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Items of interest

A bit of a weekend round-up; recent news stories and other items of interest.

(1) First off, Bloomberg reports that slave labor exists in the Brazilian Amazon. It's the old story; workers are recruited with the promise of a steady-paying job, only to be trapped into slavery via forced work-off of incurred debt.

Modern-day slaves in Latin America aren't bought and sold as slaves were in the U.S. before the Civil War. They're lured from impoverished cities in Brazil's northeast or from the Andean highlands of Bolivia and Peru.

Recruiters dispatched by slave camp owners promise steady- paying jobs, Campos says. Once at the Amazon camps, some workers are forced -- at times at gunpoint -- to work off debts to their bosses for food and clothing bought at company stores.

Many go months without pay or see their wages whittled to nothing because of expenses such as tools, boots and gloves. Lack of money, an impenetrable jungle and a long distance to get home make it impossible for the slaves to leave.

Sounds rather similar to the problems reportedly faced by migrant workers in the outlying encampments of Dubai. Let's hope that businesses and their customers do not turn a blind eye to such practices.

(2) Also at Bloomberg.com, audio of a Korean news conference Q&A with Jim Rogers. See, "Jim Rogers Says U.S. Economy Is Probably Already in Recession".

(3) Video of Matthew Simmons addressing the ASPO-USA conference in Boston on October 26,2006. Simmons is author of Twilight in the Desert and a prominent speaker on energy and issues relating to Peak Oil. One of the many interesting posts you'll find at theoildrum.com.

(4) Fairfax Financial said that a recent rebound in the company's share price can be partially attributed to the success of a lawsuit against overly aggressive hedge funds. From FT Business and The Australian:

the lawsuit, launched last July, halted what they claim was a dirty tricks campaign against the company by hedge funds including SAC Capital Management and Exis Capital.

In the lawsuit, Fairfax claimed that the hedge funds generated bogus analyst reports critical of the company, sent threatening letters to Prem Watsa, Fairfax's chief executive, and his friends and family, tried to intimidate employees into providing sensitive inside information and attempted to plant negative news stories about the company.

The hedge funds deny all of the allegations and are vigorously contesting the civil lawsuit.

Will the measures taken by Fairfax shine a new light on short sales that are allegedly helped along through share manipulation and various other underhanded tactics? See, "Hedge funds halted as insurer fights back".

(5) "Money 'Aint a Thing". Rapper Jay-Z is profiled in the weekend edition of the Financial Times. In, "I'm with the brand", writer Carl Wilkinson describes how Shawn Carter made a mint by building his music career into a personal brand.

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