Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leg Bombing

An American in Paris

An American in Paris: This Vincente Minnelli film, with Gene Kelly, picked up the idea of stopping within a film for a dance from The Red Shoes. 1951
And 84 other movies recommended by Martin Scorsese to learn everything about movie.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quotable quote

Assad’s wife has been buying property in London: Make her use it and make the Syrian people free. (Cohen)

NPR new ethics manual

Our purpose is to pursue the truth. Diligent verification is critical. We take great care to ensure that statements of fact in our journalism are both correct and in context. In our reporting, we rigorously challenge both the claims we encounter and the assumptions we bring. We devote our resources and our skills to presenting the fullest version of the truth we can deliver, placing the highest value on information we have gathered and verified ourselves.(NPR)
Awesome. I hope it ends the "he said, she said" 'objective' journalism. The world is round dammit!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Awesome artificial meat burger

A QUARTER of a million euros is rather a lot to pay for a hamburger, but that will be the cost of the patty which Mark Post proposes to stick in a bun this October. The burger in question—not so much a quarter-pounder as a quarter-million-pounder—will be so expensive because it will be made from meat that has been grown from scratch in a laboratory.(Economist)
When the price comes down a bit (from 250,000 Euros), I will eat it.

Wikileaks reveal millions of secret Startfor emails

Stratfor's clients are the US Government, other countries and military organizations, as well as private companies like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman or Raytheon. They have a global network of spies in governments and media companies, including "secret deals with dozens of media organizations and journalists, from Reuters to the Kiev Post." According to the emails, these spies get paid in Swiss bank accounts and pre-paid credit cards.(Gizmodo)
 CEO of Statfor resigned today.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Vietnam's agricultural export

Vietnam is the world's leading exporter of pepper, shipping 116,000 tons of the spice in 2010, and has led the world in exports of cashews for four years in a row. The country is also the world's second-biggest exporter of rice after Thailand and second only to Brazil in exports of coffee, which have nearly tripled in just four years. Vietnam ranks fifth in the world in the production of tea and sixth in exports of seafood such as catfish, cuttlefish, shrimp, and tuna.(Vietnam)

Oil for security of Somalia - good

Britain is involved in a secret high-stakes dash for oil in Somalia, with the government offering humanitarian aid and security assistance in the hope of a stake in the beleaguered country's future energy industry.
Riven by two decades of conflict that have seen the emergence of a dangerous Islamic insurgency, Somalia is routinely described as the world's most comprehensively "failed" state, as well as one of its poorest. Its coastline has become a haven for pirates preying on international shipping in the Indian Ocean.
David Cameron last week hosted an international conference on Somalia, pledging more aid, financial help and measures to tackle terrorism. The summit followed a surprise visit by the foreign secretary, William Hague, to Mogadishu, the Somali capital, where he talked about "the beginnings of an opportunity'' to rebuild the country.(Guardian)
 Somalia is a anarchic wasteland currently. If the oil exploitation can bring some sense of security and stability to the country, all the power to them.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

parasites promote family values

A provocative new study published in the journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences by two biologists from the University of New Mexico suggests that religiosity and strong family ties are partly due to cultural evolution driven by environmental factors, namely high rates of parasite infection. What the authors are NOT suggesting is an answer to the question "Are Overly Religious People Affected by Stress from Biological Parasites?" as one website suggests. The adaptation they propose would not generalize to individual behavior.

Here is the abstract (the paper itself has critical responses from other scientists):
Abstract: Throughout the world people differ in the magnitude with which they value strong family ties or heightened religiosity. We propose that this cross-cultural variation is a result of a contingent psychological adaptation that facilitates in-group assortative sociality in the face of high levels of parasite-stress while devaluing in-group assortative sociality in areas with low levels of parasite-stress. This is because in-group assortative sociality is more important for the avoidance of infection from novel parasites and for the management of infection in regions with high levels of parasite-stress compared with regions of low infectious disease stress. We examined this hypothesis by testing the predictions that there would be a positive association between parasite-stress and strength of family ties or religiosity. We conducted this study by comparing among nations and among states in the United States of America. We found for both the international and the interstate analyses that in-group assortative sociality was positively associated with parasite-stress. This was true when controlling for potentially confounding factors such as human freedom and economic development. The findings support the parasite-stress theory of sociality, that is, the proposal that parasite-stress is central to the evolution of social life in humans and other animals.

Death to America

Don't bomb Iran

But uncertainty would reign. Iran is a vast, populous and sophisticated country with a nuclear programme that began under the shah. It may have secret sites that escape unscathed. Even if all its sites are hit, Iran’s nuclear know-how cannot be bombed out of existence. Nor can its network of suppliers at home and abroad. It has stocks of uranium in various stages of enrichment; an unknown amount would survive an attack, while the rest contaminated an unforeseeable area. Iran would probably withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, under which its uranium is watched by the International Atomic Energy Agency. At that point its entire programme would go underground—literally and figuratively. If Iran decided it needed a bomb, it would then be able to pursue one with utmost haste and in greater secrecy. Saudi Arabia and the others might conclude that they, too, needed to act pre-emptively to gain their own deterrents. (The Economist)

Magic Tricks

In the last half decade, magic—normally deemed entertainment fit only for children and tourists in Las Vegas—has become shockingly respectable in the scientific world. Even I—not exactly renowned as a public speaker—have been invited to address conferences on neuroscience and perception. I asked a scientist friend (whose identity I must protect) why the sudden interest. He replied that those who fund science research find magicians “sexier than lab rats.” Read more

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pictures to wet your appetite for travelling

US Welfare State

Most of it goes to corporations
The U.S. does not have a significantly smaller welfare state than the European nations. We’re just better at hiding it. The Europeans provide welfare provisions through direct government payments. We do it through the back door via tax breaks.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently calculated how much each affluent country spends on social programs. When you include both direct spending and tax expenditures, the U.S. has one of the biggest welfare states in the world. We rank behind Sweden and ahead of Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland and Canada. Social spending in the U.S. is far above the organization’s average.(Brooks)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

HP profit is down 7% from last year

Not good especially if you contrast it to Apple's amazing bonanza.

BRICs and beyond

The Atlantic has a special report on the emerging economic powerhouse.

Here's an interesting chart of Egypt's monthly consumer spending breakdown

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

War Drum on Iran

The United States has now endured what by some measures is the longest period of war in its history, with more than 6,300 American troops killed and 46,000 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ultimate costs estimated at $3 trillion. Both wars lasted far longer than predicted. The outcomes seem disappointing and uncertain.
So why is there already a new whiff of gunpowder in the air? Talk of war over Iran’s nuclear program has reached a strident pitch in recent weeks, as Israel has escalated threats of a possible strike, the oratory of American politicians has become more bellicose and Iran has responded for the most part defiantly.
With Israel and Iran exchanging accusations of assassination plots, some analysts see a danger of blundering into a war that would inevitably involve the United States.(NY Times)
 I mean, really? At this rate we will be seeing one major war every decade. That's insane. 

Greece - Everything is relative

Egypt has 80 million people and its GDP is below Greece's 11 million people.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Greece won't bring down Europe, yet

They got another 130 billion Euro bailout today. Keep in mind that Greece GDP is 300 billion dollars.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Aral Sea Exhibition

A photographer friend of mine,  Nadia Shira Cohen, visited Kazakhstan last year and now she's throwing an exhibition in Rome called The Lovely Sea right now. You can see her series of photographs here.

South Africa's cheese boom

After the deregulation of the milk industry, South African firms are enjoying international success.

Iran Female Ninjas

This is so awesome.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Big Picture's New York Fashion Week

(Boston Big Picture)

Fashion models are weird creatures.

Brazil to make it easier for skilled professional to come and work

The Brazilian government is looking to change the way its immigration policy is oriented towards highly-skilled foreign professionals wanting to work in the country. Some commentators say that Brazil wants to lure skilled workers from Europe made unemployed in the economic downturn, at the same time as a crackdown against illegal workers has also been announced. (Rio Times)

Latvians reject proposoal to add Russian as a second language in their constitution

A majority of Latvian voters have rejected a proposal that would have made Russian a second official language, according to preliminary results from the referendum. The result was expected, as the country's top politicians had spoken out against the idea.(Russian Today)

German President resigned

The Spiegel called him "A man too small for the Presidency". Ouch.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Reading list for revolutionaries

The Best Defense has an interesting list
How We Won the War by General Vo Nguyen Giap: North Vietnam's top military strategist describes how victory from occupying forces was won, from the founding of the Army in 1944 to the departure of the U.S. in 1975.
Street Without Joy by Bernard Fall: The 1961 classic about the hubris and blunders of French forces in Vietnam, leading to the fall of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. An epic book in many dimensions, the most important of which may be its omission from the readings of American military leaders during the 1960's and 1970's, facilitating a repeat of history.


The full details of recent experiments that made a deadly flu virus more contagious will be published, probably within a few months, despite recommendations by the United States that some information be kept secret for fear that terrorists could use it to start epidemics.(NY Times)
 The study is what at stake

The researchers in the Netherlands and Wisconsin made genetic changes in the virus that made it transmissible through the air among ferrets, an animal considered a good model for the way flu behaves in humans. It is not known whether the new virus would be equally contagious in people.  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

80% of female in Egypt subjected to Female Genital Mutilation

Astonishingly, in 21st Century Egypt, the latest figures suggest that more than 90% of the women have been subject to female genital mutilation (FGM). The figure comes from a Unicef approved survey carried out in 2008, the year that the practice was banned. 
A new set of figures are due to be published later this year and doctors expect them to show a 10% decline. That still leaves the majority of women in Egypt exposed to unimaginable physical and psychological pain and denied what the rest of us would call a normal sex life. 
The practice is not restricted to Muslims, as has often been claimed, but also carried out by Christians, who make up 10% of Egypt's population. 
The practice predates the arrival of either religion in Egypt - there is evidence that it was practised back in Pharaonic times. (BBC)
I was shocked when I heard about the figure last month from a friend who work at Norwegian Embassy here. 

Van Halen and the brown M&Ms

It's one of those rock 'n' roll legends that turns out to be true: In the 1980s, the party-rock superstars in Van Halen demanded, via a clause embedded in their tour rider, that no brown-colored M&Ms be allowed backstage at their concerts. (NPR)

It's not about being divas. It's about making sure that the promoters are paying attention to details, which is important if you are hosting 50,000 rock concerts. 

Iron Sky trailer

They have Nazi and UFO in the same movie, a sure winning combination. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Apple: Design is how it works

Daring Fireball has a barnburner on Apple's philosophy. Btw, AAPL now hits $500 a piece.

Infograph on the Bangkok Blast

Child malnutrition: scourge of our time

Malnutrition is the root cause of the deaths of 2.6 million children each year, and the bodies and brains of 450 million more will fail to develop properly due to inadequate diet over the next 15 years unless immediate action is taken, according to a survey published on Wednesday by a leading international charity.
The survey of developing countries, A Life Free from Hunger, produced by Save the Children, estimates one in four children are already stunted because of malnutrition.(Guardian)
The 2.6 million numbers is shocking but even worse take a look at the 450 million numbers of poor child development. This will have massive impact in the shape of the world in the future.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Iranian plot?

After yesterday's attempted hit on Israel targets in New Delhi and Tbilisi, there's another incident involving Iranian today in Bangkok

Police in Thailand say two explosions have hit a business and residential neighbourhood of Bangkok, but it is unclear how many people have been injured in the blasts.
Thai police told the Associated Press that the two explosions happened on Soi Sukhumvit 71, a street running off a busy multilane road that bisects the capital. (AP)
Unlike the bombing in New Delhi and attack in Tbilisi, the attack on Bangkok actually involved an Iranian instead of just an accusation. 

 This is the dude that blew his own legs off

Bangkok Post has more.

They have caught the second Iranian who was trying to leave the country via the airport. Big mistake dude, if you want to run from the law, go to the jungle and cross to the neighboring countries and hope that the malaria and snakes don't kill you first.

JSOC - a new CIA, with lots of guns

There are a lot of buried caches in West Virginia and Virginia of JSOC documents. I only say that with some exaggeration. This is obviously a command that had to be secret when it was stood up in part because secrecy is the coin of realm when doing one-off special operations. The problem generally here is that by law, JSOC can’t really collect strategic intelligence or intelligence for its own sake, depending on where they are. In the war zone, in Iraq or Afghanistan, it’s different; they can collect and use intelligence there. But they also operate outside of designated war zones in North Africa, in South America, in Asia, and they use these intelligence collection techniques there as well. (Danger Room)
 The snake eaters are popular right now.

Brainstorming doesn't work?

Let's gather together and figure it out why.
The results were telling. The brainstorming groups slightly outperformed the groups given no instructions, but teams given the debate condition were the most creative by far. On average, they generated nearly twenty per cent more ideas. And, after the teams disbanded, another interesting result became apparent. Researchers asked each subject individually if she had any more ideas about traffic. The brainstormers and the people given no guidelines produced an average of three additional ideas; the debaters produced seven. New Yorker

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bloodletting Washington Post

But in looking at this buyout, I worry that The Post is moving away from local news and toward a publication that covers only national politics and government and the Redskins, one that relies too much on columnists.... (The Atlantic)
(Ascertaining) Facts are expensive, opinions are much cheaper.

Lithium Cartel

According to country’s Ministry of Science and Technology, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile will control the lithium market in near future and together could do it with a sort of OPEC-like arrangement.

Increased production of lithium in Argentina was marked by the opening of lithium mine in northwestern Jujuy province in late 2010. Currently lithium production in Argentina has increased from 36.000 metric tons to 38.000 metric tons after the government opened Olaroz mines.(Commodity Online)

Smart. This way they can control the price somewhat. Yes, that's Lithium in Lithium Battery that powers your gadgets and computers.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

96 million of adult American are unmarried

I am surprised with this figure. It is pretty staggering considering the population of US is just 300 million and change. 

BIFF starts this week

BIFF = Berlin International Film Festival. Spiegel has a preview.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sun Set

Syrian Army General assasinated in Damascus

Not sure who killed him but the civil war has escalated one more notch.

Jeremy Lin Show

I usually don't like NBA but this dude outscored Kobe Bryant by 38-34 and has been on fire this week. He has been averaging 25 points since starting last week with the Knicks.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What you think matters

A wonderful piece from Dave Winer
I need to be reminded of WYTM because when I grew up what I thought absolutely did not matter. My parents often put words in my mouth. They would infer intent that wasn't there. They would call me names based on how my body looked to them. When I would object they screamed as if I were hurting them. I kept thinking how unfair this was, but I accepted their judgement. They have no idea who I am. But they've decided what I think. The problem for 15-year-olds is that to a large extent we had to accept our parents' vision for who we are. They were your whole world then. At 15 you look a lot like an adult, but you're still very much a child. And these people you trust are very confused about you. They aren't telling you that WYTM, quite the opposite. What You Think Counts For Shit. In all that confusion it's easy to forget that you matter. You get lost in trying to be who they say you are, and in more ways you're trying to be not who they say you are. It takes a lot of years to dig out of this hole.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

what would the world have been like w/o Zalman King?

Zalman King, a filmmaker who mixed artistic aspiration, a professed empathy for female sexuality and gauzy photography to bring soft-core pornography to cable television — particularly with his Showtime series “Red Shoe Diaries” in the 1990s — died on Friday at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 70. (NYTimes)

10 best airport terminals

Kefavlik, Iceland


Egypt's donors hiding behind IMF firewall

International donors have made any financial support they provide to Egypt contingent on Cairo first reaching agreement on a financing package with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country's prime minister said on Wednesday.(Ahram)
 It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Third Aussie backpacker died in Laos

The upcoming financial panic in Egypt

Egypt's foreign reserve hits $16.4 billion in January down from 18.1 last December. Check out the money flights last December(" $651 million of its external debt to creditors and $625 million was “repatriated by foreign investors”") February will be worse especially after the massacre of Port Said and the killings in Cairo.

"Twelve-month non- deliverable forwards for the pound were at 7.2 a dollar, reflecting expectations for the currency to decline 16 percent of its value over that period." Bloomberg

I wonder where the red line where capital flights accelerates (11 billion? 9 billions?); charging 42 employees of US based NGOs with criminal charges won't help Egypt's case either.

If the parliament worries about "foreign funding to destabilize Egypt", wait until foreign funding dries up and we'll witness what destabilization looks like. The cost of wheat imports are getting higher as well.

I wonder if Egypt will take loan from IMF (which usually comes with nasty conditions) - I also wonder if the government will impose currency control if panic sets in once the reserve red line got crossed.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Warias - Indonesia's Transvestite

The Vibe magazine coverts the plight of Waria, which is a combined word for "wanita" and "pria", the words for woman and man in Indonesia.

Social Enterprise Bubble

The Good magazine asks whether it is about to burst.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

China and Russia Veto UN Resolution

Regardless of the veto, there isn't really any clear way to intervene to the Syrian conflict unless the large regional players agrees to it (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran). You need two out of these three guys, which means Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Remember that Turkey opposed to Libya's intervention.
The only thing that can be done feasibly right now is arming the oppositions and hope for the best (pray that it won't break into Lebanon Civil War 2.0).

Next, get the Arab League to call for military intervention.

Then get Turkey on board.

Then warn Iran to get the fuck out the way.

Then do the NATO thingy.

Giant invaders

And now Burmese pythons are capturing headlines. These snakes can grow to 16 feet and eat almost anything -- even alligators (click if you dare, it's a photo of an alligator carcass and a dead python that burst open while devouring it). Since 2003, as a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences notes, the increase of the python population from just a few to perhaps a few thousand has been connected to declines of several native mammals. According to the study, observations of raccoons have declined 93 percent, bobcats by 87 percent, and possums by 98.9 percent. The Everglades are enormous -- nearly 4,000 square miles -- and it is difficult terrain to traverse. So it's hard to say how the pythons have affected rarer, quieter species such as egrets.  (The Atlantic)
Alligators vs Pythons. 

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Drop the car - Walk this way

FOR years urban planners have emphasised the needs of the motorist over those of the pedestrian. Thanks partly to greenery, partly to a greater understanding of how pedestrians behave, and partly to concerns about social cohesion, priorities are changing.
London provides two good examples of this shift. On February 1st Exhibition Road, a landmark street near many of the city’s museums, is being formally reopened after a three-year construction project to turn it into something that transport engineers like to call a “shared space”. Kerbs have been stripped out, along with the usual road markings, to create a thoroughfare that is designed to be shared by cyclists, pedestrians and cars alike. The idea, adopted from continental Europe, is to create an area which is not just more pleasant for people on foot but also safer because it encourages drivers to pay closer attention to their surroundings. (Economist)

They are implementing Hama Solution 2.0

More than 200 people have been killed in shelling by Syrian forces in the city of Homs, according to activists, as the UN security council prepares to vote on a draft resolution backing an Arab call for President Bashar al-Assad to resign.
As news of the violence spread, a crowd of Syrians stormed their country's embassy in Cairo and protests broke out outside Syrian missions in Britain, Germany and the United States.
Death tolls cited by activists and opposition groups ranged from 217 to 260, making the Homs attack the deadliest so far in Assad's crackdown on protests that erupted 11 months ago inspired by uprisings that overthrew three Arab leaders. (Guardian)

Friday, February 03, 2012

Clashes restart in Cairo today

Last night I wrote this on my Facebook wall:
Cairo is tense. In my neighborhood the usually heavy traffic vanished - tomorrow is Friday so Thursday night is usually traffic jam night. Not tonight. The massacre at Port Said affected the most beloved football team in Egypt and this unites people across their ideological/religious/class lines. There's a raging anger in the city and we shall see how it manifests tonight and the rest of the weekend.

Now we are seeing the reactions in progress in Downtown Cairo and other cities in Egypt.

This was the barrier erected on the way to Interior Ministry at Downtown Cairo after the previous week long bloody clashes mere two months ago. The protesters dismantled in last night and now the street stone and tear gas battles rage on the street and surrounding area.  

More pictures from last night here.This stream also has plenty of pictures of what's happening yesterday and today.

Usually I will come drop by Tahrir when there are demonstrations but I am sitting this one out. There are too much tear gas and too much anger on the street.

These time lapsed pictures showed first one of the main entrance to Tahrir square. The latter part at the night showed a section of the Mohammed Mahmoud St where the Ministry of Interior is located. This street witnessed a violent week long clashes two months ago.

There is a palpable sense of crisis at this moment. Many people do not much care about the revolution and all the politics but people greatly love their football and especially El Ahly club, the best football club in Egypt (they won the country's league cup for 6 consecutive year now). This is a country with fanatical love for football and El Ahly is their biggest team. Now they are chanting against the military ruler.

Where do we go from here? I frankly do not know. We might see an intense fight for a week (like previous clashes) which then burn out. Or we might see more profound political concession from the military ruler to speed up the date of transition to civilian power (scheduled for July this year). Or we might see Revolution 2.0.

I have no idea but hang tight.

Why Greece is doomed

Helped by cheap funds from the European Central Bank, borrowing costs have come down steadily. Yields on Italy's 10-year bonds are now around 5.5 percent, compared with almost 8 percent at the height of the crisis late last year. That is still high but no longer at the levels which pitched Greece into seeking an international bailout in 2010. The pressure on Rome has palpably diminished.
By contrast Papademos, a former vice president of the European Central Bank, is facing resistance to reforms from the three parties that make up his emergency coalition government and open impatience from foreign creditors, especially European paymaster Germany, which despairs at Greece's chaotic response to the crisis.
The Athens government has passed brutal cuts to public spending and steep tax hikes but even with a gun to its head, it seems powerless to reform the inefficient public administration or overcome resistance from unions and lobby groups to open up its markets to more competition.
"It's all very well crying for the poor Greeks but they have hardly undertaken a single one of the key reforms," said one senior international official, who is closely involved in negotiations with Athens on a new bailout. (Reuter)
Because the Greeks don't give a shit about their country.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Bang Bang

The Philippine military said it killed Southeast Asia's most-wanted terrorist and two other senior militants Thursday in a U.S.-backed airstrike that would mark one of the region's biggest anti-terror successes in recent years. (AP)

 Zulkifi bin Hir, an human excrement of  a man who happens to be Al-Qaeda point main in South East Asia, was among those who swim with the fishes. Good riddance.

73 Dead in Port Said, Egypt Massacre

The massacre in Port Said is horrifying. It is not easy to kill 73 people with knives, sticks and other blunt weapons. Human has the ability to survive horrible injuries and yet so much bloodshed in such short amount of time.

All of this come out of a highly contested football game that was not secured properly. Fuckin' a. This is the worst violence in the history of modern football. 
Egypt Independent has more.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Super Euro Fund planned (1.5 trillion Euros)

Europe could have a 'super' €1,500 billion ($1,969 billion) debt firewall by the summer under plans to combine three funds of €500 billion each. The Financial Times Deutschland reported on Tuesday that the plan was discussed at a meeting on the sidelines of the recent World Economic Forum in Davos attended by US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and his French counterpart Francois Baroin.  (Spiegel)
Never get in the way of a determined alliance of Germany and USA.

Flaliling RIM

I kid you not. Check out more here.