Monday, December 30, 2013

Pictures from Stalingard

This is a second bombing in two days in Volgograd
Specialists at the intelligence organization succeeded years ago in penetrating the company's digital firewalls. A document viewed by SPIEGEL resembling a product catalog reveals that an NSA division called ANT has burrowed its way into nearly all the security architecture made by the major players in the industry -- including American global market leader Cisco and its Chinese competitor Huawei, but also producers of mass-market goods, such as US computer-maker Dell. Spiegel
Spiegel pretty much confirms that the NSA has backdoor access to many, if not all, networking and security products.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The details of the graft scandals that rocks Turkey's political establishment

Man, these guys think big in their corruptions
The grounds of Etiler Police School, the only empty plot in Etiler, with a value of $1 billion, was sold to a company for $460 million with no public bidding. The state sustained a financial loss of $600 million in this sale. Including planned construction on the site, the financial loss to the state may have reached several billion dollars.

The same company waited only one month for a mining license in a forested area of Sultanbeyli Paşaköy although the Forestry Ministry had denied all such permission in that area for some time previously. In return for the mining license, which had a value of $10 billion, one of the suspects became a 50 percent partner in the business without paying the company's owner. After some time, the owner left the partnership and the company was taken over by the other partner, who had paid nothing.

In order to purchase newspapers and TV channels owned by a media group, some businessmen paid $100 million each to certain suspects in the investigation.

A piece of land in the Üçağaç neighborhood of İstanbul's Pendik district was sold by the Kadıköy 3rd Enforcement and Bankruptcy Directorate at a discount. Before the land was offered up to bidding, bogus companies were created and only they were allowed to compete for the tender.

A plot found in the Zeytinli neighborhood of İzmir's Urla district, a first-degree protected area at the time, had its status unlawfully demoted to that of a third-degree area. However, construction began on the land even before it was opened up to such development.

Rigging was involved in the tender of the Mecidiyeköy-Mahmutbey Metro Line. Several days before the tender, the managers of several companies came together and set the offers they would make in the tender.

As they were being returned to state ownership, a company was given a tender for the renovation of 14 power plants.

In return for bribes, the work of businessmen experiencing legal obstacles in the construction sector has been facilitated. Under the guise of donations, the businessmen bribed politicians' relatives to take state tenders.

Public land was unlawfully transferred to a foundation through political means. Examples include land belonging to İstanbul Gas Distribution Industry and Trade Inc. (İGDAŞ) and the İstanbul Transportation Authority (İETT). Because of plans to construct a hotel on private land next to public land that had been transferred to the foundation, an attempt was made to acquire the private land through threats.

Rigging was involved in the tender for the rental of the “Büfe-Büvet-Café” businesses to be opened in Yenikapı Station as part of the Marmaray project. The authorities' suspicions about an investigation were confirmed through the TİB and there was a pause in the rigging activities.

A company was informed in advance of the desired bid for the construction of a road between Viranşehir and Kızıltepe in southeastern Turkey, so the tender was rigged in this manner.

Confidential information about the Ankara-İstanbul High-Speed Train Project tender was also shared by some involved in the project. Today Zaman

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Latest on Egypt

Alright we just have the first attack against a civilian infrastructure an hour ago. It was a small bomb launched at a public bus.

Yesterday the Egyptian Government declared Muslim Brotherhood as Terrorist Organization and here are some of the implications of it (from Egyptian Streets)
** All NGOs affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood are now banned.
** All activities of the Muslim Brotherhood - including protests and gathering - are now illegal and will be met with force.
** Members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been told by the government to withdraw their memberships or face arrest. Penal code says those belonging to a "terrorist group" face 5-years in jail.
** The Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, is now banned.
** Government says Hamas may be declared a terrorist organization 'soon.'

The latest Turkish Crisis

We might be seeing the resignation of Erdogan soon
The Cabinet was shaken by the resignations of three ministers on Wednesday over a sweeping corruption and bribery investigation, with one of the ministers calling on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to step down as well.

Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and Interior Minister Muammer Güler announced their resignations earlier in the day. They denied any involvement in corruption or bribery and said their resignations were aimed at helping the “truth to come out.”

However, Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, in a harsh statement, claimed that he had been pressured to submit his own resignation to save the prestige of the government, adding that the prime minister should also quit as most of the amendments on construction plans mentioned in the corruption investigation were made on Erdoğan's orders. Today's Zaman

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Eventually Cairo will be hit

This is a picture of devastation in Mansoura (a few hours North of Cairo) after a suspected dual car bomb attack against a police HQ in downtown  area.

Everybody is blaming the Muslim Brotherhood for this although I doubt that they are the culprit behind this. There are plenty of militants in Egypt ready and willing to cause massive damage to Egyptian cities whenever they have a chance (remember that Northern Sinai is pretty much an active war zone at this moment).

This comes after last week's car bomb attack at the entrance of the town of Ismailia.

There is no sense of elevated tension on the street of Cairo because well, we are lucky enough not to be hit with these big attacks (there was a small one two months ago). Eventually they will come to Cairo simply because this is the center of power of Egypt. When it happens, it is going to be ugly.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Witness Tampering at Kenya's ICC case

Yesterday ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda took the extraordinary measure of filing an application to indefinitely adjourn the trial of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in order to seek additional evidence to sustain the prosecution. At the core of the request is the ongoing issue of witness tampering that has haunted the ICC in Kenya for years.

Allegations of bribing, threatening and even killing potentially cooperative witnesses to the 2008 post-election violence date back to at least 2009. Several witnesses that provided testimony to UN officials have later refused to testify or simply disappeared. While international organizations like the UN Office of Drugs and Crime stepped in to help Kenya amend its domestic witness protection program and Western countries contributed to the ICC’s witness relocation program, gaps persisted. Kenya’s new Witness Protection Agency largely went unfunded while relocation offers only a temporary reprieve for witnesses facing harm.

By the time Deputy President William Ruto’s trial started earlier this year, several witnesses pulled out while others significantly changed testimony. Human rights groups have alleged such reversals are the result of high level pressure by political elites while others accuse human rights groups of coaching witnesses to lie to support the ICC charges. UN Dispatch

South Sudan sucks

After much investment by the international community which resulted in their independence from Sudan two years ago, the assholes at South Sudanese government decided that it is time to start the civil war again.

An FCO spokesman said: "We strongly advise all British nationals in South Sudan to leave the country if they can do so safely. You may have difficulty leaving in the event of a further deterioration in security."Sky

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ukraine has little choice but to turn to Russia

Turning to European Union and IMF means austerity measures. Fuck them. It is better to get bailout money from Russia instead
Ukraine expects economic growth of 3 percent in 2014, a draft budget showed on Thursday, days after Russia offered a $15 billion lifeline to help revive its smaller neighbour's economy and keep the country in its orbit.

Ukraine's economy has shrunk for the last five quarters and Ukraine had been seen at risk of default before Tuesday's deal between Kiev and Moscow, under which Russia will offer cheaper gas supplies and buy up $15 billion of Ukrainian bonds. Reuters

Amnesty International on Syria

Torture, flogging, and summary killings are rife in secret prisons run by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an armed group that controls large areas of northern Syria, said Amnesty International in a briefing published today.

ISIS, which claims to apply strict Shari’a (Islamic law) in areas it controls, has ruthlessly flouted the rights of local people. In the 18-page briefing, Rule of fear: ISIS abuses in detention in northern Syria, Amnesty International identifies seven detention facilities that ISIS uses in al-Raqqa governorate and Aleppo.

“Those abducted and detained by ISIS include children as young as eight who are held together with adults in the same cruel and inhuman conditions,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa. Amnesty International

Sunday, December 15, 2013

We are not ending 2013 well

2013 is a turbulent year.

The Syrian situation is not getting any better. The nationalistic Syrian rebellion has pretty much been isolated, if not defeated, in its struggle to overthrow the Bashar al Asssad regime. They have been replaced by cadres of well supported and well funded Jihadists from neighboring country. Assad's unexpected cooperation on destroying its chemical weapon stockpiles pretty much bought him the time to fight the rebellions against him. At this point it is high probability that he will stay in power in Syria for a long time to come. He has managed to position himself as the lesser evil of the current alternatives.

The Libyan situation is getting worse. The central government has proven unable to consolidate power and fill up the security vacuum currently happening in the country. Various militias have carved various area in the country and pretty much create de facto rule/warlord with very narrow tribal/city focus.

The French intervention has temporarily provide some stability to Mali. However the fundamental issues of the country is not getting better. The central government remains weak, corrupt and incompetent. The grievance of Tuareg community at the north of the country has not been addressed.

Central African Republic is turning into a genocidal event. Christians and Muslim communities are fighting against one another. 600 people have died in the past week in communal fights. The current intervention by France to this former colony will not be sufficient to bring stability to the country.

Somalia is getting better although al Shabab still manage to pull the spectacular terrorist attack in Nairobi.
The number of Somalians diaspora returning to the country is increasing by the month bringing capital and skills to rebuild their country. The UN has also been effective here.

Egypt situation is not getting any better. The popular coup against President Morsi has deepen the fissures within the societies. The short term economic situation is better thanks to the large infusion of money from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE. The current government has been busy releasing laws restricting rights of speech and assembly bringing new coalition against the current transition government.

The Afghanistan situation is not getting worse. There is a pending agreement for American forces to stay in the country as a security anchor against the rising Taliban. Karzai though is a terrible leader and it is time for him to go.

Pakistan is improving. It has successfully transfer power between civilian for the first time in full term this year. The American drones are still real issue but there is little alternative right now to solve the Taliban issue.

North Korea is not getting any better. The recent execution of the Great Leader's uncle is a sign of power struggle and it is not clear what kind of regime is taking shape under the new leader.

China, Japan and Korea are playing pissing contests with one or another. There is an increasing chance of somebody in around the islands making wrong calculation and start  a small shooting war. China's belligerence in extending its flight detection zone over disputed useless islands show an overtly nationalistic/irrational muscle flexing by its leadership.

Ukraine is in the middle of massive power struggle between EU oriented mass against pro Russian people. There is no clear path right on how this situation will develop. It is unlikely that it will become a violent confrontation.

Bangladesh still treats its garment workers badly, Burma still cannot contain the pogrom against its Muslim populations, Sri Lanka is still denying its terrible records on the phase of the campaign to destroy the Tamil Tiger.

India is waking up to the news that it has terrible record on sexual attacks against women. Saudia Arabi is expelling thousands of low level foreign workers in a mission to empower local population.

Southern European economy is getting worse with super high unemployment rate especially among the young.

Turkey's cherish secularism is under immense strain under the powerful Islamist Prime Minister Erdogan.

Singapore had its first violent riot in four decades just a week ago. This is a sign to come.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Syrian fiasco

The top Western-backed commander of the opposition forces in Syria has been run out of the country by Islamist militants, US officials said Wednesday.

According to US officials cited by the Wall Street Journal, Free Syrian Army General Salim Idris was forced to take flight. RT
Yeah, Bashar al-Assad has won although the conflict is not ending soon. There are an estimated 2.5 million Syrian refugees outside Syria and many millions more have been displaced in the country.

Euro Maidan live blogging

Maidan Sq. this morning. Kyivpost is doing live blogging.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Person of the year


Not bad although Edward Snowden would have been the inspired choice.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Inside Bucharest erotic webcam studio

The bread-and-butter of a model’s income is earned through "privates," sessions where members pay $2 a minute for a one-on-one webcam chat with a model. Some of that normally goes to the hosting site, then 40 to 75 percent goes to the studio, leaving the models with between 60 and 25 cents a minute, depending on what studio they work in. 
The key, even for erotic models, is to keep your clothes on for as long as possible, which isn't too difficult because ejaculation is less of a priority for members than you’d imagine. Most of them are divorced men looking for a little companionship. From Anica’s description, modeling sounds a lot like working in sales: ask them lots of questions about themselves and be interested in what they say and they’ll love you forever—or at least until their money runs out. Eventually they might ask you to take your clothes off, at which point you’re expected to lie back and get it over with. 
Making $15 to $36 an hour wouldn't be terrible under normal circumstances, but given the nature of the work, it’s a good thing there are Vice

Monday, December 09, 2013

Lenin Down

Daily Mail

Ukrainians are really really made about their current government. 

Scene rules

If you ever wonder whether those movies/tv torrent uploaders have rules, wonder no more. They do and it is quite comprehensive. It governs many aspect of pirate media release.

How not take deal with the Internet

This is the original video showing a burned S4

This is how Samsung responded

They should have just replaced his S4 in the first place instead of sending a legal document to him. You can google around to find instances of smartphones caught fire at charging. It's an uncommon situation but it does happen. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Transparency International Corruption Index 2013

The darker the color, the worse it is. The full result is at Transparency International

Choking in Shanghai

Shanghai's concentration of tiny, harmful PM 2.5 particles was 602.5 micrograms per cubic meter on Friday afternoon, an extremely hazardous level that was the highest since the city began recording such data last December. That compares with the World Health Organisation's safety guideline of 25 micrograms. Guardian


The best material to read about Mandela's vision for his country is the South Africa Constitution (pdf) that he promulgated when he was President. 

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

By all counts and measures, Bradley Smith is an unequivocal business success. He's CEO of Rescue One Financial, an Irvine, California-based financial services company that had sales of nearly $32 million last year. Smith's company has grown some 1,400 percent in the last three years, landing it at No. 310 on this year's Inc. 500. So you might never guess that just five years ago, Smith was on the brink of financial ruin--and mental collapse.

Back in 2008, Smith was working long hours counseling nervous clients about getting out of debt. But his calm demeanor masked a secret: He shared their fears. Like them, Smith was sinking deeper and deeper into debt. He had driven himself far into the red starting--of all things--a debt-settlement company. "I was hearing how depressed and strung out my clients were, but in the back of my mind I was thinking to myself, I've got twice as much debt as you do," Smith recalls. Inc
Entrepreneurship looks sexy from the outside but it is a nutty world. 

Monday, December 02, 2013

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Passport Ranking

UK citizens have the best passport for travelling (in terms of not requiring visa or being able to pay on arrival)

The core of the current Ukrainian protest

Tension had been building since Friday, when Yanukovich declined to sign a landmark pact with EU leaders at a summit in Lithuania, going back on a pledge to work towards integrating his ex-Soviet republic into the European mainstream. Reuters
Yanukovich is the current President of Ukraine. He wants to take Ukraine to join Euroasian Economic Community instead.

Here's a view from the other side by Russia Today:
Russia, Ukraine’s main source of energy, loans, and trade, wants to dissuade its geographical partner from making a "suicidal" move towards Europe and sacrifice the option of joining the Russian-led Customs Union, that by 2015 will be extended to the Eurasian Economic Union, after a number of other CIS members, like Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan join the club.

Too fast too soon

(Daily Mail)

Paul Walker, the star of Fast and Furious movie franchise, has died in a fiery crash yesterday. This fun B movie series generate billions dollars around the world and have huge loyal following among motor head/action flicks fans.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Egypt heats up again

Protests have broken out in Cairo since the Interim President sign in a law that restricts protests to 10 people. Any protests larger than that requires advance notice and approval to the Police.

A court of Alexandria sentenced 21 women and girls to 11 years in jail for their participation in Pro-Morsi demonstrations. This sentencing generates much anger in the country because it was simply an unjust and foolish decision. The Interim President has promised today that he will pardon them once the whole judicial appeal process is exhausted.

These two events have awoken the dormant anti-military, anti-Islamist protesters and they are going back to the street. It is to be seen whether they can generate protests large enough to make any difference.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The porn trap

Greenwald and the Huffington Post say the NSA document identifies six Muslim targets as examples of people whose credibility can be undermined by exploiting their online sexual activity, among other things. In a chart listing their "vulnerabilities", two of the six are identified as being involved in "online promiscuity". Guardian
It's some sort of official blackmailing.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cemetery Cafes

Spiegel is reporting on a growing number of cafes operating inside the walls of cemeteries in Berlin. I think it's a good idea in Europe, where you have nice looking and clean cemeteries.

Troubled Currencies Project

The project tracks five currencies:

  • Argentina
  • Egypt
  • North Korea
  • Syria
  • Venezuela

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Details of Iranian Nuclear program deal

Go read this Fact Sheet. It contains everything you need to know about the deal.

It is essentially as follows:
Meanwhile, Iran has to do the following things: halt the enrichment of all uranium above 5 percent and freeze the stockpile of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent; neutralize its stockpile of uranium that’s been enriched to 20 percent (either by diluting it to 5 percent purity or converting it to a form that cannot be used to make a weapon); stop producing, installing, or modernizing centrifuges; stop constructing more enrichment facilities; halt all activities at the Arak nuclear reactor (which has the potential to produce nuclear weapons made of plutonium); permit much wider and more intrusive measures of verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency, including daily inspections of all facilities. Slate

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Egyptian Military leadership is fed up with Palestinians

Fatah officials hope that the return of the Egyptian military to unchallenged power after the removal of President Mohammed Morsi offers the latest and perhaps best chance to return to Gaza in triumph, with or without Dahlan at the helm. Some believe that Fatah's best opportunity lies in defeating Hamas' rule by increasing broad opposition from within Gaza's population of 1.7 million. Others, among them some opponents of Dahlan, suggest that a Palestinian brigade mustered in al Arish could march on Gaza and, with Egyptian support, defeat the broad array of Hamas forces created in the last decade.

Egypt, however, is in no mood for anything Palestinian, either of the Hamas or the Fatah variety. Not only is Sisi fed up with Hamas, he has more immediate challenges to address than those championed by the PLO. During a recent visit by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), this new line was made clear — Cairo has no interest in mediating Palestinian reconciliation after years in which this dialogue was lead by Egypt's security service. Nor will it respond to Fatah's hopes that Sisi's antipathy towards Hamas could be turned to its favor. Al Monitor
It's a bizarre world this Middle East. In Egypt right now being a Palestinian is like a cursed mark. There is a tremendous xenophobia being fanned by the Egyptian media against the Palestinians especially after the ouster of Morsi.

Ironically, at a time when the regime in Cairo is more hostile than it has been in recent memory to Hamas, and its concern about the national security challenge posed to Egypt by Islamists there and more broadly throughout Sinai is most keenly felt, Israel has emerged as a key advocate of Hamas' continued rule and has taken practical measures to somewhat offset the harder Egyptian policy line.

"What we want is calm and security in the Gaza Strip," Turgeman said. "Hamas, currently the sovereign power in the territory, has the means and the know-how. I see no alternative to control being exercised by Hamas."

Indonesia to launch the largest public health insurance scheme in the world

On 1 January 2014 Indonesia will launch the largest public health insurance scheme in the world. It will unite a bewildering array of current schemes to cover the entire population, with the poor getting their health care free. (BBC)
The ambition is pretty awe inspiring. Let's hope for competent execution.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How to help refugees in Egypt

Egypt is full of refugees. They come from Somalia, Libya, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and many other parts of Africa.

It is a hub for migrants trying to cross Sinai to Israel. It is a point of trafficking for many people trying to cross to Europe via Lampedusa. It is the most affordable and safe place for migrants from Syria (Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon are expensive for refugees in comparison).

It is hard to find an up to date information about the law and facilities made available to migrants in Egypt. So Bosla tries to rectify this problem. It gathers and keep track of all organizations and facilities to available to migrants in Egypt. It deals with the issue of trafficking, sexual abuse, medical health and other many relevant topics for well being of migrants.

IOM (International Organization of Migration) enlisted me to do the technical work behind the site. The amount of difficulties they encountered to gather this information is enormous. It is worth it though. Now finally for the first time there's one place for NGOs to discover each other and for migrations to discover facilities available to them.   

Monday, November 18, 2013

On the revelation that Australian government spied on Indonesian President

I am Indonesian. We know other governments are spying on our President. This comes with the job - however, tapping the personal phone of the First Lady is pretty much beyond the pale. She's not an elected official. This is done in bad taste.

I bet they spied on his relatives as well.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

South African Trophy Hunting

The Indonesian Graftbusters

It was a narrow escape for Novel, himself a former policeman and now lionized as “supercop” by Indonesian media, and once again, also for the anti-corruption agency. Since its establishment in 2002, the KPK has become, contrary to all expectations, a fiercely independent, resilient, popular and successful institution that is a constant thorn in the side of Indonesia’s establishment. The Jakarta Globe
There are three shining lights in the Indonesian government right now:

  • The emerging generation of competent and clean local leaders such as the current Governor and Deputy Governor of Jakarta.
  • The Elite Detachment 88 Indonesian Counter Terrorism unit. 
  • KPK, the national anti graft agency.

The Libyan Clusterfuck

Libyans are bickering among themselves and use violence to advance their agenda. The inability for the country to come together threatens the country into becoming a pariah state.

The latest violence in the suburb of Tajoura, involving local militiamen and fighters from Misrata, left one dead.

Friday's clashes occurred after protesters marched on the headquarters of the Misrata militia to demand that it leave Tripoli, and were fired upon.

40 people died on last Friday's clashes. Peaceful protesters demanding their exit from Tripoli were fired upon.

Misrata was the hardest hit during the Libyan 2011 revolution where the city was under siege from Qaddafi's army. Their militias heroically defended the onslaughts with little weapons that they had.

Unfortunately the militias that were formed to defend the city did not transform to a political party. They stayed being militias and they are demanding their rights by the point of the guns. This problem of militias is pervasive across Libya due to to the weak government.

The leaders of a movement for self-rule in oil-rich in eastern Libya said they have formed a regional company to handle its sales of crude oil, one of the most serious challenges yet to the central government and its revenue lifeline. ABC News

There are some serious power struggle going on in Libya right now. It is understandable that other regions in Libya demand fair share of their national oil revenue wealth. Under Qaddafi only a few cities, mainly Tripoli, reaps the benefit of their natural resources. However you can go far with these turf battles. Without cooperation between cities and the central government, Libya will stay prone to instability and security problems. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stupid Thomson Reuters Foundation rank Egypt as the worse country for women's right in the Arab world

They polled 'gender experts' in 22 Arab countries and put Egypt dead last, below Iraq (in the midst of a civil war) and Saudi Arabia (the only country that bans women from driving).

Are you fucking kidding me?

Here's a direct quote from an Egyptian woman that I know in reacting to the news
Yeah that is strange. Especially since in Government jobs which employ 40% of the work force, gender plays no role and they get paid exactly the same. And we've had equality in voting and education before even some European countries. And women have the right to get a divorce and get custody of all the kids automatically and we can drive...

I think the challenge with these polls and researches is that they don't distinguish between the laws that exist and society's behavior. On the legal aspect Egyptian women are as empowered as their European and American counterparts. Job opportunities and equal pay is guaranteed by law, labor law protects pregnant women and those on maternity leaves from being fired, women have equal rights to education and to vote and to be active members of the government. And so far the personal affairs laws are very pro women, FGM is illegal and underage marriage is also illegal and women have the right to be notified if their husband has taken on a second/third or fourth wife so they can seek a divorce if they want. So legally I think Egypt outranks most of the Middle east and is on par with the developed world.

Once you look at the society you see that people do not respect some of these laws. But you cannot discount the fact that the law is on the woman's side in Egypt.
They problem with the report is not the content. It is that that produce a ranking while there is no basis in their data gathering to do so. Here's a direct comment from a journalist for a German publication regarding this
As far as I could see they polled experts in each country about their country, asking them to evaluate its progress and problems on scales. So it was not a comparative study, but they produced a comparative result. Unless I've missed something, all that really says is that Egyptian experts are less satisfied about the state of women's rights in Egypt than Saudi experts are about the state of women's rights in Saudi Arabia or Tunisian etc etc. Kind of like the report a while ago which showed that Egypt was the most dangerous country in the world for tourists. If this was how it worked, then the media shouldn't really be giving a platform to such statistical illiteracy.
The reality is that if they were to rank the treatment of women in Egypt, it would have fallen somewhere in the middle rank. Egypt is not a role model country for the treatment of women but it is by far not the worse country in the Arab world for women.

The casualty game

Remember just 4 days ago when the media reported 10,000 people were 'feared dead' after Typhoon Haiyan left the Philippines. This number was based on a quote from a local official and repeated without qualifications around the world.


You can see how people pick the worse possible estimates and repeat it again and again as if it resemblances any truth.

So far the official count of the dead victims of the Typhoon hovers around 1800 people, a number that will definitely increase as they count and discovered more victims but most probably will not come near the first reported number.

Periodic table of storytelling

Click here for higher resolution image.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A French Sabotage

Then French foreign minister Laurent Fabius showed up and threw cold water on the whole process. He clearly was attempting to torpedo the agreement, rejecting the whole notion of a six-month confidence-building period without substantial Iranian concessions. In the French system, the foreign minister doesn’t typically have a lot of autonomy, so Fabius was almost certainly acting at the orders of Socialist President Francois Hollande, who is way down in the polls and may feel the need to seem strong internationally, asserting himself against the US and Iran. The arrogance of the US and the perfidy of the far right religious government in Tehran are two things that both center-right and center-left French can agree upon. Hollande, having intervened in Mali, seems to want to throw his weight around in the Middle East. He may see an opportunity for France to come up in the world now that much of the Arab world and Israel is angry at Washington for its opening toward Iran. The US for decades has pulled off a balancing act of allying both with Israel and Saudi Arabia, in part by pointing to the danger of Iran to both. Since Obama seems to be abandoning that ploy, Paris may think there is a vacuum that it can fill. Juan Cole
There are a lot of reports pointing out that France was the reason behind the failure for the Geneva p5+1 and Iran talk to produce agreement.

One anonymous diplomat told journalists, “The Americans, the European Union and the Iranians have worked intensively for months on this proposal, and this is nothing more than an attempt by Fabius to give himself belated importance.”

Clooney was right about Twitter

As might be expected, he does not like Twitter. More to the point, he does not approve of Twitter, especially for a certain segment of the population. “If you’re famous, I don’t—for the life of me—I don’t understand why any famous person would ever be on Twitter. Why on God’s green earth would you be on Twitter? Because first of all, the worst thing you can do is make yourself more available, right? Because you’re going to be available to everybody. But also Twitter. So one drunken night, you come home and you’ve had two too many drinks and you’re watching TV and somebody pisses you off, and you go ‘Ehhhhh’ and fight back.

“And you go to sleep, and you wake up in the morning and your career is over. Or you’re an asshole. Or all the things you might think in the quiet of your drunken evening are suddenly blasted around the entire world before you wake up. I mean, when you see, like, Ashton Kutcher coming out going, you know, ‘Everybody leave Joe Paterno alone,’ or whatever he said, you just go, ‘Fifteen minutes longer and a thought process and probably you wouldn’t have done that.’ ” Esquire
Twitter is a double edge sword - use with care. There are so many careers ruined by Twitter posts. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Super Typhoon Haiyan

It will take some time before the number of casualties of this natural disaster can be determined. Right now the media is just throwing '10,000" people killed. Unfortunately the pictures that have been coming out from the most affected region show massive devastation.

Indonesia will send aid immediately. 50 US Marines landed in Manila today as part of the first wave of aid. Individual contributors can read this Yahoo News post on how to help.

The Daily Mail as usual post tons of pictures on their site

Saturday, November 09, 2013

China's apotheosis, in other words, seems unstoppable. When the Pew Research Center surveyed 38,000 people in 39 countries over the summer, it found that the vast majority "believe the global balance of power is shifting.… China's economic power is on the rise, and many think it will eventually supplant the United States as the world's dominant superpower." In Washington, the Obama administration has touted a "pivot" of U.S. interests to Asia that Beijing believes is intended to counter its ascent.

Yet there are just as many signs today that China is in deep trouble. America and the rest of the world should be less concerned about a rising China than about a sputtering—or even a crashing—China that could someday turn the world economy's greatest growth center into a global albatross. National Journal
That picture above is I think Shanghai - and those grays are super heavy duty air pollution.

I think a lot of the "Chinese Hegemony" theory has been touted by certain political factions in the US to generate reactions and shape certain policies toward China and Asia. One of the most obvious angle is the 'inevitable military conflicts between China and the US' theory which calls for further investment in Navy and Air Force military hardware.

China is already an influential country right now and it will become more so in the future. It does not want to become the new US. It does not care about interfering in other countries business (for good or bad). 

The Daily Mail has a series of pictures of super typhoon Haiyan (equivalent to category 5 hurricane) that hit Philippines yesterday.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Surrender in the Congo (UN Victory)

Fighters from the Democratic Republic of Congo's M23 group, including their commander Sultani Makenga, have surrendered in Uganda, officers have said, signalling the end of an 18-month armed conflict.

The rebel surrender follows a crushing defeat at the hands of the UN-backed Congolese armed forces.

"He is with our forces, yes, Makenga has crossed into Uganda," a senior Ugandan military officer told AFP news agency, although he declined to clarify if he had formally surrendered or was under arrest.

Paddy Ankunda, a colonel in the Ugandan army, told AFP news agency on Thursday that 1,500 men from the M23 - a number thought to account for almost the entire force - had crossed into Uganda and given themselves up, and were now being held in the Kisoro border district. Al Jazeera
The UN did amazing job on this part. They actually gave the UN forces some strong mandate to get it done and boy, they got it done. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Rising seas

If all the world's ice melted

National Geographic

This brings new meaning to "swimming with the fishes".

If you want to survive this, your best bet is to move to Africa 

Who killed Arafat with Polonium

AJE did a great job in covering a Swiss lab result's that Arafat's body contained 18 times the amount of Polonium, a highly radioactive material.

Yasser Arafat was a known quantity both to the US and the Israeli for at least 30 years. There was little incentive to kill him at this stage of his life (unlike in 1982) - and I doubt it brought any significant tactical benefits to do so.

I would bet that the poisoning was ordered by someone within the factions of Palestinian struggles.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Heads up for tomorrow

Tomorrow is the first day trial of ousted Egyptian President Morsi. Things will probably get messy and you will see a lot of nasty images on the media.

The Indonesian Embassy issued a warning for Indonesian to stay at home tomorrow. Good advice, especially if you are an Al Azhar university students.

For me, I'll be working as usual though I told my employees to work from home tomorrow. Not so much for the security reason but there are high chances of disruption in public transportation.


UAE at war against sorcerers

Lawyers and a member of the Federal National Council have said a 1983 law that considers sorcerers con artists was insufficient, and have called for the law to be amended to allow harsher punishment.

“Magic and sorcery has nothing to do with religion,” Salim Al Ameri (Abu Dhabi) said. “It only affects people badly.”

He recently recalled a case he heard of a “sorcerer” who told someone he could make the sky rain money. The National

Friday, November 01, 2013

Everybody's spying

The German, French, Spanish and Swedish intelligence services have all developed methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic over the past five years in close partnership with Britain's GCHQ eavesdropping agency.

The bulk monitoring is carried out through direct taps into fibre optic cables and the development of covert relationships with telecommunications companies. A loose but growing eavesdropping alliance has allowed intelligence agencies from one country to cultivate ties with corporations from another to facilitate the trawling of the web, according to GCHQ documents leaked by the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. Guardian
I am telling you - there are no innocent governments on this regard.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Fast Archery

10 arrows in 4.9 seconds.

This is an ancient technique which showed that ancient archers were fucking fast.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Really, drive old fashion manual car

On Thursday October 24, 2013, an Oklahoma court ruled against Toyota in a case of unintended acceleration that lead to the death of one the occupants. Central to the trial was the Engine Control Module's (ECM) firmware. 
Barr's ultimate conclusions were that:
  • Toyota’s electronic throttle control system (ETCS) source code is of unreasonable quality. 
  • Toyota’s source code is defective and contains bugs, including bugs that can cause unintended acceleration (UA). 
  • Code-quality metrics predict presence of additional bugs. 
  • Toyota’s fail safes are defective and inadequate (referring to them as a “house of cards” safety architecture). 
  • Misbehaviors of Toyota’s ETCS are a cause of UA.

I am a developer by trade and all of these software automation in cars scare me. The problem is the source code to these critical systems are not open to inspection and a mechanic will have really hard time to figure out what's happening on your car during maintenance and inspection. The car industry has had over 100 years experience on mechanical control design - electronic control, not so much. 

Second solar system discovered

A team of astrophysicists at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft und- Raumfahrt; DLR), together with German and European colleagues, has discovered the most extensive planetary system to date. Seven planets circle the star KOI-351 – more than in other known planetary systems. They are arranged in a similar fashion to the eight planets in the Solar System, with small rocky planets close to the parent star and gas giant planets at greater distances. Although the planetary system around KOI-351 is packed together more tightly, it provides an interesting comparison to our cosmic home. Livesperkilis

Sunday, October 27, 2013

NSA spied on Merkel since 2002

The United States may have bugged Angela Merkel's phone for more than 10 years, according to a news report on Saturday that also said President Barack Obama told the German leader he would have stopped it happening had he known about it. Reuters
I am not worried too much with world leaders being bugger/monitored. It comes with the job. What I hate is government monitoring ordinary citizens' communications. 

IKEA Shelters

The Swedish furniture giant IKEA has sent self-assembly huts to the savanna of Ethiopia to house Somali refugees. If the test case proves successful, they soon could be used as alternatives to tents in other parts of the world. Spiegel
This is awesome. IKEA has the industrial capacity to produce and distribute large number of ready made shelters around the world. Right now each shelter costs 7K USD because they are made by hand and still in prototype stages. They aim to reduce the price to 1K USD for large scale production.

I hope this experiment works well.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Clearing up the air on

I think it's important to note that comparisons to "the physical hardware costs $x" or "a start-up could have done this project for $y" are completely invalid. This is an easy trap for anyone who has ever tinkered in their basement or hacked away at code can fall into. In Real Life (TM) no massive integrated system is built by MacGyver on a $5 budget.

First, recall that this is a government project. There are inefficiencies and bureaucracy. Preferred suppliers. Yes, even political sweetheart deals. Percentages to the raw cost get added at every level; imagine 5 to 10 levels of subcontractors. Second, this project deals with healthcare data. The sheer amount of laws that govern the usage of this data are mind boggling. Not to mention every state has a different set of rules. This complexity is incredibly high, inefficient, and requires many, many domain experts as compared to a standard "big data computer, turn the crank" system. Lawyers, Health Policy people, Doctors, Bureaucrats in health, etc.

Third, this project has insurance companies. Insurance companies have an even more complex system of actuarial science and secret sauce that they use to package policies. Think about how long it takes an agent to get a single quote together for you. A half hour on a good day, and a week on a bad one. Now imagine every insurance company in your state having to produce a quote, using a different system of their computers and algorithms, and black magic based on this juggernaut of a government system. At this point, we can finally add in the cost and complexity of the physical system and work to physically build/program it. It's probably less than 1/8th the total cost.

Am I saying it is optimal? No. Am I saying it is the worst usage of government spending ever? No.

Finally, some perspective. Government spending is somewhere around 3.8 trillion for 2013. $634 Million is approximately 0.01% (yes, that is percent) of all government spending. Saying that a theoretical "startup" could do it for 1/6th is like taking a bucket of sand from the Sahara desert and claiming success in a terra-forming project.

TL;DR Government Bureaucracy coupled with healthcare data coupled with insurance companies coupled with a physical project is very expensive. It's not optimal, but when has government funding ever been "highly efficient" in the way it produces goods? Reddit
From the engineering perspective, Federal Online exchange marketplace is a massive and complex undertaking. It is a massive project with strict deadlines. No one with a software engineering background and a bit of common sense are surprised with the problems plaguing the system.

The system will get stable at some point. Right now ignore all the political talk and be grateful that a somewhat functioning health care program is law in the US.

And this comment is also worth reading in full.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Free HIV test in Jakarta

Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama underwent testing for HIV on Tuesday in a bid to encourage all Jakartans to seek out screening.

Basuki said the city administration had set up voluntary counseling and testing facilities at City Hall, which began operating on Tuesday. He said he hoped his decision to get tested himself would motivate the public to follow his example. The Jakarta Globe 
After a long time, Jakarta is finally getting some competent administrators.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New Plane: Bombardier's CSSeries

The sales pitch for the new plan
The CSeries has been designed from scratch and conceived with cutting-edge technology. It is without precedent: an ultra-lightweight, ultra-quiet, ultra-fuel-efficient commercial airliner that can reach near-transcontinental distances from a measly 4,000 feet of runway. Its ability to make big leaps with small environmental footprints make it an ideal aircraft to reinvigorate downtown airports that have fallen out of favour with governments and residents in recent decades. It also has the potential to open up new direct flights on what the industry calls “long, thin” routes: destinations too far for a regional jet but with not enough travellers to justify a larger plane. In short: it will make life easier for the average travelling business schmo. Canadian Business

An Indonesian Royal Wedding

IB Times

Yes, we still have an active Sultanate in Indonesia and the Sultan become the Governor of the special region as part of Indonesian government.
When the Indonesian independence was proclaimed, the rulers, the Sultan of Yogyakarta and Prince of Pakualaman made a declaration they would become part of the Republic of Indonesia. Those two regions were unified to form the Yogyakarta Special Region and the sultan became the Governor of Yogyakarta and the Prince of Pakualaman as the vice-governor; both were responsible to the President of Indonesia. The Special Region of Yogyakarta was created after the independence war ended and legalized on August 3, 1950. Wikipedia

Monday, October 21, 2013

Falciani - the Snowden of International Tax Evasion Regime

At the end of 2008, Hervé Falciani committed what is believed to have been the most portentous theft of banking data in history. The systems engineer and former employee at the Geneva offices of HSBC left Switzerland for France and took data from around 130,000 customers at the Anglo-Asian bank along with him. Spiegel
This article is from July 2013. It is full of remarkable information about the dirty side of international tax evasion.
Falciani, 41, has also cooperated with the American authorities. Indeed, on the strength of the information he provided, HBSC was forced to pay a $1.9 billion settlement with the United States after a Senate committee found that failures in HSBC's money-laundering controls had enabled terrorists and drug cartels to gain access to the US financial system.
So the US is fine with using stolen data. 
SPIEGEL: Could you give us a dumbed down description of how money laundering through double accounting works?

Falciani: Let's say a Mexican drug lord has a bank account in Mexico that contains millions from the drug trade. He also has an account in Switzerland with nothing in it. Using its software, the bank sees the account balance in Mexico and grants him a loan in his Swiss account worth the same amount. The money is now laundered and the drug lord can even write off the interest on that debt from his taxes. We need to expose and combat such systems. I would like to get more governments to take part in this.
Nice trick huh. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pay It Forward phenomena

Perhaps the largest outbreak of drive-through generosity occurred last December at a Tim Hortons in Winnipeg, Manitoba, when 228 consecutive cars paid it forward. A string of 67 cars paid it forward in April at a Chick-fil-A in Houston. And then a Heav’nly Donuts location in Amesbury, Mass., had a good-will train of 55 cars last July.

Serial pay-it-forward incidents involving between 4 and 24 cars have been reported at Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Del Taco, Taco Bell, KFC and Dunkin’ Donuts locations in Maryland, Florida, California, Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama, North Dakota, Michigan, North Carolina and Washington. NY Times
So it's apparently not just a movie. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Economist sounds alarm on scientific studies

It is tempting to see the priming fracas as an isolated case in an area of science—psychology—easily marginalised as soft and wayward. But irreproducibility is much more widespread. A few years ago scientists at Amgen, an American drug company, tried to replicate 53 studies that they considered landmarks in the basic science of cancer, often co-operating closely with the original researchers to ensure that their experimental technique matched the one used first time round. According to a piece they wrote last year in Nature, a leading scientific journal, they were able to reproduce the original results in just six. Months earlier Florian Prinz and his colleagues at Bayer HealthCare, a German pharmaceutical giant, reported in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, a sister journal, that they had successfully reproduced the published results in just a quarter of 67 seminal studies The Economist
Scientific studies must be able to be replicated to verify its correctness. However there are growing number of data showing that a lot of them cannot be replicated. Bear in mind also that the effort to replicate a result requires funding and nowadays it is hard to get funding to replicate scientific research.

Possible scientific explanation on the purpose of sleep

Believe it or not, science has not nailed down the true purpose of sleep. However they are making some progress recently
Most physiologists agree that sleep has come to serve many different purposes, ranging from memory consolidation to the regulation of metabolism and the immune system. While the "core" purposes of biological functions such as breathing and eating are easy to understand, however, scientists have never agreed on any such original purpose for sleeping. The new study, by Maiken Nedergaard and colleagues at the University of Rochester in New York, provides what Charles Czeisler, a sleep researcher at Harvard Medical School in Boston, calls the “first direct experimental evidence at the molecular level” for what could be sleep’s basic purpose: It clears the brain of toxic metabolic byproducts
The new work, published online today in Science, “fits with a long-standing view that sleep is for recovery—that something is paid back or cleaned out,” says David Dinges, a sleep researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. It builds on Nedergaard's recent discovery, described last summer in Science Translational Medicine, of a network of microscopic, fluid-filled channels that clears toxins from the brain, much as the lymphatic system clears out metabolic waste products from the rest of the body. Instead of carrying lymph, this system transports waste-laden cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Before the discovery of this "glymphatic system," as Nedergaard has dubbed it, the brain's only known method for disposing of cellular trash was to break down and recycle it within individual cells, she says. Science Mag
If this is true, then a consistent habit for lack of sleep is harmful to  your brain. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Apocalypse (to be) averted

We are pretty far from okay, but it beats spending the rest of your life getting raped in a dungeon, which is more or less what the House Republicans had planned. The Republican debt-ceiling gambit was meant to force Obama to accept the GOP agenda without any Republican concessions — a depressing enough outcome on its own. But it also would have dragged in a reordering of the Constitutional order and the institutionalization of endless crises and panics. We can’t be certain Republicans will never hold the debt ceiling hostage again; but Obama has now held firm twice in a row, and if he hasn’t completely crushed the Republican expectation that they can extract a ransom, he has badly damaged it. Threatening to breach the debt ceiling and failing to win a prize is costly behavior for Congress — you anger business and lose face with your supporters when you capitulate. As soon as Republicans come to believe they can’t win, they’ll stop playing. NY Mag
The House GOP folds and it's great news for everybody. What a fuckin' bunch of drama queen.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lies, Statistics and Benchmarks

Benchmarks are programs, or apps, that repeat a single task or set of tasks to stress-test a system, and might be just a single complex calculation that repeats again and again; in general, you'd hardly ever do what they do. They're meant to highlight key performance differences between similar devices. But, in fact, they're not useful.

How could that be? Commendably, Ars Technica dug into the Note 3's system files and discovered one called "", which contains a list of benchmarking apps.

If the system detects that one of a hard-coded list of apps is running, it turbo-charges the graphics processing unit (GPU), yielding that 20% boost. Then when the test is over, it scales it right back, because turbo-charging uses up the battery.

To prove this, the Ars team took the code from a benchmark called Geekbench and tweaked how it would present itself to the system. "Stealthbench", as they christened it, was the same benchmarking code, yet the Note 3's GPU didn't turbo-charge. No 20% boost – just the same performance as the LG.

Samsung has pulled this trick before with built-in lists of benchmark apps for its Galaxy S4, which yielded similar 20% speedups. Guardian
Benchmarks are a set of programs designed to measure and test the performance of a specific device. What Samsung has essentially done is detect a broad variety of benchmarks software and generate specific actions that improves its performance results according to a particular benchmark criteria. It's essentially lying.

Malaysia, apparently master of the Arabic language

An appeals panel has ruled that a Malaysian Catholic newspaper could not use "Allah" to refer to the Christian God in a case that sparked attacks on places of worship three years ago Al Jazeera
They are redefining the word that has been used for millennial in the Middle East to define the God of all monotheistic religions (Jews, Christian, Islam).

Friday, October 11, 2013

boost your green credentials even further

The US National Marine Fisheries Service has cut off pollock fishermen in one segment of Alaska waters. From today's Federal REgister.

SUMMARY: NMFS is prohibiting directed fishing for pollock in
Statistical Area 630 in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This action is
necessary to prevent exceeding the 2013 total allowable catch of
pollock for Statistical Area 630 in the GOA.

DATES: Effective 1200 hrs, Alaska local time (A.l.t.), October 8, 2013,
through 2400 hrs, A.l.t., December 31, 2013.


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: NMFS manages the groundfish fishery in the
GOA exclusive economic zone according to the Fishery Management Plan
for Groundfish of the Gulf of Alaska (FMP) prepared by the North
Pacific Fishery Management Council under authority of the Magnuson-
Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Regulations governing
fishing by U.S. vessels in accordance with the FMP appear at subpart H
of 50 CFR part 600 and 50 CFR part 679.
    The 2013 total allowable catch (TAC) of pollock in Statistical Area
630 of the GOA is 27,372 metric tons (mt) as established by the final
2013 and 2014 harvest specifications for groundfish of the GOA (78 FR
13162, February 26, 2013).
    In accordance with Sec.  679.20(d)(1)(i), the Regional
Administrator has determined that the 2013 TAC of pollock in
Statistical Area 630 of the GOA will soon be reached. Therefore, the
Regional Administrator is establishing a directed fishing allowance of
26,872 mt and is setting aside the remaining 500 mt as bycatch to
support other anticipated groundfish fisheries. In accordance with
Sec.  679.20(d)(1)(iii), the Regional Administrator finds that this
directed fishing allowance has been reached. Consequently, NMFS is
prohibiting directed fishing for pollock in Statistical Area 630 of the

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Extract from IPCC Climate report

I put them here so you can quote them at parties and boost your green credentials. These are not the whole highlights of the report but these represent the core information.
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased
Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850
Ocean warming dominates the increase in energy stored in the climate system, accounting for more than 90% of the energy accumulated between 1971 and 2010 (high confidence). It is virtually certain that the upper ocean (0−700 m) warmed from 1971 to 2010
Over the last two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass, glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide, and Arctic sea ice and Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover have continued to decrease in extent (high confidence)
The rate of sea level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia (high confidence). Over the period 1901–2010, global mean sea level rose by 0.19 [0.17 to 0.21] m
The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. CO2 concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions. The ocean has absorbed about 30% of the emitted anthropogenic carbon dioxide, causing ocean acidification
Total radiative forcing is positive, and has led to an uptake of energy by the climate system. The largest contribution to total radiative forcing is caused by the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 since 1750
Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.
Source IPCC Summary for Policy Makers

This is getting ridiculous

A group of men believed to be former rebels seized Ali Zeidan, the prime minister, early Thursday from his Tripoli residence, days after American forces captured a Qaeda leader in the city. NY Times

Monday, October 07, 2013

Portraits of mundane life of a KKK clan

Daily Mail

Well racists need to be belong as well.

US Default?

The Post has a profile in motion of freshman House Republican Ted Yoho (FL). The focus is how he's part of the faction who forced John Boehner to trigger the government shutdown and now wants to move along to default on the national debt. How bad will default be? "I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets," Yoho told the Post. Talking Points Memo
10 days to go for US self triggered default (October 17). We shall see some freak out in the financial market next week.

Yeah, you read that right. The US is on the path of refusing to honor its debt, Argentinian style.

The issue is not about finance. It's about a minority party that control the House (which controls the budget) that try to use its authority to nullify an election of a President.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

How to lose 30 billion USD in a year

That Batista, new to the oil business, had brought in wells gushing with crude was the sort of announcement investors had come to expect of him. At that moment, Batista embodied Brazil’s decade-long economic expansion, and for international investors wanting a piece of the new Brazil, he could do no wrong. Many of those investors were American. BlackRock (BLK), the world’s largest money manager, had bought millions of OGX shares. Pimco (ALV:GR), manager of the world’s largest bond fund, owned $576 million in OGX bonds. General Electric (GE) took a 0.8 percent share in EBX valued at $300 million. Brazilians “should be very proud” of what Batista and OGX had achieved, said Rousseff, sporting her own orange OGX jacket onstage at the Açu port. “OGX has a big contribution to make in the offshore oil production of Brazil.” Batista, in an interview a few days later with investment conference host Michael Milken in Beverly Hills, declared Rousseff’s appearance at his port not simply a feather in his cap but also “a major event for Brazil.”

To say Batista overreached would be to seriously undersell what has happened in the 18 months since that self-regarding presstravaganza of hubris and magical thinking. In what is shaping up to be one of the largest personal and financial collapses in history—if not the largest—Batista may be nearing bankruptcy. On Oct. 1, OGX missed a $45 million interest payment on bond debt it had racked up during its rise. Batista has sold his planes and his helicopter, and creditors are arguing over the remains of his companies. He’s no longer on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index and has become the butt of jokes in Brazil. One suggests that Pope Francis plans to return to Brazil soon and will again be visiting the poor, including Batista. Business Week
I'd say bravo. He still has one fucking billion dollars. I mean, really - what's the point of having 35 billion dollars if you cannot take risky projects.

Had he succeeded, Business Week would have applauded him as visionary and amazing risk takers. Fuck 'em.

Friday, October 04, 2013


Being married to an Italian woman means that I get to travel to Italy more frequently nowadays. Every time we travel back to visit la famiglia we try to visit a new Italian city. This time we visited Genova, the home of Christopher Columbus and one of the Italian Maritime Republics.

It is a vibrant port city where the hills meet the sea. It is also the home of Italian pesto. The atmosphere is very open thanks to its long history as trading port - exposing the city to various cultures around the world.

You can visit the house of Columbus, a tiny house located at the edge of the historical city. My tips, don't get in and pay the 2 Euros. It has nothing special inside but the garden surrounding the house is lovely and can be visited for free. There is also a nearby tower which should be skipped. We paid 5 Euros each for some mediocre views of the city. Go up to the hills instead to get breathtaking views of Genoa.

In some part of the historic city, you see prostitutes operate in day light, chatting and fixing their makeup while waiting for customers. The historic city narrow alleys make perfect location for this type of business. 

The city is also home of Genova University so there is a large presence of young people on the street with all the life facilities around there.

The historic city can be explored in one day. The atmosphere of the city is relaxed. You can interrupt your walk by stopping by in the small cafes and bistros for an aperitif or quick lunch.

There are plenty of palaces and museums to visit (we visited none) if you have some extra time. I can't really recommend the Genova Aquarium - it is nice enough but pale in comparison to the ones you can visit in Singapore or other places in the world. Its 25 Euros adult entry price is also a bit too much.

Genoa is interesting. It is has the shady aura of a major trading port and the charm of a small hilltop Italian city. It has no famous landmarks or monuments - it just has plenty of beautiful bites of pleasures.

Bottom line: if you are visiting Italy, make this one of your stop.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Syria's Breakthrough in the UN

The compromises reached are reflected in the “fait accompli” text presented to the wider Council membership in consultations last night. Although the draft resolution slated for adoption tonight only references Chapter VII of the UN Charter in its second to last operative paragraph, it includes an Article 39 determination that the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic constitutes a threat to international peace and security. (Chapter VII is usually invoked following an Article 39 determination by the Security Council that there has been a “threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression.” An explicit reference to Article 39 or to the nature of the determination is not essential, however, for the Council to use its Chapter VII powers.) This, together with the explicit reference to Article 25 where one would usually find a reference to “acting under Chapter VII” following the Article 39 determination, makes for an interesting compromise.

Moreover, although Article 25 commits member states to “agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council”, the draft resolution uses the more robust “obligated to accept and carry out the decisions.” In addition, the draft includes several paragraphs of binding provisions (seven of the 21 operative paragraphs begin with “decides” rather than the weaker “urges” or “notes”.)

The draft text also has the Council deciding to impose measures under Chapter VII in “the event of non-compliance with this resolution, including unauthorized transfer of chemical weapons, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in the Syrian Arab Republic”. Once again, this is an interesting compromise, as it does not use the more airtight procedural language found in some previous Council resolutions on non-proliferation (1718 and 1874 on DPRK and 1737, 1747, 1803 and 1929 on Iran) stating that “further decisions will be required should such additional measures be necessary.” However, it does not contain a clear trigger mechanism or a specific date for compliance, although it is likely that the OPCW decision will include deadlines that need to be followed. What's in Blue
This site monitors the decisions made at the UN Security Council. It provides far more details than the average summary you got in mainstream publications.