Sunday, July 31, 2011

We can't have the Catholic Priests have all the fun

"At the insistence of the temple's attorney, she and her daughter provided DNA samples last year that were compared with a DNA sample collected from Boa-Ubol. A test performed by DNA Diagnostics Center determined the probability that Boa-Ubol fathered the child was 99.9999997 percent, according to a copy of the results.

In the interview, Boa-Ubol acknowledged he provided a DNA sample but denied having sex with the then-teen, saying he only gave her money and candy when she asked him for help." Chicago Tribune
Some Theravada Buddhist temples try to shoo away sex scandals among their midst.

Here's one solution to these coverups: Stick a ton  of TNT on any temple that try to cover up sex scandals and lit it up like 4th of July firework. That piece of building is no longer fit for any spiritual gathering.

Summer of Discontent in Israel


"Demonstrations held in more than 10 cities across Israel in bid to lower spiraling costs of living; joint Jewish-Arab protest held for first time since demonstrations began 16 days ago."Haaretz

So now we have huge demonstrations in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Morocco, Spain, Greece, Israel. The Mayan is right. 2012 is the end of time.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Communist's architecture


"Roman Bezjak, who was born in Slovenia but was raised in West Germany, set out to document the everyday qualities of communist buildings. Once the Ministry of Road Construction, this building in Tbilisi, Georgia, consists of five intersecting horizontal bars and resembles a Jenga game. It was designed to has as small a footprint on the ground as possible and to allow natural life to flourish. Now it houses the Bank of Georgia." Spiegel

An aborted mission to Benghazi

I am back in Cairo right now. Yesterday I spent 36 hours travelling without reaching my destination, Benghazi.

The problem was stupid and incredible. I have a new passport and my residency visa was in my old passport. When I presented both the old and new passport to the Egyptian border officer, he refused outright to give me an exit stamp on the reason that I must 'transfer' the old visa to the new passport in Cairo.

Yup, Egypt prevented me to leave the country.

Then I attempted to cross the border anyway without the exit stamp but the border security was thorough and I was turned back. The Libyan border was just 50 meters away. Arrgh.

So yesterday morning, at 6 AM, I returned to Salloum from the border area and took a 10 hour journey in 2 minibuses back to Cairo.

My travelling companion managed to get to Libya and currently reporting from Benghazi. Benghazi right now is in tense condition after one of the Rebel top general was executed by some rebel ranks.

I will fix my visa situation and I will attempt another entry sooner or later.

The report I got from Benghazi is that the situation there is tense right now after an assassination of the top general in the rebel ranks. They have declared three days of mourning. My contact in the NGO has been in a security lock down for the past two days (they are not allowed to leave their house/compound) and the reporter I was with said the city was quiet and empty. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Visit Rwanda and hang out with the Gorillas (not Guerrillas)



"Northern Rwanda is the only place in the world where mountain gorillas can be observed in their natural habitat. It is a boon to tourism in a country healing the scars of a brutal 1990s civil war." World Crunch

Feeding the world with vertical farms


It looks interesting and expensive, at least for now. When transport costs skyrockets then these kind of urban vertical farming will become really really attractive.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Travelling to Benghazi from Egypt

This might be useful to others.

There are two easy options to travel to Benghazi from Egypt.
  • Minibuses that travel there three times daily and they cost 210LE each way.
  • A bus that leave the new bus station at 1PM and it costs 170LE.
There is no visa issued anywhere in the world to enter Libya so you just have to bring your passport and wing it at the Salloum border.

The currencies used in Benghazi are USD and Egyptian LE. My hotel option costs 40USD per day.

This information current as of the day of this posting.  I am travelling next Thursday. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Utoya, Norway



Dagbladet

Chilling. More than 80 youth were murdered by this guy.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Terrorist attack explosion in Oslo Norway


Early report from The Guardian
Several people have been injured in a large explosion which has damaged government buildings in central Oslo, including the office of the Norwegian prime minster.

A Reuters correspondent said he counted at least eight injured people after the unexplained blast.

The explosion blew out most windows on the 17-storey building housing Prime Minister Per Stoltenberg's office, as well as nearby ministries including the oil ministry, which was on fire. Newspaper offices in the area were also reportedly damaged.


Dagbladet


Dagbladet

Greece Defaults

The latest Greek bailout is done — the official statement is here — and it involves Greece going into “selective default,” which is, yes, a kind of default.

I can’t remember a major financial story which has been covered so inadequately by the financial press. All the incomprehensible eurospeak seems to have worked, along with the fact that the deal was announced in Brussels, where the general level of journalistic financial literacy is substantially lower than it is in London or New York or Frankfurt. On top of that, statements are coming from so many different directions — Eurocrats, heads of state, the Institute of International Finance, Greek officials, Portuguese and Irish officials, you name it — that it’s extremely hard to put it all together into one coherent whole. Reuters
 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The next best thing to the Hobo Hookah.







Via Uncrate

Close call by a jumping Great White



"Marine researchers in South Africa had a narrow escape after a three-metre-long great white shark breached the surface of the sea and leapt into their boat, becoming trapped on deck for more than an hour.

The incident occurred while the research team was conducting a shark population study off Seal Island, near Mossel Bay, on South Africa's Cape coast."Guardian

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lovely example of shipping container based housing



Student Housing Project Keetwonen, Amsterdam
Here, containers have been used to create 1,000 dorm units for Dutch students, making it the biggest container city in the world. It was launched by Tempo Housing in 2006. Not only does it look hip and provides all the amenities a student could ask for, it also has a rooftop used for rainwater drainage, heat dispersal and insulation of the units below. The award-winning project has received a lot of international attention and is so successful that its planned relocation after 5 years has been postponed until 2016. Flickr

This is an awesome site for building your own container based home http://renaissanceronin.wordpress.com/.

Benghzi Navidad

Well I am trying to do a trip to Benghazi next week to visit a friend and to do some reporting to see what's up in the city and the refugee camps along the border of Egypt and Libya.

The problem lies in the ambiguities of border crossing since there is practically no way to get into the country with pre-ordained visa. If you are a journalist, you can just put in your Press Card at the border and they will let you in. Without it then the situation can be a bit sketchy. They might or might not let one in especially if you are non Egyptian.

Anyway, I will see what transpires in the coming days. Wish me luck.


update:
One latest information I got is that you don't really need anything to go cross the border into Libya. It makes sense since there is no visa issuing authority for the Free Libya territory.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Batshit crazy brigade in Malaysia

Malaysia's government-linked media claimed Monday that foreign Jewish groups might try to use an opposition-backed push to reform electoral laws to interfere in this Muslim-majority country.

Political activists who recently organized Malaysia's biggest street demonstration in years insisted the accusation by the ruling party's widely read newspaper was an irresponsible attempt to discredit them through appeals to religious prejudice.
The editorial was the latest effort by the newspaper to defend a government crackdown on at least 20,000 people who marched in Kuala Lumpur on July 9 demanding more transparency in electoral laws ahead of national polls widely expected by mid-2012.
The Jakarta Post

The Malaysian state media press is pulling an Al Ahram stunt. It's time the old regime of UMNO in Malaysia to go the way of the dodo.

The Universe in photographs


"With just an ordinary digital camera, Alex Cherney turned thousands of snaps into an incredible time-lapse video of the cosmos.

Using long exposures to allow more light in, these breath-taking pictures from the southern tip of Australia demonstrate how he captured the dramatic way the sky changes at night."
Daily Mail

Japan is World Champion



Ignore the lame commentary.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

123 active volcanoes in Indonesia



It makes Indonesia the country with the most active volcanoes in the world.We are at the center of the Pacific Ring of Fire.

In praise of boredom

I read someplace that the brain needs some boredom during the day to process thoughts and generate creativity. That sounds right. My best ideas always bubble up when I'm bored. And my period of greatest creative output was during my corporate years when every meeting felt like a play date for coma patients.

So what would happen if everyone in the world stopped being bored? You might be there already. I know I am. If I have access to my phone, or my computer, I'm never bored. If I'm watching TV, I can fast-forward through commercials. If I'm standing in line at the store, I can check email or play Angry Birds. When I work out, I listen to my iPod. I wake up in the morning and walk straight to my iPad to browse the headlines while my coffee is brewing. The last thing I do before shutting my eyes at night is browse the news again on my phone.
Scott Adams

This is also where meditation is useful for creativity. Meditation is essentially boredom observation activity.

Guardian has an item on this as well today.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

ASEAN Wide Visa proposed

"The Indonesian government has proposed implementing a unified ASEAN travel visa to ease travel within the region for citizens of ASEAN member states."
The Jakarta Post

This also apply to any visitors to ASEAN region. This will boost tourism in ASEAN region especially since we already have really awesome and solid low cost airline infrastructure.

The epic logistic of a long range bombing mission on Libya



"Just days later, B-1Bs destroyed ammunition depots, combat aircraft and vehicle maintenance facilities, command and control buildings, and Libyan air defense sites. The B-1s, too, attacked Libya directly from their base in the continental US, but recovered in Europe before striking at more targets en route to home base.


Collectively, the bombers destroyed nearly 150 targets. All the aircraft returned home unscathed. The missions marked a number of organizational and operational firsts for the Air Force, especially with regard to how USAF coordinates the planning and execution of long-range strikes.


The operation marked the first global strike mission under the direction of US Strategic Command and its relatively new air component, Air Force Global Strike Command. It was the first combat operation for US Africa Command, another relatively young organization. It was also the first combat operation run for STRATCOM out of its own global strike air operations center, the 608th Air and Space Operations Center (AOC) at Barksdale AFB, La."

Air Force Magazine

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How Stuxnet unraveled



It was January 2010, and investigators with the International Atomic Energy Agency had just completed an inspection at the uranium enrichment plant outside Natanz in central Iran, when they realized that something was off within the cascade rooms where thousands of centrifuges were enriching uranium.
Natanz technicians in white lab coats, gloves and blue booties were scurrying in and out of the “clean” cascade rooms, hauling out unwieldy centrifuges one by one, each sheathed in shiny silver cylindrical casings.

Any time workers at the plant decommissioned damaged or otherwise unusable centrifuges, they were required to line them up for IAEA inspection to verify that no radioactive material was being smuggled out in the devices before they were removed. The technicians had been doing so now for more than a month.
Wired

This story is amazing. It's worth reading in full.

The protesters are back in Tahrir


I returned to the place I have been many times before, a place named Liberation that has become the spiritual place of a nation struggling to renew itself. Tahrir is now occupied again. Tonight is the fourth night. The tents are back, the podiums have returned and the freedom commune meet once more.

In Tahrir the mix of despair, hope, defiance and love perfumed the hot and humid Cairo air, seared by day long Summer sun. In this place you find the intangibles that poets and dreamers have seek and witnessed throughout the ages and yet failed to describe because the limitation of mortal words.

Everything is open in the square. The transnational fast food, the cafes, the peddlers of souvenirs. This place belongs to everybody and there is no fear towards fellow men, women and children. I went up 11 floors to a balcony overlooking the square to see the white tents majestically dance and flutter with the wind.

Some days can be frustrating as the nation's struggle to regain its bearing takes toll on the economy. I return to the square time and again to find inspiration and tonight Tahrir has delivered once more. This transformation is a marathon and nobody knows whether we are at the third mile or the tenth. No matter, since few things in life transcend this beautiful struggle towards liberty, justice and freedom for all.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

british tabloids

A Russian man who tried to rob a hair salon ended up as the victim when the female shop owner overpowered him, tied him up naked and then used him as a sex slave for three days.

link

Washington Post reports that US bailout works

The bailout of the financial system is roughly as popular as Wall Street bonuses, the federal budget deficit or LeBron James in a Cleveland sports bar. You hear over and over that the bailout was a disaster, it cost taxpayers a fortune, we didn’t really need it, it didn’t work, it was a failure. It has become politically toxic, which inhibits reasoned public discussion about it.

But you know what? The bailout, by the numbers, clearly did work. Not only did it forestall a worldwide financial meltdown, but a Fortune analysis shows that U.S. taxpayers are also coming out ahead on it — by at least $40 billion, and possibly by as much as $100 billion eventually. This is our count for the entire bailout, not just the 3 percent represented by the massively unpopular Troubled Assets Relief Program. Yes, that’s right — TARP is only 3 percent of the bailout, even though it gets 97 percent of the attention.
WP

Illegal tour of abandoned Six Flags of New Orleans



More

It's both creepy and amazing.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Welcome Republic of South Sudan

President Obama said, "After so much struggle by the people of South Sudan, the United States of America welcomes the birth of a new nation. Today is a reminder that after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible. A proud flag flies over Juba and the map of the world has been redrawn. These symbols speak to the blood that has been spilled, the tears that have been shed, the ballots that have been cast, and the hopes that have been realized by so many millions of people. The eyes of the world are on the Republic of South Sudan. And we know that southern Sudanese have claimed their sovereignty, and shown that neither their dignity nor their dream of self-determination can be denied." US Dept. of State

Rolling crisis

"Throughout Europe’s debt crisis, Italy has largely managed to steer clear of the troubles that engulfed its more profligate Mediterranean neighbors. But the contagion that started in the euro zone’s smaller countries is suddenly moving to some of its largest. As Greece teeters on the brink of a default, the game has changed: Investors are taking aim at any country suffering from a toxic combination of high debt, slow growth, and political dysfunction — and Italy has it all, in spades.” NY Times
Shit

Google+ account

I have 400 invites to give away. Email me at empirebuilder@gmail.com

Murdoch, Incorporated

The culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is writing to Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading seeking advice over News Corporation's bid for BSkyB in the light of phone-hacking revelations and the closure of the News of the World.

The news came as BSkyB shares crashed to £7 in early trading, down 6.7% and back to the level of the original News Corp bid. Guardian

A write up on Women's worldcup semifinal



"The equalizing goal from the USA’s Abby Wambach happened in the 122nd minute. It wasn’t just the end of extra time, it was two minutes into the final three minutes of injury time tacked on to the end. (Time that wouldn’t have been there had Brazil not been shamelessly diving to try and run out the clock.) It does not get more last-minute than that." Read More

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Jelly Fish Invasion shut downs nuclear reactors



IBTimes

Ghost Cities of China



I hope they know what they are doing but it doesn't look like it.


SFGate has more on this phenomenon:

"Oversupply
The primary concern for the sustainability of current prices is based on the oversupply of residential and commercial real estate in the country. In order to maintain GDP growth, the Chinese government has continued to overinvest in large infrastructure projects focused on real estate development.

At an average wage of $7,400 people are neither able to purchase the basic $100,000 apartments units nor invest into small businesses around the new developments. In cities like Hainan, residential apartment occupancy rates stand at only 30% while more industrialized cities such as Shanghai and Beijing also have substantial vacancy rates of approximately 50% and 35% respectively. Prior to deflation of the American real estate bubble, Michigan had the nation's highest rental vacancy rate of 18.4%.

Commercial real estate is displaying a similar trend where construction is outpacing demand. What was once expected to be the largest retail mall in the world, the New South China Mall in Dongguan is practically empty as over 95% of its stores remain unleased since its construction in 2005. Although the "Great Mall of China" contains 9.6 million square feet of floor space, less than a dozen active shops remain in the mall. Also, due to the lack of customers the few active shops claim that they can go for days without making a single sale. (For more information on real estate prices, see The Truth About Real Estate Prices.)
"

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Optimus Prime - Made in Thailand



CNN Go

Fuckin' Epic.

Aquarius Reef Base



It's the world's only undersea research station.

Happy Planet Index

Check it out here.

Backlash against the big three rating agencies in Europe

The influence of the Big Three could clearly be seen in the heated reaction to Standard & Poor's announcement earlier this week that it might classify a planned restructuring of Greek debt as a default. Their decision seemed to cast doubt on the prospects for a complex plan to participate private creditors in a new bailout for Greece.

Portugal's future, too, appears less secure after Moody's downgraded its debt to junk status on Tuesday, warning that the country might need a second bailout before it could return to the capital markets. The move could mean that Portugal will have to pay a higher premium to attract buyers for its debt.

But why are European politicians and investors still so dependent on the opinions of three private companies based in New York and London? After all, the Big Three were the subject of massive criticism in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, because they had awarded top ratings to highly risky financial products in the run-up to the crunch. Since then, politicians have repeatedly called for measures to curb the agencies' power. Most recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel commented on Tuesday, in relation to Standard & Poor's announcement: "Regarding the issue of rating agencies, I think it is important that we do not allow others to take away our own ability to make judgments." Spiegel

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Maybe they know something that we don't

Singapore's Temasek TEM.UL sold stakes in two of China's biggest banks on Wednesday to raise $3.6 billion, in a move likely aimed at reducing the sovereign investor's big exposure to the financial sector and building up a warchest.

The sale of stakes in Bank of China (3988.HK) and China Construction Bank (0939.HK) pushed down shares of the two lenders in Hong Kong by more than 3 percent on Wednesday and triggered broader weakness in the territory's stock market.
Reuter

Crackdown in Malaysia for the upcoming Saturday's protests

An air of nervousness has hung over Malaysia in sight of a potential confrontation between civil society organizers and pro-government opponents. A ''walk for democracy'' planned for July 9 by a coalition of civil society groups known as Bersih 2.0 to campaign for clean and fair elections sparked a government crackdown reminiscent of the country’s old authoritarian ways.
Authorities pre-emptively declared the event illegal and have arrested as many as 200 Bersih supporters, many for simply wearing the coalition’s trademark yellow t-shirts. Police have questioned people speaking in public or distributing leaflets about the planned rally. They also turned up in numbers to thwart a nationwide Bersih roadshow to promote the event, which aims to attract hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. Asia Times
Malaysia political process makes Indonesia's looks good.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

First of the gang to die - Morrissey


Ladies and Gentlement, Madam Prime Minister of Thailand


"The face of the woman likely to become Thailand's first female prime minister has been staring out for weeks from thousands of political campaign posters here in the country's capital. On one poster, the 44-year-old Yingluck Shinawatra is dressed in a sober black and white suit, dark locks cascading over her shoulders; in another, she greets a sea of supporters, hands pressed together in the traditional Thai gesture of greeting. The front-runner in Sunday, July 3's national elections, Yingluck has campaigned masterfully."
FP takes a bow.

She will be Thailand's first female Prime Minister.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Shit is about to go down in Sudan



The Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) has released imagery revealing that the Government of Sudan has positioned four vehicles consistent with multiple-rocket launcher (MRL) systems at a recently reinforced base within 65 kilometers of the tense border region of South Kordofan. The rocket launchers, consistent with BM-21 Grads, have a range of 20 kilometers and are capable of launching a hail of 40 rockets in a single volley.

“The deployment of such powerful weapons certainly gives added currency to President Bashir's order on Friday to his army to 'clean' rebel elements from South Kordofan," said Enough Project Co-founder John Prendergast. "Given that the Khartoum regime does not distinguish between combatants and civilians, utilizing these multiple-rocket launcher systems would dramatically increase civilian casualties. This is consistent with the ethnic cleansing campaigns that the regime has pursued in the Nuba Mountains, Darfur, Abyei, and parts of South Sudan.” Sat Sentinel

Sat Sentinel is a project that provides satellite resources to monitor the separation of Sudan.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Know your fireworks

A new crisis in Germany



Germany's Green Party is worried about the health of their countrymen. But this time they aren't concerned about typical environmentalist causes like nuclear radiation or pesticides in food. Instead, their latest fears regard the potential health hazards of sex toys.

Now a group of 10 Green Party members of the German parliament, the Bundestag, are demanding that the government take action. They have drawn up a paper entitled "Sexual Health as a Consumer Protection Issue."

"Many dildos and other sex toys such as vibrators and anal plugs contain a high amount of phthalates, other carcinogenic plasticizers and toxic substances," the paper reads. The substances, which enter the body through mucous membranes, can lead to infertility, hormone imbalances, diabetes and obesity, the parliamentarians warn. The chemicals can also cause hormone disturbances in unborn babies, the paper reads. Phthalates and other plastic softening agents are being officially phased out of products in many developed nations. (Spiegel)

All those glitters are definitely gold



The European Union (EU) has seen many an example of this. Right now, Greece is negotiating with the EU-European Central Bank-International Monetary Fund troika for a new rescue package — all the while Athens sits on an impressive four-million-ounce (125 U.S. tons) stash of gold, about what four large, fully-loaded trucks could carry.
The gleaming bars in the vaults of the Greek National Bank are worth 4 billion euros. If Athens were to sell that gold, the Greek state would theoretically be able to meet at least part of the debt payments due soon without any outside help.

Another country in crisis, Portugal, also holds significant amounts of precious metal dating back to the days of António de Oliveira Salazar’s regime. Instead of aid, Lisbon could have converted its 13 billion euro's worth of gold into cash.

Nick Moore, chief commodities strategist at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in London, reports that a question often asked by bank clients is why these governments don’t sell some of their gold. It is after all recognized worldwide as an asset that can be sold even in tough economic times. (World Crunch)