Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year folks



Tom is already kicking the new year down in Australia. So far there is no indication that 2008 is going to be the year of the Apocalypse.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

binge drinking

So, some possible resolutions for the New Year:



Stop after one or two drinks. Studies of the Mediterranean diet have shown that one or two drinks on a consistent basis leads to a longer life than pure teetotaling.



If you must binge, start at age 40, not at age 16 — and always have someone else drive. Just as youth is wasted on the young, so perhaps is alcohol.



If you have binged excessively when younger, follow it up with some regular exercise. Get those brain cells regenerated.

As Shakespeare once pointed out without the benefit of studies on lab rats, “O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains!”

NyTimes

Malaysia is going insane

"A church and Christian newspaper in Malaysia are suing the government after it decreed that the word "Allah" can only be used by Muslims." (bbc)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Suicide Blast in Pakistan

Sources from the hospital in Islamabad are confirming that former prime minister Benazir Bhutto has been killed in a suicide attack.

More updates here.

The Forbes Fictional rich list

So who's the richest person in in fantasy land....?
It's Uncle Scrooge!

Catch the whole list here.


Here's another list of Forbes 25 largest fictional corporations. Yup, Good ol' Acme corp. is in there, as is Gringotts Bank....

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"Indeed, Indonesia may be the scariest nation in Asia for fliers. In the past three years alone, a plane from Adam Air, an Indonesian low-cost carrier, vanished without a trace; another Adam Air plane cracked open upon landing; a Garuda Indonesia flight overran the runway in Yogyakarta and caught fire, killing at least 20; and an aircraft of Lion Air, another discount airline, went off a runway on Java, killing about 30." (NY Times)

Yup, flying loco.

Egypt tries to enforce licensing on Pyramids and ancient Egypt figures

"
Egypt's MPs are expected to pass a law requiring royalties be paid whenever copies are made of museum pieces or ancient monuments such as the pyramids.

Zahi Hawass, who chairs Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, told the BBC the law would apply in all countries.

The money was needed to maintain thousands of pharaonic sites, he said.

Correspondents say the law will deal a blow to themed resorts across the world where large-scale copies of Egyptian artefacts are a crowd-puller.

Mr Hawass said the law would apply to full-scale replicas of any object in any museum in Egypt." (BBC)

Yikes.

What is your top x books in 2007?

These are my favorites this year.
I only have four :( Not enough book reading this year.

Should Sovereign wealth fund be regulated

In the past months, you have seen some Wall Street giants being saved by Sovereign Fund (such as Dubai, Kuwait or Dubai) where countries actually buy stakes at these public companies.

These activities can generate various conflict of interest or issues due to the geopolitical nature of the world right now. If a country invest in a multi national company that operate in conflict area such as Sudan, does it mean that your foreign policy support the genocide in Darfur?

Follow the fascinating discussion about sovereign fund activities in the world held by the Brookings Institute.

"Petrodollars, commodity riches and large national reserves from export-led economies have fuelled the growth of sovereign wealth funds and with it, debate about the transparency and investment objectives of the governments that run them. From China to Norway to Abu Dhabi, sovereign wealth funds now account for approximately 1.3 percent of the world’s financial assets, prompting calls for regulation and oversight in order to protect sensitive industries, such as national security companies, and ensure ethical investments." (Brookings Institute)

World Oil Map

Click on the image to view bigger version


Take der Spiegel 2007 wacky story quiz
.

Foreign Policy end of year goodness

  1. Top 5 world executioners.
  2. Top 10 stories you missed in 2007.
  3. Globalization index 2007.
  4. Failed states index 2007.
  5. Terrorism index 2007.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Have a Merry Christmas folks

Vitamin D crisis in non-whites

"Vitamin D tests conducted on a group of University of Toronto students have found that virtually all non-whites had insufficient levels of the sunshine vitamin, putting them at elevated risk of debilitating diseases such as osteoporosis, cancer and diabetes.

The research, which is awaiting publication in a medical journal, found that 100 per cent of those of African origin were short of vitamin D, as were 93 per cent of South Asians (those of Indian or Pakistani origin), and 85 per cent of East Asians (those of Chinese, Indochinese or Filipino origin, among other countries)." (The Globe and Mail)

"Well, then we have no disconnect. Ten minutes after, I was fine. There was just no chance I was gonna let it happen again. If somebody was doing it over and over again, One might go permanently mad. No question in my mind.

All I was trying to say is that once you have totally and complete panic and surrender, you can't surrender or panic to any greater degree.

I sure hope it's true, and objectively I beleive it's true. But, I don't think the sensation could be worse, it could just damage you more by lasting. I found it true in my ultramarathoning that when things hurt as bad as they possibly can, they just don't get worse.

To quantify it, look at it this way. Let's say the maximum human distress a person can voluntarily withstand is 10.

Waterboarding was a 1,000.

" (An ultra marathoner tried waterboarding) - view Andrew Sullivan.

sokushinbutsu



Self mummified priests of Japan.

solar energy

Nanosolar’s founder and chief executive, Martin Roscheisen, claims to be the first solar panel manufacturer to be able to profitably sell solar panels for less than $1 a watt. That is the price at which solar energy becomes less expensive than coal. NYtimes

Sunday, December 23, 2007

We're being educated out of our creativity

Another fantastic talk from TED; this one on education and creativity, including the incredible example of the child who had a learning disorder. Nowadays she would go to a special school with lots of special medicines and fancy names for her illness. In 1930, she was sent to dance school and choreographed work like CATS; the hit musical.

Watch it, and rethink the role of education -especially with the uncertain future we have ahead of us.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Since we're talking about movies....

Thought I'd share one I saw this afternoon.....

http://imdb.com/title/tt0756683/

Friday, December 21, 2007

Golden Globe Nomination 2007

Get the full list here.

1. BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA

  1. AMERICAN GANGSTER
    Imagine Entertainment/Scott Free Productions; Universal Pictures
  2. ATONEMENT
    Working Title Films Limited; Focus Features
  3. EASTERN PROMISES
    Kudos Pictures/Serendipity Point Films; Focus Features
  4. THE GREAT DEBATERS
    Harpo Films; The Weinstein Company/MGM
  5. MICHAEL CLAYTON
    Samuels Media and Castle Rock Entertainment a Mirage Enterprises/Section 8 Production; Warner Bros. Pictures
  6. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
    A Scott Rudin/Mike Zoss Production; Miramax Films/Paramount Vantage
  7. THERE WILL BE BLOOD
    A Joanne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Company Production; Paramount Vantage/Miramax Films

4. BEST MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL

  1. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
    Revolution Studios; Sony Pictures Releasing
  2. CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
    Universal Pictures/Relativity Media/Participant Productions/Playtone; Universal Pictures
  3. HAIRSPRAY
    Zadan/Meron Productions / New Line Cinema in association with Ingenious Film Partners; New Line Cinema
  4. JUNO
    Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production; Fox Searchlight Pictures
  5. SWEENEY TODD
    Parkes/MacDonald and Zanuck Company; DreamWorks/Paramount Distribution / Warner Bros. Pictures

Charles Wilson's War

This is a movie based on a true story of a womanizer Congressman from Texas that managed to bring US, Israel, Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia working together in supplying weapons and money for the Afghanistan Mujahedin during Soviet Union occupation.

This is a good review from TNR. It receives 80% rating from Rotten Tomatoes. I highly recommend the book about this Congressman published in 2003.

It's good to be Putin


(Time Person of the Year)


"The claims over the president's assets surfaced last month when the Russian political expert Stanislav Belkovsky gave an interview to the German newspaper Die Welt. They have since been repeated in the Washington Post and the Moscow Times, with speculation over the fortune appearing on the internet.

Citing sources inside the president's administration, Belkovsky claims that after eight years in power Putin has secretly accumulated more than $40bn (£20bn). The sum would make him Russia's - and Europe's - richest man." (Guardian)


I am not sure whether Belkovsky is smoking crack or not, but here's an interesting piece of response from Putin from his interview with Time.

"One of the perceptions that Americans have about Russia is that corruption is endemic. How do you handle that?
Badly. I must say that in the transitional economy, it is difficult to address such problems. But I'm fully convinced that down the road, [they] will be tackled more efficiently."


I must say I am fond of the dude.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

This is what happened if you are refused entry to the US and get deported (via Andrew Sullivan).

"They would not tell me where they were taking me. The trip took close to one hour and although I couldn't see clearly outside the vehicle I knew that we had crossed over into New Jersey. We ended up in front of a jail. I could hardly believe that this was happening. Was I really about to be jailed? I was led inside in the chains and there yet another interrogation session ensued. I was fingerprinted once again and photographed. I was made to undergo a medical examnination, I was searched and then I was placed in a jail cell. I was asked absurd questions such as: When did you have your last period? What do you believe in? Have you ever tried to commit suicide?"

And she's Icelandic.

Now you know my deportation experience out of Azerbaijan is actually a nice one.

i like to swim in it

if you have been caught up in the benny lava craze, you will enjoy this blog post from a linguist/blogger

The bloodbath continues

" Bear Stearns Cos., the No. 5 U.S. investment bank, said Thursday a bigger-than-expected writedown of its mortgage portfolio caused a substantial quarterly loss.

The quarterly loss after paying preferred dividends was $859 million, or $6.90 per share, compared to a profit of $558 million, or $4 per share, a year earlier. The company had negative net revenue of $379 million compared to revenue of $2.41 billion a year earlier." (NY Times)


Only Western banks are affected by this subprime mortgage problem. Asian banks are cruising happily watching their competitors shooting themselves on the foot.

US refuses to support UN post to combat violence against children

[New York, 27 November 2007] - The UN General Assembly’s decision today to establish a Special Representative to the Secretary-General on violence against children is a welcome step toward combating this worldwide problem, said a broad coalition of human rights groups and child rights advocates.

The decision to create the new position was made under the General Assembly’s annual resolution on the Rights of the Child, adopted today in the Third Committee [by a vote of 176 to 1]. The only country voting against was the United States.

The appointment follows the release last year of the UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children. This study exposed the shocking scope of violence against children worldwide and its devastating effects on children, their families, their communities and broader society.

Anyone know why the USA would vote against this?
p.s. more information on violence against children here

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Story of Stuff

Do you know all that there is to know about the stuff you have? No? Start by checking out the Story of Stuff.

Contrast : Winner vs Losers on the subprime mortagage problem

"Morgan Stanley posted its first quarterly loss ever on Wednesday after taking an additional $5.7 billion write-down related to subprime mortgages. The investment bank said it would sell a $5 billion stake to the China Investment Corporation, that country’s sovereign wealth fund, to shore up its capital." (NYT)

"Bouyed by massive gains from trading and investments in leveraged buyouts, Goldman Sachs on Tuesday announced the biggest profit in Wall Street history, allowing it to reward eligible employees with an average annual compensation of about $622,000.

The investment banking company that is the leading adviser in corporate mergers and acquisitions said it earned $9.34 billion this year. In its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Nov. 24, profit increased 93 percent over the year before to $3.16 billion, or $6.59 a share, exceeding most analysts' forecasts." (IHT)

The way these things work, it looks like Goldman Sachs just robbed Morgan Stanley blind. Man, I would love to hear the trash talking over the wires between these two giants.

I bet in 4 years they are going to make a movie out of this.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

$7.4 billion in aid for Palestine

"Eighty-seven countries and international organizations pledged $7.4 billion in aid to the Palestinians on Monday, in the most ambitious fund-raising effort in more than a decade to help Palestinians create a viable, peaceful and secure state of their own.

The total is set to cover the next three years. The Palestinians had hoped to secure $5.6 billion in budgetary and development support over the next three years, but the amount pledged exceeded that figure." (NY Times)


the caveat?
"
The United States pledged $555 million for 2008, up from $75 million this year. “The Palestinian Authority is experiencing a serious budgetary crisis,” Ms. Rice said. “This conference is literally the government’s last hope to avoid bankruptcy.”..

The European Union, the largest aid donor to the Palestinians, pledged $650 million for 2008. Separately, European nations made three-year pledges, including France and Sweden at $300 million each, Britain $500 million, Norway $420 million, Spain $360 million and Germany $200 million.

In a move significant both practically and symbolically, the Saudis pledged $500 million over three years.

Many countries do not fulfill pledges that they make at such conferences. Egypt and other Arab countries are known for pledging funds to the Palestinian Authority that they do not deliver.

"




Monday, December 17, 2007

America's Giving Challenge - Support a Great Charity

I wanted to tell you all about this incredible fundraiser for "Invest in International Development Leaders" through America's Giving Challenge on GlobalGiving. By making a donation to "Invest in International Development Leaders" you're not just making a tax-deductable donation - you could help it get an award of up to $50,000 in America's Giving Challenge!

It's been quite sometime since I got introduced to Atlas Service Corps!

It's been wonderful being a friendly volunteer at Atlas Corps and now I've taken up another challenge i.e. to lead a campaign(as below). I would appreciate all my friends and others who could help Atlas Corps by donating 10 USD.

If you would like to read coverage about the contest in The New York Times, click here .

DONATE NOW: You can check it out at http://givingchallenge.globalgiving.com/dy/registry/ag.html?regid=624&cmd=prevfund

Questions? Comments? Email Scott Beale at scott@atlascorps.org with questions, comments or if you want to get involved and support Atlas Corps more actively. We strongly encourage you to visit the Atlas Corps website for more information: Atlas Corps about the organization and the campaign.

Thanks!

Contribute to Davos Economic Forum

Thought nomadlifers would appreciate this opportunity found on Youtube.com:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=BDqs-OZWw9o


The Davos World Economic Forum is giving individuals an opportunity to submit their feedback.

What can companies, governments, individuals do in 2008 to make the world a better place?

Liberia is bouncing back

" Rarely in Africa has the human cost of war and greed been clearer than in this dingy, broken, sweltering corner of hell. Yet nowhere has the expectation of change created so much hope.

After 14 years of darkness, street lights shine amid the shattered buildings. And the new president — the first woman elected to head an African country — stands under an umbrella in the driving rain to launch repairs to a street that seems to have more holes than pavement.

Liberia last year began a grand experiment to overcome its past through a sea change in how it is run. The new leaders are elected. Parliament is controlled by the opposition, for the first time in its history. And President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf promises a new deal funded by donors and investors lured by peace and good governance."

"This country will never be what it was before," said Augustine Toe, a lawyer who directs the Roman Catholic Peace and Justice Commission. "People are starting to hold the government accountable more than ever before in our history. For the first time we are beginning to have a semblance of checks and balances." (msnbc)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Drama in Bali

"

It's hardly the first time the U.S. has been jeered at a UN event, but what happened next was unique. Nation after developing nation rose to criticize the U.S. in language more often reserved for a political debate than a UN conference. A representative from tiny Papua New Guinea — one of many small island states most immediately threatened by climate change — recalled the old Lee Iacocca line about leading, following or getting out of the way. "If the U.S. will not lead, get out of the way," he said, to gallery cheers. "Please get out of the way."

More importantly, with the exception of a confused statement from Japan, not one of the allies that had generally stood with the U.S. the past two weeks — Australia, Russia, Canada — rose in its defense. The near-total isolation of the U.S. on climate change — which had been building since its rejection of the Kyoto Protocol nearly a decade ago — was now obvious, apparently even to the U.S. Dobiansky turned to speak. "We've listened very closely to many of our colleagues here during these two weeks, but especially to what has been said in this hall today," she said. "We will go forward and join consensus." Boos turned to cheers, and the deal was essentially sealed." (Time)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Breakthrough

"Delegates from nearly 190 countries wrapped up two weeks of intense and at times emotional talks here on Saturday with a two-year timetable for reviving an ailing, aging climate treaty.

..
We've listened very closely to many of our colleagues here during these two weeks, but especially to what has been said in this hall today," Paula Dobriansky, who led the U.S. delegation, told the other assembled delegates. "We will go forward and join consensus."

The Bush administration had earlier made a significant change in policy, ending its long-held objection to formal negotiations on new steps to avoid climate dangers. This time, the United States agreed to set a deadline for an addendum to the original treaty, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was signed by President George H.W. Bush during his final year in office in 1992 but never ratified by the United States.

" (NYT)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

CIA Torture Jet wrecks with 4 Tons of COCAINE

This Florida based Gulfstream II jet aircraft # N987SA crash landed on September 24, 2007 after it ran out of fuel over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula it had a cargo of several tons of Cocaine on board now documents have turned up on both sides of the Atlantic that link this Cocaine Smuggling Gulfstream II jet aircraft # N987SA that crashed in Mexico to the CIA who used it on at least 3 rendition flights from Europe and the USA to Guantanamo's infamous torture chambers between 2003 to 2005. (Daily Kos)

What do you think of Heaven?

What is your imagination of heaven? Some people describes heaven as if it's a place with massive orgies and free booze. Some people describes it like a monastery living, quiet, happy and boring.

Are you a betting (wo)man?

Predictions of the Year 2000 from The Ladies Home Journal of December 1900

Prediction #6: Automobiles will have been substituted for every horse vehicle now known. There will be, as already exist today, automobile hearses, automobile police patrols, automobile ambulances, automobile street sweepers. The horse in harness will be as scarce, if, indeed, not even scarcer, then as the yoked ox is today.

Prediction #7: ...Air-ships... will be maintained as deadly war-vessels by all military nations. Some will transport men and goods. Others will be used by scientists making observations at great heights above the earth.

Prediction #9: Photographs will be telegraphed from any distance. If there be a battle in China a hundred years hence snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later. Photographs will reproduce all of Nature’s colors.

Prediction #14: Black, Blue and Green Roses.

Prediction #16: There will be No C, X or Q in our every-day alphabet. They will be abandoned because unnecessary.

Prediction #20: Coal will not be used for heating or cooking. It will be scarce, but not entirely exhausted. The earth’s hard coal will last until the year 2050 or 2100; its soft-coal mines until 2200 or 2300.

Prediction #27: Few drugs will be swallowed or taken into the stomach unless needed for the direct treatment of that organ itself. Drugs needed by the lungs, for instance, will be applied directly to those organs through the skin and flesh.

Prediction #28: There will be no wild animals except in menageries.

Read them all in detail over here...

And then check these out for bets being made today about our future....

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

w00t is Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year 2007

"
1. w00t (interjection)
expressing joy (it could be after a triumph, or for no reason at all); similar in use to the word "yay""
(Merriam-Webster)
"A good friend of mine, Emilio Daniel died yesterday.
The police shot him down. They wanted the car to stop and shot him in the back." (Sofia)

Who said Schumi was done racing?

The seven-time Formula One world champion took over from his taxi driver in order to make it to the airport in time for a flight, it has emerged.


Michael Schumacher, cabbie extraordinaire
Michael Schumacher has ruled himself out of any return to Formula One
Cabbie Tuncer Yilmaz watched in awe as the racing legend, 38, showed him how his job ought to be done.

"I found myself in the passenger seat, which was strange enough, but to have 'Schumi' behind the wheel of my cab was incredible," Mr Yilmaz told German newspaper the Muenchner Abendzeitung. Telegraph

Trash the dress photography

Check out the blog that tracks wedding photography movement that "trash the dress" because the photo shoot happens in non traditional setting that usually ruin the wedding dress.

You know it's coming

Today is a day for another meeting between Israel and Palestinian representative as a result of the Annapolis Conference a couple of weeks ago. Well, as customary, there's another military action in Gaza yesterday.

Imagine that, a military incursion one day before a peace talk meeting. One hell of a way to start the conference.

Politics in Brasil



AS THE president of the Senate, Renan Calheiros was perhaps the most powerful ally of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil's legislature. Seven months ago, the media, acting on tip-offs from the federal police, accused him of getting a lobbyist for a construction firm to make regular child-maintenance payments to his former mistress. On December 4th Mr Calheiros finally resigned his post.

Thus ended a tenacious rearguard action. As well as the link with the lobbyist, Mr Calheiros was alleged to have used shell companies to buy two radio stations and a newspaper in his home state, and to have paid for a dossier digging up dirt on his enemies in the Senate. He protested his innocence. Then his mistress was photographed for Playboy (in the same pose as Christine Keeler, a big-eyed brunette who ended the career of a British minister in 1963). Economist

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Roma!

hello nomads!

i'm planning a week-long trip to rome in march for my 25th birthday. plane tickets are booked -- i get there on a friday and leave the next friday -- but i don't have much else done right now.

would love to hear from anyone who's there (can we do a nomadlife mini-meetup?), or who's been there of late, on

-- good places to stay (safe, since i'll be on my own; relatively inexpensive; centrally located). i wouldn't mind doing either hostels or rental apartments for the week, as long as i don't end up paying an arm and a leg for the latter.
-- where to eat (the locals' recommendations!)
-- what to do (i've ordered guidebooks online, but again, would love to hear tips and tricks from those in the know)
-- the weather in mid-march. rain? cold? sunny?

also, should i take off to florence for a day or two? or would i be better advised to stay in rome for the whole time? i'm happy to just take things easy, but i also don't want to under-do it!

any and all wisdom on this or other topics gratefully received! thanks! :-)

watson

malcolm gladwell, writing for the new yorker, makes a good contribution to the iq and race issue.

since iq scores are not stable across generations, he points out, how can they controlled by genetics for large populations?

Harvard Cuts Undergraduate Costs by Up to 50% for 'Middle-Income' Families

Harvard University will cut the costs of attending the Ivy League school by as much as 50 percent for families that earn $120,000 to $180,000 a year, making access easier for "middle-income" students.

"What you see here is a real commitment to try to identify a response to the enormous stress that a particular group of families feel about the cost of higher education," President Drew Faust said in a conference call. The new program focuses on a "middle-income group," she said.

More here.

Ooh! So I can now go to Harvard?? :D

Monday, December 10, 2007

UBS is f@#$@#

"Swiss bank UBS unveiled $10 billion in shock subprime writedowns on Monday and said it had obtained an emergency capital injection from the Singapore government and an unnamed Middle East investor.

UBS, which has been severely battered by the U.S. subprime mortgage meltdown, issued a profit warning and cancelled plans for a cash dividend in moves that depressed the company's shares and those of its rivals." (Reuter)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tracking Flight Live

http://flightaware.com/

What does Santa Claus and Kyrgyzstan have in common?

Santa Clause (or "Ayaz Ata", as how we call him in Kyrgyz) is from Kyrgyzstan! Can you believe that?! Santa is my citizen :)

Well, according to Swedish consultancy firm Sweco, hehe, it is proven. You may read this news, laugh at it, and forget about it. But, hey, not our Tourism Agency! They see it as another opportunity to promote tourism in Kyrgyzstan now. Why not?! Kyrgyzstan's beautiful nature becomes even more gorgeous and fabulous in winter time, and tourists have all the rights not to bypass such a beautiful place!

Kyrgyzstan National Tourism Agency has already announced the competition "In which part of Kyrgyzstan does Santa Claus live?" to locate the symbolical residence place of Santa. What is more, it is planning to organize the Annual Santa Claus Assembly in Kyrgyzstan and invite Santa Clauses from other countries. And another interesting idea is that Santa Claus will make the ceremonial start from Kyrgyzstan. :) Agency is aware that they need to try hard in order to claim and promote it.



Shock revelation from Swedish consultancy firm: Santa Claus lives in Kyrgyzstan
(HELSINGIN SANOMAT) Santa Claus or Father Christmas lives in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia, declares the Swedish engineering, environmental technology, and architecture consulting services firm Sweco. The claim was reported by the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter in its Saturday issue under the headline: "Sorry, Finns".

Well, this is one news item that calls for delving into in greater depth. Anders Larsson of Sweco tells Helsingin Sanomat over the phone that the company has calculated, based on the earth’s topography and distribution of population, the location from which Santa Claus would have the easiest access to all the nice and deserving children in the world.

The end result did not surprise the Swedes. From the logistics point of view, the most beneficial location for Santa’s Grotto is in Kyrgyzstan, thousands of kilometres from Finnish Lapland.

Sweco presents an avalanche of facts to justify its shock discovery: Santa has to make it to 2.5 billion households in just one night.

For the delivery of gifts, Father Christmas can spare a massive 34 microseconds (millionths of a second) per home. And on the round-the-world delivery route Santa’s reindeer sleigh will travel at the modest speed of 5,800 kilometres per second.

Logistically speaking, all this would be easiest done from Kyrgyzstan. If Santa lived in Korvatunturi in Finnish Lapland - a place traditionally branded as the location of Santa’s Grotto for Finnish children – the presented figures would be significantly higher.

Unravelling the location of Santa’s home was not too difficult, Larsson boasts. "It took us half a day to produce the calculation


(source: aibek@nomadlife)

End of year goodies from NYT

53 places to go in 2008 and 7th Annual Year of Ideas. Not to be missed.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Interesting week for Venezuela

It has definitely been an interesting week for my country (Venezuela), after the first partial results were given by the CNE (National Elections Committee) stating that the constitutional reforms were not approved by the people (check prior post).
Venezuela saw Chavez accept the defeat without the rage or angry message a lot of people expected from him(Check BBC news).
Then Venezuela saw that expected reaction from Chavez while broadcasting with the Military. He qualified the victory of the opposition as a "Shitty victory", and mentioned that he didn't want to win in that way, and that he will put the reform through once more, even if it is not constitutional to do so. During his speech (check the video in Spanish) he mentions "Shit" 4 times, which is against the law; and then Venezuelans saw our "Communications Minister" say that the fact that the President did use the word will allow for it to be permitted in the future(check the video in Spanish).
Venezuela also heard his speech saying that "Here, the Sí lost, you let the Sí loose, Miranda owes me one, people of Miranda and Caracas you are in debt with me, I have it written down in my planner, let's see if you will pay your debt to me or not", while addressing the facts that his followers did not go vote massively on Sunday, as in prior occasions (best review in English I have read is in Caracas Chronicles blog)
To finish the week, Venezuelans wait for the CNE to give the full and final results of Sunday's polls in the next hours, while some analysts made note that the difference between "No" and "Si" might be significantly smaller that initially thought (Check Caracas Chronicles blog). And also Venezuelans are expected to roll back their clocks by 30 min next Sunday, as the "New Time Zone" for Venezuela gets into effect (Check Reuters for more details)

How much longer will this craziness continue? Well for that I recommend you read The Economist's article "The wind goes out of the revolution" it's worth the read!!

Plug: Intensive Mandarin Courses

This new school was established by a French-Canadian who's had 4 years of teaching experience in China. He was a colleague/manager of some of the English-teaching AIESEC trainees in Beijing this summer, one of which was my brother. He's passionate about the education of the new generation in China - I totally support his cause.

WESTERN-EASTERN Language Center is a newly established foreign owned and managed language school located in the bustling city of Dongguan. WE offer courses in English, Japanese, French, and 12 weeks Intensive Mandarin and Chinese Culture course.

WE offers you a 12 weeks program of 220 hours of class teaching and a large number of after class activities such as: Chinese Corners, Chinese Tea Ceremony Course, Tai Chi Course, Movie Nights, Calligraphy Course and more as well as a 7 day trip into one of the most beautiful part of China (Yangshuo and South-East Guizhou).

In order to help you understand more about China and its culture and customs, we offer courses to help you understand more about China and Chinese people so that you can integrate into Chinese people’s lives and improve your quality of life in China.

The program includes:
-Classes from Monday to Friday

-175 hours of Mandarin

-45 hours of Chinese Culture

-One on One Chinese corner at week end

-A 7 day trip (transportation / accommodation / meals / entrance fees paid by the school)

-Free shared accommodation near the school

-Small classes

-Highly experienced and qualified Chinese teachers

-Foreign staff to help you with your daily life in China

The fees for the 12 weeks training is $3500 US and it includes all the above. We have two programs, one from March 3, 2008 until May 24, 2008 and the second from May 20, 2008 until August 8, 2008. We can also offers job placement for summer or/and long term work after the courses as well as travel advices. We have a limited number of places so don’t miss your chance to experience one of the most mysterious and magical place on earth!!!

If interested in our program or/and would like to have more information please contact Jeff at oceanjeff@hotmail.com

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Blonde Map

US Senate approves free trade agreement with Peru

Cato Institute has an opinion about it here.

Astronauts test sex in space - but did the earth move?

US and Russian astronauts have had sex in space for separate research programmes on how human beings might survive years in orbit, according to a book published yesterday.....

....

Only four positions were found possible without "mechanical assistance". The other six needed a special elastic belt and inflatable tunnel, like an open-ended sleeping bag.

Mr Kohler says: "One of the principal findings was that the classic so-called missionary position, which is so easy on earth when gravity pushes one downwards, is simply not possible."

more

Oh Geez!

BoingBoing took a liking to this flickr photoset of a St. Cloud Bakery's sign.

Congrats to the nomadlifers who hail from St. Cloud, you're from a place only slightly less obscure.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Why men should not marry? (not without prenup)

"So back to the question of should men get married? I say, do so with an open mind and realize that the legal system may be stacked against you. Make sure you trust the woman you are going to marry and consider a prenuptial agreement that can serve to protect you should a divorce become a reality. One doesn’t want to become jaded to marriage and relationships but at the same time, a certain degree of reality is warranted because men often do not make out well in divorce proceedings–for example, 84% of all child and spousal support payments come from men. When things become less attractive to people, they are less likely to do it. If society wants men to be involved more in marriage, marriage has to be more attractive to them–it is getting riskier and more expensive for men to be married. It’s not surprising fewer of them are interested." (Dr. Helen)

At least in the US.

How FreePorn change the porn business

"For the time being, Hirsch put those questions aside and focused on the business challenge: How, exactly, would you monetize this site? All the features were free, and, as Jones admitted, the advertising revenue was meager—about $120,000 a month. Jones said he wasn’t too interested in figuring that out himself. He planned to grow the audience as large as possible and then “exit” to an established company with the resources and know-how to parlay the traffic into revenue. Not that he’s expecting the $1.65 billion Google paid for YouTube or even the $580 million Rupert Murdoch coughed up for MySpace. Jones told Hirsch he’d be willing to part with YouPorn for $20 million. Hirsch said he’d be in touch." (Portfolio) - via Andrew Sullivan.

The free UGC (user generated content) porn site is a mimic of YouTube (no relation) and right now becomes one of the highest porn site on the Internet. The success of this site and its free porn sites brethren (at least in market share, if not revenue) is biting the incomes of established porn peddlers in the industry. If you can get it conveniently and for free, why buy the DVDs?

Its Official.













The Chimps are smarter than us.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Micro Invest by eBay

https://www.microplace.com/

Iran's (non-existent) nuclear weapons program...

"A new assessment by American intelligence agencies released Monday concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, contradicting a judgment two years ago that Tehran was working relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb..."

"...In interviews on Monday, some administration officials expressed skepticism about the conclusions reached in the new report, saying they doubted that American intelligence agencies had a firm grasp of the Iranian government’s intentions..." (NYT)

Curiouser and curiouser..................

Can you feel the joyful Christmas sprit already in the air?

With the Christmas season quickly approaching, Penelope Trunk posts her top five justifications for Christmas to be a US National Holiday that drive her NUTS.

1. ”Christmas is not a religious holiday.”
2. “Stop complaining! You get an extra day off from work.”
3. “Christmas is about good cheer. Focus on that and lose your bad attitude.”
4. ”You can also take a day off for Hanukkah.”
5. “We get Christmas off at work because this is a Christian country.”

You can read her arguments and the rest of the post here.

Does any other secular nation in the world proclaim a religious holiday to be a National holiday? Does Turkey, for instance, proclaim the end of Ramadan a National holiday?

There was an allusion to a US Supreme Court case that ruled Christmas is NOT a religious holiday (though, there were no links or other facts about the case).

What's your justification (or counter-argument) for a religious holiday turning into a national one?

** UPDATE
links only work when you put an equals sign after href...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Attention: Nomads in Singapore

Yo, any nomads in Singapore willing to house 2 - 3 wandering souls this weekend? I was just notified I have to leave Malaysia to finalize my working visa, so I figure I'll make a weekend out of it. I plan to head to Singapore this Thursday night for the weekend.

Anybody up for a few wondering souls? We might come with hookah goods.

If your heart would be so voluptuous, shoot me a note: mixmaster AT nomadlife DOT org

Chavez reforms are not approved by Venezuela!!

The headlines in BBC read Chavez defeated over reform vote, in CNN headlines are Voters reject Chavez's referendum. The reality is that a good amount of Venezuelans decided yesterday to use their right to vote for or against the changes in the constitution put forward by Chavez and his government, and they were not approved!!.

Today 01:19 (Caracas time) the CNE (National Elections Committee) announced that with a total of 97% of the acts already reviewed the "No" had won, it was a very close call though.

The referendum was divided into 2 blocks, 50.7% of voters voted against the first block while 49.29% voted for it. 51.05% of voters voted against the 2nd block while 48.44% voted for it.
There was an absenteeism of 44.11%. For the Spanish speaking out there, go check Globovision for further figures.

The first block included reforms like: Continuous Presidential reelection and presidency period extended to 7 years, the expropriation of goods with a payment to the owner done in parallel to the judicial process (not like before where the judicial process and payment had to be finished before expropriating the goods), increase in Presidential attributions or rights, lost of the autonomy of the BCV (Venezuelan Central Bank), lowering of minimum age to vote to 16 years, and diminishing of daily working hours to 6 hours instead of 8, etc. Further information on the reforms can be found in Spanish in El Nacional.

Venezuela has made history against the "Revolution" and the "Socialism of the XXI century", but Chavez will continue to push his reforms in any way possible. He has until 2013 (when he will have already 14 years of presidency) to do so, therefore everyone asks Venezuelans to be very cautious, it is a great start but it is not the end of it. Some quotes of reactions can be found on BBC.
" Facebook is no paragon of virtue. It bears the hallmarks of the kind of pump-and-dump service that sees us as sticky, monetizable eyeballs in need of pimping. The clue is in the steady stream of emails you get from Facebook: "So-and-so has sent you a message." Yeah, what is it? Facebook isn't telling -- you have to visit Facebook to find out, generate a banner impression, and read and write your messages using the halt-and-lame Facebook interface, which lags even end-of-lifed email clients like Eudora for composing, reading, filtering, archiving and searching. Emails from Facebook aren't helpful messages, they're eyeball bait, intended to send you off to the Facebook site, only to discover that Fred wrote "Hi again!" on your "wall." Like other "social" apps (cough eVite cough), Facebook has all the social graces of a nose-picking, hyperactive six-year-old, standing at the threshold of your attention and chanting, "I know something, I know something, I know something, won't tell you what it is!"" (Cory Doctorow)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

1 in 4 men report raping a woman

An interesting article from the fantastic opendemocracy site on rape; which explains rape is not just the 'stranger in an alleyway' situation but is most often between a woman and someone she knows (including husbands and boyfriends). It also talks about the issues of women 'flirting' and therefore 'encouraging' or 'deserving' to be raped.

An interesting topic. This paragraph is a taster:
In fact, the majority of rapists are known to their victim, and about 50% of rapes in the UK occur in the home of the woman or the perpetrator. Most rapes do not involve violence beyond the act of rape itself, and rapists are predominantly ‘normal' men who have steady jobs, nice homes and established relationships. The uncomfortable truth is that rape is much closer to home than many people would like to admit.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The GSVC Symposium

The London Business School Responsible Business Club invites you to the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) Symposium on Saturday, December 1, 2007.

The theme for this year's symposium is 'Social Ventures: Business Solutions for Social Problems' with speakers and panel discussions covering a number of issues such as "Can a social challenge yield a profitable investment?" and "Discovering the Business Solution to your Social Challenges". The Symposium is a free event and does not imply that you will join the competition.

The keynote speaker this year will be Nigel Kershaw the CEO of Big Issue Invest, a £4m fund that provides £50,000-500,000 loans to ventures such as Jamie Oliver's Fifteen.

Where: LT1, London Business School
When: December 1, 2007
Time: 830am - 430pm
How to signup: http://forms.london.edu/form.asp?id=7966

GSVC SYMPOSIUM 2008 PROGRAMME

0830 – 0930: Registration and coffee
0930: Welcome to GSVC Symposium
0935: From Handouts to Profit – how do charity and social ventures relate?
1005: About the GSVC Introduction – Alejandro Trenor, GSVC Student Chair
1020: Learning Session: Valuing the Social and Environmental Impact of a Venture
Jeremy Nicholls, new economics foundation
1100: Coffee break
1120 – 1220: Panel: Can a social challenge yield a profitable investment?
Geoff Burnand, Investing For Good
Samantha Beinhacker, Skoll World Forum, University of Oxford
1120 – 1220: Teaching session
1220 : Nir Tsuk, Director Global Fellowship Programme, Ashoka
1300 – 1400: Lunch
1400: Activity Workshop: Discovering the Business Solution to your Social Challenges
Professor John Mullins , London Business School
1450: A Social Enterprise Journey
Phil Conway, GSVC Finalist and Founder, Cool2Care
1530 – 1550: Tea break
1550 – 1630 Keynote Speaker
Nigel Kershaw, Chairman of the Big Issue and CEO of Big Issue Invest

LP Guide China being Banned in China.

At issue is the English-language version of the China Travel Guide published by Australian-based Lonely Planet Publications, which includes a regional map that uses different colors to mark China and Taiwan to indicate they are two separate countries.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently confirmed the book has been banned.

(more here).

I wonder if this is really true...

India's human skeleton black market

Investigative journalist Scott Carney has been working for the last half a year or so on a story about grave robbers in Calcutta who steal skeletons and sell them to medical supply companies in the US and Europe. Intense.

"India has long been the world's primary source of bones used in medical study, renowned for producing specimens scrubbed to a pristine white patina and fitted with high-quality connecting hardware. In 1985, however, the Indian government outlawed the export of human remains, and the global supply of skeletons collapsed. Western countries turned to China and Eastern Europe, but those regions produce relatively few skeletons. They have little experience producing display-quality specimens, and their products are regarded as inferior.

Now, 22 years after India's export ban, there are signs that the trade never ended. Black-market vendors in West Bengal continue to supply human skeletons and skulls using the time-honored method: Rob graves, separate soft flesh from unyielding calcium, and deliver the bones to distributors — who assemble them and ship them to dealers around the globe." (Wired)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

CIA Venezuela Destabilization Memo Surfaces

"On November 26, 2007 the Venezuelan government broadcast and circulated a confidential memo from the US embassy to the CIA which is devastatingly revealing of US clandestine operations and which will influence the referendum this Sunday, December 2, 2007.

The memo sent by an embassy official, Michael Middleton Steere, was addressed to the Director of Central Intelligence, Michael Hayden. The memo was entitled 'Advancing to the Last Phase of Operation Pincer' and updates the activity by a CIA unit with the acronym 'HUMINT' (Human Intelligence) which is engaged in clandestine action to destabilize the forth-coming referendum and coordinate the civil military overthrow of the elected Chavez government. The Embassy-CIA's polls concede that 57 per cent of the voters approved of the constitutional amendments proposed by Chavez but also predicted a 60 per cent abstention." - CounterPunch

Monday, November 26, 2007

Annapolis Conference

"The Annapolis meeting, a major initiative pressed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, will begin negotiations on a peace treaty to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while simultaneously committing Israel and the Palestinians to carry out long-postponed obligations contained in the first stage of the 2003 peace plan known as the road map." (NY Times)

Syria is in, along with 17 other Arab countries.

Will we have a progress in solving the Palestine/Israel conflict?

This is what's at stake in the conference

"Of course. Every man on the street and every woman on the street, not only the politicians, knows what the settlement will look like in the end. It just needs the action to bring it about. It looks like the 1967 border, with delineation of that border. It looks for a negotiated solution for the Palestinian [refugees] return. It looks for a return of East Jerusalem as part of the Palestinian territories." (Time Interview)


I hope so, but the past records would say no - but again, this could be a black swan.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Money Talks

Airbus is having a currency crisis because all their orders are in dollars ($220 billion) and their costs are in Euros.

"As Airbus chief Thomas Enders warned in a speech to the Hamburg workers last night, Europe's champion plane-maker - the symbol of European unification, in the words or ex-French president Jacques Chirac -- is now facing a "life-threatening" crisis.

Mr Enders said the company's business model is "no longer viable", and "massive losses" are on the horizon. So much for all those currency hedges that analysts like to cite. Have they ever tried to buy a currency hedge? They would discover how expensive these instruments are. Hedges cannot protect a company with $220bn in delivery contracts priced in dollars, when the euro/sterling cost-base is leaping into the stratosphere." (Telegraph UK)


And Fortune magazine is covering the aftermath of the subprime mortgage crisis that brought down leaders of several of US most visible and respected financial institutions.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Behold, Facebook's revolutionary new advertising system! It's going to change the fundamental advertising model! Advertising targeted to users with laser-like position! Relevance like you've never seen relevance before! Reach the most refined, relevant, pinpoint-focussed target market you can imagine! It isn't advertising - it's brands connecting socially with users in a two way conversation that changes everything!

Here's the first crappy facebook spam "social advertisement" I recieved, from just a couple of hours ago:

OK, so lets review here. Facebook is delivering me an ad to watch a TV channel that isn't broadcast in the country that I live in. It knows that I live in Egypt. It knows (I presume) that Adult Swim is a TV show broadcast in the US, and not in Egypt.

Is there any real difference between this and flat out spam? Shit I don't want and aren't looking for (US television schedules) thrown in my face with no choice to opt-out? Spam, I see thy foul tentacles invading another happy place....

I'd expect this from those Allens Hill Farm motherfuckers, but facebook? Say it aint so...

Smile... You're on Camera!

Take extra-special care of your appearance when walking around Australian capital city streets this summer, as one nose pick or bum scratch could be immortalised on Google Maps forever.

Google-branded cars with roof-mounted cameras have just begun traversing our streets, taking highly detailed panoramic street-level photos for a new Maps feature called Street View.

Street View launched in the US in May this year and has since expanded into fifteen US cities. But many of the original photographs - including a woman exposing her g-string, a man striding into an adult bookshop and another man apparently relieving himself on the pavement - were since taken down due to privacy concerns.

(more here)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Pakistan has been suspended from the Commonwealth because of its imposition of emergency rule, the organisation has announced after a meeting in Uganda.

Secretary General Don McKinnon said Pakistan was being suspended "pending restoration of democracy and the rule of law". (bbc)

Happy Thankgiving



Have a safe travel and happy tummy!

Water park planned for Arizona desert

The businessmen behind Waveyard say they plan to recreate the seascape of Indonesia or Hawaii in an area that has just eight inches of rainfall a year. They have earmarked a site about 15 miles outside Phoenix on 125 acres of land that normally supports nothing but saguaro cacti and creosote bushes and that is 200 miles from the nearest beach.

To relocate nature's environment into the city will require an initial 189m litres of water to fill the facilities, and then up to 380m litres a year to replenish them allowing for spillage and evaporation.

Residents in the nearest town of Mesa voted earlier this month by two to one to support the project, won over by promises of 7,500 new jobs. Opposition to the proposals in the area has been muted.

Rita Maguire, a water expert who has advised Waveyard on water supplies for the development, told Associated Press that she had come round to the idea. "Initially, the reaction is: 'Oh my. Is this an appropriate use of water in a desert'? But recreation is a very important part of a community."

She added that the project would not use more water than a golf course, which sounds reassuring, until you learn that the Arizonan desert is already pockmarked with 402 golf courses.
the guardian

Welcome to Methuselah Generation

"Dr. Thomson’s laboratory at the University of Wisconsin was one of two that in 1998 plucked stem cells from human embryos for the first time, destroying the embryos in the process and touching off a divisive national debate.

And on Tuesday, his laboratory was one of two that reported a new way to turn ordinary human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without ever using a human embryo." (NY Times)


Mass production of your own conscious-free stem cells? What's not to like.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Statistic of Deportees



I got deported from Azerbaijan two days ago and spent one night in an immigration jail in Turkey. Here's some survey about the number of deportees in Istanbul airport on Nov 19 2007.

17 Nigerians.
1 Libyan.
1 Indonesian.
2 Uzbekistan.
1 Lebanese.
1 Pakistani.
1 Azeri.
1 Tajik.
1 Kosovar.
1 Iraqi.
1 Venezuelan.

How and why I got deported

I went to Baku to do some pretty interesting work for SilverKey Azerbaijan for ten days. I got deported from Azerbaijan for a fairly mundane procedural mistake. I applied for a visa for the Azerbaijan Embassy for business purposes and due to the timing I require for the visa, they simply inform me that I can obtain the visa in the airport.

So I went and they refused to grant me a visa by blaming the embassy. I didn't get deported immediately because I received a stay while my case was being fought in Azerbaijan government system.

This is how thing gets interesting.

I think there were three ministries in Azerbaijan got involved plus that famous intelligence organization that starts with K (they were on my side).

I got security clearance and approval from the responsible authorities on Monday afternoon. I was informed that I was going to be issued visa and admitted to the country. But I think someone in the border office thought otherwise and decided to deport me before the Foreign Ministry managed to put a stamp on my passport.

When you get deported, you receive special treatment from the airline. The captain of the plane held your passport, the flight attendants paid special attention with you and you were escorted in your transit city.

Then they put you in jail in Istanbul and the rest is history.

Azerbaijan treated me well, the Turks treated me well in Jail and the Egyptian received me with open arm.

What impressed me of this whole situation was the amount of effort and people in the background that tried to admit me in the country. This simple deportation case became a bigger thing in the end with so many players getting involved. And it was quite a revelation to observe and experience the deportation sequence from one country to another.

I found out it was quite easy to befriend people when you get stuck together in a jail. They were magnificent people and yet quite ordinary many ways. We got incarcerated for such mundane issues.

I met two older Uzbek aviators that got deported from Libya. Their case had something to do with the new Arabic translation requirement in Tripoli. Karim, the Libyan, was a businessman refused entry in Turkey. I met a Lebanese that got arrested after being refused to enter Cyprus although he had a visa. There was one Azeri kid, Parviz, on the way home to Baku whom the Turkish immigration accused of having a fake passport. He was my translator from Russian to English when we chatted with the Uzbeks. I befriended Shazad, an Iraqi from Kirkuk currently living in Sofia, Bulgaria. Vincent, a Kosovar, got stuck in that jail for four days before released to applause three hours from my departure. Henry was a football player in Nigeria. Bright was supposedly a major Scrabble coach in Lagos (I have no idea there was such thing as a Scrabble coach). The Pakistani only responded with Islamabad to any question in English; the language wasn't his strong suit. The Venezuelan was an immigrant from Nigeria.

They fed you Burger King combo for lunch.

In the end, I flew to two new countries without stepping outside their airports. I left Egypt on Saturday and returned on Tuesday.

Other than 4 days without a bath, it wasn't that bad.

I'll be back.

The Future Of Reading










"Amazon's Jeff Bezos already built a better bookstore. Now he believes he can improve upon one of humankind's most divine creations: the book itself."

- Newsweek

After the TV, the PC and the Phone .. companies have gambled entire fortunes on figuring out what the next 'screen' could be. It could very well be this electronic reader - 'Kindle', and it could replace the dog that fetched your newspaper every morning :)

Monday, November 19, 2007

double chocolate apple cider yellow cake mix

Who is this "Allens Hill Farm" flooding our photo rotator with rich images of desserts?

Is this some sort of advertising gimmick? Debauchery perpetrated by spam bots? You are making us hungry.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007

love, mobutu

Making comparisons between humanitarian crises may not always be fair or useful. But those dealing with the emergency in Kivu are starting to do so. “The situation at the moment in North Kivu is worse than Darfur,” says Sylvie van den Wildenberg of the UN mission in the province. Many more people have fled their homes this year than in Darfur. Refugee camps are starting to pop up just outside the provincial capital, Goma. (The Economist)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Traveling to Libya?

The Libyan government is denying entry to tourists if they don't have an Arabic translation of their passport - even if they have a valid visa, European officials and airliners said Monday.

Eighteen French nationals were stranded at the Tripoli airport since Sunday night, until the French ambassador to Libya intervened Monday on their behalf and they were allowed to return home, a French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Pascale Andreani, said in an online briefing Monday.

(more here)

Remember This ?


This image of a young boy and his father getting killed in an Israeli crossfire riveted the world a couple of years ago.

There have been doubts that this event was staged. There's currently a court case in France to force France 2 (the news network behind the footage) to show the footage of the reporting as a whole instead of clipped videos.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How Slim Got Huge

That's just an awesome title from Foreign Policy Magazine about the new King of Wealth; the richest person in the world Carlos Slim.

"What, then, to make of the man who in the summer of 2007 appears to have replaced Gates as the world’s richest person? His name is Carlos Slim Helú. Today, his fortune stands at more than $59 billion—and grew, on average, more than $1 billion a month last year. What kind of world are we living in now? Slim has been widely accused of monopolistic practices; he catapulted himself to the top spot on the back of his company Teléfonos de México, or Telmex, which has a 92 percent stranglehold on his country’s local fixed-line market. Slim’s business empire, the scope of which is largely unprecedented in modern economic history, ranges from cigarettes to airlines, from electric cables to floor tiles. In all, Slim’s net worth is equivalent to a stunning 6.6 percent of Mexico’s gross domestic product (GDP), easily eclipsing Gates (0.4 percent of U.S. GDP) and even John D. Rockefeller at his peak (slightly less than 2 percent in 1937). Although it may be unsurprising to see such gross wealth disparity in Latin America, what do we make of the growing list of billionaires in countries such as China, India, and Russia that supposedly represent the global economy’s future? Are we entering a new era of robber barons? Does the shift of investment and production to emerging markets herald a rise in “crony capitalism” worldwide? Or does the rapidly accumulating wealth of Slim and his ilk merely signify an undesirable byproduct of a very desirable process—the spread of free-market capitalism around the globe?" (Foreign Policy)

Monday, November 12, 2007

White Men Can't Jump

"But new research is exploring the remaining fraction to explain differences between people of different continental origins.

Scientists, for instance, have recently identified small changes in DNA that account for the pale skin of Europeans, the tendency of Asians to sweat less and West Africans’ resistance to certain diseases.

At the same time, genetic information is slipping out of the laboratory and into everyday life, carrying with it the inescapable message that people of different races have different DNA. Ancestry tests tell customers what percentage of their genes are from Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. The heart-disease drug BiDil is marketed exclusively to African-Americans, who seem genetically predisposed to respond to it. Jews are offered prenatal tests for genetic disorders rarely found in other ethnic groups." (NY Times)

If you speak Spanish... what does this make you think?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pyramids of Egypt

When you are visiting Cairo, you should skip the noisy, overcrowded, full-of-hasslers 9 Pyramids of Giza and visit these nearby Pyramids instead (there are approx. 99 Pyramids in Egypt)

Pyramids of Dashur (one hour south of Cairo - 20 minutes from Saqqara)
Dashur is a snapshot on what Pyramids of Giza looked like 50 years ago before it was overwhelmed by blatant commercialism.

Red Pyramid of Dashur. This Pyramid is awesome. Go inside and explore the three chambers in peace Indiana Jones style - beware of the stale chamber air though.

Bent Pyramid of Dashur. This is how a Pyramid look like when the engineers realized their mistakes and tried to fix it. This Pyramid is 8 minutes away from the Red Pyramid.

Pyramids of Saqqara(20 minutes from Cairo)
This site is receiving more attentions from tour operators nowadays but still is a much peaceful place than Pyramids of Giza.
Step Pyramid. This is the oldest Pyramid ever (I think it's 5000 year old). If you visit the site, do not forget to visit the nearby Ti Pyramid that actually looks like a hill of rubble. The chambers of Ti Pyramid are the most decorated chambers of any Pyramid I've entered in.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

All the world's problems on a map.

Check out the Global Incident Map.

All the world's problems on a map.

Bonus points for finding your own town.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Richard Branson with James Murphy at The RE*Generation Gallery Auction

I work on Virgin Mobile's pro social initiative, The RE*Generation, which helps homeless youth in the U.S. This year we were able to establish November as the first ever National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. On Nov. 7th we held The RE*Generation Gallery Art Auction at Skylight Studios in New York to auction off 21 pieces of original artwork to benefit The RE*Generation's charitable partners. James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem spun and Richard Branson showed up as well! Good times! Check out www.homelessyouthamongus.org.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

a question...

Considering the complete media shut out in Pakistan, what is amazing is how much information is still coming out of the country, especially through blogs like Emad's, among others.

The question I have is 'Would the world be any different if the internet was as widespread when events like Tiananmen Square, the Rwandan genocide or the holocaust were taking place?'

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Day 5 - Students Across Pakistan join protests against 'Martial Law'

A large part of the population remains in a state of apathy and media reports are still off air so word is hard to get out. A vast majority continues to lead a normal life without any extra ordinary events visible. However, students across the country have begun a series of protests against what is now widely being referred to as Martial Law. Brutality at the hand of the state is growing but it is also becoming a catalyst for more protests. Today, a number of top universities in the country held processions on campus, with riot police holding off their gates. Read more...

Another useful link for realtime updates: The Emergency Times

Taliban in control of Pakistani regions

"The imposition of emergency in Pakistan has not put any pressure on Taliban in Swat district, who have not only imposed Shariah but also removed the National flags from all government buildings in areas under their control.

Taliban have taken over police stations in Matta, Khawazkhela and Charbagh. This scribe visited the Matta police station after the imposition of emergency in Pakistan. Taliban there have replaced the Pakistan's flag with their own at the police station after more than 120 soldiers surrendered two days ago." (The News)
Read the whole story to see just how complicated things are getting in Pakistan - and if you have access to the excellent Al Jazeera English TV channel, they are doing an incredible job of covering the crisis...

"Temporary" emergency law was imposed in Egypt in 1981 to quell a potential Islamist insurgency after the assasination of Anwar Sadat by Egyptian Islamic Jihad (now merged with Al Queda). The state of emergency and suspension of regular consitutional rule remains in full effect 25 years later. Will Pakistan still be under emergency law in 2032?
"Long-term, however they both have problems because advertising is on its way to being obsolete. Facebook is just another step along the path. Advertising will get more and more targeted until it disappears, because perfectly targeted advertising is just information. And that's good! " (scripting.com)

98 bucks for a barrel of black gold

Crude oil rose above $98 a barrel for the first time in New York as the dollar tumbled to a record low against the euro and producers evacuated platforms in the North Sea, evading a storm forecast to bring waves as high as 36 feet (Bloomberg).

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Emergency'Plus' in Pakistan

It's now the 4th day since 'Emergency' was declared in Pakistan. Unfortunately, this state of emergency includes certain things that are beyond that Constitution of the country when it defines such a state. In that sense, the vernacular being used is 'Emergency+', while a large majority of people are beginning to call in a euphemism for Marshal Law.

Particularly the things that have happened are:

- Suspension of Civil Rights and Liberties and abeyance of the Constitution
- Sacking of All Supreme court and High Court judges that have refused to take a renewed oath of loyalty to Musharraf. Most have refused
- Suspension of all privately owned media as well as foreign news media broadcasts on television and radio. The only place you get news on on TV is the state run Pakistan Television
- Code of Conduct for privately owned media disallowing them to say anything against the government




Students at the Lahore University of Management Sciences protesting against faculty members being arrested without charge

This has resulted in some forms of collectivization by groups of people, which has led to a large number of arrests of lawyers, journalists, students, political activists and even well-respected academics. Most of them can be held captive for 30 days or more without being charged, as the constitution is suspended. Authorities have been quick to disperse any groups through these arrests, tear gas and baton charges.

Local Pakistanis' opinion remains divided as some feel that there was no other option for the Chief of Army Staff, given the security situation and an overpowered judiciary. Others see it as an attack not on the security issue, but on the independence of the media and judiciary. This divide, as well as the lack of right of association and assembly is making mass protests more difficult.

Some protests are taking place in London and in NYC by overseas Pakistanis. While foreign governments have condemned Musharraf's actions, little pressure is being put by the US and other 'allies'.

There's a large scale protest scheduled on Thursday by students from various universities across the country. It remains to be seen if it leads to much.