Thursday, June 30, 2011

Athen burns

"Demonstrators run away from tear gas during a demonstration in Athens on Tuesday June 28, 2011. A general strike disrupted services across Greece and riots erupted once more outside Parliament Tuesday as demonstrators protested more taxes and spending cuts essential for the country to receive critical bailout funds that will prevent a potentially disastrous default. Banner in Greek reads 'Democracy Now' and in Spanish at left: 'It (the law before parliament) will not pass'."
Day Life

The nascent Spanish Revolution

Greece also burns.

Lebanon is on the edge

Lebanon's senior prosecutor has received criminal indictments for four members of the Shia militant group Hezbollah, who are accused of assassinating the country's former prime minister Rafiq Hariri in a car bomb attack six years ago.

The move is a significant step in an investigation into the attack that killed Hariri and 21 others on the Beirut waterfront on 14 February 2005.

Security was immediately tightened in the city after investigators from the Hague-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon visited the offices of the prosecutor general, Sayyed Merza, who now has the discretion to name the suspects. Guardian
Now that their masters in Damascus is on the ropes, it will be interesting to see how Hezbollah reacts to this latest development.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Story behing Google+ development

Wired has the cover story.

What is Google+? Good question :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Diabetic World

Surviving Zurich's worst hotel

This 'worst' hotel in Zurich still costs an upward of 63 Euros a night. WTF.

Interview with a Nuclear bomb maker

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Nobody has been as active as you in the business of nuclear proliferation in problematic countries like Libya, Iran and North Korea. What drove you to do so? Was it money or the desire to help other Muslim countries build the bomb?

Khan: I did not indulge in proliferation and there is no such thing as an "A.Q. Khan Network."


Khan: International suppliers were willing to sell to anyone able to pay and they didn't need me for that. The suppliers to Libya and Iran were the same as the ones Khan Research Laboratories used. We had a contract with North Korea for the production of missiles. They already had their own plutonium production program and they used plutonium in their test procedures. Logistics and security at our plant was in the hands of the army and they checked each and every item that came in or left. How then could I have sent things to any country without the army's knowledge?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Close Call

A young woman rescued as she was about to jump to her death.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Top 5 Regrets of the dying

o2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
The list comes from an ex hospice worker.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wow, a promising cure to type 2 diabetes

Eleven people with diabetes took part in the study, which was funded by Diabetes UK. They had to slash their food intake to just 600 calories a day for two months. But three months later seven of the 11 were free of diabetes. 
"To have people free of diabetes after years with the condition is remarkable – and all because of an eight-week diet," said Roy Taylor, professor at Newcastle University, who led the study. "This is a radical change in understanding type 2 diabetes. It will change how we can explain it to people newly diagnosed with the condition. While it has long been believed that someone with type 2 diabetes will always have the disease, and that it will steadily get worse, we have shown that we can reverse the condition." 
Type 2 diabetes, which used to be known as adult onset, is caused by too much glucose in the blood. It is strongly linked to obesity, unlike type 1, which usually develops in children whose bodies are unable to make the hormone insulin to convert glucose from food into energy. They need daily insulin injections. 
The research, presented today at the American Diabetes Association conference, shows that an extremely low-calorie diet, consisting of diet drinks and non-starchy vegetables, prompts the body to remove the fat clogging the pancreas and preventing it from making insulin. 
The volunteers were closely supervised by a medical team and matched with the same number of volunteers with diabetes who did not get the special diet. After just one week into the study, the pre-breakfast blood sugar levels of the study group had returned to normal. And MRI scans showed that the fat levels in the pancreas had returned to normal. The pancreas regained its ability to make insulin. (Guardian)

The sample size is waay to small but because this is a diet, not a drug, they can expand the tests easily. 

Louis Penfield House

You can rent it for short term. It's a Frank Lloyd Wright design. What a beautiful house.

Indonesia ban migrant worker to Saudi Arabia

"President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday announced that the government would soon stop sending new migrant workers to Saudi Arabia, as a sign of protest over the recent execution of Indonesian domestic worker Ruyati binti Satubi by the Saudi government.

The moratorium would come into effect by August 1, Yudhoyono told a press conference at the Presidential Palace on Thursday.

The decision was made at a limited Cabinet meeting late on Wednesday, several hours before Yudhoyono’s meeting with members of the House of Representatives at the State Palace on Thursday, which was also held to discuss migrant worker protection issues."
The Jakarta Post

There are large pattern of abuse of maid migrant workers by Saudis in the past.  However the decision of Saudi Arabia to execute an Indonesian maid for murder without notifying the Indonesian Embassy is an insult too far.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Failed states extrvaganza

"The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has the dubious honor of being both one of the world's richest countries -- its soils are host to massive deposits of gold, coltan, and other minerals -- and one of the most underdeveloped places on Earth. In the country's wild east, where much of the mineral wealth lies, armed militias terrorize the impoverished population in a perpetual struggle to control land, mines, and supply-chain routes. This potent combination of insecurity, impunity, and existence on the edge has left more souls dead over the last 12 years than any conflict since World War II. For the living, there is equal horror: An epidemic of rape, documented meticulously for the first time this year, victimizes an estimated 48 women every hour."

Congo is No 4.

The story of Brazil's Real

This is a story about how an economist and his buddies tricked the people of Brazil into saving the country from rampant inflation. They had a crazy, unlikely plan, and it worked.

Twenty years ago, Brazil's inflation rate hit 80 percent per month. At that rate, if eggs cost $1 one day, they'll cost $2 a month later. If it keeps up for a year, they'll cost $1,000.

In practice, this meant stores had to change their prices every day. The guy in the grocery store would walk the aisles putting new price stickers on the food. Shoppers would run ahead of him, so they could buy their food at the previous day’s price. Planet Money

It's friggin' awesome.

An ode to Barcelona

What is arguably Almodóvar's greatest work begins with tragedy in Madrid, but soon moves to Barcelona, beginning with a breathtaking night-time glimpse of the Sagrada Familia, where the sheer buoyancy of the city steers the film in a powerful and dazzling new direction. Here Manuela (the magnificent Cecilia Roth) reunites with her old friend, the witty and wonderful transsexual prostitute Agrado (Antonia San Juan) – whose flat overlooks the Palau de la Música – while inadvertently immersing herself in the world of theatre and helping a naive young nun (Penélope Cruz). Art mirrors life mirrors art in this vibrantly colourful (literally), multi-layered tribute to women ("We are all women!'" says Almodóvar) that beautifully captures the dynamism and generous spirit of the city itself. Guardian

Monday, June 20, 2011

Master lecture on Media (Jon Stewart)

Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner

Australian author and illustrator Shaun Tan recently won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, described as the Nobel Prize of children's literature. Spiegel

Miss USA 2011

Miss California Alyssa Campanella waves after being crowned Miss USA 2011 during the Miss USA pageant in the Theatre for the Performing Arts at Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada June 19, 2011. Daylife

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Red market

As part of his research, Carney visited an Indian refugee camp for survivors of 2004's massive tsunami. Today, the camp is known by the nickname Kidneyvakkam, or Kidneyville, because of how common it is for the women who live there to sell their kidneys. 
"The women are just lined up," Carney says. "They have their exposed midriffs and there are all these kidney extraction scars because when the tsunami happened, all these organ brokers came in and realized there were a lot of people in very desperate situations and they could turn a lot of quick cash by just convincing people to sell their kidneys." 
The buying and selling of organs is against the law in almost every country, but Carney says the market has managed to grow thanks to the dire situations many of its donors find themselves in.
"When you're at your most desperate place is when the brokers come in," Carney says. "One of these women, her name was Rani, gave up a kidney because her daughter had actually tried to commit suicide because she was in a very difficult marriage ... In order to treat her, the hospital needed a certain amount of cash — I think it was about $1,000 — and [Rani] didn't have any money so she did the only thing she could, which was to sell her kidney because an organ broker just sort of approached her very quickly. And that's a pretty common situation. "
I am in two minds about it. I favor a paid market to complement the voluntary market for organ donors since there is not enough donors to go around for people that needs transplants. But I am also wary about the economic exploitation that will result from this in poorer parts of the world. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Moroccan Constitution Reform is up to referendum in two weeks

Morocco's king, Mohamed VI, has responded to the Arab spring by rewriting his country's constitution and giving greater power to elected politicians but leaving him with a firm grip on security, the army and religious matters. 
The draft constitution, which will be put to referendum on 1 July, sees some power being shifted away from the Arab world's longest-serving dynasty and from the tight clique of palace officials who dominate Morocco. 
Among other measures, the new constitution explicitly states that the king will now have to pick the country's prime minister from the party that wins elections to what, up until now, has been a largely rubber-stamp parliament. 
While the government gains executive powers, the 47-year-old monarch has kept exclusive control over the military and over religion.

Morocco has a decent monarch but rotten government. This reform is a start at the right direction.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


The Atlantic has an amazing series of photographs on underground places.

First bitcoin theft?

BitCoin is a virtual currency which has been running for the past two years. Well, apparently one guy just lost about half a million dollars worth of bitcoin.

Abu Bakar Bashir to the lam

An Indonesian court has sentenced radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir to 15 years in prison on a terrorism charge.

Bashir, 72, was accused of helping to sanction and fund a jihadi training camp in westernmost Aceh province that brought together men from almost every known Indonesian extremist group.

The sentence was announced Thursday amid high security at a Jakarta court where hundreds of Bashir supporters gathered. AP
 It took a while but everything was done in public and in a civilian court. Excellent outcome.

"The sentence is "an indication of how strong the Indonesian government's commitment continues to be in terms of prosecuting terrorism in open trials and through effective law enforcement," said Sidney Jones, an expert on Southeast Asian terrorism at the International Crisis Group, a NGO that researches conflict.
That's the essence of our success so far. All terrorism suspects go through open trials - there's none of the bullshit of military tribunal.

Canadian's gone wild

"VANCOUVER, BC - JUNE 15: People pose in front of a burning vehicle on June 15, 2011 in Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver broke out in riots after their hockey team the Vancouver Canucks lost in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How do you say "we are completely fucked" in Greek?

Credit rating firm Standard & Poor's cut Greece's debt grade to CCC on Monday, the lowest of any rated country, citing a "significantly higher likelihood of one or more defaults" by the Greek government.

S&P’s cut in Greece’s rating, from a previous grade of B, confirms what the Greek bond market has been signaling since March: that there’s no way out of the country’s debt morass without forcing bondholders to take some kind of haircut.

The annualized yield on two-year Greek bonds (charted below) rose back above 26% on Monday after falling as low as 22.7% early last week. The yield has rocketed from 14.4% in mid-March as the market price of the bonds has plunged. By contrast, U.S. 2-year Treasury notes pay 0.39%.

LA Times

Confess motherfucker

Inside Ukraine's interrogation room Time

A journalist tagged along with Ukrainian police for five years.

The grudge of Ohio

They still can't get over LeBron James leaving them.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Benghazi Today

In Benghazi itself, the evidence of upheaval becomes more apparent. Each day, the streets roar with the sounds of pep rallies staged by fighters heading for the front; they fire guns in the air and occasionally set off dynamite to prove their devotion to their cause. But then the rallies give way to traffic jams and the rhythms of normal life. There are no lines for gas or food. Everyone says crime is down since the rebels took over. At Friday prayers, the imam tells the kids in the audience to cut out the celebratory gunfire: It rattles people’s nerves, he says, and besides, “we need the ammunition” in the besieged town of Misrata.

The most visible sign of the revolution is its iconography. In every city and town, the red, black, and green rebel flag, resurrected from pre-Qaddafi Libya, hangs everywhere, sometimes alongside the flags of the rebels’ foreign allies, most handmade in people’s homes—which is one reason the simple-to-stitch French and Italian tricolors are more common than the American Stars and Stripes or the British Union Jack. Even more striking is the graffiti. On my first day in Libya, in the town of Derna, one meticulously drawn panel caught my eye: “WE WANT A COUNTRY OF INSTITUTIONS,” it read. In how many revolutions have people marched to such a slogan? TNR

Looking good.

Beginning of the end

A MONTH ago seasoned watchers of Syria reckoned that the regime’s ferocious crackdown would keep the lid on dissent, albeit with President Bashar Assad’s legitimacy badly impaired. Now the prevailing wisdom is changing. Rather than subside, the protests are spreading and intensifying. Having started in the south and spread to coastal cities such as Banias, they moved to Homs, Syria’s third-biggest city, and the surrounding central districts. More recently they have gripped Hama, the country’s fourth city, famed for its uprising in 1982, when 20,000 people may have been killed by the then president, Hafez Assad, the present incumbent’s father. After starting in the rural areas, the unrest has hit cities all over the country. And the death toll, well past 1,200, has begun to rise more sharply. On June 3rd, at least 70 people are reported to have been killed in Hama alone. Economist

10,000 Syrians have crossed to Turkey

"The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones, who is on the Turkish side of the border with Syria, says more than 5,000 refugees have registered with officials.

However, another 5,000 have entered the country unofficially, he says, while hundreds more are massed at the border, waiting for the army's next move.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The killer sprouts

Health authorities in Germany have finally been able to show that the pathogens which caused the deadly EHEC outbreak came from sprouts at an organic farm in the Uelzen district. According to SPIEGEL ONLINE information, the breakthrough was made by scientists in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Final verification, however, is still pending.

As of Friday it remained unclear how the dangerous bacteria came to be present at the farm. Spiegel


Wednesday, June 08, 2011


Apple wants to build a new office

Steve Jobs presented the plan to Cupertino city council yesterday.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Doubt raised on China's census results

China’s just released 10-year census shows the country’s population total at 1.3397 billion people. Compared with the last census conducted in 2000, the 2010 numbers show that the population grew by 73.9 million people, an average growth rate of 0.57%, which is a 0.5% drop in growth from the previous 10-year period.

The fact that the population’s average growth rate has dropped by almost half over the past decade would in itself be shocking. But a closer look at the numbers raises doubts as to whether China really does have 1.3397 billion inhabitants.

According to the life expectancy table, the death rate per year of the under-55 age group is 0.22%. This means the figure of 933.98 million from the 2000 Census for the 15-59 age group should be re-adjusted to around 913.43 million. Such an adjustment results in a 2.87% growth rate, which brings the total current population to 1.31 billion. And if the same 2.87% growth rate is applied to other age groups, the true population of China stands at around 1.3 billion (World Crunch)

The hunt for killer veggies

Was it sprouts? Or was it cucumbers, tomatoes or lettuce? The search for the cause of the deadliest E. coli outbreak on record continues in Germany. As of Monday evening, the death toll had climbed to 22 and the number of infections likely surpassed 2,200, the country's disease control authority, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). A number of other infections were also reported across Europe, and even as far afield as the US -- with most of those believed to have visited the outbreak epicentre of Hamburg before falling ill.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Diet for every whim

"the low-carbohydrate message has become so entrenched in modern diet wisdom that pasta, bread, rice and potatoes have been widely accepted as being intrinsically ‘bad’. 
But does it have to be this way? A new diet plan claims not, positively encouraging its followers to eat spaghetti and jacket potatoes with meals yet claiming it’s possible to still lose up to 6lb in a week. 
It goes against everything we’ve been told by the likes of the Dukan and Atkins diets, but studies have shown that not all carbs are bad. Some contain a substance called resistant starch which, when consumed in quantity, actively encourages weight loss.
Daily Mail"
This diet rely on "starch resistant food" concept, which I have little idea about. It's also big on putting banana as part of daily diet. Banana is definitely yummy and you don't see a lot of overweight monkey. So maybe they should brand this "slim monkey" diet. 

Top 5 Best Tweets on Sarah's Palin History Rewriting

"The Alamo was a warning to Mexicans - learn English and stand in line." 
"The White House burned down in 1812 when roasting marshmellows got out of hand while singing America the Beautiful" 
"The Bill of Rights is the name given to the 10 Commandments after Thomas Jefferson added them to the Constitution " 
"The Vietnam Wall was what kept Ho Chi Minh from invading The White House." 
"Sarah can't be going to Philly - that's where the Liberal Bell is!"
Twitter's According to Palin

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Murder by Mob in the shanty town of South Africa

The mob, desperate for vengeance, had found an unlikely guide to lead them into their dark work. Fifteen-year-old Siphiwe, short, round-faced and reliably smiling, declared, "I know where these criminals live."
NY Times Magazine

The link goes to the print version. 

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Horrifying tales of Sex Trafficking in America

“There are basically two business models: manipulating girls through violence—that’s called ‘gorilla’ pimping—and controlling them with drugs,” says Patel, who prosecuted the case of New York–based trafficker Corey Davis, a.k.a. “Magnificent.” A high-living, highly educated pimp who kept the slave master’s manifesto The Willie Lynch Letter and the Making of a Slave in his Mercedes, Davis, Patel says, made sex slaves out of, among others, a 12-year-old runaway and a university coed on a track scholarship. To force them to do his bidding, Davis allegedly sliced a girl in his “stable” with a box cutter and stomped others into submission with a special pair of Timberland boots—a technique known as “Timming.” Another female, a 15-year-old patient of Dr. Sharon Cooper’s, was zipped into a duffel bag and deposited by her pimp on a six-lane highway. The pimp of Caroline (a former Connecticut 4-H Club member) plucked out her fingernails one by one until she passed out from the pain. Natalie, an ex–Catholic schoolgirl rescued by gems, was from the age of 13 tortured or beaten with water, belts, chains, even a bag of frozen oranges. “Pimping,” Natalie says, “is not cool. A pimp is a wife beater, rapist, murderer, child-molester, drug dealer, and slave driver rolled into one.”
Vanity Fair

International Human Organ Black Market

On the night of Jan. 11, Turkish police officers burst into a villa in Istanbul's Asian quarter and arrested a 53-year-old transplant surgeon named Yusuf Sonmez. Interpol had been looking for Sonmez since 2008, when a Turkish man collapsed in the airport in Pristina, Kosovo, and reported that his kidney had been stolen. The incident led to an investigation by European Union prosecutors, who uncovered an international organ-stealing and smuggling ring of alarming scope. Sonmez and eight co-conspirators, prosecutors alleged in December, had lured poor people from Central Asia and Europe to Pristina, harvested their organs, and sold them at up to $100,000 a pop to medical tourists from Canada, Germany, Israel, and Poland. The clinic where Sonmez did his work, a separate report by the Council of Europe alleged, was part of an even vaster organ-smuggling network -- one which, incredibly, even involved Kosovo's prime minister, Hashim Thaci. FP
There's  a market for anything. Yuck.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

vi gang sign

converts to vi/vim will find this story about one man's quest to develop a gang sign for his favorite text editor amusing:

But there was a surprise I hadn’t foreseen: soon after it appeared on the reddit front page, a few redditors over there pointed out that this was indeed very, very close, almost identical, to an obscene gesture with a sexual connotation called “The Shocker”. Here is a link to the mostly SFW wikipedia article describing it, but don’t click if you prefer not to get the detailed description of a seriously obscene hand gesture with a sexual connotation. I had been totally unaware of this, and I had been flashing it at the top of my now-pretty-popular article!

I was mildly anxious about it, but rationalized not changing it in the following way:

1. The sign is not exactly the same, as the shocker has the index and middle finger together, while the vi gang sign has them in a ‘v’ shape (a little problem is that my version hadn’t emphasized that separation and was closer to the shocker than necessary).
2. If someone doesn’t know about the shocker, there is no problem at all
3. If someone does know about the obscene version, then whose fault is it really?

Secret Service Hong Kong Star

Boston Big Picture has more amazing photos from Obama's trip to Europe.

The dude on the right comes out straight from John Woo movies.

The old age sectarian rift

A number of Shia and Sufi leaders on Tuesday submitted a notification to the attorney general, accusing Salafi leaders of inciting sectarian strife by burning down churches and the shrines of religious figures.

They also presented a CD with recordings of speeches delivered to this effect by the same Salafi leaders, saying copies of the CD had been sent to Egyptians living in Saudi Arabia.

“We shall hold demonstrations and resort to international courts if our notification is ignored,” said Shia leader Mohamed al-Dariny. “Those people want to destroy our national unity.”

For his part, Salafi spokesman Khaled al-Saeed accused the Shia of being financed by Iran to fight the Sunnies.
Masr Al Youm
 There are millions of Sufi in Egypt and a smaller numbers of Shia. They are definitely much larger than Salafi.

Malta says yes to divorce

TIME has the story. Now finally it is legal to obtain divorce in the country.