Interesting links

1. Mexico’s Brain Drain

2. Streetlights bring normality in Mogadishu (normal is clearly relative)

3. Two good book reviews in the WSJ (sorry, gated). The first is a review of Paul Theroux’s The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari by the excellent Rian Malan. The second is a review of one of my favorite authors writing on China, Peter Hessler.  He has a new book called Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West.

4. An interview with Iranian-American writer Amir Soltani, who has put forth a fictional middle age woman for president in Iran’s upcoming election.  Here is more in (another) gated article by the WSJ.  My favorite line is when Mr. Soltani responds to criticisms that his candidate is fictional.  He states, “She’s fictional fine, but so is the Islamic Republic. So is the position of the ‘supreme leader.’ So are Ahmadinejad’s votes in the last election.  So why not counter fiction with fiction.”  Excellent.

5. And, finally, in the department of uh-oh, there’s this chilling headline: “Mexican Drug Cartel Courts Civilians With Parties for Kids”  Apparently it’s not all that uncommon for Mexican drug cartels to throw parties for kids as a way to bolster social support, but this is the first foray into this kind of thing for the Zetas, who are primarily known for “extortion, murder, and kidnapping.”  I guess it’s a low bar then in terms of improving their image amongst the Mexican public.

Here is an amazing summary of the event:

Last weekend, hundreds of kids in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas danced to bands and played with clowns hired by the Los Zetas cartel. As entertainers welcomed kids to games and trampolines, cartel members set up notices throughout the city, urging the population to rethink Los Zetas’ role, and thanking children for bringing joy to their homes. “May God bless you all and always guide you on the good path to righteousness that you must follow to be men and women of good. God bless our little ones. Att. Los Z,” the message read.

I’ve always found clowns to be scary and creepy, but I cannot imagine how freaked out I would have been as a kid meeting a Zeta clown.  I may never have slept again.

News round-up from Latin America

1.  Do Latin American Presidents like Twitter too much?  For instance, President Cristina Fernandez of Argentina “sent 61 tweets in a nine-hour period – prolific even by the standards of Latin America”

2.  The Caribbean: A darkening debt storm

3.  More on Brazil and Mexico’s competition for the top job at the WTO, by the excellent Boz.

4. U.S. role at a crossroads in Mexico’s intelligence war on the cartels

5. Boom Times in Paraguay Leave Many Behind