Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kindred spirits



The Liberal party is accusing Stephen Harper of plagiarising Howard's speech (Harper delivered his the following day). This is entirely conjecture, but I actually find it more likely that Harper and Howard both received briefing notes from US representatives as part of an effort to shape global public opinion before the invasion, and Harper's speechwriters used them not knowing that Howard had done the same just prior. This seems far more likely than knowingly plagiarising a very public speech.

What's next?



The US Congress shoots down the $700b bailout. It may be the boldest/ most short-sighted/ worst/ stupidest/ unwittingly smart move in the history of economic decisions. Take your pick depending on which side of the debate you're on.
The Economist's Global Electoral college for the US Presidential elections.

If you are a McCain supporter, look away. No. Seriously. Look away. Obama leads by 8,144 global electoral college votes to 3 (I haven't missed any zeros).

This is worse than a landslide. It's almost as if Obama, like Saddam Hussein, has rigged the vote.

Monday, September 29, 2008

How democratic is the US?


As a Brit I have always admired America for caring so much elections, yet always detested it for how insane their elections are. Reading this just reaffirms that it is not a democratic process. Other countries may not be democratic either, but is the US the worst of the modern democracies?

Will the best person win? will the person that most people want to win, win?

Ricky Gervais on youtube

The joys of you tube: endless free comedy; not much better than Ricky Gervais. Check out Animals or Politics

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Trust the Man with Many Files

A lovely little bit of colour in this Reuters story about the new CEO of the Dutch-Belgian banking group Fortis. Sounds like the kind of guy I'd want at the top right now:
"A senior source within Fortis described him as a workaholic who takes two carloads of files to his holiday home in Knokke, the chic Belgian North Sea resort, every weekend. The files are loaded onto five trolleys and wheeled by staff to his car."

Sleeping in Airports

At this site you can find the list of best and worst airports where to stay overnight. I guess it can be useful for all of us nomads. Although it covers only big airports, not the forgotten places where only AIESECers go.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Talk amongst yourselves

I'll be out off the grid pretty much from today for about 10 days. Please keep this blog updated daily. A community blog needs constant tending.

At least go to youtube and pick up some cool tunes. Suggestions:
Silverchair, Tupac, Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, Ligabue, Tom Waits, The Cure, Indigo Girls, Dire Straits, Judas Priest, Rush, Bebel Gilberto, Sergio Mendes, Mana, Fedirico Aubele, Khaled, Nina Simone, Keb' Mo, Ravi Shankar, Youssou N'dour, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Antibalas, Oum Kalthoum or Mano Negra.

Get me away from here I'm dying


Belle and Sebastian

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I am Legend Alternate Ending



This is much better than the stupid grenade sacrifice. With this ending, this makes the movie actually has more depth than I first thought.

Nooooo!!!!!! - version 2

On October 1st 2008 SurfTheChannel will be celebrating its 1st birthday.

We have achieved a lot in the last year but the internet is an evolutionary beast that demands change.Therefore, when the counter below reaches zero SurfTheChannel will be leaving it's legacy for the world.

All good things come to an end and in the end all things come good.

I''ll miss them, misplaced apostrophes and all....

Nooooo!!!!!!



"White Rabbit Creamy Candies contain unacceptable levels of the chemical melamine, New Zealand Food Safety Authority and Australian food regulators said Wednesday." (CNN)

Now I am mad.

An Alliance of Thieves



by Holy Roman Empire. They are an up and coming indie band coming out from Chicago. I happen to know the lead singer, Emily, back when she was with Long Distance Runner (the band folded up 2 years ago) - a great talent with a strong vocal and sounds even better live - you might have heard her singing on Rise Against' Roadside.

In Chicago, every third person belongs to a band. The cool kids are busy making music and it makes it the best destination to listen to up and coming bands with original songs.
Why you should eat fat.
Dental Divide between UK and US. UK teeth have more 'character'.

They are back !



Wall Street Attracts Japanese Banks. Japan’s megabanks and financial titans are returning to the world financial stage after an absence of almost two decades, buying pieces of Wall Street institutions.

If you are old enough to remember, the US in the 80's is full of histeria of Japanese companies buying properties and taking over the country. Well, they are back, except now with the Chinese, the Arabs, the Indians, the Belgians!

No Commando

Egypt desert hostages 'are well'. Sudanese officials say European tourists and Egyptian guides kidnapped last Friday are well, but rule out a military rescue.

Scam ?



"Chinese researchers claim they've confirmed the theory behind an "impossible" space drive, and are proceeding to build a demonstration version. If they're right, this might transform the economics of satellites, open up new possibilities for space exploration –- and give the Chinese a decisive military advantage in space." (Wired)

Space Drive is a dream engine. If you can do space drive, it's possible to to Warp Drive, just like Star Trek. To beyond and infinity!
"The Independent has been passed details of preliminary findings suggesting that massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats." (Independent.CO.UK)

Methane is supposed to be a nasty green house gasses. Well, global warming makes Artic region warmer, whic makes its ice retreats, which makes it releases more gasses that make global warming worse. 

Now what's you called a real downward spiral.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"The most common sound heard on Gili T, though, is one simple phrase: “Kenapa tidak” — why not? Want to sleep until noon? Kenapa tidak? Want to order one of those magic mushrooms on the menu? Kenapa tidak? (They’re legal here.) Or, like me, you can pass on the craziness and just enjoy the wonderful snorkeling. Kenapa tidak?" (NY Times)

Skip Bali, go to Lombok.
"The most common sound heard on Gili T, though, is one simple phrase: “Kenapa tidak” — why not? Want to sleep until noon? Kenapa tidak? Want to order one of those magic mushrooms on the menu? Kenapa tidak? (They’re legal here.) Or, like me, you can pass on the craziness and just enjoy the wonderful snorkeling. Kenapa tidak?" (NY Times)

Skip Bali, go to Lombok.

do journalists have power?

The raid came two days after The New York Timesreported that nearly all career employees of the railroad -- from 93 percent to 97 percent of retirees every year since 2000 -- retire early and soon after begin getting disability payments from the federal agency. The retirement board almost never turns down a claim, and since 2000 has paid more than a quarter of a billion dollars in disability checks to former Long Island Rail Road workers, The Times found. (link)

Je pense a toi



Amadou & Mariam from Mali. Oy, sublime.

No sex allowed here

Train crushes railway sex couple. A South African couple having sex on a railway track have been killed by a goods train, police say.

Progress

China apologizes to Taiwan for milk scandal (AP). and they will have their first spacewalk in a couple of days.

Fair weather friends

German Economics Experts: 'The World Shouldn't Have to Bear the Burden for America's Lapses'. The US government is buying bad debt for $700 billion. Now Washington is asking other countries to jump in and help, too, but the Germans are bowing out. Believing that the rescue package sends the wrong signal, experts from the country's leading economics think tanks argue it's the right call.

Dream of a borderless world

"'Dying Is No Longer a Problem for Me': Hunger Striking lllegal Immigrants in Belgium in Critical Condition. Groups of illegal immigrants in Brussels have been staging hunger strikes for months following the rejection of their applications for residency permits. A doctor warns that their condition is now critical."

All money can go anywhere, majority of goods can go anywhere, majority of people can't go anywhere.

That pretty much shows our priority, doesn't it.

List of world most expensive typos

"In July 2007 A Roswell, New Mexico-based car dealership sent out 50,000 scratch-off ads each as $1000.00 winners. Touting a grand prize of $1,000 (which was to be 1 in 50,000), these cards were incorrectly printed by an Atlanta-based Force Events Direct Marketing Co. The result was 50,000 crazed locals who thought they had each won the grand prize, calling the dealership to cash-in. Realizing that a $50,000,000 pay-off was neither intended or realistic, this unnamed dealership has offered to hand out $5 Wal-Mart gift cards in exchange for the misprinted scratchers, which equaled a paltry $250,000. Additionally, Force Events held a $5,000 drawing for anyone with a ticket, in an attempt to quell the immediate dissatisfaction of the townspeople, as well as a series of 20 other drawings - each with a $1,000 prize." (TypoBuddy)

Nostalgia...



Anyone remember Myst? I played it about 10 years ago and remember getting so frustrated with some of the puzzles. But for its time, it looked gorgeous. Here's Wired's review from 1994.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When is meat not meat?



Scientists are talking about cultivating meat for food in little petri-dishes and serving it up for dinner - "meat without feet" as Wired magazine calls it.

PETA supports it...

I really, really, really don't think this is in good taste.

Nominees for best US magazine cover of the year


More covers can be found here.

Elliot Spitzer resigned as a governor of New York after being caught of being a regular customer to a high class prostitution ring. Before his fall from grace, he is known as a fighter that clean up the excesses of Wall Street.

Monday, September 22, 2008

To Her Door



By Paul Kelly, another great Australia singer/songwriter.

There are so many fucking bad news out there, we might as well listen to some good tunes. The world may end, but music lasts forever. 

Refugee



Tom Petty. Classic Americana.

Keep on rocking in the free world



Neil Young. Now this song makes you wanna jump and pump your first in the air and yell "hell yeah"!
"China's Health Ministry said Sunday that about 13,000 children were hospitalized, while another 40,000 had undergone outpatient treatment for illnesses related to suspected melamine-tainted milk products." (CNN)

Last week the figure was 6000 babies.

Bring in the commandos

A group of 11 European tourists has been kidnapped in southern Egypt, the Italian Foreign Ministry said Monday. (CNN)




Michael Palin (of Monty Python) for President

Holy Crap

"For example, the total liabilities of Deutsche Bank (leverage ratio over 50!) amount to around 2,000 billion euro, (more than Fannie Mai) or over 80 % of the GDP of Germany." (voxeu)


Gone, gone, gone

"Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the last big independent investment banks on Wall Street, will transform themselves into bank holding companies subject to far greater regulation, the Federal Reserve said Sunday night, a move that fundamentally reshapes an era of high finance that defined the modern Gilded Age." (NY Times)

Remember those top 5 independent investment banking list? They are no more.  Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley choose to change its status to a normal commercial bank, so they can take better temporary loan from the Fed, etc and in return, they are regulated under the normal commercial banking regulation.

This change puts them in better financial position but with more conservative profit outlook. The era of giant bonuses is pretty much over. The high flying cowboys are done.

A miracle tree that can feed sub-Saharan Africa?

Imagine my surprise when I heard a health worker from sub-Saharan Africa describe this backyard tree as a possible solution to malnutrition in tropical countries – he called it a “miracle tree,” no less.

Ounce for ounce, says Lamine Diakite, a Red Cross official from French Guinea in West Africa, moringa leaves contain more beta carotene than carrots, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach, more Vitamin C than oranges, and more potassium than bananas. Its protein content is comparable to that of milk and eggs, and its leaves are still available for harvest at the end of the dry season, when other food may be scarce. Malnourished children gained weight when put on a timely dietary supplement made from the leaves, Mr. Diakite says.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mbeki Resigns

South Africa will get a new leader. Good riddance.

All the way



Eddie Vedder's tribute to Chicago Cubs, who hasn't won Major League Baseball for like, 1000 years.

The song has a refrain "someday we're gonna go all the way".




White Sox is 6 games away from being American League Central Divison Champion.
In Baghdad, jarred by the calm.

Shock and Awe

The bail out asks for at least $700 billion dollars to buy bad assets from the bank.

The pushback? Why not take equities in the banks and capitalize them instead of just buying bad loans. The Brookings Institute has concern.

What is the difference between a socialist and capitalist system? In socialism, the government bails you out when you screw up, in capitalism, the government bails out banks when they screw up.

Here's the irony. The banks have been kicking people out of their houses instead of finding ways on how to keep people stay in their own and keep some sort of payment terms.  This off course accelerate the collapse of housing prices and putting them into troubles. And now they are the people ("government") to bail them out of this mess.


Fall of the gilded age

""A lot of those people will have to sell their homes, they're going to cut back on the private jets and the vacations. They may even have to take their kids out of private school," said Frank. "It's a total reworking of their lifestyle."

He added that it's going to be no easy task.

"It's going to be very hard psychologically for these people," Frank said. "I talked to one guy who had to give up his private jet recently. And he said of all the trials in his life, giving that up was the hardest thing he's ever done."" (ABC News)


Yeah, I understand. We all got pretty traumatized when we had to let our our private jets. 

Does the election even matter?

"Do you worry that neither of them is up to it? Up to the job in general? Is either Mr. McCain or Mr. Obama actually up to getting us through this and other challenges? I haven't heard a single person say, "Yes, my guy is the answer." A lot of shrugging is going on out there."
...........
"A final point. Do you ever have the passing thought that the presidential election doesn't matter as much as we think? Whoever wins will govern within more of less the same limits, both domestically and internationally. A New York liberal leaning toward Mr. McCain told me this week he has no fear that Mr. McCain may be a more militant figure than Mr. Obama. We already have two wars, "we're out of army." Even if Mr. McCain wanted a war, he said, he couldn't start one.

I wonder if we follow the election so passionately because we're afraid. We're afraid a lot of our national problems are intractable, and the future too full of challenge.

We cannot tolerate feeling this way. So we make believe the election can change everything. And we follow it passionately to convince ourselves its outcome will be decisive and make everything better. We reassure ourselves with pictures of the cheering crowds at the rally. We even find some comfort in the latest story of the latest dirty trick. But deep inside we think: Ah, that won't work either.

Some part of me thinks we are all making believe this is a life-changing election because we know it's not a life-changing election. Ever have that thought? Me too. Then there's a rally or a scandal or a gaffe, and it passes."
from the Wall Street Journal

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Horror



More

I shall not walk alone



By Blind Boys of Alabama, a great gospel group. You'll get goosebumps listening to this song.

Ana Ayeesh



By Amr Diab. He's the Arab Enrique Iglesias and arguably commands bigger audience than him. He's probably more like Juanes in terms of pop star status in respective culture.

Beds are Burning



This is a signature social commentary song about returning land back to some indigenous Australian by the Midnight Oil, released in 1987.

L'ombelico del mondo



By Jovanotti, an influential rap/singer from Italy. This song has an awesome beat and it talks about diversity of cultures in the world. Play this song in your and watch people start doing crazy dance.

Mata Dewa



This is a classic pop song from Indonesian maestro, Iwan Fals. He is Indonesia's Bob Dylan. Most of his songs in the 90's are social commentaries about the situation in Indonesia under Suharto, our 35-in-power President - and his love songs are pretty much the banner songs for first love smitten high school students.

This song in particular is a love song, set in Bali which it refers directly with the title "God's eyes" (Bali is known as "Island of gods").

Feed the tree



By Belly. This is one of the signature band and song for the early 90's alternative genre. They actually have nice melodies over guitar riffs. You hear this song often in one of those indie bars in Chicago. In terms of diversity and accessibility, Chicago is probably the capital of indie music in the US. 7 dollars will get you in, enjoy originals songs and an opportunity to hook up with indie bands groupies.

Chega de Saudade



Chega de Saudade is considered as the first Bossa nova song. This version is a performed by a fame Jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie and best enjoyed with a smooth Caipirinha. 

Maria



This song is by Cafe Tacuba, a group from Mexico. It's a song with light beat and a good song to chill out to.

La Flaca



This is a song by a band called Jaraba de Palo, a group from Spain. This is their most famous song.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Intervention

"But it was clear they continued to examine ways to make clear that the government was stepping up not just to help the major financial firms but also to protect the interests of American taxpayers and families by safeguarding their pensions and college savings, and by preventing any further drying up of consumer credit.

In addition to potential stimulus measures, which could include an extension of unemployment benefits and spending on public infrastructure projects, Democrats said they intended to consider measures to help stem home foreclosures and stabilize real estate values."
(NY Times)

We are about to see the largest government intervention in the market in history. Hold tight. The federal government is buying mortgages, providing loans to financial companies, firing companies executives... pretty much a nationalization to a lot of aspect of the financial market..
"Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers alone had more than $500 billion of so-called Level 3 assets as of June 30, according to Credit Insights. There are billions more lurking in the balance sheets of Washington Mutual, Wachovia and hundreds of smaller banks throughout the country." (Dealbook)

Level 3 assets means assets whose value you guess or talk out of your ass - whichever sounds reasonable. 

Thursday, September 18, 2008

is it just me...

...or do other people find this advertisement disturbing as well? saw it in the paper today!

"the far east's most desirable export...!"

comments?

Getting your education on this historic period

Freakonomics blog has a thorough analysis of what's been going on in the past two weeks in the financial market. It's kindda went over my head but so far this is the simplest explanation available on the web.
"Today, there are 43,317 apartments where tenants (or their heirs) pay rents first frozen in 1947. There are another 1,043,677 units covered by rent stabilization. All told, about 70% of the city's rental apartments are either rent controlled or rent stabilized." (via Megan)

Egypt has a country wide rent control regime which pretty much destroys the  old wealth in the country.

When they say frozen, we are talking about 43,317 tenants paying a couple of bucks for rent to live in New York City.

When time is tough, bring out Marley

Stanley, e tu?

"Morgan Stanley sought shelter from the growing financial storm Wednesday, entering preliminary merger talks with Wachovia Corp. and other banks as a seventh straight decline in the company's share price sent the stock to its lowest level since 1998." (Wall Street Journal)

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are the only two remaining independent big investment banks. Well, there's a chance only Goldman Sachs remains.

And you'd think the Enron scandal back looong time ago that reduce big 5 accounting firm to big 4 by the destruction of Arthur Anderseen was bad. Here are we seeing the elimination process from Big 5 Investment Banks to Big one (or two).

Live by the market, die by the market. The market mobs are eating their bests, an act of cannibalism not seen since the feast of the Methodists in Papua New Guinea.

Crisis in China

Adam stipulated that we only deal with crisis, not problems. Well there is a massive crisis of consumer confidence in China thanks to the 6,000 or so babies are found to be poisoned by toxic chemical present in a popular baby powder milk. Babies as young as one year old are found to developed kidney stone. 1 year old !!

A snippet of this news can be found here.

We might see a tipping point in the Chinese market in demanding a much higher standard and regulation on their products.  There have been crisis with Chinese products in the past (lead contained toys, etc) but nothing is as dramatic as this incident.

Nothing demonstrate the critical aspect of consumer safety regulation and enforcement than the poisoning of thousands of babies.


Nobody seems to be paying attention

"The Paralympics flame was extinguished over the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium after a lavish closing ceremony on Wednesday, ending a spectacular summer of sport in Beijing." (AFP)

Yeah, there's that Wall Street collapse. But regardless of the credit crisis, it's probably on track with the global awareness and care about people with disability. Developing countries are pretty notorious on these regards of completely ignoring the needs of their population that live with disability.

Did you know that

Jamie Fox screws Vegas D-Listers?

the power of celebrity gossip

ABSTRACT
The current research proposes that low self-esteem people can use parasocial relationships to experience movement toward the ideal self, a benefit they may miss in real relationships. In Study 1, low self-esteem undergraduate psychology students at a public university in the United States felt closest to celebrities who were similar to their ideal self. In Study 2, low self-esteem college students primed with their favorite celebrity became more similar to their ideal selves. In Study 3, low self-esteem college students primed with their favorite celebrity, but not a close relationship partner, became more similar to their ideal selves. Results are discussed in terms of the implications for parasocial relationships, self-esteem, and the flexibility of the need to belong. (link)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A thorough crime reporting on Russia Cannibal Satanists murder of four youths.
"My only point is that under the circumstances, I am truly bewildered at the unwillingness of you and the Board to accept my help"

A letter from Mauric R. Greenbergto the current AIG CEO Robert B. Willumstad.

Maurice is the guy that built the company to become an international power house.



Fire sale

Lehman Brothers executive are busy selling off the remaining of the companies that have actually performed well. It looks like Barclays  going to get some really good bargains out of this mess by spending 1.5 billion dollars on Lehman's HQ building in Manhattan and two data centers. They are spending $250 million dollars to Lehman's North American  investment wing. You can bet your ass that that division probably worth triple or quadruple that price just a year ago.

On the other hand, Goldman Sachs generated $875 million dollars in profit last quarter and Morgan Stanley $1.425 billion dollars. Making hundreds of millions in a difficult market, now that's impressive.


The US cavalry comes to the rescue of AIG. It's $85 billion dollar bailout in return of 80% of shares in the company.

This is off course pending shareholders approval but I think they have nowhere else to go.

I guess the financial industry deregulated itself to the arm of the government.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

30X leverage

This blog asserts that Lehman Brothers operates on 30X leverage. Follow the link to find out more.

Wow!

"Now, well before any consensus on the technology's readiness, India has become the first country to convict someone of a crime relying on evidence from this controversial machine: a brain scanner that produces images of the human mind in action and is said to reveal signs that a suspect remembers details of the crime in question." (IHT)


Our money is created from thin air literally...

I watched this recently which explains how our money system has turned from being based on assets to being based on debt, and recommend it to everyone:

go to the web-site for more information.Basically, the video suggests that if the system keeps going, it can keep going forever. But if it stutters, it will collapse. Scary....

When our ass is on the line, we care...

If the 'West' is able to solve this financial crisis, might their be hope the 'West' might solve the climate crisis?

I would hope so... but then this crisis affects the rich more than the poor, so maybe the 'West' are not going to care about the climate crisis... since that affects the poor more than the rich.

hmm, when something really threatens us, we care and we take extreme measures to solve the problem... any ideas how much money is being pumped into they financial system, and how much would be needed (according to Stern etc) to 'solve' (or mitigate) against the climate crisis?

If you have some free time

I am looking for some extra pair of hands for obama2008.tv blog.
"While Egypt clinched one bronze medal in this year's Beijing Summer Olympics, athletes in the Paralympics are achieving a success like no other. So far the team has won four gold, three silver and four bronze medals." (GVO)

It takes the disabled to bring pride back to the country.

but really, there is hope

even in a fucked up country like Zimbabwe.


After more than 28 years of unbroken power, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe signed an agreement with the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday to divide the responsibilities for running the troubled country. (NY Times)

If Mugabe can be forced to share power, there's hope in this world.

Here are some key points:

Mugabe:
  • Chairs cabinet;
  • Exercises executive authority;
  • Can, subject to the constitution, proclaim and terminate martial law;
  • Chairs National Security Council [commonly called the Joint Operations Command (Joc) which includes army, police, and secret services];
  • After consultation with the vice-presidents, the prime minister and deputy prime ministers, allocates ministerial portfolios in accordance with this agreement;
  • Exercises executive authority;
  • May, acting in consultation with the prime minister, dissolve parliament
  • Must be kept fully informed by the prime minister on the general conduct of the government business and;
  • Shall be furnished with such information as he/she may request in respect of any particular matter relating to the government, and may advise the prime minister and the cabinet in this regard.
Tsvangirai:
  • Chairs the Council of Ministers and is the deputy chairperson of cabinet;
  • Exercises executive authority;
  • Shall oversee the formulation of government policies by the cabinet;
  • Shall be a member of the National Security Council;
  • Shall report regularly to the president and parliament.

"Exercises executive authority" is split between two. Hmm..what does that mean?

Doom and Gloom of the day

AIG, the largest insurance company in the world, is scrambling for cash. Why? Because three rating agencies, Standard & Poor's, Moody's Investors Services and Fitch Ratings, downgrade the company, which makes raising capital much more expensive (thanks to their overexposure into the bloody mortgage market).

They need immediate $75 billion dollars otherwise they are going to fail as well. 

Imagine that headline "WORLD LARGEST INSURANCE COMPANY FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY!!!"

If that happens, then start talking about modern financial system meltdown. 

People with better financial chop, please modify this post and inform us what's actually going on Wall Street. This is way out of my league. 

FYI

Lehman Brothers bankruptcy petition is the largest filing in history.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The world according to their carbon emissions


To commemorate this Bloody Monday



Here's to Bear Stearns, IndyMac, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Lehman Brothers. I'll raise another glass to Merril Lynch and Countrywide (and a shout to Northern Rock and IKB).

We probably should do a Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs vigil.

Man, it's fucking tough out there.

We're goin down.. going down... mayday! mayday!

Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc said it plans to file for bankruptcy protection, but the Chapter 11 filing will not include its broker-dealer operations and other units, including Neuberger Berman.

Lehman is looking at selling its broker-dealer operations, and is still in advanced discussions with a number of potential buyers of its investment management division.

Bankruptcy represents the end of a 158-year old company that survived world wars and the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management but could not survive the global credit crunch. (Reuters)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Another one bites the dust?

Lehman Brothers looks like its taking its last breaths. Without federal money, no one is willing to take on any more of the toxic subprime debt. Surprising, given the talent and strong relationships the firm holds, thanks to its CEO Richard Fuld.

Also, Bank of America is looking to purchase beleaguered Merrill Lynch, which we remember from last year being on the other side of those two failed Bear Stearns MBS hedge funds. Merrill's is a huge bank, with a once sterling reputation, that will represent a huge new business for the already gigantic Bank of America (who bought Country Wide at the start of the year).

Update: It looks like the BAC/MER acquisition is a done deal. I guess its smarter to sell now, than wait for the wolves to start shorting you into oblivion, like with Lehman.

Who are the losers? Its not all American, while China is saving face and declaring that its exposure is limited, some say it could be over a trillion dollars. Thems the breaks of doing international business.

Lots of consolidation for American banking. This doesn't bode well in the long term and probably signals the fall of America and New York City as the financial hub of the world.

Kungfu Presidents

""He (Sarkozy) is interested in martial arts and we have decided to do some training together," Putin was quoted as saying in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro published on Saturday." (Reuters)

Putin hold black belt in Judo. It's actually quite an interesting idea. How about if a country decided to go for a war, their leaders can spar "Ultimate Fighting Champioship" style. Whoever won, takes South Ossetia. 

Zimbabwe Power Sharing Accord

"Key points of the accord include the appointment of Tsvangirai as Prime Minister, who will control a newly created council of ministers, IOL, an Internet news site, reported. Mugabe will remain president and make appointments to a 31- member Cabinet, including 13 members of the MDC and three from a faction of the MDC led by Arthur Mutambara, it said." (Bloomberg)

There is no enough details yet surface on the final status of the power sharing accord. So we know that Tsvangirai will be the Prime Minister but who will control the Armed forces? Mugabe? I heard on BBC last night that Tsvangirai will control the police. Such arrangement will be great. Mugabe can concentrate on defending Zimbabwe from South Africa's invasion while Tsvangirai can start rolling back some of the political thugs movements that have been terrorising the country.

You have travelled more

"In July of last year, Palin left North America for the first time to visit Alaskan troops stationed in Kuwait." (CNN)

I think we are seeing the last of these type of government officials who started travelling in their 40's. The current 20' and 30's will hold high office in within a decade or more and all of them will have a much more extensive traveling experience than this.

The US is a big country. Traveling from New York City to San Francisco takes an average 6 hours of flight time. If you add traveling time from and to the airport and all those waiting, we are talking about 10 hours travel time and that's without leaving the country. From New York City to cross the Atlantic to England takes another 6 hours. If you live in the West Coast and trying to reach Europe, you'll be 83 year old when you land in Heathrow.

So in average, if you leave in the Middle of America, man, travelling overseas is a major bitch thing to do.

On the other hand, countries like Australia or Canada has similar geographical isolation. It will be interesting to see the numbers of travelers on those country per population size.
Reuters - Nigerian militants on Saturday warned oil firms in the Niger Delta to withdraw their workers in the next 24 hours or face a "hurricane" of retaliation after a major gun battle with security forces.

Bombs..yet again in Delhi

Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi again and again and again. I've lost count of the number of terror attacks on Indian cities and patience and understanding is running thin among Indians in all cross sections of society.

Every time I'm in Delhi (which is at least once in 2 months) I visit the GK market...stroll around, grab a kabab or a cold coffee. A group calling itself the Indian Mudjhahideen has sent a message to media agencies yesterday before the blasts across Delhi. The subject of the message: message of death in the name of Allah. wtf?! That too during Ramzan?

Apparently its fear they want to sow among the general public but the only sentiment I am hearing right now among people is anger. And a general sense of "fuck you we are not scared".

Read more about the blasts here

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Burn Moscow and wait for winter

 

Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov. This is the general that saved Russia from Napoleon.  More from Wikipedia.
"Mass fainting as Tanzanian schoolgirls take final exam. Junior school pupils in Tanzania experience a mass fainting fit while taking their final year exams."

I found this news cute. I remember the horrifying pressure in preparing for national exam when I was 12.

Food should be on the table, not inside your car engine

"Combating Climate Change: EU Committee Votes to Cut Biofuels Goal. A committee of the European Parliament has voted to cut the EU's target for using traditional biofuels for road transport by 2020. The move has been welcomed by environmental and aid groups concerned that the growth in biofuels has been boosting food prices and causing deforestation."

Take that traineeship to Chile

"Chile, long considered to have among the most traditional social mores in South America, is crashing headlong into that reputation with its precocious teenagers. Chile’s youths are living in a period of sexual exploration that, academics and government officials say, is like nothing the country has witnessed before." (NY Times)


Friday, September 12, 2008

Great birthday gift



Get your own Mao style poster.

Worst Jobs, best pay

from Business Week. I'm not sure why they include IT jobs in the list.

Bloody

"
Wall Street is used to ups and downs, but this latest round of cuts brought about by the credit crisis is turning out to be one of the worst in recent memory — a fate compounded by a shrinking economy. As of June, many of the more than 83,000 employees dismissed from banks and brokerage firms worldwide have come from firms based in the New York area.

As widely respected and liked as Mr. Fuld has been at the firm, now that the cold prospect of losing a life savings in Lehman stock has become more of a reality, many employees have grown resentful.

“We feel like we have been controlled by events and haven’t controlled them,” said one rank-and-file employee. “And it has just been the most punitive market. Is there frustration with the management team? Of course.” Another employee who left Lehman earlier this year lamented that he had put enough faith in the firm to retain shares — a decision he is paying for. “My children’s education fund is wiped out,” said this person." (NY Times)


This is one of my nightmare, getting dismissed from a job at middle age in a narrow focused industry with tons of family responsibilites.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Kumbaya !

" Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai emerged from power-sharing talks with President Robert Mugabe Thursday evening to declare that the two men had finally struck a deal after more than a month of bitter haggling." (NY Times)

reality

inspired

Anger

Sorrow

Exodus

"The number of white South Africans who give emigration as the reason for selling their home has shot up in recent months as high crime levels and political and economic uncertainty spur the flight of whites from the Rainbow Nation.

A survey by South Africa's First National Bank (FNB) showed the proportion of homeowners who said they were putting their homes on the market because they were emigrating
had doubled between the last quarter of 2007 and the second quarter of 2008, from 9 percent to 18 percent." (The Star)
Is it good to be a single woman?. Are single women over 30 still seen as social failures?

Unicorn is real


The okapi, an African animal so elusive that it was once believed to be a mythical unicorn, has been photographed in the wild for the first time, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said Thursday. (AFP)

Oh no !

"North Korea's Kim Jong Il had brain surgery after a stroke last month and could have partial paralysis, media reported Thursday, after the South Korean government said he remained in control of his country." (AP)

What would one do without the presence of the Great Leader?
Giant Buddha statue unearthed in Afghanistan.


I know a couple of friends who are in situ during the attack whose memory still vividly brought back to focus on this day. I was in Indonesia when the attack happened and returned to the city 4 months later and found it changed. The world got slightly darker ever since.

a great career at the US department of the interior

The investigation separately found that the program’s manager mixed official and personal business, and took money from a technical services firm in exchange for urging oil companies to hire the firm. In sometimes lurid detail, the report accuses him of having intimate relations with two subordinates, one of whom regularly sold him cocaine. (NYTimes)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Is the LHC destroying the world?

As mentioned in previous posts, the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva was switched on today.

And on the same day there are earthquakes in Iran, Indonesia and Taiwan. This is how it begins!
"There’s good news for African business in a new report: four of the 10 countries in the world which have shown the most improvement in implementing business reforms are from the continent.
Senegal, Burkina Faso, Botswana and Egypt are among the countries which have jumped the highest number of places in the rankings of business reformers in the last year, according to Doing Business 2009, a World Bank/International Finance Corporation (IFC) report released today" (All Africa)
'Africans to gain' from web plan. Google is helping develop a system to bring high-speed internet to Africa and beyond.

More picture of the Collider


(wired)

Because the LHC is the most powerful and most precise particle accelerator ever built, many see it as the best opportunity yet to find proof for the veracity of "string theory."
(Spiegel)

In Physics right now, there is a quest to find the theory of everything. Right now there's a gap in Physics. Physicists can explain the universe using Einstein's theory of general relativity and can predict the really really tiny aspects of reality using Quantum theory. The problem is these two theories don't match with each other. String theory is an emergent theory in the past 20 years that is so complicated that it requires assumption that we have 9 or 10 or whatever dimension to make it work.

This machine is HUGE. It has a 27 KM long ring in which particles travel and got smashed. 27KM. A marathon is 42.2 KM, so we are talking about a half marathon run to go around the ring tunnel. And imagine that the whole tunnel is full of those alien looking metallic stuff. It's one hell of an achivement.

Online in 10... 9... 8...



Nature.com has a nice set of graphics and articles about the LHC... And they've been nice enough to use plain English.

On a side note, the Indian press, particularly the vernacular media, has been having a field day with stories of black holes and alien monsters from other dimensions. I even had our pantry boy tell me he was so scared the world would go up in flames and that his mother's been praying it won't.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

fck

Shares in Lehman Brothers plunged 44.95 percent, leading the markets in retreat on Tuesday, as efforts by the beleaguered investment bank to raise fresh capital appeared to falter, raising questions about the firm’s ability to survive. (NY Times)


Damn. This can't be good. If first tier investment banks keep falling off like flies a year after the crisis started, then the credit crisis could be far worse than previously thought.

Mexico does one better than Iraq

"The biggest mass beheading in recent history caused widespread revulsion in Mexico but little surprise. Decapitations have become as commonplace in the increasingly vicious narco turf battles as stabbings are in London. During August alone, gangsters hacked off 30 craniums across the country — adding to the total of almost 200 beheadings in 2008 so far. Heads have been stuck on crosses, shoved into iceboxes and left in car trunks along with snakes." (Time)
Newsweek has Large Hadron Collider as its cover page.
A Swiss company is using gene matching to help its clients find long-lasting happiness and have healthy babies. (link)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Science proves that women find really expensive cars sexy

"David Moxon subjected 40 men and women to the sounds of a Maserati, Lamborghini and Ferrari, then measured the amount of testosterone in their saliva. He found everyone had higher levels of the stuff -- a measure of their arousal -- after hearing the revving exotics, but the amount the women had was off the charts." (wired)

One way to travel cheaply around the world

WWOOF organisations publish lists of organic farms, smallholdings and gardeners that welcome volunteer help at certain times. The diversity of hosts available offers a large variety of tasks and experiences. (WWOOF)

Superman



"Athens 2004 gold medalist Jonas Jacobsson of Sweden surpassed eight-year-old WR in the Men's 10m Air Rifle Standing Position in his disability class. Jacobsson's gold medal takes his Paralympic medal tally to 14 gold, 1 silver & 8 bronze medals" (Paralympics Beijing 2008)

Russia - Venezuela BFF

Russia says to send battleship to Caribbean Sea (Reuters).

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The puzzle of American Electrolate

"Americans have an unhealthy desire to see average people promoted to positions of great authority. No one wants an average neurosurgeon or even an average carpenter, but when it comes time to vest a man or woman with more power and responsibility than any person has held in human history, Americans say they want a regular guy, someone just like themselves. President Bush kept his edge on the "Who would you like to have a beer with?" poll question in 2004, and won reelection." (LA Times)
"Nations that supply nuclear material have approved a civilian nuclear accord between the United States and India. VOA White House correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the deal must now clear the U.S. Congress." (Global Security)


"At least 24 people have been killed by a rockslide which destroyed homes in Cairo, emergency services say." (BBC)

People are receiving calls from the survivors trapped under the rubble. Tragically there is little chance for people that survived the first day will come out of this alive. The rescue effort is hampered by lack of equipment, access and coordination. There are unknown number of people trapped under these rocks slide.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Egyptian Boy

For All of You Who live, lived, visited or intend to live in Egypt....You might enjoy this

Hope for change

So much going on . US government thinking of intervening in Fannie and Freddie. New President in Pakistan. Hurricane claims lives...
But on the flip side there are two historic soccer games today. Turkey beat Armenia 2-0 in a historic match while both President's watched in Armenia.
Later today the USA travels to Cuba to play them in another world cup qualifier. I love sport bringing people together...

The widower is now President of Pakistan

Asif Ali Zardari




and his twin brother, Musharraf
More than 500 people were killed in Haiti after the last hurricane.
Big Summer Sell-Off Hits the Russian Stock Market. Russia’s stock market is suffering its worst correction in nearly a decade as sliding oil prices, political attacks on private companies and instability after last month’s war in Georgia spook investors.


Like they say, "welcome to global economy, suckers".

Flushing the toilet

"The plan, which would place the companies into a conservatorship, was outlined in separate meetings with the chief executives at the office of the companies’ new regulator. The executives were told that, under the plan, they and their boards would be replaced and shareholders would be virtually wiped out, but that the companies would be able to continue functioning with the government generally standing behind their debt, people briefed on the discussions said.

It is not possible to calculate the cost of any government bailout, but the huge potential liabilities of the companies could cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars and make any rescue among the largest in the nation’s history." (NY Times)

Friday, September 05, 2008

You gotta love science

A new study found that trained sexologists could infer a woman's history of vaginal orgasm by observing the way she walks. The study is published in the September 2008 issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, the official journal of the International Society for Sexual Medicine and the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health. (link)

Damn

Main Bank of China Is in Need of Capital. China’s central bank is in a bind, after snapping up roughly $1 trillion worth of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed debt issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the last seven years.

Global Warming Alert

Giant Ice Sheet Breaks Free in Canada. A 19-square-mile chunk of ice shelf has broken away from Ellesmere Island in Canada's northern Arctic. The 4,500-year-old Markham Ice Shelf is now adrift in the Arctic Ocean.
Kenya: Prostitutes Hold Aids Cure Key. Sex workers in Nairobi and Mombasa may still hold the key to an HIV vaccine, according to recent studies.
Guinea drugs bust nets officials. The governor, mayor and top police officials of Boke in Guinea are arrested in a drugs raid.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Something to get excited about

"Every street in the capital Luanda is decked out in flags and posters of slogans and leaders are pasted to every wall." (BBC)

It's thrilling to see a country batterred by 27 years of civil war (that barely ended in 2002) transforms itself. 

I thought Sarah Palin did a great job...

Here's her speech from last night. And it did everything that was expected from a VP nominee...

- Talk a bit about her unheralded background
- Establish her cred as a VP nominee
- Show that she has learned fast about the big issues
- Take on the role of attack dog

As someone who's opinions really don't matter to the US election, I think McCain-Palin is a pretty strong ticket. It may not have the charisma or flair of Obama-Biden, but it certainly isn't lacking substance.

Cult of Personality

While we're all about posting music:



I thought of this, from a reflection on the common image many have been touting. Here is a comparison:





Beware the cult of personality.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

First there's Chrome.. then there's...

Google's Android Challenge results are out...

Check out the winning applications here...

Some of the applications are absolutely fantastic.. real ingenuity over here.
Abu Dhabi Puts More Cash on the Line in Hollywood. Abu Dhabi Media, flush with oil cash, is adding to the $1 billion deal it announced with Warner Brothers last year, and is putting another billion in a new movie business.

Go Green!

Rice Schedules First Libya Visit by US Secretary of State in 55 Years. The U.S. State Department says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Libya later this week, the first visit of its kind since 1953

If you go to Lybian embassy, you still can get free copies of the Presiden'ts revolutionary little green book.
Africa in pictures

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Google Chrome is awesome

Go download it here http://www.google.com/chrome

Max Romeo - Chase the Devil

Dody has been on an absolute roll with the classic tune postings, so I thought I'd get in on the action. The one and only Max Romeo, and the song that spawned a million samples ("I'm gonna put on an iron shirt, chase the devil out of Earth. I'm gonna send him to outer space, to find another race"). MASSIVE tune.

Google is launching an open source web browser to compete with Internet Explorer and Firefox. (BBC)

It looks like a good idea. It's open source and they reuse a lot of components from Firefox.

Progress

"Turkmenistan: Keeping Children from Cotton. Turkmenistan is putting an end to the use of child labor in cotton harvesting, according to the president"
Just in case you haven't heard, Thailand is yet in another political turmoil. Yawn.

Tips of the day

How to Open a Wine Bottle Without a Corkscrew.

Welcome to Globalization

"Lehman Brothers faces Korean takeover bid" (TimesOnline)

These waves of take over of American companies by foreign buyers remind me of those gold rush of company take over in Eastern Europe/Russia in the 90's. With their cash positions weakened, foreign buyers are salivating of getting great deals on venerable American institutions starving for cash.

You'd think?

Belief in conspiracy theories means less HIV testing in South Africa. South Africans who believe in a conspiracy theory that HIV was introduced by white people as a way of controlling the black population are significantly less likely to have had an HIV test, according to a study"

Fastest conventional train in the world

"The country's Ministry of Railways says the trains will run at top speeds of 380km/h (236mph)."

Guess which country?

Kumbaya

"Aides to Mr. McCain said they had a team on the ground in Alaska now to look more thoroughly into Ms. Palin’s background. A Republican with ties to the campaign said the team assigned to vet Ms. Palin in Alaska had not arrived there until Thursday, a day before Mr. McCain stunned the political world with his vice-presidential choice."

...

"Up until midweek last week, some 48 to 72 hours before Mr. McCain introduced Ms. Palin at a Friday rally in Dayton, Ohio, Mr. McCain was still holding out the hope that he could name as his running mate a good friend, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, a Republican close to the campaign said. Mr. McCain had also been interested in another favorite, former Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania.

But both men favor abortion rights, anathema to the Christian conservatives who make up a crucial base of the Republican Party. As word leaked out that Mr. McCain was seriously considering the men, the campaign was bombarded by outrage from influential conservatives who predicted an explosive floor fight at the convention and vowed rejection of Mr. Ridge or Mr. Lieberman by the delegates.

Perhaps more important, several Republicans said, Mr. McCain was getting advice that if he did not do something to shake up the race, his campaign would be stuck on a potentially losing trajectory."

The article goes on to basically prove that little to no background check was performed about Governor Palin and that this was a hasty move by McCain.

Surprised?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Empty Sky

Living la Vida Loca

Nigerian man to divorce 82 wives - but keep four

Hot Stuff

"Now Google.org—the charitable wing of the search engine giant—has chipped in nearly $11 million for this renewable resource: so-called geothermal power, or tapping the Earth's heat to make electricity.

That makes Google.org the largest funder of enhanced geothermal research in the country, outspending the U.S. government. The Australian government has pledged $43.5 million for such projects and already has several in the works, as do Europe and Japan." (sciam)