Global Water Cooler – War, Crime and Scandals From Around the World

            Everyday around the world there are so many different things going on, it is hard to stay caught up.  Some are interesting; some tragic; some exciting; and others may have a direct impact on our lives and even on how or where we operate our businesses.  At the very least, a summary of some of the topics will give you something to talk about around the office ‘water cooler’ or something to think about when planning your global operations. 

North Korea

Last week, North Korea tested a rocket claiming it was going to be used to launch satellites.  The concern was that the rocket could have been used to fire nuclear bombs into Japan or even the United States.  Fortunately, the rocket blew up shortly after lift-off.  This was considered a violation of recent international agreements reached in February, in which food shipments were promised in return for non-proliferation of arms and nuclear testing.  The US has announced that it will stop food shipments to North Korea and reinstate sanctions.

Impact – Any hoped for change in North Korea under the new regime seems unlikely at this point.  Don’t count on new markets opening here.


British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Myanmar, formerly Burma, to assess recent changes in leadership.  The government is still dominated by the military, but key elections in Myanmar’s parliament have ignited confidence that the country could be changing.  EU sanctions are likely to be lifted (expect for an arms embargo) and both European and US companies are looking for potential business opportunities, especially in construction and healthcare.

Impact – This could be a great business opportunity as the market starts opening up to international companies.  Myanmar is the home of the longest producing oil field.  Beware, though, only about 25% of the country is on the nation’s electrical grid meaning very limited infrastructure.


A serial killer has been roaming Paris and has killed two women and two men with the same gun according to ballistic tests.  The killer struck three of the victims from a scooter wearing a helmet as a disguise.  French police arrested two suspects, one of whom was later released as a victim of identity theft while the other remains in custody and is expected to face charges.  However, he has not confessed as of yet.

Impact – More of an interesting story than having a real impact, but the fear and concern was increased due to the similar style attacks in southern France that left several dead, including victims at a Jewish school and three paratroopers from North Africa.  The suspect in that case died after a shootout with police as he jumped out of his apartment window.  That suspect had ties to Al-Qaeda and traveled to Afghanistan for training.


South Sudan broke off from Sudan in 2011, after a six-year ‘waiting period’ following a bloody civil war ending in 2005.  In recent days, the fighting has escalated with reports of air attacks and bombing along the border.  Heglig, a city in Sudan, was seized by South Sudanese and bombed by Sudan during the fighting.  There are reports of fighting all along the border region.

Impact - Fighting in the area is nothing new, but the increased violence does pose concerns for the region.  Sudan borders Egypt and Libya, as well as Chad and all are suffering instability in light of recent changes in government and leadership.  Al-Qaeda has been active in the region so this certainly poses a concern of attacks on European and American interests as well as potential new footholds for the terrorist group.  The situation is ripe for exploitation by terrorists groups as Sudan is primarily a Muslim country and South Sudan is predominantly Christian.


A very fragile cease-fire has been put into place, but the fighting continues with government forces reportedly bombing areas near the Turkish border.  Turkey has been dealing with refuges crossing the border to escape the violence.

Impact – Only time will tell.  The current government has brought a certain amount of stability to the area, but at a cost to the county’s own people.  Since opposing forces have begun speaking up, more than 11,000 people are thought to have been killed.


In a growing scandal, British businessman Neil Heywood was murdered by Gu Kailai, the wife of one of the top communist party leaders, Bo Xilai.  Heywood’s death was originally thought to be alcohol-related, but it now appears that he was poisoned.  According to the Times of India, he threatened to report Kailai after she wanted him to move a large sum of money and he demanded a larger percentage, which was refused. 

Bo Xilai has been removed from office and the corruption has prompted calls for action to rid the government of corruption.

Impact – This may prompt some changes throughout the government and clean up some forms of corruption.  However, it seems that corruption will find a way and that dirty politicians will manage to contrive ways to cheat the system.  In the long term, probably no real impact, but an interesting story nonetheless. 

Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense.  He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management.  Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces.  To learn more visit 

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