Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Great Escape



"After clearing customs, Vahedi was paged over the loudspeaker, told to report to an office and once there had his passport confiscated.
The next seven months were a virtual house arrest. Vahedi believes he was held because his grown-up Los Angles-based sons promote popular Persian pop singers.
Vahedi would have to pay government officials a $150,000 bribe and have his sons stop their work to get his passport back, he was led to believe. Even then there was no guarantee he would ever get out of Iran.
Weighing his options, Vahedi decided to escape. He paid two drug smugglers to take him on horseback over the mountains of western Iran and into Turkey.
Daily Mail

AIESEC 10,000 exchanges






From 2010 annual report. A 54% growth over a year is mighty impressive. It would be interesting to hear what they did to achieve such a result.

A leak too far

"Yet it might be useful to consider one more filter. Consider it the World Order filter. The fact that we live our lives amid order and not chaos is the great achievement of civilization. This order should not be taken for granted.
This order is tenuously maintained by brave soldiers but also by talkative leaders and diplomats. Every second of every day, leaders and diplomats are engaged in a never-ending conversation. The leaked cables reveal this conversation. They show diplomats seeking information, cajoling each other and engaging in faux-friendships and petty hypocrisies as they seek to avoid global disasters.
Despite the imaginings of people like Assange, the conversation revealed in the cables is not devious and nefarious. The private conversation is similar to the public conversation, except maybe more admirable. Israeli and Arab diplomats can be seen reacting sympathetically and realistically toward one another. The Americans in the cables are generally savvy and honest. Iran’s neighbors are properly alarmed and reaching out.
Some people argue that this diplomatic conversation is based on mechanical calculations about national self-interest, and it won’t be affected by public exposure. But this conversation, like all conversations, is built on relationships. The quality of the conversation is determined by the level of trust. Its direction is influenced by persuasion and by feelings about friends and enemies." (David Brooks)

The world needs more diplomacy, not less. Wikileaks made a terrible mistake with this leak and it exposes Julian Assange as an ordinary douche bag.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bomb Iran Coalition

"In 2007, when then-presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) suggested that the best way to deal with the nuclear threat posed by the Iranian regime was to "Bomb, bomb Iran," most people -- including then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) -- thought he was altogether too hawkish. According to the cables brought forward by Wikileaks today, McCain's opinion is shared by many of Iran's neighbors.
According to Le Monde (in translation), a cable relayed to Washington a conversation between the emir of Qatar and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) last February: "Based on over 30 years of experience with the Iranians, the emir concluded the meeting by saying that we shouldn't believe but one word in a hundred that the Iranians say." The prime minister of Qatar told Kerry later that trip that Ahmadinejad told him: "we beat the Americans in Iraq, the final battle will be in Iran."
The president of the Upper House of the Jordanian Parliament, Zeid Rifai, was said in a cable (translated) to have told the U.S. that "the dialogue with Iran will go 'nowhere', adding: 'bomb Iran or live with a nuclear Iran: the sanctions, the carrots, the incentives, have no importance.'"
The Omanis were similarly concerned, according to cables relayed by the New York Times, as an Omani military official told officials that he could not decide which was worse: "a strike against Iran's nuclear capability and the resulting turmoil it would cause in the Gulf, or inaction and having to live with a nuclear-capable Iran."
The United Arab Emirates' defense chief, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, called Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "Hitler" to U.S. officials, also "stressed 'that he wasn't suggesting that the first option was 'bombing' Iran,' but also warned, 'They have to be dealt with before they do something tragic.'"
The Saudis, the Bahrainis and even Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak were all similarly inclined, as has been widely reported -- El Pais reported that Mubarak's hatred for Iran was called "visceral" and the New York Times reported the existence of cables referring to the Saudi king's "frequent exhortations" to engage in military action against Iran. The Bahrainis, too, are said to be keen to see Iran's nuclear program halted, and King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa is said to have blamed problems in Iraq and Afghanistan on the Iranian government -- and both Kuwaiti and Yemeni officials reportedly told U.S. diplomats similar things about Iranian involvement in fomenting dissent in their own countries." (Talking Points Memo)

Bottom line: You don't want to based your foreign policy on the recommendation of Middle East Arab Leaders.

Juicyleaks

NY Times Complete Coverage

El Pais Complete Coverage


Diplomatic atlas of the diplomatic cables
Spiegel Complete Coverage

The Guardian Complete Coverage

Get the source yourself here.

My take: What WikiLeaks has done is undermine US international diplomacy. That's a retarded thing to do - you want the US to do more diplomacy, not less because man, they got lotsa big guns and can kick your ass several times over. You want them to talk more, shoot less.

Leslie Nielsen

he has died.  He was one of my favorite movie actors.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The battle for Rio



"Prolonged gun battles between police and drug traffickers left at least 14 people dead yesterday in Rio, including a 14-year-old girl who was reportedly shot through the chest while she surfed the internet.
The deaths came during a series of major police assaults on the city's slums, including one favela that serves as the HQ of the city's largest drug gang.
Triggered by a spate of attacks on police and drivers, the incursions began on Tuesday and involved hundreds of heavily armed police operatives, bulletproof vehicles and helicopters." Guardian
Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Expect more violent clashes between the state and the gangs as Brazil attempts to take control of some of its territory.


More pictures

Spiegel on Karachi


"The aftermath of the Nov. 11 attacks in Karachi: A suicide bomber can now be bought for the equivalent of $300."

"Karachi is the pulsating heart of Pakistan, but the city of 18 million is descending into a maelstrom of violence. While NATO uses the port to support its war in Afghanistan, international jihadism has established strongholds in the metropolis's slums and suburbs.
The circle had to be closed with blood, in order to wipe out the disgrace of the previous day. That's the way of life here -- the way of life in Karachi.
The six men were heavily armed, and yet they still managed to get through all the checkpoints and reach Club Road in the red zone, a highly secured district in the heart of the city. The head of the provincial government has his official residence here, not far from the American consulate, two luxury hotels and the police headquarters, where the office of the young inspector Omar Shahid is located. As the head of the anti-extremism unit, Shahid was at the top of the attackers' hit list." Spiegel

If what Spiegel reported is true, it means that Pakistan has innovated itself to become the reliable supplier for suicide bombers. $300 buck per suicide bombers? This is China level industrialization. That is pretty cheap for a human weapon, isn't it? There must be some awesome production level "education" of suicides bomber that put downward pressure on the cost of having somebody blow themselves up to kill other people. I would not be surprised if there's some websites on which you can pick your own suicide bombers and charge your credit card for it.

Come to think of it, this is probably the cheapest form of "hire for murder".

Friday, November 26, 2010

Stoning in Iran - an illustration



Click on image for larger version. What kind of bastards are participating in public stoning voluntarily?

A case of Euro straight jacket suffocation

"In early 2009, a joke was making the rounds: “What’s the difference between Iceland and Ireland? Answer: One letter and about six months.” This was supposed to be gallows humor. No matter how bad the Irish situation, it couldn’t be compared with the utter disaster that was Iceland.
But at this point Iceland seems, if anything, to be doing better than its near-namesake. Its economic slump was no deeper than Ireland’s, its job losses were less severe and it seems better positioned for recovery. In fact, investors now appear to consider Iceland’s debt safer than Ireland’s. How is that possible?
Part of the answer is that Iceland let foreign lenders to its runaway banks pay the price of their poor judgment, rather than putting its own taxpayers on the line to guarantee bad private debts. As the International Monetary Fund notes — approvingly! — “private sector bankruptcies have led to a marked decline in external debt.” Meanwhile, Iceland helped avoid a financial panic in part by imposing temporary capital controls — that is, by limiting the ability of residents to pull funds out of the country." Krugman

All the devils are here

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Bethany McLean & Joe Nocera Extended Interview<a>
www.thedailyshow.com
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Bottom line: Wall Street is going to end the Western Civilization as we know it. Holy crap, these guys are unscrupulous.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving


  • Be thankful that you are not an Irish banker right now.
  • Be thankful that your hometown is not Kandahar.
  • Be thankful that your head of state's last name is not Berlusconi.
  • Be thankful that Kim Jong-Il is not your father.
  • Be thankful that Sarah Palin is not your mom.
  • Be thankful that you are young and not responsible for a mortgage that is 40% higher than your home's worth.
  • Be thankful that your next assignment is not going to be in Juarez, Mexico.
  • Be thankful that you are currently not stuck in a US airport or worse, Charles de Gaulle, Paris.
  • Be thankful that your current job is not in TSA where you have to grab strangers' balls and watch penises all day while people hurl insults in your face.
  • Be thankful that you are not an Albino living in Tanzania where you are most likely to be hunted for your bones.
  • Be thankful that you are not a woman living in Congo.
  • Be thankful that you are not part of the Israel - Palestinian negotiation team.
  • Be thankful that you are not contesting in Egyptian parliamentary election this coming Sunday.
  • Be thankful that you are about to marry Prince William.
  • Be thankful that you are not a single guy living in Riyadh.
  • Be thankful that you are not a politician in Southern Mindanao.
  • Be thankful that you are not being ensnared by Indian telecommunication scandals.
  • Be thankful that you are not a newspaper executive.
  • Be thankful that your job does not involve trying to make Microsoft online business profitable.

One more stupid UN vote


For the last 10 years sexual orientation has been included in a list of discriminatory grounds for executions – gay rights activists say the vote to remove that listing is “dangerous and disturbing.”
The UN resolution urges countries to protect the right to life of all people, calling on them to investigate killings based on discriminatory grounds. Sexual orientation was previously listed as one of these forms of discrimination, alongside ethnicity, religious belief and linguistic minorities.
But now sexual orientation has been taken out of the list. The amendment was supported by Benin in Africa on behalf of the African Group in the UN General Assembly. It passed on a narrow vote of 79 for, 70 against , 17 abstentions and 26 absent.
Some of those voting to remove sexual orientation were countries where gays are known to be or thought to be executed or summarily killed including Iran, Nigeria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iraq. Pink Paper

 This is one of those decision that makes me want to scream "y'all fucking' retarded". The more you push toward discrimination against a section of humanity, you are encouraging more discriminations that will creep into the section that you are a part of. What a bunch of genius.

Never forget this

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up. 
Pastor Martin Niemöller

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ready to "fight tonight"

"The 16,000 soldiers of the division, which includes 1,700 Korean augmentees to the U.S. Army, are spread across 17 camps from just north of Seoul to just south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). The 2nd Infantry Division gave up the DMZ mission in 1991.
The capabilities of the division continue to expand to meet the threat. No other Army division matches the diverse design of the 2nd Infantry Division, a design that matches its diverse mission requirements. Four heavy battalions, two air assault battalions and four artillery battalions (two multiple launch rocket systems [MLRS] battalions) are enabled by full aviation attack and lift support, additional counterfire radars, a multirole bridge company, combat support equipment engineers and a robust U.S. Air Force support squadron. The past year has brought a full upgrade across intelligence and communication systems. In addition, the division will soon field new Abrams tank and Bradley fighting vehicle fleets. The immense responsibilities that junior soldiers and leaders tackle daily demand an intense training program."
South Korea Defense

Yeah, North Korea is mad mad crazy but restarting the war in the Korean Peninsula is a terrible terrible thing. We shall see if China acts like an adult in this situation restraining its retarded little brother.

Luckiest people ever

hair market in russia

“This is capitalism,” he said. “The people with money want to distinguish themselves from the people with no money. Why does one woman sell her hair to another? The person with money wants to look better than the person without money.”(NYtimes)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It is possible not to be groped by the TSA

This new line led to a TSA security checkpoint. You see, it is official TSA policy that people (both citizens and non-citizens alike) from international flights are screened as they enter the airport, despite the fact that they have already flown. Even before the new controversial security measures were put in place, I found this practice annoying. But now, as I looked past the 25 people waiting to get into their own country, I saw it: the dreaded Backscatter imaging machine.
Now, I’ve read a fair amount about the controversy surrounding the new TSA policies. I certainly don’t enjoy being treated like a terrorist in my own country, but I’m also not a die-hard constitutional rights advocate. However, for some reason, I was irked. Maybe it was the video of the 3-year old getting molested, maybe it was the sexual assault victim having to cry her way through getting groped, maybe it was the father watching teenage TSA officers joke about his attractive daughter. Whatever it was, this issue didn’t sit right with me. We shouldn’t be required to do this simply to get into our own country. (noblaster
The guy managed to do it. It only took him 2.5 hours.

Korea Border Crisis


NY Times

Wikipedia is also covering.

The Guardian has a live coverage here.



BBC has large pictures.

An astute analysis from a HN reader about the remote possibility of a war breaking out
"It's not so simple. Consider the basic equation. Mostly unpopulated, desolate, rugged terrain in the North where artillery can hide. Heavily populated metropolitan areas in the South where Northern artillery can hit. You would need to blanket a huge area of the North with devastating bombardment in order to remove all of the artillery positions. Meanwhile, every single shell fired from the North will likely result in civilian deaths in the South. And they can fire a lot of shells in a very short amount of time.
The only way to guarantee taking out all of the Northern artillery positions would be carpet bombing with nukes, which would result in lots of deaths in South Korea from fallout (not to mention all the other much more serious problems involved, such as establishing a precedent of preemptive nuclear attack).
In reality, the situation is even more complicated than this simplistic analysis. It's not so
easy to take out an artillery position in a previously undetermined location, especially if that artillery position can be hidden in a cave/bunker on a moment's notice. More so if there are thousands of artillery positions spread over many square miles.
Even if the artillery in the North survives only a few hours or even a few minutes the sheer number of them and the population density of the regions of South Korea within artillery range would lead to catastrophic civilian deaths in the South.
The South Koreans have been militarily capable of stomping all over the North for decades, without American help. The fact that they haven't yet, despite numerous provocations from the North, is a testament to the huge losses that they would inevitably face if a hot war broke out again on the Korean peninsula.
Edit: Current estimates are that North Korea has the capability to fire around 10,000 rounds a minute into heavily populated regions near Seoul." HN


Estimated artillery range from the border of North Korea to South should a war break out.


Business Insider

Monday, November 22, 2010

Oh Ireland

They finally buckle down under the tremendous pressure on their banking sector.

"The junior partner in the Irish Republic's governing coalition has called for a general election in January, after an EU-led bailout of the country's ailing economy.
The Green Party said the Irish people needed "political certainty".
The government has accepted up to 90bn euros (£77bn; $124bn) of EU-led loans and will publish a four-year budget plan on Wednesday." BBC

Portugal is NEXT
"It's Portugal. Just look at the spreads. Greece is the highest. Then Ireland. Then Portugal. Then Spain. All of these spreads are wider now than in May before the announcement of the safety net. That's showing you that the markets see this as a solvency problem [ie they're fundamentally broke], even as the ECB is dealing with this as a liquidity problem [ie they'll be OK with some cash transfusions]." The Atlantic

Sunday, November 21, 2010

For your own safety

Productivity Tips

Click here

Oh great, new strain of deadly virus suspected in Uganda

"The victims usually die between three and five days, and are suspected to be highly contagious,” Okech told GlobalPost.


Symptoms include high fever, vomiting blood, passing bloody stool, convulsions and bleeding from openings like the nose and ears.


“We do not know what we are dealing with, we do not know what is happening, so we must respect the new measures which have been put in place,” said Dr. Emmanuel Otto, a health officer in Agago district, which has also been affected by the disease.


Health officials warn against communal hand washing, eating bush meat (meat from wild animals, especially monkeys and other primates) and discourage people from the local cultural practice of washing dead bodies before burial." Global Post

Saturday, November 20, 2010

more on the sabotage story

that the software code was intended to induce fluctuations in the rotational speed of motors, by taking over a power device known as a frequency converter.
“It’s an awful complex code that we are looking at,” ... The worm moves from personal computers to Siemens computers that control industrial processes. It then inserts fake data, fooling the computers into thinking that the system is running normally while the sabotage of the frequency converters is taking place. “It is obvious that several years of preparation went into the design of this attack,” he wrote.(NYTimes)

If Israel is behind this, then it is commendable that they can carry out such a well-directed bellicose act without using violence or harming civilians.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stewart on Maddow - a commentary on media



As always, worth watching in full.



Sunday, November 14, 2010

microfinance

The antonym of “militant” is often “job.”--Nicholas Kristof

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Obama in Indonesia

Metro TV News

Pulang Kampung - "Going home"

Econ 101

"The unholy trinity in open economy macroeconomics is pretty simple. It's impossible for a country to do the following three things at the same time:


1) Maintain a fixed exchange rate


2) Maintain an open capital market


3) Run an independent monetary policy"
Dan Drezner

I love the web. You get to learn these kind of nuggets of information directly from the expert without having to go to school.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Down Under



A pack of cigarette in Australia (via James Fallow)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Mighty Merapi





This area used to be lush in greenery typical in a tropical country. This is an aftermath of a pyroclastic flow from the mountain a week ago. This hot gas moves at 700 km/h, burning and killing everything on its path.

More on Boston Big Picture

You can see the video of pyroclastic below happening in Merapi last week. It is terrifying.

Rotten Tech Conferences

"It’s not the first time something like this has happened to me, at all. It’s not the first time it’s happened to me at a tech conference. But it is the first time I’ve spoken out about it in this way, because I’m tired of the sense that some idiot can ruin my day and never have to answer for it. I’m tired of the fear. I’m tired of people who think I should wear something different. I’m tired of people who think I should avoid having a beer in case my vigilance lapses for a moment. I’m tired of people who say that guys can’t read me right and I have to read them, and avoid giving the wrong impression."
Nerd Chic

Tech industry is a male dominated industry and by nature, each tech conferences will have way more male attendance then female. Well this personal post by a Google female technical writer is quite alarming. If you read more of the post, she's accusing one of Twitter engineer of assaulting her in a recent tech conference.

Major Lazer - Keep It Goin' Louder ft. Nina Sky, Ricky Blaze



video from the album by Major Lazer, "Guns don't kill people, lazers do"

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Yum

Qantas - still the safest airlines in the world






Technicians work next to the damaged engine of a Qantas Airways A380 passenger plane flight QF32 after it was forced to make an emergency landing at Changi airport in Singapore November 4, 2010. The Airbus A380 landed safely in Singapore on Thursday after running into engine trouble, one of the most serious incidents for the world's largest passenger plane in its three years of commercial flight.
Daylife
.

Reforming rape laws in India

"The finger test really is as bad as it sounds.


A doctor inserts two fingers into a rape victim's vagina to determine the presence or absence of the hymen and to assess whether she is accustomed to sexual intercourse.


Not only is it dehumanizing and offensive, it also doesn't yield accurate medical information, according to doctors and activists. What's more, it actually helps rape perpetrators escape the law.


In addition to standard procedures, such as a body exam and collection of swabs and nail clippings, many forensic doctors in India do the two-finger check on a rape victim. The findings of the test are often used as evidence in courts to demolish a woman’s character and disqualify her testimony. And Indian courts have a low conviction rate in rape cases, usually because the credibility of the victim is brought under question."
Global Post

The horror of Charles Taylor's reign



"The court is not spared anything, including this cross-examination on the subject of cannibalism.


Question: "How do you prepare a human being for a pot?" The witness: "We lay you down, slit your throat und butcher you and throw your head away, your intestines."
This is more than the court wants to hear. The audience turns away in disgust.


"With pepper and salt," the witness adds.


These are scenes from a nightmare that never seems to end. The trial of Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, before the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague has been underway for more than three years -- without palpable results."
Spiegel

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

COP 10 Result

The global convention on biological diversity happened last week in Nagoya, Japan (COP10) and has produced a significant list of outcomes.

You can read the summary of the outcomes is here. No, I have no idea what they mean either.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Alex Cuba Remix - Plug

A friend of mine is entering a remix competition. Check out the original and his remix. Yeah, he needs votes!

Monday, November 01, 2010