The biggest global trade deal ever is now ratified. Think anyone in the Trump White House noticed?

Roberto AzevadoReuters

❝ An international agreement forecast to boost global trade by $1 trillion a year has come into force.

The Director General of the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevedo, called it “the biggest reform of global trade in a generation”

Mr Azevedo said it would have a bigger impact than eliminating all existing taxes on imports, known as tariffs.

❝ It involves countries signing up to a long list of reforms, including easier access for businesses to information, reduced fees and simpler and faster procedures.

WTO economists estimated it would cut the cost of trading by 14.3%, and that developing nations would gain the most.

❝ TFA is one of the few successes of a much wider set of negotiations that were launched in late 2001 in the Qatari capital and known as the Doha Round…

The TFA was finally agreed at a meeting in Bali 2013, but could not come into force until 110 countries had ratified it. That is what has now happened…

BTW, the United States ratified this Trade Agreement in January, 2015.

Customs coppers save us all from smuggled tamales

Click to enlarge

Customs officials announced Wednesday that they seized 450 pork tamales smuggled from Mexico to Los Angeles in luggage earlier in the month.

The traveler, who was not named, admitted having food on a declaration form but denied it was pork products when questioned, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Inspectors then found hundreds of tamales wrapped in plastic bags.

“Although tamales are a popular holiday tradition, foreign meat products can carry serious animal diseases from countries affected by outbreaks of Avian Influenza, Mad Cow and Swine Fever,” said Anne Maricich, acting director of field operations for Customs.

Uh-huh. What’s the first country you think of when you hear about avian flu, mad cow disease and swine fever? I think most times when I’ve blogged about an outbreak of these – it’s been here in the GOUSA.

Om Malik’s personal blog gave me this link – and even more smiles than the abridged version he posted. Fun, love, food you know is no good for you. What more could you ask for?


Firstly, apologies for the delay in posting, I’ve been oop north in Bradford at my cousin’s wedding. These days, ‘Bradistan’ as it’s fondly (and not-so-fondly) known, has become a symbol of Britain’s struggle with multiculturalism, race and identity politics. I, however, am more interested in family politics. Specifically, those pertaining to three generations of my family – grandparents, aunties, uncles, grandaunties, granduncles, first cousins, second cousins, cousins three-times removed etc, all rammed into two four-bed semis during the year’s one freakishly cold and snowy week.

You might have watched Monsoon Wedding or perhaps Bend it Like Beckham and got some inkling of what Asian’s weddings are like. That’s not the half of it. Bombay or Birmingham, Maharashtra or Manchester, an Asian wedding is a sensory chappal, smacking you around the head with its heady sounds, smells and colours.

So here is a very condensed guide to Asian weddings:

1) People:…

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Cocaine bust + cocaine butt = drugs arrest at Rome airport

Another example of how NOT to dress for a casual stroll through customs

A stunning model proved to be more than meets the eye after she was arrested by Italian police trying to smuggle more than £250,000 of cocaine into the country inside breast and buttock implants.

The 33-year-old woman, identified only by the initials MFM, was held by officers as she tried to distract them with her plunging neckline and tight-fitting outfit at Rome’s Fiumicino airport. But her plan backfired as they were so captivated by her looks they pulled her over for questioning and discovered the drugs when she failed to explain why she had been to South America.

The woman had flown to Rome from Sao Paolo in Brazil and a search by female officers revealed the fake breast and buttock implants she was wearing had also been used to hide 5.5lbs of cocaine…

”She had tried to distract them with a plunging neckline and tight outfit but they stopped her for questioning because she was so alluring and her story about why she was in South America just fell apart.

‘She actually became quite aggressive and was taken away for more detailed questioning by two female officers and that’s when the drugs were found hidden in the plastic breast and buttock implants.

‘The extremely pure cocaine crystals were found moulded into the implants that she was wearing…’

Commenters almost everywhere seem to agree it was a nutty attempt to sneak the drugs through – by making this babe look even more curvaceous. I would think that NOT attracting attention makes more sense than focusing the eyeballs of customs coppers on her bosom and butt.

Australian finally compensated after Oz customs coppers thought his shampoo was ecstasy

Neil Parry fought in court for 17 months for justice

An Australian man has been paid thousands of dollars in compensation after being wrongly accused of smuggling ecstasy in shampoo bottles.

Neil Parry of Darwin spent three days in jail after being arrested at the city’s airport last year. But his bottles were found to contain shampoo and conditioner, not 1.6kg of liquid ecstasy as alleged.

Mr Parry said the AUS$100,000 payout from customs “was not worth it”.

He told ABC radio he had spent 17 months in a legal battle with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, and that most of the compensation would go towards his legal costs.

In a statement, the customs service said “mistakes were made during the presumptive testing of Mr Parry’s goods” and additional drug-testing procedures had been introduced.

Mr Parry’s boat and the homes of two friends were searched during the customs investigation.

I know we all tire of asking these questions. Why does it take 17 months for governments to admit they’ve screwed up? It’s bad enough they’ve messed with the life of an innocent citizen – but, they care so much about protecting their pimply-ass bureaucratic turf that someone like Mr. Parry has to hire a lawyer and sue to get any compensation for being locked-up and his home, his friends, being tossed by the coppers. They are the criminals.

The funny thing is I went through exactly the same hassle decades ago landing in Scotland. A dillweed customs copper thought the Woolite cold water soap powder in a plastic bag in my backpack was heroin or coke or whatever. He snorted a tiny bit on the spot to prove I was a drug smuggler – and his mates rolled on the floor while he ran for water to flush through his sinuses while bubbles popped out of his nose.

They let me go; but, required I had to exit the UK within 30 days. They had to apply some sort of sanction to cover their stupidity.

Dumb crook of the day

What appears to be French customs officers catching a smuggler with hummingbirds in his pants!

In 2010, French customs officers at the Rochambeau airport in Cayenne, French Guiana after noticing some suspicious bulges, conducted an intimate pat-down of a Dutch tourist and found some tiny parcels in some very personal space.

The tale and photos are making the round and finchwench has interesting commentary about why and more…

Best comment I’ve seen is about “lots of little peckers in that photo”. Har.

Thanks, Ursarodina

Think bureaucrats just invented some of this crap, yesterday? Apollo astronauts had to go through customs

Before the ticker tape parades and the inevitable world tour, the triumphant Apollo 11 astronauts were greeted with a more mundane aspect of life on Earth when they splashed down 40 years ago today – going through customs.

Just what did Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins have to declare? Moon rocks, moon dust and other lunar samples, according to the customs form filed at the Honolulu Airport in Hawaii on July 24, 1969 – the day the Apollo 11 crew splashed down in the Pacific Ocean to end their historic moon landing mission.

The customs form is signed by all three Apollo 11 astronauts. They declared their cargo and listed their flight route as starting Cape Kennedy (now Cape Canaveral) in Florida with a stopover on the moon.

It never ends.

Help the lady with her bag and catch a counterfeiter

An airline stewardess struggling to lift her bag at a German airport led to the discovery of a 6-million euro coin fraud.

The customs officer who stopped the stewardess in early 2010 found thousands of one and two euro coins in her bag…

The incident sparked an investigation that has uncovered a forgery ring stretching to China and potentially implicating employees of German airline Lufthansa…

The Frankfurt prosecutors’ office said on Thursday it carried out dawn raids on offices and residences and arrested six people, four of whom are from China.

It suspects them of having smuggled coins that had been taken out of circulation or bits of those coins into Germany from China, where they had been sent as scrap metal.

The suspects then put the coins back together and exchanged them for a total of 6 million euros at the Bundesbank from 2007 to 2010, the prosecutors said…

Old euro coins are taken out of circulation by removing the inner part of the coin from an outer ring and thus effectively turning them into scrap metal.

The investigators recovered around 3 tonnes of coin pieces as well as a machine for putting them back together, prosecutors said in the statement.

Are there any plans for preventing counterfeiting that actually work? Yes – there are sophisticated and subtle systems for detecting equally intricate counterfeit currency; but, then you’re stuck with ordinary human beings at the point of sale unable to detect the differences, anyway.

This effort seems like it depended on simple machinery re-assembling the coins.

A primer on corruption in Iraq

The shipment of laptop computers that arrived in Iraq’s main seaport in February was a small but important part of the American military’s mission here to win hearts and minds. What happened afterward is a tale of good intentions mugged by Iraq’s reality.

The computers — 8,080 in all, worth $1.8 million — were bought for schoolchildren in Babil, modern-day Babylon, a gift of the American taxpayers. Only they became mired for months in customs at the port, Umm Qasr, stalled by bureaucracy or venality, or some combination of the two. And then they were gone.

Corruption is so rampant here — and American reconstruction efforts so replete with their own mismanagement — that the fate of the computers could have ended as an anecdote in a familiar, if disturbing trend. Iraq, after all, ranks above only Sudan, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Somalia on Transparency International’s annual corruption index.

But the American military commander in southern Iraq, Maj. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, was clearly furious. Even if the culprits are not exactly known, the victims are: Iraqi children and American taxpayers. He issued a rare and stinging public rebuke of a government that the United States hopes to treat as an equal, strategic partner — flawed, perhaps, but getting better.

In a statement, he demanded an investigation into the actions of “a senior Umm Qasr official,” who, even now, has not been identified…

Then, in August, Iraqis auctioned off 4,200 of the computers — for $45,700. The whereabouts of the rest are unknown…

In early September, the auctioned computers were recovered, according to Iraqi officials, who nevertheless declined to discuss how or where. They had been sold to a businessman in Basra, Hussein Nuri al-Hassan. He could not be found last week at the address he gave when buying the computers..

None of the officials, most of whom would speak only on the condition of anonymity, could explain what happened to the rest of the computers…

RTFA. There’s lots of detail before the disappearance – and after. You should be able to imagine most of it.

I don’t think things were especially different before we started on this neocon, nation-building adventure in the Middle East. Not in my experience, anyway. But, watching our government trying week after week to put a shiny coat of wax on a rusty 1957 Plymouth – and call it a Chrysler Imperial – is a farce.

US indicts 11 executives for honey smuggling

US authorities have indicted 11 German and Chinese executives for conspiring to illegally import $40 million worth of honey from China. The executives were accused of being part of an operation which mislabelled honey and tainted it with antibiotics in an attempt to avoid import duties.

The case is part of a crackdown on illegal imports of substandard and counterfeit products.

Officials say it is the biggest food smuggling case in US history.

Ten of the suspects were senior executives at Alfred L Wolff, a German company, which allegedly bought cheap Chinese honey and, en route to the US, filtered out “pollen and other trace elements that could indicate that the honey originated from China”, according to the charge sheet.

A sales manager from the Chinese-based QHD Sanghai Honey was also indicted…

Those involved are alleged to have made 606 illegal shipments over six years, beginning in March 2002.

Senator Charles Schumer said he welcomed the fact that law enforcement agencies were taking “honey laundering” seriously.