 18, with such sites as Wikipedia, Reddit, and BoingBoing going completely dark while others including Craigslist and Google featured prominent messages against the bills urging the public to contact Congress.

(Partial excerpt) Cornwell, Nancy C. "Censorship: Overview." Issues: Understanding Controversy and SocietyABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 18 Jan. 2012.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr. - A Brief History

Martin Luther King Jr. led the African American struggle to achieve full rights of U.S. citizenship and showed how mass peaceful action could solve intractable social and political problems. He eloquently voiced the hopes and grievances of African Americans, persuading the majority of them to take him as their leader.

King was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of an assistant pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church and the grandson of a reverend. Martin's parents, the Reverend King Sr. and Alberta Williams, had an older child, Christine, and a younger, Alfred Daniel ("A. D."), who also became a minister. When Reverend Williams died in 1931, the Reverend King Sr. succeeded him and was pastor for more than 50 years, until his death in 1984.

The young King went to segregated public schools and then to Booker T. Washington High School, which he left after two years when he qualified to enter Morehouse College, now part of Atlanta University. As he pursued a major in sociology, his concern with social betterment was aroused. King received his degree in 1948, but the year before, he had been ordained a Baptist minister and had become assistant pastor to his father.

In 1948, King went north to Chester, Pennsylvania, where he entered Crozer Theological Seminary as one of six African-American students among some 90 whites. At Crozer, he first became acquainted with the Social Gospel movement of Walter Rauschenbusch and the works of Mohandas Gandhi, who had been assassinated in early 1948. He graduated with a bachelor in divinity degree in 1951, having been president of the senior class, the top student, and winner of a graduate fellowship.

The Crozer fellowship enabled King to enter Boston University, which he had chosen over an offer from Yale University because of his desire to study with its philosophy department. By 1953, he had completed the course requirements for the Ph.D., and he had met Coretta Scott, who was studying voice at the New England Conservatory. They married that summer and returned to Boston, Coretta to finish her work at the conservatory, her husband to write his Ph.D. dissertation on the concept of God in the thought of Paul Tillich and H. N. Wieman, while taking courses at Harvard University in Plato and existential philosophy and preaching in local churches. In 1955, Boston University awarded him the Ph.D.

The previous year, however, King had been called to his first ministry at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, a strictly segregated city like any other in the South. King was beginning to be known for his preaching when, on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a seamstress, was arrested for not giving up her bus seat to a white passenger. Her action, coming after the Supreme Court declared the segregation of schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), indicated the electrifying effects that decision had on African Americans, who henceforth would not tolerate situations they had long endured. The consequence was the subsequent Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), formed by the ministers of the African-American churches, chose King as its president to lead the protest. As the nonviolent boycott and the violence of the white community went on during 1956, national and international attention focused on Montgomery, and King became prominent for his eloquence and his personal courage in the face of attacks on his home and himself. In November, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Alabama's laws segregating buses unconstitutional.

Some 60 Southern African-American leaders met in January 1957 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta to form a larger organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), to lead the struggle against segregation. King, elected its president, emphasized Gandhi's teaching of nonviolence and made the winning of African-American voting rights the first goal. His career was transformed as his fame and dedication grew. In March, he was invited to attend the ceremonies for the independence of Ghana, in West Africa. In May, he led a prayer pilgrimage of 25,000 people in Washington, D.C., demanding federal action on civil rights. In June 1958, he met with President Dwight D. Eisenhower to urge stronger federal protection of civil rights, and in September, his book Stride Toward Freedom was published, giving his account of the Montgomery protest. In February 1959, he and his wife went to India at the invitation of the Gandhian National Memorial Fund. In January 1960, he left his Montgomery pastorate for Atlanta, where the SCLC headquarters had been established, and he became cominister of his father's church.

The Gandhian techniques of civil disobedience that King and the SCLC supported included not only the boycott but the sit-in, the protest march, and the Freedom Rides. The action of the Freedom Riders, traveling across state lines, was an effort to force the federal government to protect the rights of Southern citizens. In that and other aspects of his work, King gradually gained the support of President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert F. Kennedy, the U.S. attorney general.

The struggle to integrate Birmingham, Alabama during the spring of 1963 involved King's most strenuous and courageous action. The city's police, under Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor, used brutal means—dogs, cattle prods, fire hoses—against the demonstrators. The American public witnessed horrifying scenes on television and in newspapers, bringing home the reality of the violence. King was arrested and thrown into a solitary cell, where he wrote a stirring "Letter from Birmingham Jail," defending nonviolent protest in answer to a statement by a group of local clergymen objecting to his tactics. Though sporadic violence continued, the Birmingham campaign was finally successful, and black and white leaders agreed on a gradual procedure of desegregation. King gave his account of the Birmingham struggle in Why We Can't Wait (1964).

The March on Washington in August 1963, organized by King and the SCLC, was attended by a quarter of a million people, at least a fourth of whom were white. From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King gave his most famous speech, with its repeated words "I Have a Dream." In the fall of 1964, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and in his laureate address in Oslo, Norway, he saw the award as an affirmation of nonviolent protest. "The Movement," he declared, "seeks to liberate American society and to share in the self-liberation of all the people." His movement's efforts compelled Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act (1964), which committed the federal government to eliminating racial discrimination from American life.

In the spring of 1965, King organized two marches of many thousands from Selma to Birmingham to emphasize the need for a federal voting rights law. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act on August 6 in King's presence. His support of Johnson began to waver, however, and in 1967, he declared his opposition to the Vietnam War and became cochairman of an organization concerned about the war. He further broadened his concerns from racism to include unemployment and poverty. An attempt to improve slum conditions in Chicago was a failure. Some of his younger, more radical followers fell away as they found King unacceptably moderate. Riots in the ghettos of Newark, Harlem, Detroit, and Los Angeles challenged his nonviolent teaching.

To highlight the problems of the poor, both black and white, King planned a Poor People's Campaign in the form of a march and campground in Washington during April 1968. In March, he led protesters in Memphis in support of a strike of sanitation workers. "I've been to the mountaintop . . . and I've seen the Promised Land," he told his followers shortly before, on April 4, he was shot by a sniper, James Earl Ray, as he stood on the balcony of his motel room talking with Jesse Jackson and other followers. In 1999, his death was declared the work of a conspiracy rather than that of a lone gunman.

King's work is carried on at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. In 1986, his birthday, January 15, became a national holiday.


"Martin Luther King Jr." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 16 Jan. 2012.

Read some quick facts about MLK Day from American Holidays and National Days here.


Additional Resources:

The Martin Luther King, Jr., Encyclopedia by Clayborne Carson, Tenisha Armstrong, Susan Carson, Erin Cook, Susan Englander
Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Biography by Roger Bruns
The Civil Rights Movement: Martin Luther King, Jr. by Lee W. Eysturlid, Jeremy Gypton, Chris Mullin, and Brett Piersma

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Look at Brazil Today

Brazil, the future site of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and host of the 2016 Summer Olympics, has the largest economy in Latin America and one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. But is some of the country's population being left behind in the push to continue such dramatic economic growth? John J. Crocitti explores the issue in this excerpt from the recently published title Brazil Today: An Encyclopedia of Life in the Republic.

Brazil, South America’s largest and most populated nation, belongs to an informal ranking of the world’s emerging economic powerhouses known as BRIC that includes Russia, India, and China. Subcontinental in area, richly endowed in natural resources and home to a hardy, inventive population, Brazil has long promised to join the ranks of prosperous, technologically advanced, egalitarian nations. Yet fulfillment of that promise has never been fully realized, thereby producing a land of stark contrasts. The casual observer immediately recognizes that abject poverty mingles with great wealth in Brazil’s major cities. World Bank statistics confirm such disparity, ranking income distribution among the nearly 200 million Brazilians, the world’s fifth-largest national population, as one of the world’s most uneven. As one scratches more deeply beneath the surface, other contrasts become apparent. Brazilian industry produces aircraft, automobiles and appliances, but neighborhoods frequently lack sanitary drinking water, electricity, and paved roads. Urban Brazil, densely populated and cosmopolitan, sometimes appears ages apart from its rural counterpart that often features cowboys, rainforests, and folk culture. Perhaps most intriguing, Brazilians exude a warmth and congeniality that belies the violence plaguing their daily lives. Indeed, Brazil is a complex country that defies easy categorization.

The many reasons for tempering optimism about Brazil’s future should not blind observers to the great strides made by the country in the last two decades. Although the annual inflation rate recently exceeded the government’s target of 6.5 percent, it cannot compare to the quadruple-digit inflation rates of the early 1990s that wiped out household purchasing power. Urban blight and crime remain unsolved, but Rio de Janeiro’s main streets have nothing of the destitute hoards of homeless people who until recently lingered near restaurants begging for scraps from customers’ plates. In big and small cities throughout Brazil, municipal governments and private investors are confidently renovating historic buildings and building new ones. The process of rejuvenating cities is slow, but the experienced visitor cannot fail to recognize that progress has occurred and that a sense of optimism prevails about future improvements. Progress also is visible in rural areas. Where once the best possible future for children whose parents were agricultural workers was to follow in their parents’ footsteps, those same children today might attend college, a possibility that this writer has confirmed with his own eyes. That such a change has occurred in less than two decades is nothing less than astounding.
Regardless of its short-term economic and political future, Brazil’s history of weathering difficult times assures that foreign interest in Brazil will remain strong.

Brazilians have a “can-do” attitude, known as jeito, that has always enabled the people individually and the nation collectively to turn meager resources into admirable achievements. In part, Brazil’s success owes much to an elite that is among the world’s best educated and most pragmatic. Just as important, Brazilians in general embrace new ideas no matter their place of origin, just as they welcome foreigners with a sincerity that is often missing in the United States. Although they are hard working, pragmatic, and continually making do with limited resources, Brazilians retain a deep spirituality while never forgetting to celebrate life and act with courtesy and friendliness. It is this complexity of Brazilian culture, which of course includes Brazilians’ social values, that intrigues people worldwide and attracts foreigners to the country and all things Brazilian. Even in the event that its economy stalls and its political system abandons social reforms, Brazil’s rich and inspiring culture will continue to draw admiration and interest in the discernible future.

About the Editors
John J. Crocitti, Editor, is professor of history and assistant chair of social sciences at San Diego Mesa College. He earned his MA in Latin American history from Tulane University and his PhD from the University of Miami. He has taught as an adjunct at San Diego State University as well as at several private institutions. He is also the author of a number of publications in the field of Brazilian studies.

Monique M. Vallance, Contributing Editor, earned her PhD at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in the history of Portugal, but her scholastic and research interests also focus on Brazil, particularly in the early modern period. She is the author of D. Luisa de Gusmão (Circulo de Leitores, 2011) and is an assistant editor for World History Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2011).

Monday, January 9, 2012

Succession in North Korea: A Family Affair

When Kim Jong Il died of a heart ailment on December 17, 2011, the international community focused its attention on his son and successor Kim Jong Un. Little is known about Kim Jong Il's third son, who is reported to be 27 years old and was recently made a full general. Kim Jong Un was not publicly acknowledged to be the successor to his father until 2010, in sharp contrast to how his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, carefully managed his own succession over a long period of time. This excerpt from the second edition of Dr. Spencer C. Tucker's The Encyclopedia of the Korean War: A Political, Social, and Military History recounts the details of North Korea's previous leadership change.


Kim Il Sung had early on chosen his son to be his political heir. He wanted to avoid the years of confusion and the ultimate repudiation that followed the deaths of his Soviet and Chinese contemporaries. Throughout the 1970s the ground was carefully laid for Kim's succession of his father. The North Korean top leadership, including Pak Song Chol, O Chin U, Kim Yong Nam, Yi Chong Ok, Chon Mun Sop, and So Chol, supported the succession. In preparation for this eventuality, North Korean authorities went to extraordinary lengths to glorify Kim and his accomplishments.

North Koreans began placing Kim's portraits along with those of his father in their homes, offices, and workplaces. In September 1973, Kim became a secretary of the Central Committee of the North Korean Workers' Party (NKWP) and, the following year, a member of its Politburo. By then, songs were being sung about him among party cadres, which carried special notebooks to record his instructions. And a slogan came into being: "Let's give our fealty from generation to generation."

 Despite his prominence in the NKWP, Kim's rise to power and selection as his father's successor were unacknowledged for several years, and his activities were masked under the mysterious "Tang Chungang" (Party Center), who was given credit for wise guidance and great deeds. This veil was lifted at the Sixth Congress of the NKWP in October 1980, when Kim was publicly named to the Presidium of the Politburo, the Secretariat of the Central Committee, and the Military Commission. In other words, he was openly designated as successor to his father.

Kim received the title of Dear Leader, close to that of Kim Il Sung's Great Leader. Both Kims were addressed and referred to in specific honorific terms not used for anyone else. As was done for his father's birthday of April 15, Kim's birthday of February 16 came to be celebrated as a national holiday. In December 1991 Kim was named supreme commander of the North Korean armed forces. By the time of his father's death in July 1994, Kim had come to be ranked second in the leadership, behind his father and ahead of his father's old comrade-in-arms, O Chin U, who died of cancer in early 1995.

About Dr. Spencer C. Tucker:
A Senior Fellow in Military History for ABC-CLIO since 2003, Dr. Spencer C. Tucker has been instrumental in establishing ABC-CLIO as the premier military history reference publisher in the country. Tucker's interest in military history began while he was a student at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and was enhanced by a Fulbright Fellowship in France and while serving as a captain in military intelligence in the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. Although he concentrated on Modern European History in his graduate studies, he became interested in all periods of military history. Spence taught at the university and college level for 36 years, 30 of these at Texas Christian University and the last six as holder of the John Biggs Chair of Military History at VMI. Spence is particularly excited to be the editor of ABC-CLIO's award-winning series of war encyclopedias, which includes the 2nd edition of The Encyclopedia of the Korean War: A Political, Social, and Military History.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Three Kings' Day Bread

To mark the Feast of the Epiphany:
Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings’ Day Bread)


2 pkg. yeast
½ c. lukewarm milk
7 c. all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1¼ c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1¾ c. butter
½ c. seedless raisins
2 Tbsp. orange blossom water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. anise seed
⅛ tsp. cinnamon
1 porcelain miniature doll
egg mixed with confectioner’s sugar (as needed)
biznaga (candied fruit)

  1. Dissolve the yeast into the lukewarm milk. Mix with all the dough ingredients (flour, eggs, sugar, salt, butter, raisins, orange blossom water, vanilla extract, anise seed, cinnamon) and knead the batter until it is smooth and elastic. Form into a large ball, place in a lightly greased bowl in a warm area, covered with a towel, and turn the ball of dough over so that it is greased on both sides. Allow it to double in size, about 2 hours.
  2. Shape the dough into a large open ring (to represent the king’s crown). Hide the porcelain doll (this is the tradition) somewhere in the bread. Cover it again with towels and allow it to rise.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  4. Using a pastry brush, decorate the ring with a paste made of egg and confectioner’s sugar to create the appearance of rays of light extending from the center. Decorate the ring with biznaga.
  5. Bake for 35–40 minutes, or until golden brown.
  6. Cool completely on a rack before serving.
Yield: 24 slices

According to tradition, if one receives the bread slice with the porcelain doll inside, a year of good fortune awaits.

(This recipe is from Cooking with the Movies: Meals on Reels, part of the chapter on Like Water for Chocolate.)