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What the financial meltdown means for the future of globalization

There's been a lot of chatter recently over what the global financial crisis and impending recession means for the future of globalization. You see, critics have latched onto the recent failures of markets as the perfect argument for why we need to curb international economic integration.

Although many economists strongly argued for the impending dominance of emerging economies, I think the ongoing global financial crisis has really shown us that these developing countries have not decoupled from the developed ones. We haven't seen an unwinding of the US current account deficit, for instance, and in fact, in the last month, there has been a flight to safety to the dollar.

Thus, one detail to keep in mind is that while the relative growth of these emerging economies is quite impressive, their absolute economic power still does not yet rival that of the US, Japan, EU, etc for dominance. Furthermore, the spread of the global financial crisis to emerging economies (salient examples include Russia and China) signal that these markets have not achieved a degree of magnitude large enough to have decoupled from developed markets.

So what's really at stake here? It's pretty much accepted science that globalization, taken as a whole, has helped mankind to an unimaginable extent. That's not really being debated now. But that doesn't mean there aren't losers.

Spy games: A look at North Korea's covert operations (part 2)

Read part 1 of this post here. And for additional reading, be sure to check out former Gadling blogger Neil Woodburn's excellent series, "Infiltrating North Korea," from last year. I also reported from North Korea for The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor this August.

The Blue House raid in January of 1968, although daring to the point of insanity, marked the first of several failures in the North's efforts to liberate the South by instigating a grassroots communist revolution. The assassin squad had trained two years for the job, with every detail of the mission mapped out, including figuring out the right insignia on their fake ROK uniforms.

Yet they made several simple miscalculations due to these delusions of South Korean communist sympathies. For instance, on the first day in the South, they encountered four woodcutters; they proceeded to spend the next five hours indoctrinating them in DPRK ideology rather than racing to Seoul. Furthermore, the agents released the woodcutters, who immediately reported the incident to the military. As a result, the country was on high alert when the agents entered the capital.

What to do after your flight gets canceled

My weekend sucked. On Friday, I was suppose to fly out to Pittsburgh to visit my girlfriend, but my flight was inexplicably canceled. Well, Continental did offer a reason--Newark was too windy to take-off. But the funny thing was US Airways had a flight that departed 50 minutes later, with no problems.

Isn't that wind fickle, I tell you. I should probably kick myself, considering my long-time policy to actively avoid flying on US Airways. As my girlfriends says, there honestly should be a rule that if US Airways flies, then everyone else should be forced to. I would call it the "bare-bottoms rule."

I did invoke Rule 240 at the ticket counter, which I wrote about a couple weeks ago--this little-known rule requires the major carriers to put you on another airline's flight, at no charge. But aside from this small victory, which got me nowhere because the US Airways flight was already booked full, I'm out over $100 for my troubles getting to and from the airport.

I did get a refund of the ticket, but I still feel miffed. What are my options? An executive e-mail bomb may be in order, but first, I'm going to try the "senior" customer service line. Last time I did that with US Airways, they gave me a $250 voucher on top of my flight refund.

Hedonism Vacations: Spring Break for adults

Economic woes got you down? Here's a solution: party nude with the Aussies. A holiday resort in tropical Queensland has planned a month-long bacchinalian for guests to get their naked grooves on.

The White Cockatoo Resort, which is located near the town of Mossman, apparently operates on three levels of functionality: nudist, clothing optional and fully clothed for family fun. These occur at different times of year so that the kiddies don't get confused from the nudies.

Next March, they are going for a full-scale, adults only party month as a so-called 'hedonism resort'. I did a little digging and it turns out that the White Cockatoo is just one of dozens of places around the world to take a hedonist vacation.

Essentially, this sounds to me like the type of place where Joe Office would go to fulfill his wildest fantasies: eating food that's bad for you, walking around naked, drinking in the morning and going all-night clubbing. Like Spring Break for grown-ups.

What happens when you overload a donkey cart

I don't usually Laugh-Out-Loud at silly Youtube videos, but I couldn't help it with this one. I think it's because the people who are busy trying to unload the cart are totally not realizing the absurdity of the situation (there's a donkey stuck in the air, let me just ruin it for you).

Bonus for any well-traveled Gadling reader. Can you guess where this was shot?

How do you poop on Mt. Everest?

The days of poop-behind-a-rock be gone - a Nepali climber has recently started promoting the use of a packable toilet for hikers up the world's tallest mountain. Tired of the 965 kilos of waste he picked up during an expedition in May (including a corpse dating back to 1972! wtf!), Dawa Steven Sherpa is determined to make Mt. Everest a cleaner place.

His solution is the Luggable Loo – a portable bucket-cum-toilet that stores waste in a gas-impervious bag. This way, hikers will have a potty to sit on (plus!) but poop to haul out (not so much plus). The bags do their job to keep unwanted aromas from reaching expeditionists while they hike.

Still, if hauling your own waste out seems like too much trouble, what the hell are you doing climbing Mt. Everest anyway? Any good hiker knows that the first rule of messing with Mother Nature is to leave her exactly as you found her. That includes poop, too.

The loo retails from Cabela's Outfitters for $15 – not too shabby – and 6 of the "Doodie Bags" (as they are so named) will cost you $12.99. If I were Mr. Sherpa, I'd be handing these things out at the base camp. Who wants to clean up someone else's 20-year-old, iced-over poo anyway?

Sex and the City: Beijing edition

Hehe, that might be a bit of false advertising on my part. So technically Sex and the City isn't coming to Beijing, though the movie version came out this May will undoubtedly show up in the Beijing pirated-DVD stalls.

No, what I'm talking about now are the "Sexy Beijing" videos that have been absolute hits with the expats. I myself lived off them this summer while working in Beijing. The series is a parody of Sex in the City, but set in Beijing, with a bumbling--but endearing--American expat substituting in for Carrie Bradshaw. The opening sequence alone is worth the watch.

Here are two. The first is about romance in Beijing.

Spy games: A look at North Korea's covert operations (part 1)

In celebration of the latest James Bond flick (granted, it was Die Another Day that featured blatant stereotypes about North Korean goons) and a longish piece in this week's Harper's on North Korea's propaganda machine, I thought I'd give a history lesson into a period of time when North Korea was even crazier than it may seem today (for instance, did you know some 30 North Korean spies managed to get all the way to Seoul and almost assassinated the South Korean president?).

But first, some blatant plugs for additional readings. Be sure to check out former Gadling blogger Neil Woodburn's excellent series, "Infiltrating North Korea," from last year. I also reported from North Korea for The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor this August. And if you're truly as obsessed about all this stuff as Neil and I, check out for part 2 tomorrow.

Anyways, so the North Korea of today, with its Lone Ranger worldview and its detachment with reality, can be traced back to the North Korea of the late 1960s, when it embarked on an unprecedented military and propaganda campaigns. But while the DPRK temporarily caused a fallout in US-ROK relations, the North failed to unify the peninsula as its heavy-handed military forays, following the "Vietnam Model", only solidified South Korean anti-communism sentiments. Yet perhaps the most important detail of all rests in not what was, but what might have been. Quoted in the summer of 1968 in the New York Times, a top US official exclaimed, "Few people realize how close we came to war."

An artificial beach 300 meters from the real thing

There's an absolutely amazing beach in Japan, filled with white sand, blue water, and a lapping wave. But this beach did not exist before 1993. It's known as the Ocean Dome, the most popular artificial beach in an arena that's quickly becoming fashionable. There's now artificial beaches in Monaco, Paris, Rotterdam, Toronto, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

The heated beach can accommodate 10,000 tourists, even though it's competing with plenty of other attractions on Kyushu Island - 1,500 kilometers south of Tokyo. The kicker is that there's an actual beach, which looks decent, 300 meters away. Talk about stiff competition.

Of course, if I was in Kyushu, I would definitely want to check out this place. First of all, the weather's always fantastic, since it's situated indoors. Then, there's the volcano. That's right, there's an artificial volcano that spews smoke every fifteen minutes and flames on the hour. If that's not enough entertainment, professional surfers can be found riding the waves.

You gotta love the Japanese. Check out the link below for some great shots. Absolutely spectacular.

Why you should never travel on Acela Express

Last week I took Amtrak's high-speed train service, Acela Express, from New Haven to New York. My options were to take Metro-North, a commuter train which takes a little under two hours to get to New Haven, at a cost of $14.

The Acela train saved me about 15 minutes, but guess what, cost $60 more. Totally not worth it. First, the seats were not very big at all. You see, on most commuter trains, unless you're traveling at peak hours, you'll get the whole aisle to yourself. But Amtrak has airplane-style seats, uck right?

The Amtrak trains are also usually packed, since they do not run as often, so I had to deal with that. Plus, even though I was in a silent car, the carriage made a sqeaking sound whenever the train turned (I would advise you to sit in the middle of the car because of this).

I guess I'm not being quite fair, since the New Haven to New York stretch of the rail is the slowest in the Northeast Corridor. But I still advise you to save your money, and just book yourself on regular Amtrak. The seats are essentially the same size and you'll save at least 50%. And so what if you'll get there 15 minutes later, take the time to read a newspaper.

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