Saturday, July 31, 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mind Hacking

"The brain is a castle on a hill. Encased in bone and protected by a special layer of cells, it is shielded from infections and injuries—but also from many pharmaceuticals and even from the body’s own immune defenses. As a result, brain problems are tough to diagnose and to treat.

To meet this challenge, researchers are exploring unconventional therapies, from electrodes to laser-light stimulation to mind-bending drugs. Some of these radical experiments may never pan out. But, as frequently happens in medicine, a few of today’s improbable approaches may evolve into tomorrow’s miraculous cures."Discover Magazine Blog

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Priests just wanna have fun

"In the basement dining room of Le Mani In Pasta, a trattoria in central Rome, a young, glossy-eyed couple stare at each other across a table for two. They smile and blush over a private joke. There is no handholding or kissing, but they are clearly more than friends, even though they are both wearing dark shirts and the telltale white clerical collar.

For residents of Rome, the sight of courting priests is hardly an anomaly. The phenomenon is a well-known secret here, and one that was largely ignored until last weekend, when the Italian weekly magazine Panorama published a shocking exposé called “Le Notti Brave Dei Preti Gay,” or “Good Nights Out for Gay Priests.” Investigative journalist Carmelo Abbate spent 20 days undercover posing as the boyfriend of a man who ran in gay clerical circles, secretly videotaping the sexual escapades of three Rome-based priests. Abbate caught the priests on hidden camera dirty dancing at private parties and engaging in sex acts with male escorts on church property. He also caught them emerging from dark bedrooms in time to celebrate mass. In one postcoital scene, “Father Carlo” parades around seminaked, wearing only his clerical vestments. Abbate’s “date” even had sex with one of the priests to corroborate the story. “This is not about homosexuality,” Abbate, who is not gay, told NEWSWEEK. “This is about private vices and public virtues. This is about serious hypocrisy in the Catholic Church.”" Newsweek

I just have two coins on this:

1. Let married people into Catholic priesthood just like other Christian denomination.
2. Admit gay people to the ranks.

Love and compassion should take precedence over dogma.

How to be a free thinker

"Children survive only through conformity. It’s by recognizing the behavior of adults and adjusting to it, fitting in, that they’re able to survive. If babies didn’t learn which kind of cries got them fed, or what kinds of smiles got them attention, they would not live long. We are designed from birth for survival more than freedom. Consider how absurd most advice from gurus sounds if directed at a 5 year old. Start with Buddha’s excellent advice:

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who has said it, even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your reason and your own common sense.”

This is the opposite of what children are told by every adult in their lives. Schools teach them specific answers, teachers test and judge them on their ability to memorize and internalize those answers, and parents define rules that control children’s lives in spite of the child’s clear desires. We treat children as if they have no common sense, and for good reason. Often they have no sense at all, common or otherwise. But the question remains: at what point do we teach our children to think for themselves? And how can we be certain they’ve unlearned the lessons we worked so hard to teach them until that day? There are no required college courses called “undoing the damage of the last 18 years of your life” or “how to escape the evil tyranny of your corrupted youth”. We are, perhaps as it always has been or always should be, on our own to figure out what freedom means. But there is no starting gun, no wake up call, for when to become free, much less how to go about doing it given how much of our lives function on our being unfree." Scott Berkun

Looking good while wasting our money

The rank of 50 most beautiful US politician/political staffer is now up at the hill.

Airblue plane crashed in Islamabad

"The plane was flying from Karachi to Islamabad and the exact cause of the crash was not immediately clear. — Photo by AFP" Dawn

Afghanistan casualties map based on wikileaks info

Check it out here

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

40 billion dollar city

"Critics might fear that the whole project is an exercise in hubris and will suffer from either a Dubai-like burnout or a Brasilia-like smoulder. However, for now, the signs are actually positive. The first tranche of apartment sales was oversubscribed by eight-to-one; 45,000 people showed up for the first weekend showing of new homes. As only 80,000 apartments are to be built in total, there is unlikely to be any danger of housing stock going unwanted.

And Songdo has the financial backing of central government, which is underwriting a 12.3km bridge to connect the new city to Incheon airport, as well as a high-speed rail link to Seoul. Cisco Systems is investing heavily in the project too, building the infrastructure for the city’s information network at a cost running into the billions.

There is an ongoing debate as to whether Songdo is the city of the future, or merely Dubai for the Far East. Regardless, there is a huge amount of capital—and many reputations—staked on its success. Despite its outlandishness, it might just work." Songdo

Why IQs differs by nation

"The Idea
The brain, say author Christopher Eppig and his colleagues, is the “most costly organ in the human body.” Brainpower gobbles up close to 90 percent of a newborn’s energy. It stands to reason, then, that if something interferes with energy intake while the brain is growing, the impact could be serious and longlasting. And for vast swaths of the globe, the biggest threat to a child’s body—and hence brain—is parasitic infection. These illnesses threaten brain development in several ways. They can directly attack live tissue, which the body must then strain to replace. They can invade the digestive tract and block nutritional uptake. They can hijack the body’s cells for their own reproduction. And then there’s the energy diverted to the immune system to fight the infection. Out of all the parasites, the diarrheal ones may be the gravest threat—they can prevent the body from getting any nutrients at all." Newsweek

Moscow Smog


Monday, July 26, 2010

Love Parade Cancelled


19 people died and hundreds injured after a mass panic broke out in the tunnel to the concert site.

"Some tried to escape the crowds by climbing up a narrow staircase. Others, like in this picture, climbed up light poles. Some reports say that the panic was initially caused by people falling off of poles such as this one."

"According to police on Sunday, all of those who died were found outside of the tunnel, near areas where people were desperately trying to escape the crush."

Remember the two rules of mass partying
- Exit a club when they start pyrotechnics in door.
- Never get into a tunnel with a crowd

World worst zoo

One of the them is Giza zoo, which is located across my office. No, I haven't managed to cross the street and visited it yet.

"The Giza Zoo in Cairo seems to have fallen upon a King Tut amount of bad luck with their animals over the past few years. In 2004, the zoo was expelled from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums for many reasons, including substandard results during an inspection and the inhumane killing of two gorillas thought to be infected with the Ebola virus. Then, in 2006, its birds began to die from Avian Flu and in 2008 two men broke into the zoo and killed two camels. Now, it seems that for a little illegal personal payment, zookeepers are letting zoo-goers play with any animal they want, including bears, lion cubs, elephants, tigers and seals." Global Post

The war logs - by Wikileaks

Get all the juicy bits here.

"A trove of military documents made public on Sunday by an organization called WikiLeaks reflects deep suspicions among American officials that Pakistan’s military spy service has for years guided the Afghan insurgency with a hidden hand, even as Pakistan receives more than $1 billion a year from Washington for its help combating the militants" NY Times

"The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers' website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and more than 1,000 US troops." The Guardian

"The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers' website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and more than 1,000 US troops." Spiegel

More succinct analysis of the document can be here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Welcome your new Cocoa overlord

"In a stroke, a hedge fund manager here named Anthony Ward has all but cornered the market in cocoa. By one estimate, he has bought enough to make more than five billion chocolate bars."
NY Times

This guys owns 7% of the world cocoa supply.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The New Atlantis

The Maldives island paradises have become symbols of climate change. There are concerns that the islands could disappear under water as a result of rising sea levels.

Whale jumped on yacht

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sorry about the lack of updates

I spent the last two weeks in China and boy, they don't like blogger and facebook. You cannot access these services without proxy and when you use proxy, they are pretty slow. Bugger. Updates will start again tomorrow when I got back to Egypt.

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Concert

Looks fantastic.

Oh my - The Expendables

They put Bruce Willis, Stallone, Jet Li, Stanham, Lodgren, O'Rourke, Arnold in one movie! 90's bad ass movie is back baby!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

4.5 % for 2010

"The world economy is recovering faster than expected but Europe’s debt crisis has increased financial risks and governments urgently need to rebuild shaky public confidence, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday.

The Washington-based I.M.F. raised its 2010 world growth forecast to 4.5 percent from 4.1 percent in April. Its growth forecast for the United States rose to 3.3 percent from 2.7 percent. The outlook for the European nations that use the euro was unchanged at 1 percent.

But in its quarterly World Economic Outlook, the I.M.F. warned that “risks have risen sharply” because of Europe’s financial turbulence. It European leaders needed to act quickly to resolve debt problems and restore confidence in their banks." NY Times

The scandal that rock Paris

"L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt and French photographer François-Marie Banier: The political scandal started as a private one. Bettencourt is alleged to have given family friend Banier between €600 million and €1 billion since 1995. After the death of Bettencourt's husband, her daughter filed a legal complaint against Bettencourt's companion, claiming he was exploiting the elderly women's mental frailty to fraudulently enrich himself." Spiegel

Architecture modern marvels - by Vanity Fair

Here's the top 21 list.

Architect: Sir Norman Foster
Structure: HSBC Building, Hong Kong
Year Completed: 1985

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Netherlands vs Uruguay

Check out the goals of this delightful semi final

Family on Bikes

La Paz, Bolivia

Somewhere in Bolivia

A family of four decided to travel from Alaske to Southern Argentina on Bike. It's amazing.
Family on Bikes

Retarded Down Under

"A judge ordered Australian band Men at Work on Tuesday to hand over a portion of the royalties from their 1980s hit ''Down Under,'' after previously ruling its distinctive flute riff was copied from a children's campfire song." NY Times

Long Term Consequences

Monday, July 05, 2010

Drilling Blind

"At the contact point between earth and machinery, a drill made out of diamond or tungsten carbide bites into the rock. In the "golden triangle," the oil often lies under layers of salt, kilometers deep. These blanket the oil reserves, and they also muffle the seismic-pulse technology which engineers normally use to find oil. "Below the salt you will be blind," says Inge Manfred Carlsen, petroleum research director at the SINTEF Group, an independent research organization based in Norway.
Drilling blind is dangerous, because the engineers are forced to calculate the pressure in the chambers where the oil will be found. The coveted resource sits in porous rock reservoirs, similar to sponges. The first time the drill hits one of these deposits the pressure of the oil flowing upwards must be equal to the pressure of the oil underneath. It is like walking a tight rope -- to get the desired result specialists inject the holes with drilling mud, made of water, clay, barite and other ingredients. Should the engineers not add enough pressure, the oil can spurt out violently, causing a much-dreaded blow out.
Another potential deepwater drilling catastrophe: The ground underwater is still relatively young, and therefore contains many gas bubbles. Should the drill bit hit one of these bubbles, the whole thing could go up -- this is what is called a "gas kick.""

We are waaay waaay due on finding greener and viable alternative to oil. There is only so much safety precautions you can take in drilling miles into the deep sea.

Young and jobless in Britain

"Complacency and "general hopelessness" have been blamed for the failure of young British men as research reveals that underperformance in school and university is now creeping into their working lives. A report published today by the Higher Education Policy Institute thinktank says male graduates are far more likely to be unemployed than their female counterparts.

Figures show that the economic downturn caused an increase in graduate unemployment from 11.1% at the end of 2008 to 14% by the end of last year. But when the figures are broken down by sex a stark picture emerges of 17.2% of young male graduates failing to find jobs compared to 11.2% of women." The Guardian

"judge's knowledge"

"In a case that highlights the growing use of the death penalty in a country that has already executed more than 100 people this year, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted in May 2006 of conducting an "illicit relationship outside marriage."

Sakineh already endured a sentence of 99 lashes, but her case was re-opened when a court in Tabriz suspected her of murdering her husband. She was acquitted, but the adultery charge was reviewed and a death penalty handed down on the basis of "judge's knowledge" – a loophole that allows for subjective judicial rulings where no conclusive evidence is present." The Guardian

Friday, July 02, 2010

It's a tough job

"With two wars, multiple crises abroad and growing terrorism activity at home, these national security officials do not sleep in peace. For them, the night is a public vigil. It is also a time of private reckoning with their own tensions and doubts. They read the highest classification of intelligence. They pursue the details of plots that realize the nation's vague, yet primal, fears.

It is all here, inside the brown leather binder. Black typeface on white paper, marked by red tabs and yellow highlighter, an accumulation of all the dangers hidden in the dark. Compiling them is an all-night process, and it begins every day at sundown."

Washington Post

Read the full article about a typical night for US administration national security team.

You cannot starve yourself out of recession

"And current examples of austerity are anything but encouraging. Ireland has been a good soldier in this crisis, grimly implementing savage spending cuts. Its reward has been a Depression-level slump — and financial markets continue to treat it as a serious default risk. Other good soldiers, like Latvia and Estonia, have done even worse — and all three nations have, believe it or not, had worse slumps in output and employment than Iceland, which was forced by the sheer scale of its financial crisis to adopt less orthodox policies." 
NY Times

Our system is stupid

How a broker spent $520m in a drunken stupor and moved the global oil price

"PVM Oil Futures trader Steve Perkins bought 7m barrels of crude in late-night trading binge on his laptop, driving the oil price to an eight-month high."

An Australian Compromise

"Australia ended a damaging dispute with global miners on Friday by dumping its planned "super profits" tax for a lower resources rent tax backed by big miners, clearing a major hurdle to calling an early election.

The deal looks positive for miners and the government.

Although miners will pay more tax, the total will be less than under the proposed "super profits" tax -- A$1.5 billion by government estimates -- and the government still gets extra revenue to fulfill pre-election promises.

"We were determined to get a fairer share of the mineral wealth in our ground for all Australians," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in announcing the new profit-based tax." Global Post

Here's the bottom line
"The resource rent tax will be at a rate of 30 percent, down from the previous "super profits" tax rate of 40 percent, and the trigger point for the tax will be higher, at the 10-year bond rate plus 7 percent, currently at around 12 percent, of return on capital.

The petroleum tax rate will be unchanged at 40 percent.

The new resources rent tax will apply from July 1, 2012, as earlier proposed for the "super profits" tax."