Thursday, September 30, 2010


h/t Michael Yon

Access to HIV/AIDS treatment


Tour de France should be cancelled

Alberto Contador, a three-time winner of the Tour de France, tested positive for a banned substance on the final rest day of the Tour in July, according to a statement sent Wednesday by his spokesman, Jacinto Vidarte.

Contador, a Spaniard formerly on the Astana team, could lose the title he won this year and face a two-year suspension.
NY Times

Every winner of Tour de France this decade has been accused and mostly proven to have taken banned substance. It's a complete farce.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Peace agreement

The governor of East Kalimantan has managed to get the two fighting factions to sign a peace agreement today.

They have agreed to return to their own community and pacify them. The meeting was held it the island's airport and come up with 10 points agreement which both leaders representing their communities sign on. Part of the agreement states that if any of the faction breaks the agreement, the glove's off on the side of the security forces (police and military). The governor of East Kalimantan mediated the meeting along with Deputy Operation of Indonesian Police (from Jakarta's police HQ) - they send the big capo from Jakarta thanks to the attention the President has given to the conflict. If President of a 220 million people bothered to show up on TV and addressed the nation about the situation in your tiny 200,000 people island communal conflict, you know that he meant business.

The only question is, will it hold? For everybody's sake, it better be.

There have been active engagements between the government and communities leaders across Kalimantan (East, West and South) for the past two days. Steps have been taken in various cities to make sure the conflict in Tarakan does not spread out to the other part of the main Kalimantan island. There have been various concerns (valid I think) about the Tarakan conflict possibly become the spark that light up the tinderbox that will burn the large island. The Dayak tribes of Kalimantan are connected throughout the land and nobody want the Sampit Conflict to repeat.

Nothing happened in the first night of the peace agreement. It looks like it pass its crucial first night test. Hopefully it holds in the incoming day so that normal life in the island returns. 

vae tibi, terra, cujus rex puer est

Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.
Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences.(NYTimes)

A paralyzed city

Majority of shops are still closed. Estimated 32,000 people taking refuge police and military installation. 5 people dead 6 injured. 4 houses and 2 shops burned.

Internal refugee in a navy station

There is a news about a truce being agreed on and tonight there will be a common disarmament. Hopefully this will hold.

Direct statement by the President of Indonesia

The President of Indonesia has issued a public statement directly on TV regarding the conflict in Tarakan and he made a point that the situation will be addressed decisively to prevent it to get out of control.

This is a positive development because now the issue has been taken directly to the highest echelon of the Indonesian government. Everybody are working hard to ensure we do not have a repeat of Sampit Conflict.

He pointed that Sampit Conflict got out control because the local government underestimate the initial conflict which makes the situation deteriorate even further and resulted with a large loss of life. Only after a large number of troops and police deployed in the area that the conflict was made under control.

He told the press that he has instructed his cabinet and the military to decisively pursue an integrated approach to take control of the situation and pacify the island.

The Jakarta Post also reports on his remarks here.

Phone Pictures

I'll try to provide context for these pictures but these are just the latest dump from Facebook.

This video was taken this morning local time showing marauding group on the main street of Tarakan. You need a Facebook account to see it.

Map of Conflict

View Tarakan, Map of Conflict in a larger map

The red marker marks the center of town named "Simpang Tiga(Three Intersection)". The pink line a bit south of the center is my neighborhood "Jembatan Besi".

What the morning brings

More fighting this morning local time 7 AM - 2 died in addition of early morning clash that killed another 2 people. What we have here is the beginning cycle of escalation (every victim brings a revenge). The population of the island is around 100,000 spread around villages and one small city. The fight is in the city and combatants are pouring in from surrounding islands. We need complete clampdown for the 20 days and install a military curfew.

The clashes now are concentrating in the center of the city. One to keep in mind, it is a small city so the distance between the center and the edge of the city is around 15 - 20 minutes drive. The first picture above is  the newly arrived Brigade Mobil Police detachment from Balikpapan. It is something like Carabinieri of Italy except they don't police the military. The second pictures comes from soldiers of a nearby army base. (Pictures sourced from TribunNews)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Potentially explosive situation in my island, Tarakan, Indonesia

So far a couple of houses have been burned and a couple of people have died. It started last Sunday when one of the local leader was killed and his son badly injured by an unknown group. This local leader belongs to the ethnic Tidung, which is native to Borneo. After that the situation got out of control because a rowing mob started moving trying to find the killers which presumably comes from Bugis ethnic (which comes from Sulawesi) - so this aspect of ethnic conflict that can possibly make this situation out of control. Both ethnics are predominantly Muslims so we can take the religious factor out.

The strong reaction to the murder can partially attributed that the native thought the police has not taken previous three related attacks (not sure if they are murders) to their people by the opponent ethnic group seriously.

Tarakan is quite a prosperous island in East Kalimantan's standard thanks to our massive shrimp industry (with exports to Japan), the biggest army and navy base in the area and an active oil fields (albeit aging). The island is 657,33 km² with the overall population around 178,000 people scattered among villages and one Tarakan city (where the conflict is concentrated right now). This relative prosperity brought immigrants from other major islands in Indonesia.

Right now we are entering the third day of this brewing conflict. I have not managed to contact my family back there via the phone yet. I am sure they are fine. My neighborhood is located at the end of the island on the sea side with only two major entries point that can be secured by the neighborhood people.

I am only worried about a nightmare scenario when this ethnic conflict starts to spread to a larger scale. I have read news report that additional native people from surrounding island have started to arrive in my island ready for a fight. The last time a large scale fight between native people with immigrants (from Madura, Java at that time), it happened in Central Borneo and you see thousands of people killed (discriminately) with heads put on the stick on the side of the road. This is known as Sampit Conflict (2001).

But on the other hand, it is quite useless to think a conflict in the worst term possible. We have a battalion of Indonesian army in the island as they safe guard this north point of Indonesia. There are a lot of effort being done to cool the situation down and put this situation back to a criminal case (of murder and attempted of murder).

It is quite harrowing to blog about a currently ongoing conflict in my island where my parents and extended families are living. This is also a place where I grew up.

Update (Wednesday)
Got in touch with my mom this morning (Tarakan time). My neighborhood is fine so far. There's report for more troops deployed from Balikpapan last night. There are around a thousand women and children taking refuge near the navy station near my place. Anxiously waiting for the development today. A Bugis mosque was reported burned down last night and one children of a local Bugis leader was killed. 

My neighborhood has the main port of the island and my mom notified that there have been crazy activities of Bugis people escaping the island via a newly arrived big ship.

This news story from The Jakarta Globe is informative.

This will revolutionize heavy manual labor

Monday, September 27, 2010

Enjoy your cruise

This is a video when a cruise ship encountered rogue waves.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Best quality of life

"Low income: Ukraine
Middle income: Cuba
Medium size: Australia
Large size: Germany
Germany has the highest quality of life among large countries and ranks in the top 10 for quality of life among wealthy states. Two of its cities—Munich (pictured) and Berlin—are often ranked among the most livable in the world. Australia, with its active citizens and high standard of living, comes in first among medium-size countries. In the low-income category, Ukraine comes out on top, and Cuba outdoes its fellow middle-income countries in quality of life. Cuba also ranks No. 3 in education among upper-middle-class countries. "

Kiev is a pretty awesome city.

1000 words

Mayor of Farah, Afghanistan
Michael Yon

Industrial sabotage!

Stuxnet, which was first publicly identified several months ago, is aimed solely at industrial equipment made by Siemens that controls oil pipelines, electric utilities, nuclear facilities and other large industrial sites. While it is not clear that Iran was the main target — the infection has also been reported in Indonesia, Pakistan, India and elsewhere — a disproportionate number of computers inside Iran appear to have been struck, according to reports by computer security monitors.(link)

Masdar - Utopia in the Gulf

NY Times

The kinetic phase of Kandahar operation starts

Good luck and godspeed

Friday, September 24, 2010

New York Magazine on Stewart

"“Even if you’re eating delicious chocolate cake, there are moments you feel like, ‘I’ve had too much,’ ” Stewart says. “Now replace ‘chocolate cake’ with ‘shit taco’ and you know what our day is like every day. But this is not a fragile country. I’m not suggesting we couldn’t find ourselves in deep conflict. But we had slaves, and we fought a civil war; now we’re down to Glenn Beck being hyperbolic with his audience about nostalgia. This too shall pass.” Which doesn’t mean that Stewart is so confident in the inexorable triumph of good and right that he’s going to stop ridiculing the evildoers and charlatans." NY Mag

Thursday, September 23, 2010

First Human Powered Ornithopter

MDG summit at the UN - $40 billion new pledges

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 20: Super model and UN environmental Ambassador Gisele Bundchen attends the United Nations MDG Summit kick off at American Museum of Natural History on September 20, 2010 in New York City.

"Governments, businesses and aid organisations yesterday made commitments totalling $40bn (£25.5bn) backing the UN secretary general's plan to reach goals on alleviating world poverty and ill-health by 2015.
At a set-piece session at the United Nations, one leader after another stood up to promise to back Ban Ki-moon's strategy to achieve the eight millennium development goals (MDGs) by concentrating on the health of mothers and their children.
"We all know what works to save women's and children's lives, and we all know that women and children are critical to all of the MDGs," said the secretary general. "Today we are witnessing the kind of leadership we have long needed.""
The Guardian

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chaos at Commonwealth Games 2010

"Commonwealth Games plunged into deep trouble on Wednesday after England admitted their participation is "on a knife-edge" while Scotland athletes delayed their departure to Delhi and Wales set a deadline of Wednesday evening for the organisers to certify all venues and Games Village are safe.

A footbridge collapsed near the main venue of the Games yesterday, which injured more than a dozen people, and the desperate state of the Athletes' Village -- described but Commonwealth officials of some countries as "unfit for human habitation" -- has cast major doubts over foreign athletes turning up in India.

And now the collapse of a small portion of a false ceiling at the weightlifting arena added to the gloom surrounding the event.

Commonwealth Games England chairman Sir Andrew Foster admitted that they will have to make a quick decision -- within 24 to 48 hours -- on whether to take part in the Games.

The Times of India

Business book of the year

If you only read one business book this year, get this one!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

100 million clean cookstoves

"On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to announce a significant commitment to a group working to address the problem, with a goal of providing 100 million clean-burning stoves to villages in Africa, Asia and South America by 2020. The United States is providing about $50 million in seed money over five years for the project, known as the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves."

NY Times

This rocks. If you ever sit in a closed kitchen with a wood stove, you'll know how terrible the smoke is.

This article has information about the "Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves".

Monday, September 20, 2010

Proud to be from AUC! Really??

I was sort of taking it for granted that AUC is among the top institutes for education in Africa, of course, we have the best faculty members and of course it s the most expensive university! what more do you want to prove it was the best university?

I realized that as a student there I didn't really have to study that hard in comparison to any other courses sent to us from other universities abroad they were quite difficult, but again chose to believe we are the best.

Well in the Academic Ranking of World Universities ARWU- AUC has missed the top 500 world universities, and would be rated around the 10th or 11th in Africa based on different ranking systems. The leading country in Africa would be South Africa with University of Cape Town, University of Stellenbosch, University of Pretoria..... etc- basically all the 9-10 universities preceding AUC are all from South Africa.

Below is the criteria shared by the ARWU website:


Quality of Education
Alumni of an institution winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals

Quality of Faculty
Staff of an institution winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals

Highly cited researchers in 21 broad subject categories

Research Output
Papers published in Nature and Science*

Papers indexed in Science Citation Index-expanded and Social Science Citation Index

Per Capita Performance
Per capita academic performance of an institution

It's not entirely the university's fault, obviously none of the alumni or the faculty members won Nobel Prize or enough Field Medals if at all to be put up a better ranking for the university!

Well I'm not as proud as I was before I know this bit of information- ignorance is bliss.

I guess parents who are investing heavily to have their sons and daughters graduate from AUC might want to know that they pay their life savings for a world ranking of 1800 considering other universities in other countries might be with better world ranking and a bit cheaper!

It's official - exercise is quite useless for losing weight

"Well, science has some bad news for you. More and more research in both the UK and the US is emerging to show that exercise has a negligible impact on weight loss. That tri-weekly commitment to aerobics class? Almost worthless, as far as fitting into your bikini is concerned. The Mayo Clinic, a not-for-profit medical research establishment in the US, reports that, in general, studies "have demonstrated no or modest weight loss with exercise alone" and that "an exercise regimen… is unlikely to result in short-term weight loss beyond what is achieved with dietary change."

It sounds faintly heretical, if not downright facetious. And it's a scientific discovery that most health professionals are, naturally, keen to downplay. After all, exercise is still good for us. It's just that, in defiance of decades of New Year resolutions, it's unlikely to make us slim."

The Guardian.

If you want to lose weight, eat less instead.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Egyptian Press in one thousand words

Al-Ahram / BBC
The photo above is the actual picture taken on the first day of Middle East peace talks Sept. 1, showing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Barack Obama, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah II of Jordan at the White House. The one below is a doctored photo published in Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram.

It's going to be massive - go march!

The idea started from a discussion thread at reddit.

"I was woken in the middle of the night by this(along with the sound of my cat getting ready to pee on the rug).

Think about it. It'll be just like Colbert's mockery of GW Bush at the 2006 White House Correspondent's Dinner, but 500,000 people will be able to participate with him. We'll all stay totally in character as teabaggers. The kid with the microphone that interviews all the idiots at these things can come by and we'll ramble into his microphone.
This would be the high water mark of American satire. Half a million people pretending to suspend all rational thought in unison. Perfect harmony. It'll feel like San Francisco in the late 60s, only we won't be able to get any acid.

I know you're out there somewhere, Stephen, watching LOLcat gifs along side us. We need you. There's no way to have a logical public discussion with the teabaggers. The best we can do is to mimic them. Show them a mirror and hopefully some will realize how ridiculous they actually are... Or maybe they won't even realize that they're being mocked, which could be even more awesome.
Note: This is a repost. First one never popped into New.

EDIT(Finally): The response to this post has blown my mind. I really did jump out of bed at like 5AM and type this thing up. Then I checked from work and it's front page and there's a Facebook page and people are emailing one of the Executive Producers. I was just hoping some people would get a laugh out of it, and now it has over 6,800 upvotes? It's like I cracked the best joke of my life in a public place. :D
But to be fair, both pugsworth and hobbit6 posted the general idea before me in that Jon Stewart thread. I just fleshed it out a little bit. Anyway, I don't really know what to do or say about actually trying to make a Colbert Rally happen. I'd sure as hell be there, and I think I'd opt for the "Go back to the rug store with the rest of the Afghans" sign.
I just wanted to say that I'm really happy that so many people got a kick out of it. And the thought of Colbert himself actually maybe seeing this is probably the coolest thing that's ever happened to me so far in life.

EDIT 2: vinhboy has created a wikia page... Nothing up on it yet, though. Please feel free to change that!"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

925 million hungry people

"The number of people in the world suffering chronic hunger has declined for the first time in 15 years, due to improving economic conditions and lower food prices, the United Nations' food agency said on Tuesday.

About 925 million people are undernourished in 2010, down from a record 1.02 billion last year, which was the highest number in four decades, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a report."

This is how fucking depressing the problem is. 925 million chronic hunger is considered much improved numbers.

60 billion dollars deal with Saudi Arabic

Iran is great for US arms industry because it scares the bejesus of the surrounding cash rich Arab countries.

" The Obama administration will soon notify Congress of an arms package for Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion, U.S. officials said Monday, a potentially record-breaking deal that may help counter Iran's growing regional muscle.

The deal would apparently represent the largest single U.S. arms sale ever approved. It would allow Saudi Arabia, the most militarily advanced of the Arab Gulf states and one of the richest countries in the world, to buy top-line U.S.-made helicopters and fighter jets with ranges that would span the Middle East and beyond."


can you trust a robot?

“With the information on the device, they seem more apt to experiment by buying a different varietal or going outside their price range,” Mr. Reno said. “It stuns me, but they seem to trust the device more than they trust me, and these are people I’ve waited on for 10 years.” (nytimes quotes a sommelier on iPad wine lists)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dhaka, the fastest rising mega city in the world

Rising star of the Middle East

"Turkey's hopes of joining the EU have been boosted by Sunday's vote to curb the influence of the military and to enhance the parliament's role in appointing judges, say German media commentators. But they add that more fundamental constitutional reform is now needed.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan got a strong boost on Sunday when 58 percent of voters backed his package of reforms of the country's military-era constitution. The changes are aimed at bringing Turkey more in line with European Union standards and helping the country's bid to join the bloc. They have also strengthened Erdogan ahead of a general election next year."

A promising step - Basel III agreement

" The world’s top bank regulators agreed Sunday on far-reaching new rules intended to make the global banking industry safer and protect international economies from future financial disasters.

The new requirements will more than triple the amount of capital that banks must hold in reserve, an effort to move banks toward more conservative positions and force them to maintain a larger cushion against potential losses. They come two years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers set off a worldwide banking crisis that required billions in government bailouts.

The centerpiece of the agreement is a measure that requires banks to raise the amount of common equity they hold — considered the least risky form of capital — to 7 percent of assets from 2 percent. Together with other requirements intended to safeguard against risk, it could significantly alter the way banks do business." NY Times

A Reuter blog has more explanation on how this regulation works.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A conversation with Fidel Castro

Part 1

" I mentioned to Castro the letter he wrote to Khruschev, the Soviet premier, at the height of the crisis, in which he recommended that the Soviets consider launching a nuclear strike against the U.S. if the Americans attack Cuba. "That would be the time to think about liquidating such a danger forever through a legal right of self-defense," Castro wrote at the time.

I asked him, "At a certain point it seemed logical for you to recommend that the Soviets bomb the U.S. Does what you recommended still seem logical now?" He answered: "After I've seen what I've seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn't worth it all." "

Part 2

" But during the generally lighthearted conversation (we had just spent three hours talking about Iran and the Middle East), I asked him if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting.

"The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore," he said."

Icelanders in Canada

"Welcome to Gimli, where the Icelandic flag is as proudly raised at sunrise on the lawns of modest family homes as it is tattooed on the limbs of young men; where fishermen flex their muscles hoisting hearty whitefish from the expansive lake; and where groups of elderly congregate at Amma’s Café to converse in Icelandic and indulge in kleinur and pönnukökur alongside their hot coffee. Such is life in the Rural Municiplality of Gimli, in Manitoba, Canada."

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Income Equality in America

It's brutal.

"[I]ncome distribution in the United States is more unequal than in Guyana, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and roughly on par with Uruguay, Argentina, and Ecuador.""


Monday, September 06, 2010

Learning Tricks

"The findings can help anyone, from a fourth grader doing long division to a retiree taking on a new language. But they directly contradict much of the common wisdom about good study habits, and they have not caught on.

For instance, instead of sticking to one study location, simply alternating the room where a person studies improves retention. So does studying distinct but related skills or concepts in one sitting, rather than focusing intensely on a single thing.

“We have known these principles for some time, and it’s intriguing that schools don’t pick them up, or that people don’t learn them by trial and error,” said Robert A. Bjork, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Instead, we walk around with all sorts of unexamined beliefs about what works that are mistaken.”"NY Times

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Places to visit

"Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
This salt plain is the world’s largest and traps rainwater during wet winter months, creating a tripped-out sky mirror. " Matadortrips

Arts vs Gentrification

"Twenty years after it was squatted by a group of artists, Berlin's legendary Tacheles arts center faces the threat of closure. The building, which became famous as part of the city's heady 1990s counter-culture, has become the symbol of a new struggle against gentrification in Berlin."

Keep it shabby, please. You don't need gleaming new buildings - you need a place with soul and artistry in big cities like Berlin.

Youth Olympics 2010 Singapore

Youth Olympic pictures