Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sundance Reviews - Four Lions

Check out this review of Four Lions. It's a comedy about four suicide bombers. Awesome!

Davos come and gone

Other than 10 billion dollars pledge by the Gates foundation for new vaccines initiatives, there seems to be nothing else coming out of Davos.

Can Egypt make history?

In 2 hours, Egypt national football squad will defend its African Cup of Nations against Ghana for the second time. If they manage to win this match, it will be a record for winning the cup three times in a row. Wohoo!

Prediction : 2 - 1 for Egypt.


YUP. HISTORY! 1-0 for Egypt. This is their third championship title in a row and their 7th overall.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Good stuff


(Obama Q&A session with House Republican 2010)

This is Must See TV

Leno on Oprah

Weird stuff

Apparently a spammer found my dody.nomadlife@blogger.com email which automatically publish any email to nomadlife. This is the reason for the "windows 7 sales" post you might have seen earlier today. That post has been removed and I disabled the mail to blog feature. Freaky.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Plan C

"A new type of morning-after pill is more effective than the most widely used drug at preventing pregnancies in women who had unprotected sex and also works longer, for up to five days, a new study says.

The report was published Friday in the British medical journal, Lancet.

Levonorgestrel, the most widely used emergency contraceptive pill, is only effective if women take it within three days of having sex. It is sold under various brand names including Levonelle and Plan B, and is available in more than 140 countries, including the United States, Canada and many countries in western Europe. In nearly 50 of those countries women can get it without a prescription."
(Salon)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Egypt trashed Algeria 4 - 0

Revenge is better served cold. Algeria received 3 red cards in African Cup semi finals. Egypt will defend its title for the second time in the final against Ghana.

Cairo is in pandemonium. Nobody will sleep tonight -tomorrow is a weekend.

How big are you?

I'm currently experimenting with using this to begin each morning:



It helps keep things--big and small--in perspective. Best watched in full screen HD.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

iPad



Engadget Click on the link for more Applegasm.

Haiti 18 - No good deed ..

"In response to Crowley's comments, Al-Jazeera English issued a statement defending its reporting in Haiti. It called its work "balanced, fair and detailed," and said it reflected a range of views on quake relief efforts.

On Sunday, Italy's civil protection chief blasted the U.S. military intervention as inefficient and out of touch with reality on the ground. In an interview with state-run RAI television, Guido Bertolaso said the overall relief effort was a "pathetic" failure, and he called for the appointment of an international civilian humanitarian coordinator.

Haitians have complained that food, medicine and water have been woefully slow in reaching them. The aid group Doctors Without Borders has complained of skewed priorities and a supply bottleneck at the airport in Port-au-Prince. And French, Brazilian and other officials have complained about the airport's refusal to let their aid planes land, forcing many flights to end up in the neighboring Dominican Republic, a day's drive away.

French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet has urged the United Nations to investigate the dominant U.S. role in the relief operation, arguing that international aid efforts were supposed to be helping Haiti, not "occupying" it.
"
(TPM)

Port-au-Prince airport is again become the point of contention. Off course everybody bitches when their plane cannot land but - there are thousands of planes flying in and out with supplies and personnels in the single runway airport since the catastrophe.

"The airport in Port-au-Prince is small. It has a single runway and only space on the ground for about 10 planes to park and load or unload. That isn’t much room when it comes time to handle hundreds of relief flights each day, especially since the planes coming in are larger than most of the commercial service that the airport regularly sees. And, yet, in the past week the airport has seen more flights and bigger planes than it has seen in years, thanks in large part to to a US Air Force Special Operations forces known as the Combat Control Team.

There is no fuel available on the ground at the airport so inbound aircraft are required to bring enough with them to ensure that they can depart once they are unloaded. The 10 ramp positions were originally counted based on typical commercial aircraft that serve the region, not on the jumbos that are arriving on a regular basis. And there aren’t really ground control crews available to work, meaning that every now and then a CCT member hops on a motorcycle and rides across the field to lead a plane to a parking position.
" (Boarding Area)


Fuckin' a. Stop with the misguided complaints already.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SAAB Rescued



"Dutch sportscar maker Spyker (SPYKR.AS) on Tuesday appeared closer to buying Swedish automaker Saab from General Motors , with the chief executive saying he was "doing everything" to seal the deal." Reuters

Monday, January 25, 2010

We almost killed the Human Race

"The Toba catastrophe theory holds that 70,000 to 75,000 years ago, a supervolcanic event at Lake Toba, on Sumatra (Indonesia), possibly the largest explosive volcanic eruption within the last twenty-five million years, plunged the Earth, which was already in an ice-age, into an even colder spell. This resulted in the world's human population being reduced to 10,000 or even a mere 1,000 breeding pairs, creating a bottleneck in human evolution. The theory was proposed in 1998 by Stanley H. Ambrose[1] of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.[2][3][4]" (wikipedia)

ET409 went down after departing from Beirut



BBC

The best place to follow the news is at Airliner's forum.

"Official information from BEY ATC:

1. Weather was heavy rain
2. Aircraft reached 8000ft in around three minutes
3. Aircraft crashed 5km of the coast of Beirut
"




This is a picture taken from BEY taken earlier today.

What is the cause of the crash? We won't know about it until weeks. There's no need to speculate. There will be "aviation experts" blabbing on the news channel soon but they will all be talking out of their asses.

Hello! How may I steal your money today?


Brilliant idea, scary thought.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Now we too furiner can buy a US politician

" As far as I can tell, the analysis doesn’t distinguish between domestic and foreign corporations. Not that it would matter much, since a foreign corporation can always establish a domestic subsidiary, or buy an American company: Cities Service, for example, is a unit of PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company. So the ruling allows Hugo Chavez to spend as much money as he wants to helping and harming American politicians...

Nor is this a problem that can be handled by “disclosure.” The ad on TV praising the opponent of the congressman who did something to annoy Hugo Chavez won’t say “Paid for by Hugo Chavez.” It will say “Paid for by Citizens for Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” which in turn will have gotten a contribution from “Americans for Niceness,” which in turn will have gotten a contribution from a lobbyist for a subsidiary of Cities Service that no one has ever heard of." (The Economist)

Let us all thank the US Supreme Court for this wonderful development.

Sex explained by pens






Saturday, January 23, 2010

Haiti 17 - Digicell

"One of the most notable people I encountered was Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien, founder of the Digicel mobile telephone company, which has acquired about three million customers in Haiti, invested $300 million in its system there, and built dozens of new schools in the slums of Cite Soleil. I met him at the airport, where he showed up to assist with the logistics of transporting the supplies Clinton had brought in to the hospital. The largest foreign investor by far in the local economy, he has been working tirelessly in the relief effort since the earthquake, donating millions of dollars in direct aid and free phone credit as well as his corporate aircraft.

Unpretentious but brilliant as well as tough, he doesn’t share the dismal outlook of the pundits, probably because he has actually worked with many Haitians over the past four years. Digicel’s youthful sales force in the island’s cities, he likes to say, includes the most energetic and creative entrepreneurs he has ever seen (and his own companies span the world from the Caribbean to Africa and the Pacific)." (Salon)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Haiti 16 - More on Haiti French Debt

There is a comment regarding Haiti French Debt posted yesterday

"What the Times article forgets to mention ...... is that Haiti's paying for recognition was not a French initited idea, but a Haitian one.

I mean think about it, they had just won their independence on the battlefield. France was preoccupied with war in Europe.

Why would anyone be forced to pay for what they had already won?

Here's the deal. This whole thing was a scam by Haiti's first President Jean-Pierre Boyer. He suggested this ideal to France ...... and then a French Bank gave him a loan for the first installment ....... which he pilfered. He used it to prop up his position on the island, not for its intended purposed."


I don't know enough about Haiti to vouch for the comment or argue against it. But Haiti has had history of terrible leaders stealing money for their own good and above scenario would not an unthinkable one.

"From 1957 to 1986, Haiti was controlled by the father/son dictatorship of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. For nearly thirty years they diverted foreign assistance towards their own personal interests.

While exactly how much money the Duvaliers stole is unknown, after Jean-Claude Duvalier was forced to step down an audit established that at least $500 million had been diverted in just his last six years.

Once stolen, the money was used for a variety of purposes. A certain amount went directly to the Duvalier family. For example, Michele Duvalier famously spent $20,000 on a shopping trip to New York in the early 1980s. The money was also used to strengthen the Duvaliers’ control over Haiti, with payoffs to the Tonton Macoutes (Francois Duvalier's personal militia), Haitian soldiers, and local officials" (Wikipedia)

As usual, there are a lot of factors in play in holding Haiti back in terms of development which makes the current earthquake so devastating. Colonialism is one but self sabotage also plays a critical part (in addition to the cruel nature of natural disasters). There are many countries were under colonialism power and they started with different fucked up factors that held them back. But many do thrives and manage to build a decent country despite the challenges they have to surmount.

The country is heavily corrupt. Every year much of the humanitarian aid is pocketed by officials.

According to a World Bank report in 2006, "In Haiti, the process of business regulations is complex and customs procedures are lengthy."[4] On average, opening a business took 204 days. For comparison, the average was 73.3 days in Latin America and 16.3 days in OECD countries.[4] It took estimated 5 years and 65 bureaucratic procedures for a private person to buy land from the state.[4] It took 683 days to register a property.[4] All Latin American and Caribbean countries except Cuba and Venezuela enjoyed much more economic freedom than Haiti on the Index of Economic Freedom of 2006.[4]

The political elite is also involved in various criminal businesses. Beaudoin Ketant, a notorious international drug trafficker, Jean-Bertrand Aristide's close partner, and his daughter's godfather, confessed that Aristide "turned the country into a narco-country; it's a one-man show; you either pay (Aristide) or you die".[5] According to the BBC, pyramid schemes "were only real economic initiative of the Aristide years." Estimated $200 million was lost in these scams.[6] (Wikipedia)

Every country has its shares of fucked up leaders, but the worst ones tend to get them for longer terms and in multiple times. At some point, it is up to the people of the country to work together and make the choice on what kind of country they want to have (which is much easier said than done). Any effort to topple a bad leader of a country from outside tends to have unpredictable consequences.

Now Haiti is receiving a lot of attention immediately after this devastating earthquake. The next critical milestone is what happen to the country after all the attentions have been diverted elsewhere and the long struggle to rebuild and remake begins. May they have the best of luck.

Warren Buffet agrees with me

Kraft's leading shareholder, who owns a 9.4pc stake in the business, said that if he had the chance to vote against the deal he would, sending the company's shares down 68 cents to $28.73.

In an interview with US news channel CNBC, Mr Buffett also attacked Kraft chairman and chief executive Irene Rosenfeld over her decision to sell the company's US frozen pizza business on the cheap.

Mr Buffett said Kraft had sold the pizza unit at nine times earnings and bought Cadbury at 16 to 17 times, once the reorganisation costs and deal expenses were taken into account. (Telegraph)

Haiti 15 - The saints are coming



This video of Skid's cover song by U2 and Green Day fantasized about a strong deployment of US military for disaster relief in New Orleans. They definitely showed up in Haiti.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Haiti 14 - Haiti Revolution

"Ray, himself a devout Christian, did not attack Robertson, or even name him. What he did say, on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show, was this: "I would like the whole world to know, America especially, that the independence of Haiti, when the slaves rose up against the French and defeated the French army, powerful army, the U.S. was able to gain the Louisiana territory for 15 million dollars, that's three cents an acre, that's 13 states west of the Mississippi, that the slaves' revolt in Haiti provided America.

"Also the revolt of the rebels in Haiti allowed Latin America to be free. It was from Haiti that Simon Bolivar left with men, boats to go deliver Gran Columbia and the rest of South America. So what pact the Haitians made with the devil has helped the United States become what it is."" (via Jeffrey Goldberg)

Haiti 13 - Forest Fault

On the left is Haiti, on the right is Dominican Republic

"Many of Haiti's people, the poorest in the Americas, routinely cut down trees for fuel—either to burn "raw" or turn into charcoal.

As a result, the destruction of Haiti's natural forests is almost total, making the Caribbean country one of the most deforested in the world.

As Haiti's trees have disappeared, landslides have become a major concern, especially during the rainy season, and the destabilizing effects of an earthquake on soil only worsen the problem." (National Geographic)

Haiti 12 - France Debt

"In 1825, in return for recognising Haitian independence, France demanded indemnity on a staggering scale: 150 million gold francs, five times the country’s annual export revenue. The Royal Ordinance was backed up by 12 French warships with 150 cannon.

The terms were non-negotiable. The fledgeling nation acceded, since it had little choice. Haiti must pay for its freedom, and pay it did, through the nose, for the next 122 years.

Historical accountancy is an inexact business, but the scale of French usury was astonishing. Even when the total indemnity was reduced to 90 million francs, Haiti remained crippled by debt. The country took out loans from US, German and French banks at extortionate rates. To put the cost into perspective, in 1803 France agreed to sell the Louisiana Territory, an area 74 times the size of Haiti, to the US, for 60 million francs.

Weighed down by this financial burden, Haiti was born almost bankrupt. In 1900 some 80 per cent of the national budget was still being swallowed up by debt repayments. Money that might have been spent on building a stable economy went to foreign bankers. To keep workers on the land and extract maximum crop yields to pay the indemnity, Haiti brought in the Rural Code, instituting a division between town and country, between a light-skinned elite and the dark-skinned majority, that still persists.

The debt was not finally paid off until 1947. By then, Haiti’s economy was hopelessly distorted, its land deforested, mired in poverty, politically and economically unstable, prey equally to the caprice of nature and the depredations of autocrats. Seven year ago, the Haitian Government demanded restitution from Paris to the tune of nearly $22 billion (including interest) for the gunboat diplomacy that had helped to make it the poorest country in the western hemisphere."
(Timesonline)

Ah, the wonders of Colonialism - there's nothing it can't fuck up.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Health Care Reform imminent in the US

I think we will see US congress pass a health care reform bill in the next 10 days. This would be an achievement for multi decades effort to make health care in the US more sane and less expensive.

And finally the chart below will look different for the better in 10 years.

Yeah I am aware about the Democrat losing a seat in MA yesterday but again, this is because they fielded a terrible candidate. 59 - 41 is still a pretty dominant position me thinks. There will be a lot of noise for the next week but it should be clear to Democrats that unless the grow a spine and pass the health care bill, they really don't deserve to govern and should be sent to the slaughterhouse in November.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti 11



A truck dumped rubble Saturday into a mass grave in Titanyen, a village on the outskirts of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. (NYTimes)

Haiti 10

"That left Gupta, there as a reporter, the last doctor standing. And so he did what good doctors do. He assumed responsibility for those sick patients with a stethoscope and some bags of IV fluids left behind by the Belgians. A camera crew followed as he moved from sick patient to sick patient, accompanied only by a single nurse from the Belgian group who refused to leave. That night he tweeted, "345a. pulling all nighter at haiti field hosp. lots of work, but all patients stable. turned my crew into a crack med team tonight. #proud."

By morning, things settled down again. The medical team returned, though the finger pointing between the UN, the Belgians and the outraged public had just begun." (Salon)

Too sweet



"After months of fiercely resisting any deal, Cadbury agreed Tuesday to an improved takeover offer from Kraft, worth about $19 billion, to create the world’s largest confectioner.

Together Kraft, the maker of Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers, and Cadbury, the producer of Trident gum and Dairy Milk chocolates, would have more than $50 billion in annual revenue and a big presence in markets from the United States to India."
(NY Times)

Prediction? the sum is less than its parts.

People that I know currently working in Kraft uniformly hates the deal and the current Kraft CEO.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti 9 - Airport

"On an ordinary day, three aircraft might take off and land at Haiti’s main airport. Less than a week after earthquake relief operations began in Haiti, hundreds of aircraft ferrying aid workers and supplies have cycled through Port-au-Prince.

Not long after a massive earthquake struck Haiti on Jan. 12, U.S. Air Force Special operations teams arrived to reopen the airport. American Forces Press Service, quoting Col. Buck Elton, the Air Force commander overseeing flights at Port-au-Prince, reported yesterday that the Air Force has since then directed over 600 takeoffs and landings from the 10,000-foot airstrip.
"

Read More

That's one hell of a great job to be able to scale air operations like that in days.

The news reported that the rescue and aid distribution were much improved yesterday.


Check out these beautiful pictures of the behemoth C17 GlobeMaster III. This plane can carry 77 tons of supplies and equipments and being used extensively in Haiti operation.



Orange Crush

"Favorite Viktor Yanukovich has won the first round of Ukraine's presidential election, and now faces a run-off against Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Both candidates appear confident of victory -- and raise Russian hopes for a rapprochement between the two countries.

Ukraine has voted, and yet nothing has been decided. It is an election result that fits perfectly to a country that is still seeking a balance between East and West. Viktor Yanukovych, leader of the Party of Regions and representative of the Russian-speaking east, won the first round, winning between 31.5 and 36.6 percent of the vote, according to initial projections. "The people want change," enthuses his party colleague Nikolay Azarov. But whether Yanukovych will really be able to become president is, after election night, more than questionable."
(Spiegel)


Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko

Taking side

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti 8



"I understand all the concern and outrage over the slowness of aid, and the difficulties at the airport. I work for a major organization here in Haiti, I am sleeping outside near the airport in Port-au-Prince. Thousands of people are working frantically to get the aid in, the airport is TINY — it has one runway — just ONE! [T]he (teeny) terminal was severely damaged. And there are at least 30 massive planes from every country on earth parked side by side.

A plan lands about every 10 minutes. There are only a certain number of plans that can land, taxi, and park safely — and it is at max capacity all the time. People being evacuated, many of whom are Haitian-Americans who came to visit their grandmothers over Christmas, are on long lines to leave, and they criss-cross the tarmac with the hundreds of international military and aid workers rushing to get their supplies in.

The U.S. military is doing a good job to control the very complicated air traffic control for an ungodly situation, with almost no equipment or resources (which were destroyed) — there is no tower btw. So please reserve your judgments, and cut all the people risking their welfare in this increasingly dangerous and urgently dire humanitarian situation some slack. And for people who are unhappy with the UN — please bear in mind that the entire UN staff living in Haiti and now working incredibly hard to organize perhaps the largest humanitarian response ever are also quake victims too.
" (The Lede)

The airport has only one runway (for arrival and departure) - that place must have been a massive bottleneck - you can only unload and refuel a plane so fast. I am not sure how much fuel supplies they have in the airport either. In the normal situation, the Haiti international airport would be overwhelmed with the amount of air traffic it is currently handling.

Stream of aid and rescue workers are arriving every day in Haiti - the problem is that the whole capital is pretty much destroyed and it will take a bit more time for the distribution of aid reach everyone.

Blind hands

"Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak met Turkey's foreign and defense ministers on Sunday to try to repair ties between the allies that have been further strained this week by a diplomatic row in which Israel was forced to apologize for its treatment of the Turkish ambassador.

Barak is the first Israeli official to visit Turkey since the diplomatic feud that erupted Monday after Israel's deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, summoned Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Oguz Celikkol to complain about a TV show. The ambassador was forced to sit on a low sofa without a handshake, while Ayalon explained to local TV stations that the humiliation was intentional. Outraged, Turkey threatened to recall the ambassador, forcing Ayalon to apologize.

Hours before Barak's departure, Ayalon said the Turkish ambassador could be expelled if Turkish TV dramas continue to depict Israeli security forces as brutal. Ayalon had called in the ambassador to reprimand him over a TV program that showed Israeli agents kidnapping children and shooting old men. It was the second such program to be aired on Turkish television in recent months." (NY Times)

What you see is a Deputy Foreign Minister gone rouge on Israel diplomacy with Turkey - he essentially trying to sabotage the relationship between Israel and Turkey. Ehud Barak, the defense minister of Israel is trying to repair it. Go figure.

They know only building towers

"IT HAS been an inauspicious start to the year for justice in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). A court in Abu Dhabi, the richest of the federation’s seven states, acquitted a senior prince of criminally abusing an Afghan grain dealer, despite television footage that showed the accused beating the man with a stick, pouring salt in his wounds and driving over him in a car. At the other end of the justice system, a young British tourist in Dubai, the UAE’s other main state, faces up to six years in jail after reporting to the police that she had been raped." (Economist)

This is the video evidence against the Prince



He looked pretty sober to me. I wonder what kind of drug he was on.

The acquittal of the Prince due to "diminished responsibility" means that in the UAE, you can plausibly argue that for drunk driving, you also have "diminished responsibility" because high alcohol in your blood make you do some crazy driving.

Haiti 7

"Some aid workers were critical of the United Nations, as well, arguing that the agency had the most on-the-ground experience in Haiti and should be directing efforts better.

But many United Nations employees were killed in the earthquake
. And Stephanie Bunker, the spokeswoman for the United Nations humanitarian relief effort, said Saturday that a United Nations logistics team was trying to coordinate with other agencies, and that the peacekeeping forces were trying to clear roads. (NY Times)

The top 2 UN officials responsible for Haiti operations are dead. This is a very complicated rescue missions considering the destruction of the government of Haiti and the lack of infrastructure in the country in the first place. The current verdict is that the operation is going as well as it can be - which is still not enough for many victims needing help. That must be frustrating.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haiti 6

"Earthquake victims, writhing in pain and grasping at life, watched doctors and nurses walk away from a field hospital Friday night after United Nations officials ordered a medical team to evacuate the area out of security concerns, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta reported.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Saturday that the world body's mission in Haiti did not order any medical team to leave the Port-au-Prince field hospital. If the team left, it was at the request of their own organizations, he told CNN."
(CNN)

Not sure why the doctors are ordered out but this sounds like chicken shit to me.

"CNN initially reported, based on conversations with some of the doctors, that the United Nations ordered the Belgian First Aid and Support Team to evacuate. However, Belgian Chief Coordinator Geert Gijs, a doctor who was at the hospital with 60 Belgian medical personnel, said it was his decision to pull the team out for the night. Gijs said he requested U.N. security personnel to staff the hospital overnight, but was told that peacekeepers would only be able to evacuate the team."

This illustrates the working condition for rescue workers trying to free trapped people - the picture of an Icelandic rescue personnel (The Lede)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti 5

"Haitian authorities have buried 40,000 bodies and believe another 100,000 people probably died in this week's earthquake, a senior official told Reuters on Friday." (Reuter)

Try to digest that horrific tolls estimation.


All hands on deck


"A South Korean rescue team including doctors and nurses prepare to leave for quake-ridden Haiti at the Incheon International Airport on January 15, 2010 in Incheon, South Korea. South Korea plans to send more emergency relief workers and supplies worth US$1 million to Haiti." (Daylife)




"The United States is deploying as many as 10,000 troops to Haiti over the next few days, although many will remain on an armada of naval vessels gathering offshore, led by the aircraft carrier USS Vinson, the Pentagon said."AFP


Cadaver dogs

"The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is dispatching a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and has activated its partners, the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team and the Los Angeles County Search and Rescue Team. The USAR teams will be composed of up to 72 personnel, 6 search and rescue canines and up to 48 tons of rescue equipment." (USA Today)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Never surrender

"But it turns out that the ability to repeatedly respond to failure by exerting more effort—instead of simply giving up—is a trait well studied in psychology. People with this trait, persistence, rebound well and can sustain their motivation through long periods of delayed gratification. Delving into this research, I learned that persistence turns out to be more than a conscious act of will; it’s also an unconscious response, governed by a circuit in the brain. Dr. Robert Cloninger at Washington University in St. Louis located the circuit in a part of the brain called the orbital and medial prefrontal cortex. It monitors the reward center of the brain, and like a switch, it intervenes when there’s a lack of immediate reward. When it switches on, it’s telling the rest of the brain, “Don’t stop trying. There’s dopa [the brain’s chemical reward for success] on the horizon.” While putting people through MRI scans, Cloninger could see this switch lighting up regularly in some. In others, barely at all.

Read more: The Power (and Peril) of Praising Your Kids -- New York Magazine"

Game of dice?

What's that Albert Einstein said about God?

Watch this video. You will feel small.

Haiti 4 - SMS donation


The following are legit SMS donations that I gathered from the web. I put related links on each phone number so you can check on your own before making your donation.


"USA: text "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill;" (state.gov)

Czech Republic (Adra) Pomozte s námi Haiti. Pošlete "DMS ADRA" na 87777.

USA: Help Haiti Earthquake Relief Donate $5 by texting YELE to 501 501 right now.

Canada:

Donors can text the world “HAITI” to 45678 from any Rogers Wireless or Bell Mobility phone to contribute $5.00 to The Salvation Army.
As of January 13th, 2010 all text donations will go directly to The Salvation Army Haiti Earthquake Disaster Relief.
(Salvation Army Canada)


UK: "Donations can also be made on the High Street, by calling into any bank or post office and quoting Freepay 1449, or at branches of any of the DEC's member charities. The DEC is composed of 13 major UK aid agencies: Action Aid, British Red Cross, CAFOD, Care International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Help the Aged, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision." (Times Online)

USA: Text "HAITI" to 20222 and $10 will be donated to relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill. Clinton Foundation

Haiti Relief

American Airlines is taking doctors and nurses to Haiti for free. Please call 212-697-9767. Spread the word.

Please, go here to these websites and donate to give immediate aid and earthquake relief to the Haitian people:
http://www.fonkoze.org/
http://www.lambifund.org/
http://www.pih.org/home.html
http://quixote.org/haiti
http://www.directrelief.org/
http://yele.org/
https://secure.oxfamamerica.org/site/Donation2?df_id=3560&3560.donation=form1

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti 2


"People rest under blankets outdoors in Port-au-Prince, Haiti after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake January 12, 2010. Thousands died in the major earthquake that destroyed the presidential palace, schools, hospitals and hillside shanties in Haiti, the country's president said on Wednesday. Photograph taken January 12." (Daylife)


The key in helping Haiti is to donate directly to NGOs that have already established presence in Haiti. They can deliver the help immediately because they have already existing base and logistics figured out. Oxfam is one such NGO.

The Lede is blogging the storm on the situation in Haiti.

Haiti Earthquake - M 7.0

This is American Red Cross donation page.



A 7.0 Magnitude earthquake is categorized as Major earthquake (wikipedia)

BBC coverage is here.

Google is mad at China



"These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China." (Google)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Star Wars Style hovercraft


(Urban Aero)

This is freaking awesome.

Change we can believe in

"PETER Robinson has stepped aside as Northern Ireland's First Minister amid a scandal over his wife’s affair with a teenager.

The decision was announced as Mr Robinson received the support of his colleagues to continue as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) following revelations about his family's financial affairs.

Last week, BBC's Northern Ireland Spotlight program alleged Mr Robinson knew about his wife Iris’s controversial raising of about $A90,000 from property developers to fund a cafe business by her 19-year-old lover Kirk McCambley, and failed to disclose it. Mrs Robinson denies the accusation." (Herald Sun)


Dammit, it's about time. It's refreshing to find a genuine political sex scandal that involves the wife instead of the husband.

Accomplished

"Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates and 31 percent of the medicine laureates.

Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, but 21 percent of the Ivy League student bodies, 26 percent of the Kennedy Center honorees, 37 percent of the Academy Award-winning directors, 38 percent of those on a recent Business Week list of leading philanthropists, 51 percent of the Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction.

Tel Aviv has become one of the world’s foremost entrepreneurial hot spots. Israel has more high-tech start-ups per capita than any other nation on earth, by far. It leads the world in civilian research-and-development spending per capita. It ranks second behind the U.S. in the number of companies listed on the Nasdaq. Israel, with seven million people, attracts as much venture capital as France and Germany combined.
" (David Brooks)

Air Chavez

"Venezuela's Hugo Chavez ordered soldiers to seek out businesses that raise prices after a sharp devaluation of the bolivar currency last week, saying his government will not tolerate price speculation.

“Right now, there is absolutely no reason for anybody to be raising prices of absolutely anything,” he said on his weekly TV show, two days after announcing a dual exchange system for the fixed rate bolivar.

“I want the National Guard on the streets with the people to fight against speculation,” he said to applause. “Publicly denounce the speculator and we will intervene in any business of any size.”"
(The Globe and Mail)


You must admit his devaluation employs clever tactics - a double pegged currency move (not sure if such term exists)

"
The move aims to favour some sectors of the economy the government considers priorities, with the bolivar pegged at 2.6 per dollar, down from 2.15 per dollar.

The leftist leader said that the health, food imports, machinery, books and technology sectors, as well as public sector imports and remittances would benefit from the preferential rate.

Meanwhile, non-essential imports were to be subject to a rate of 4.3 bolivars per dollar. The higher exchange rate would apply to items such as automobiles, telecommunications, tobacco, beverages, chemicals, petrochemicals and electronics." (Business 24)


It means guys whenever you travel to Venezuela, bring a brand new laptop and iPod, unwrap them and sell them in the black market. You will get more money for your dollars to use while travelling.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Didn't know that

"I think it sounds just too funny to simply argue over the use of a name such as Allah. Even in a Spanish-speaking country this word can be found in everyday speech. The word "ojalá" (Alá meaning Allah) is widely used in these cultures whose meaning is "I hope" or literally "if Allah wills it" yet no one, not even religious communities even think about this. In the end.. Is man the owner of a particular language? Can anyone claim authorship of language? It's time people star to open their minds and truly practice what they "say" in words" (A NYT Reader)


This situation in Malaysia is more about governments and politics than religions. Malaysia is still a good country to visit, etc, etc but it does highlights certain insanity built in their system where politics, religions and race being intermingled and managed by the state. Whereas the neighboring giant, Indonesia, has managed to transformed itself to a free country, Malaysian system is still stuck in the legacy built by its brilliant and flawed Mahatir Mohammad.

Now there have been nine church bombings in the past week across Malaysia. So far they have been mostly property attack - fortunately no one is killed or injured yet. So this has been "terrorism lite".

Indonesia received a spate of church bombings back in Christmas eve 2000 which then continued to Bali bombing 2002 so on so forth - which killed hundreds of people. Last year off course we managed to kill the Malaysian masterminder of those attacks - the last of a string of terrorist cells we managed to rolled up after Bali 2002.

Blue Light Special

"Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said Monday the President had heard about the finding by the newly established special task force to counter judicial corruption, which had inspected the cell of businesswoman and bribery convict Artalita Suryani at the Pondok Bambu Penitentiary, East Jakarta., among others.

During its impromptu inspection, the team found Artalita was occupying a 64-square-meter celled equipped with a spacious bed, refrigerator, TV, couch, tape player and a work desk, as well as an adjoining karaoke room in the cell of another prisoner, Liem “Aling” Marita."
(The Jakarta Post)

That is one awesome prison cell.

Will Avatar beat Titanic?

"In worldwide gross, Avatar is just as impressive: it made another $300 million or so this past week for a total of $1.3 billion. That vaulted it past three of the four other billion-dollar movies; The Dark Knight, the second episode of Pirates of the Caribbean and the conclusion to the Lord of the Rings trilogy are now in Avatar's dust. Again, only Titanic, at $1.8 billion, remains in its way."
Time

Avatar has the potential to break the 2 billion dollars record. We shall see.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

NY Times now covers the stupid Malaysian controversy.

On Palestinian Institutions

Transparency International completed a comprehensive report on Palestinian Institutions.

Power play



"The inauguration of the Dauletabad-Sarakhs-Khangiran pipeline on Wednesday connecting Iran's northern Caspian region with Turkmenistan's vast gas field may go unnoticed amid the Western media cacophony that it is "apocalypse now" for the Islamic regime in Tehran.

The event sends strong messages for regional security. Within the space of three weeks, Turkmenistan has committed its entire gas exports to China, Russia and Iran. It has no urgent need of the pipelines that the United States and the European Union have been advancing. Are we hearing the faint notes of a Russia-China-Iran symphony? " (atimes)


Central Asia is like the final frontier - a largely unknown set of countries rarely visited by people.
The fall of an American politician.

"Philandering is hardly a novel vice among presidential wannabes—or presidents, for that matter. Nor was the Edwards campaign the only national operation in 2008 for which the actual or rumored extracurricular activities of the candidate (or the candidate’s spouse) posed a significant political problem. John McCain’s campaign expended vast amounts of time and energy dealing with accusations that the senator had had an affair with a lobbyist and preparing to confront stories that his wife was carrying on a liaison of her own. Hillary Clinton’s team established a “war room within a war room” to douse potential flare-ups in the press surrounding her husband’s personal life. Indeed, among the top-tier contenders, only the eventual Mr. and Mrs. 44 were untroubled by such matters.

Yet it was Edwards who stepped so far across the line that his career and life were reduced to rubble. For all the high drama of the Obama-Clinton battle and the historic import of the former’s general-election victory over McCain, Edwards’s story is equally, lastingly resonant: an archetypal political tragedy in which the very same qualities that fuel any presidential bid—ego, hubris, vanity, neediness, a kind of delusion—became all-consuming and self-destructive. And in which the gap between public façade and private reality simply grew too vast to bridge.
"

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Just a thought


Society is like a maze - it has a big impact on how you end up being. The best of societies have less dead end.

Friday, January 08, 2010

War of word


"Three churches have been attacked in Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur, ahead of planned protests by Muslim groups.

The administrative offices of one church were destroyed by a firebomb attack and one of the other two churches attacked was slightly damaged.

Some Muslim groups are angry at a court decision allowing non-Muslims to use the word Allah to refer to God." (BBC)

I hate bullshit conflict and this one looks and smells like one - a big one.

This problem arose three years ago when Malaysian government was being a dick head and suddenly ban a Catholic newspaper for using Allah to denote God in Bahasa Malaysia.

Our Bahasa Indonesia shares common root language with Malaysia and the word Allah have always been used in Christian community as well as Muslims in the country as far as the country can remember. There has never been a slighted controversy ever on this - it is a word that has been part of the language since the Arab traders visited the archipelago hundreds of years ago. We have over 200 millions Muslims in Indonesia, the largest in the world, and our population can swallow Malaysians Muslims of 14 million without burping - this "controversy" looks absurd from our point of view. Even more, the usage is even the default use in Christians Arabs all around the world.

The fact that this has become a controversy just highlighted what a douchebag of a move that the Malaysian government took three years ago. The Kuala Lumpur High Court agreed and struck the ban. And now Churches are being fucking firebombed and demonstrations to be held to oppose the ruling. Really? WTF.

This is a good podcast discussion about the use of the word Allah in Bahasa Malay/Indonesia if you want to be thorough about it.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Nigeria


The magazine is reporting of sharp escalations in conflicts between Muslims and Christians.

Hail our new master

"Germany may have lost its traditional ranking as the world's top exporter to China in 2009, according to a new report. Industry representatives do not believe exports will rise to pre-crisis levels until 2014. But there could be a silver lining for Germany in China's rapid growth.

Germany gave up its title as Exportweltmeister -- the world's champion exporter -- to China in 2009, in part because of the global economic crisis, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
" (Spiegel)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Hardball



A Japanese whaling boat rammed into the futuristic Ady Gil of the infamous Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Look I hate to see a good boat wasted but the Sea Shepherd is known for their aggressive tactics against the Japanese whaling boats. So I'd call this a fair incident. You gotta be able to take as hard as you give.


Ady Gil during good time

Rise of a new ocean



"In the remote Afar depression in northern Ethiopia, the African Continent is slowly splitting apart and a new ocean is forming.

In September 2005, a series of fissures opened along the Afar Depression. Over about a week, the rift pulled apart by eight metres and dropped down by up to one metre. Local people told of a series of earthquakes and how ash darkened the air for three days. At the same time, satellites tracking the region showed that the surface about nearby volcanoes subsided by as much as three metres, as magma was injected along the fissure."
(Rift Afar)

Click here to see new photos from last June's eruption.

An Icelandic that can say no


Reykjavik

"Iceland's president said on Tuesday he would not sign an unpopular bill to compensate Britain and the Netherlands over the failure of Icesave bank, threatening the survival of the government and triggering anger in London and The Hague.

President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said in a televised speech he would put the bill to a referendum instead.

'I have decided, according to article 26 of the constitution, to refer this new act to the people,' he said.

'The involvement of the whole nation in the final decision is therefore the prerequisite for a successful solution, reconciliation and recovery.'" (skynews)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Bully

Iceland is being bullied by UK and the IMF to pay the 5 billion USD default of the Icesave saving account provided by its former private bank, Landsbanki.

"The petition urges the president to veto the bill that allows the move, and calls for a referendum on the issue.

Iceland's parliament has approved the plans to reimburse 3.8bn euros (£3.4bn) lost by Dutch and British savers when the Icesave scheme failed in 2008.

Many taxpayers say they are being made to pay for the bank's mistakes.
The compensation amounts to some 12,000 euros for each citizen on the island nation of 320,000."

I think as direct descendants of the Vikings, they should unfrozen their battle axes and war helmets and start their tradition of raiding remote posts and pillaging lands.


qat, the wonder drug

"Khat (Catha edulis, family Celastraceae; pronounced /ˈkɑːt/, kaat; Arabic: قات; Ge'ez ጫት č̣āt; Somali: qaat), also known as kat, qaat, quat, gat, jaad, chat, chad, chaad and miraa, is a flowering plant native to tropical East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Khat contains the alkaloid called cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant which is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite and euphoria. In 1980 the World Health Organization classified khat as a drug of abuse that can produce mild to moderate psychological dependence. The plant has been targeted by anti-drug organizations like the DEA.[1] It is a controlled/illegal substance in many countries, but is legal for sale and production in many others." (wikipedia)



It's huge in Yemen and Somali. In Somalia it probably the secret sauce for their awesome pirates operations - which has successfully captured 4 ships in the new year. As the old proverb says, "what's good for the pirates, good for the world".

Congrats Dubai


"Burj Dubai, the world's tallest tower, is seen during the opening ceremony in Dubai January 4, 2010. Dubai opened the world's tallest structure on Monday, and a statement said it was 828 metres (2,717 ft) high. Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum renamed the tower Burj Khalifa after the president of the United Arab Emirates and the ruler of the neighboring emirate of Abu Dhabi." (Daylife)

OK so they have to rename the tower and kiss Abu Dhabi's ass, but nevertheless this is a great accomplishment. The architecture and engineering are provided by SOM of Chicago. SOM was also the builder of Sears towers of Chicago.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Sublime Music


This one from 2006.

Adult learning

"Teaching new facts should not be the focus of adult education, she says. Instead, continued brain development and a richer form of learning may require that you “bump up against people and ideas” that are different. In a history class, that might mean reading multiple viewpoints, and then prying open brain networks by reflecting on how what was learned has changed your view of the world.

“There’s a place for information,” Dr. Taylor says. “We need to know stuff. But we need to move beyond that and challenge our perception of the world. If you always hang around with those you agree with and read things that agree with what you already know, you’re not going to wrestle with your established brain connections.

Such stretching is exactly what scientists say best keeps a brain in tune: get out of the comfort zone to push and nourish your brain. Do anything from learning a foreign language to taking a different route to work." (NY Times)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Travel Warning

"All passengers from countries on the State Department’s “State Sponsors of Terrorism” list – plus all passengers from other "countries of interest" such as Nigeria, Pakistan and Yemen — will receive “full body pat-down and physical inspection of property,” the official said.

The countries on the State Department list are Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria. Other countries covered by the TSA directive include Afghanistan, Libya and Somalia. A complete list was not released."

Read more

If your country has a lot of baggage with the US, travel light.


More complete list from NY Times
"Citizens of Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, which are considered “state sponsors of terrorism” as well as citizens from “countries of interest” that consist of Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Yemen, will also face the special scrutiny, officials said."

And the rest of the Arab world are delighted with the inclusion of Saudi Arabia to the list.
Following Yemen

Rock on

Bono does some NY Times Op-Ed :
"That’s why the Obama administration — while it still holds the keys to the big automakers — ought to put some style fascists into the mix"

"One smart suggestion I’ve heard, sort of a riff on cap-and-trade, is that each person has an equal right to pollute and that there might somehow be a way to monetize this."

Festival of Abraham


Upside down pyramid

May 21, 2011

"Camping, 88, has scrutinized the Bible for almost 70 years and says he has developed a mathematical system to interpret prophecies hidden within the Good Book. One night a few years ago, Camping, a civil engineer by trade, crunched the numbers and was stunned at what he'd found: The world will end May 21, 2011."

Read more

What to look for this year

Failure as a strategy

Failure is interesting, as a strategy, because it doesn't require the necessary planning, funding, and training required for a potentially successful attack. As a result, attacks can be made quickly across a broad spectrum of targets. If al Qaeda did embrace failure as a strategy, we could expect them to:

  • Increase the frequency. Since the level of effort required is very small, do more to generate substantive returns in red ink/securitization/bureaucratization. Since suicide isn't even a requirement for the attacker, it would likely make it easy to hire them (payment to families for the effort would attract a vast pool of applicants).
  • Expand the venues. Attack more types of places. Schools, malls, etc. Terrorist attacks are treated differently than even much more violent attacks by postal citizens in the same venues. Why? They are outsiders and the fear is that these attacks will be systemic rather than one offs.
  • Embrace more ethnicities/races to expand the profile of the terrorist. The use of a Nigerian student is a first step on this. Expand this profile to include Chinese, Indonesians, etc. to generate sweeping fear of all "outsiders." Spread the bureaucratic restrictions on travel that would be generated in reactions to these attacks far and wide.
(John Robb)

This is an interesting insight of all the craziness that have happened in the past weeks. How this develops will affect the way we travel even more.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Oh no, et tu Ireland?

"Secular campaigners in the Irish Republic defied a strict new blasphemy law which came into force today by publishing a series of anti-religious quotations online and promising to fight the legislation in court.

The new law, which was passed in July, means that blasphemy in Ireland is now a crime punishable with a fine of up to €25,000 (£22,000).

It defines blasphemy as "publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted".

The justice minister, Dermot Ahern, said that the law was necessary because while immigration had brought a growing diversity of religious faiths, the 1936 constitution extended the protection of belief only to Christians." (Guardian)


So insulting religion is now a crime Ireland. How rich. This comes from a country on which religious institutions have abused little kids for many decades.

Blasphemy law is one of the stupidest law humanity ever produced. Religions do not need protection from their enemies and critics, they need protection from their own followers.

The immigrants success story in New York



"It was, of course, more than just rare. Mr. Liu, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, energized a diverse band of voters in his bid for the comptroller’s job, allowing him to beat a field that included David Yassky, his City Council colleague, who had endorsements from the city’s major newspapers.

Pushing him toward victory were Asian voters, including Koreans in Queens, Chinese in Manhattan and Pakistanis in Brooklyn. On Friday, in numbers, they headed to downtown Manhattan, to celebrate what they had helped make happen: electing the first Asian-American to citywide office."
(NY Times)

The US gets a lot of crap on a lot of things, but its ability to accommodate immigrants and enabling opportunities for ethnic groups to fight its way in to the American social fabric is amazing.

Tenuous start

The Taliban suicide bomber killed more than 89 people attending a volley tournament in Pakistan yesterday and a Somali assassin wielded ax and knife trying to kill the Danish cartoonist that draw the cartoons offensive to many Muslims.

The latter got shot by Danish police - the Cartoonist was with his 5 year granddaughter in the house at the time and they managed to run into a safe room.

Dawn of Pakistan reported the casualties have risen to 93 dead.

wtf.

A column in Dawn blames Arabs for funding chaos in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Arabs can't catch a break nowadays.

"The TTP was quick to claim responsibility for the Karachi attack, as it has done for a number of others. The question of who is funding these killers remains a mystery, although Imtiaz Gul has tried to unravel it in his book. While Saudi funding of extremist groups like the virulently anti-Shia SSP was an open secret, apparently direct government financing from Riyadh ceased after 9/11. However, Gul cites anecdotal evidence to suggest that this money has not completely dried up.

In one example, he follows the indoctrination of a young would-be suicide bomber called Mansoor Khan Dawar of Hurmaz, a small village in North Waziristan. Gul quotes Dawar talking of his training under Abu Nasir al-Qahtani:

..

Allowed to visit his parents before his final mission, Dawar was engaged by his father, mercifully an educated man, on the jihad being waged by the extremists. He asked his son why these militants didn’t target Arabs, and whether suicide bombing was in line with the Islamic Sharia. Finally, Dawar’s father said he would not block his son’s suicidal path if he received satisfactory replies to these questions from his mentors.

Dawar posed these questions to a local teacher who passed them on to al-Qahtani over the phone. As cited by Gul, the Arab replied: “We receive funds from Arab countries, therefore we cannot carry out any attack there, and if we commit any wrong there, they will stop supply of funds to us. But jihad in Pakistan and Afghanistan is lawful and even the Saudis believe so.”"
Irfan Husain - Dawn

Friday, January 01, 2010

One less stupid case

"A Malaysian court has ruled that Christians have the constitutional right to use the word “Allah” to refer to God, striking down a government ban as illegal.

The landmark ruling on Thursday appeared to be a victory for freedom of religion in the Muslim-majority country, where the ban had become a symbol of what minorities say is institutionalized religious discrimination.

Recently, the government confiscated 10,000 copies of Bahasa Malaysia-language Bibles from Indonesia because they contained the word Allah. " (The Jakarta Globe)

Gaza war one year one

There are a bunch of protesters from Western nations right now in front of my office building protesting against Israel. My office is in front of the Israel embassy in Cairo. They were wearing green t-shirt saying "Boycott Israel". Tons of Egyptians police made human cordons around them so they do not disturb traffic. If you were in the Israel embassy, you can barely see the protesters. The embassy is located at the 20th floor of the building.