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February 21, 2003

New World Disorder: Via BoingBoing, a BBC report that reads like a Bruce Sterling story.
The tiny Pacific island of Nauru has spent weeks completely cut off from the outside world after its telecommunications network collapsed. […]

The situation is compounded by the fact that when contact was last made, a battle was raging for power between President Dowiyogo and the man he unseated in January, Rene Harris. No one is quite sure who runs the island now.

Additionally, whoever is in charge is thought to have no budget with which to rule, while the official presidential residence was reported to have burned down last month.

Nauru’s main industry was phosphate mining, which is to say, birdshit. When that ran out, they appear to have turned to money laundering. They also struck a deal with Canberra to intern asylum seekers while their applications to live in Australia were processed. This also seems to have not gone as planned:
Late last year, Australian immigration officials admitted that the asylum seekers, mainly Iraqis, had been running their own detention centre since officials abandoned the site following a riot.

“Effectively you could call it a self-managed centre,” a senior Australian immigration official told an inquiry.

[12:18 PM]
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Comments on New World Disorder::

Chuck Nolan ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2003, 02:13 PM:

I read the BBC report. Is anybody (Austrailia? New Zealand?) contemplating sending a delegation there to Nauru to see what's going on and see if help is needed?

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2003, 03:51 PM:

Maybe Naurunians have discovered the benefits of a ungoverned society, and are busy building a non-statist libertarian paradise.

If so, and if years of reading DESTINIES has taught me anything, they should be launching their first asteroid retrieval ships Any Day Now.

Jack Womack ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2003, 04:02 PM:

Several years ago Morley Safer did a segment on Nauru on 60 Minutes, specifically regarding the investment of a certain amount of national capital by island honchos toward the production of what appeared to be a positively dreadful French musical based on the life of Michaelangelo.

Among other things, in this show ("Agony! Ecstasy! Guano!" -- actually I have no idea of what the title actually was)Mike was given, as we would all hope, a female love interest.

Needless to say the show never made it from Paris to Broadway. The issue of money laundering was, ahem, raised.

"That's right baby, when you got it, flaunt it, flaunt it!"

Simon Shoedecker ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2003, 04:37 PM:

The BBC wrote,

"The tiny Pacific island of Nauru has spent weeks completely cut off from the outside world after its telecommunications network collapsed."

I find it fascinating that this is their definition of being completely cut off. By this definition, all open ocean islands were continuously "completely cut off from the outside world" until about a century ago, or whenever the wireless was developed. (I presume that undersea cables to such places didn't come until later, if at all.)

--k. ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2003, 07:38 PM:

Nah, it's the definition of "outside world" that's changed. Easier to do and more profound than changing the meaning of "cut off." (Ow.)

Andy ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2003, 09:47 PM:

Chuck, the storm that cut off the island happened a few weeks ago now and Australia and New Zealand did send help intially. There is more follow-up assistance but the stateless libertarian paradise, erm, I mean lack of government is, oddly enough, not helping matters. Go figure.

slacktivist ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2003, 10:55 PM:

I'm kind of a fan of Nauru news. The place has always seemed to me to be the embodiment of the theories of Julian Simon -- substitutability made real, or rather made abstract.

"Phosphates" weren't just the country's main industry -- they were the country's landscape. One report I read described the island as a dinner plate with a silver stripe near the rim -- the habitable part of the island being the stripe.

They basically converted their entire homeland into cash. It's now a moonscape. They import water from Australia.

During the boom years, Nauru always showed up in those UN reports among the top 20 in per capita income. But nowadays the country's main "natural" resource is its investment income -- which it has supplemented with offshore banking schemes -- and its stocks haven't been doing well.

Now they're housing some of Australia's barbaric refugee prisons as part of the attempt to stave off the day when they become ecological refugees themselves -- winding up in some stockade in Woomera.

Crazy place.

Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2003, 11:25 PM:

Welcome to post-Rapture living...

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2003, 03:10 PM:

Ah, the Rapture. That would explain the seven-headed cougar and the . . . oh, wait, that was just butyrate dope fumes mucking with my head. Gotta remember to open the window when I paint.

* * *

You'd think an island of guano would be somewhat fertile. But I guess w/o the benefit of flora to break it down in the first place, it would just be a big sterile pile of limey waste.