Sunday, September 30, 2012

Now it's the Buddhists' turn

Hundreds of Muslims in Bangladesh burned at least four Buddhist temples and 15 homes of Buddhists on Sunday after complaining that a Buddhist man had insulted Islam, police and residents said.

Members of the Buddhist minority in the Cox's Bazar area in the southeast of the country said unidentified people were bent on upsetting peaceful relations between Muslims and Buddhists. NY Times
Someone should start a demolition business based on insults to Islam. There are a minor number of Muslims that are so happy to get agitated on pretty much any reasons - whether it is towards the other sects in Islam (Sufi or Shiite are the usual target) or other religions. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Beautiful killers on the loose


No one had warned Joosten and Taal about the potential hazards of an African bat cave. They knew nothing of a virus called Marburg, first identified in 1967 and thought to be carried by bats (though they had heard of Ebola, another filovirus). They stayed in the cave for only about 10 minutes. Then they left, visited the mountain gorillas, did a boat trip, and flew back to Amsterdam. Thirteen days after the cave visit, at home in Noord-Brabant, Astrid fell ill.

At first it seemed no worse than flu. Then her temperature went higher and higher. After a few days she began suffering organ failure. Her doctors suspected Lassa fever and moved her to a hospital in Leiden, where she developed a rash and conjunctivitis; she haemorrhaged. She was put into an induced coma, a move dictated by the need to dose her more aggressively with antiviral medicine. Before she lost consciousness, Taal went back into the isolation room, kissed his wife and said to her, "Well, we'll see you in a few days." Blood samples, sent to a lab in Hamburg, confirmed the diagnosis: Marburg. Astrid worsened. As her organs shut down, she lacked oxygen to the brain, suffered cerebral oedema, and before long she was declared brain-dead. "They kept her alive for a few more hours, until the family arrived," Taal told me. "Then they pulled out the plug and she died within a few minutes." The doctors, appalled by his recklessness in kissing her goodbye, had prepared an isolation room for Taal himself, but that was never needed. Guardian

Friday, September 28, 2012

Shakeup in Chinese Communist Leadership

China's ruling Communist Party on Friday expelled disgraced senior politician Bo Xilai from top party positions and said it would hand him over for criminal investigation accused of multiples crimes, opening a new phase in a scandal that has shaken a leadership succession. Reuter
The hammer comes down. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Driverless cars are now legal in California

On Tuesday, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1298, which affirms that so call autonomous vehicles are legal in California, while requiring the Department of Motor Vehicles to establish and enforce safety regulations for manufacturers. The governor put pen to paper at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, where the technology giant has been developing and testing driverless Toyota Prii for years. SeattlePI

April 11 Record Breaking Earthquake

An 8.7 earthquake that struck west of Indonesia on April 11 was the biggest of its kind ever recorded and confirms suspicions that a giant tectonic plate is breaking up, scientists said on Wednesday.

The quake, caused by an unprecedented quadruple-fault rupture, gave Earth’s crustal mosaic such a shock that it unleashed quakes around the world nearly a week later, they said. The Jakarta Globe

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mali intervention is about to start

Malian President Dioncounda Traore has endorsed a new plan to construct a military base that will host some 3,000 foreign troops from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the capital city of Bamako, along with an unspecified number of foreign police. Antiwar

Monday, September 24, 2012

Britain and Canada to share embassies

Britain and Canada will establish joint diplomatic missions and share embassy offices abroad, the foreign secretary, William Hague, is set to announce. Guardian

Great idea - it will save money for both countries. Next they should share embassies with 52 more countries.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mercenaries vs Pirates vs UN in Somalia

In June of this year, my bow-hunting friend, a group of four dozen South African mentors,and 500 newly trained Somali recruits pointed their armada of 70 shiny Toyota Land cruisers, a small fleet of high-powered rigid inflatable boats, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft towards the coast of Somalia -- the heart of pirate country.

This once-motley group, the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF), had been trained by African, British, South African, and U.S. foreign contractors for two years; in May 2011, they began setting up forward operating bases in remote coastal areas of Eyl, Hafun, Bargal, and Qaw. By June 2012, they were ready for the full invasion wave. FP
What a fiasco.  

Benghazi takes care of business

Benghazian takes back their city

Up to four people were reported dead in clashes which broke out when the last and biggest militia was attacked in the early hours of Saturday morning. Earlier, members of Ansar al-Sharia, the militant group accused of responsibility for Mr Stevens' death, were forced out of their strongholds in the city.

The protests in Benghazi on Friday evening, estimated at 30,000-strong, featured pro-American slogans and banners, unusual for demonstrations in Arab countries. Though many protesters said they were attending "for Benghazi, not for America", some held up placards commemorating Mr Stevens, who lived in Benghazi last year while co-ordinating American support for the revolution. (Telegraph)
This is encouraging that they are not falling into the trap of finally being free from a tyranny of a mad man to another trap of a religious tyranny run by fanatical people. 

5 reasons to believe Indonesian miracle

The World Economic Forum ranked Indonesia 25th out of 139 countries for macroeconomic stability in 2012, up sharply from 89th in 2007. For comparison, Brazil ranked 62nd and India ranked 99th. FP

Two out of the three authors for this article are from McKinsey so take the report with a grain of salt. But indeed Indonesia's economy is booming right now and has been booming for the past 8 years. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Brief Guide to Odessa

Catherine the Great founded the city in 1794, envisioning a glorious seaside southern capital. Creating an urban pearl on the shores of the Black Sea, her team of international architects didn’t disappoint. Fabulous frontages went up, displaying an eclectic blend of architectural styles. Limes, acacias, chestnuts and plane trees were planted, adding greenery and shading streets to keep the Russian aristocrats who flocked here cool in summer. The Telegraph

Thursday, September 20, 2012

'I am a traitor' - a pushback against anti Japanese sentiment in China

“What kind of brainwashing has made people think that buying a Japanese car is an act of treason? … A car is just something your fellow Chinese people use to get around in, yet you attempt to guess whether or not they have incorrect political opinions or hidden ill-will by what car they use.” tealeafnation
The event in the past week of China and Japan political altercation over some tiny islands is very unsettling. Check this bombastic anti-Japanese slogan unfurled in front of an Audi dealership

Even if China becomes nothing but tombstones, we must exterminate the Japanese; even if we have to destroy our own country, we must take back the Diaoyu Islands." (China Geeks)

The Chinese government is in transition right now and they will change leadership next month; however their next leader, Xi Jinping, went missing for 4 weeks from the public view before reappearing last week. This smells like rotten fish. One just do not disappear from public for weeks and weeks especially if you are the next leader of a 1.6 billion people nation.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dark Energy Camera first photos

Astronomers on Monday released the first batch of images taken by an enormous, skyward looking camera situated in the Chilean Andes, known as the Dark Energy Camera (DECam), which was designed to solve one of the greatest cosmic mysteries: Why the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate.TPM

Jesus had a wife

A historian of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School has identified a scrap of papyrus that she says was written in Coptic in the fourth century and contains a phrase never seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife ...’ ”

The faded papyrus fragment is smaller than a business card, with eight lines on one side, in black ink legible under a magnifying glass. Just below the line about Jesus having a wife, the papyrus includes a second provocative clause that purportedly says, “she will be able to be my disciple.”

The finding was made public in Rome on Tuesday at the International Congress of Coptic Studies by Karen L. King, a historian who has published several books about new Gospel discoveries and is the first woman to hold the nation’s oldest endowed chair, the Hollis professor of divinity. NY Times
It looks pretty solid and it is backed by the smarties at Harvard.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

video incident

An interesting essay by Stanley Fish on free speech and the currently notorious video:

We have decided that the potential unhappy consequences of a strong free speech regime must be tolerated because the principle is more important than preventing any harm it might permit. We should not be surprised, however, if others in the world — most others, in fact — disagree, not because they are blind and ignorant but because they worship God and truth rather than the First Amendment, which not only keeps God and truth at arm’s length but regards them with a deep suspicion.

A point that Fish makes is that the U.S. commitment to freedom of speech is rather unusual compared to most other countries in the world. Most developed countries forbid group libel, or hate speech. The video in question is generally *not* considered to be an example of hate speech, though it is clearly blasphemous. Laws on blasphemy, however, have in the past been common in the US. Take for example an 1879 law in the state of Maryland:

If any person, by writing or speaking, shall blaspheme or curse God, or shall write or utter any profane words of and concerning our Saviour, Jesus Christ, or of and concerning the Trinity, or any of the persons thereof, he shall, on conviction, be fined not more than one hundred dollars, or imprisoned not more than six months, or both fined and imprisoned as aforesaid, at the discretion of the court.

I tend to agree with Fish that having a large number of people upset with the US (whether or not there are outbursts of violence) is "the price you pay" for having a rather extreme policy of permitting a large array of types of speech can be clear threats to the public order. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Converting bunkers to hostels in Albania

A bunch of students are converting some of the 7000 bunkers in Albania  Spiegel

Bibi the asshole

He is making Santorum's argument that the entire regime in Iran sees itself and its entire country as a suicide bomber, eager to destroy itself in order to annihilate the Jewish state. Does he provide an historical example of such suicidal tendencies for the nation as a whole? No. Because there is no precedent. No precedent in Mao's China in its most radical era. No precedent in the Soviet Union under Stalin. No precedent even in North Korea, run by total loonies. The obvious answer, if you believe in just war theory, is to ratchet up non-military pressure to get real, effective inspection of Iran's nuclear facilities while protecting its absolute right to pursue peaceful nuclear power. Another obvious answer, if you think non-proliferation is the key to world peace (which I don't) is to get Israel to give up its nuclear weaponry - so that the entire region is nuke-free. Andrew Sullivan
Bibi put in that the Iranian regime do not have families - that each of the leader there do not have mothers, fathers, sons, daughters that will be killed and maimed in nuclear confrontation against Israel.

Iranians are human too. They are not going to commit national suicides. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Zooming out from the Middle East

One has to zoom out from the Middle East to see that not every major Islamic organizations react the same way to the current crisis. Nahdlatul Ulama is the largest Islamic organization in Indonesia (with 30 million strong membership, runs about 7000 Islamic school and 44 universities - and since 2010 bans its officials from being involved in politics); these are adults, with real power, that use them wisely.

The quote below was made by Siradjs, the Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, from their current national congress.

“We deplore those who insult the Prophet Muhammad, but again this must be done with a cool head. There is no need to take to the street and burn anything. Do not create chaos,” Siradj said during NU’s national congress in Cirebon, West Java. The Jakarta Post

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The US Marines and Embassies

Embassies are like guests in your home - you have responsibility for their safety and well being. These basic core of hospitality were broken in Benghazi, Cairo and Sanaa at the moment.

Ambassador Stevens was killed in a temporary location for US consulate without the protection of the Marines. The US embassy here in Cairo is protected by some awesome Marines but these guys/gals don't just shoot people that breach the wall and burn the flag - their restraints are the reasons why the situation didn't become worse.

Egypt and Libya

Libya's leadership passed the test - Egypt's missing.
Libya was the location of the greater horror, with the death of Stevens and his consular staffers. But across the Libyan political spectrum there has been an immediate rush of condemnation of the attacks and deep empathy with the American victims. Mohammed al-Magariaf, president of Libya's National Council, quickly declared that "in the strongest possible words, in all languages, we condemn, reject, and denounce what happened in Benghazi yesterday in the assault on the US Consulate." Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur said "I condemn these barbaric acts in the strongest possible terms. This is an attack on America, Libya and free people everywhere." Prime Minister Abd al-Rahim al-Keib offered similar strong condemnation. Libyan officials have promised to bring those responsible for the killings to justice. Libyans online have been similarly outraged and appalled. My Twitter timeline has filled with angry and outraged comments from Libyans denouncing the attacks and expressing sympathy and support for the dead Americans. Numerous protests have been announced for the next few days against the attackers.

In Egypt, on the other hand, President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood has been notably invisible. To this point, we have heard no statements from Egyptian government officials condemning the assault on the embassy, no expressions of concern or sympathy, no suggestion of any fault on their own side. The Muslim Brotherhood had previously been planning rallies against the notorious film, and at the time of this writing has not canceled them. Even when they finally issued a statement condemning the violence in Libya, they were not forthcoming on Cairo. They seem far more concerned at the moment with their domestic political interest in protecting their right flank against Salafi outbidding than with behaving like the governing party of a state. Foreign Policy

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The killing of US Ambassador to Libya

The US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, has died from smoke inhalation in an attack on the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, security sources have told Al Jazeera.

An armed mob attacked and set fire to the building in a protest against an amateur film deemed offensive to Islam's Prophet Muhammad, after similar protests in Egypt's capital.

The ambassador was paying a short visit to Benghazi when the consulate came under attack on Tuesday night, Al Jazeera's Suleiman Idrissi reported from the eastern Libyan city.

He died of suffocation during the attack, along with two US security personnel who were accompanying him, security sources told Al Jazeera. Another consulate employee, whose nationality could not immediately be confirmed, was also killed. AJE

Ambassador Christopher Stevens

This pisses me off to no end. Yeah, protesters also breached the outer wall of US embassy in Cairo (but the US Embassy is large and the buildings in the compound weren't touched) and burned the US flag. It's appalling but there was no one harmed. On the other hand, the US consulate in Benghazi, the very city that the US led coalition saved under the threat of Qaddafi's just last year, was burned down to the ground.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

medical benefits of watching reruns

A new study by Jaye Derrick of the University at Buffalo argues that watching reruns helps to restore one's reserves of self-control: exercising "effortful" self-control depletes these resources, and so do difficult social interactions. Positive social interactions, however, restore self-control, even if they are based on fictional worlds (e.g., television reruns).

Today 11 years ago

Symbiotic Relationship between China and Russia on Food Production

According to the World Food Program, Russia has the world’s largest reserve of arable yet now fallow land, a legacy of the collapse of the Soviet collective farm system and the depopulation of rural Russia over the last two decades. Russia’s population is 141 million, compared with 1.3 billion in China. NY Times

This is awesome - Russia works with China to plow and till its vast lands to produce food. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sunday, September 09, 2012

APEC 2012 is on

The latest Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation is hosted in Vladiovostok, Russia.


This economic cooperation covers the most dynamic economic zones and countries from East Asia to Southern America
The idea of APEC was firstly publicly broached by former Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Bob Hawke, during a speech in Seoul, Korea in January 1989. Later that year, 12 Asia-Pacific economies met in Canberra, Australia to establish APEC. The founding members were: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.

China, Hong Kong, China and Chinese Taipei joined in 1991. Mexico and Papua New Guinea followed in 1993. Chile acceded in 1994. And in 1998, Peru, Russia and Viet Nam joined, taking the full membership to 21. (APEC)

Between 1989 and 1992, APEC met as an informal senior official and Ministerial level dialogue. In 1993, former United States President, Mr Bill Clinton, established the practice of an annual APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting.

La Tomatina 2012

Boston Big Picture

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Save The Children staffs got kicked out of Pakistan

Pakistan has given foreigners working for Save the Children a week to leave the country after becoming convinced that the aid organisation was used as cover by US spies hunting Osama bin Laden.

"Dr Afridi was never employed by Save the Children, nor was he ever paid for any kind of work. We have never run a vaccination programme in Abbottabad," it said in a statement.

The organisation said that only six of its 2,000 staff in Pakistan are foreign nationals and that it would "continue our daily work helping millions of children across Pakistan" Guardian

The government of Pakistan is one giant asshole. Save The Children has done tremendous work in Pakistan and as gratitude, they kicked out 6 of their foreign staffs (and these are foreigners that have the bravery to work in Pakistan).

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

One experiment for news reading

I am working to realize this "open Twitter-like system" idea and this is part 1 of 4 parts of its realization. Right now you can read multiple stream of news coming from different sources.

The main idea is to decentralize the way microblogging like Twitter like Email. System like email is not owned by one corporation. You have gmail, hotmail or whatever email system you are using. We should have the same system for microblogging so when Twitter got bought out (remember it hasn't made any money yet), people can continue to tweet and preserve their writings.

The Steppes of Corruption

The government of Uzbekistan recently declared 2012 the Year of the Strong Family. As part of this official campaign, Uzbek citizens are being compelled to participate in a "1,000 Weddings and 1,000 Circumcisions" campaign being held throughout the country. Given that the festival was organized by a foundation run by autocratic President Islam Karimov's ever-present daughter Gulnara, Uzbeks could be forgiven for wondering whether the bizarre event was actually meant to celebrate one family in particular. In fact, the country's citizens have been compelled to celebrate the strength of the Karimovs for the last two decades.Foreign Policy

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Indo European Languages started from Turkey

Researchers studied the evolution of words across 103 modern and extinct languages from the Indo-European language family, and created a tree showing the relationships among the different languages, at right. NY Times

The latest saga in Azerbaijan - Armenia dispute

International criticism and concern has been growing following the release of a convicted murderer after his transfer from Hungary to Azerbaijan.

Russia condemned Azerbaijan's decision to pardon Ramil Safarov, who hacked an Armenian to death in Hungary in 2004.

Safarov killed Armenian soldier Gurgen Markarian at a military academy in Budapest in 2004, where both servicemen attended English-language courses organised by Nato.

During his trial in Hungary, Safarov said that the Azeri-Armenian war over Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s, and insults from the Armenian officer were at the root of his actions.BBC

Azerbaijan's President pardoned a soldier that killed his Armenian counterpart in Hungary in 2004 and he rolled out a hero welcome for the convicted murderer. Tensions are running high in both country.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Economist on Obama's Economic Record

Did Mr Obama blow it? Nearly four years later, voters seem to think so: approval of his economic management is near rock-bottom, the single-biggest obstacle to his re-election. This, however, is not a fair judgment on Mr Obama’s record, which must consider not just the results but the decisions he took, the alternatives on offer and the obstacles in his way. Seen in that light, the report card is better. His handling of the crisis and recession were impressive. Unfortunately, his efforts to reshape the economy have often misfired. And America’s public finances are in a dire state. Economist

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Learning how to govern

Western democracies consider themselves to be efficient, farsighted and just -- in other words, prime examples of "good governance." But in recent years, the euro and debt crises, along with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan , have shattered faith in the reliability of Western institutions. Disconcerted Europeans are casting a worried eye at newly industrialized nations like China and Brazil . Can the West learn something from countries that for so long sought its advice? Spiegel

Democracy is awesome but it is not a panacea.  

A great review for Albania

This is odd. I'm sitting in a bar in Tirana, Albania, and there's not a gangster in sight. What there is is a 20ft-long counter packed with an array of enticing meats, a friendly man who grills them on request, and beer at 70p a glass. Everyone speaks English, and everyone is unfailingly nice. Could it be that there's a mismatch between Albania's reputation for – how to put this politely? – unconventional economic activity, and the modern-day reality? After a week travelling the country with my mother, without so much of a whiff of trouble or a gangster's cheap cologne, I'd say the answer is a resounding yes. Telegraph

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Virus that eats cancer

'Our results are only in the lab so far, not in humans, and many treatments that work in the lab can turn out to be not so effective in humans. However, adenovirus serotype 5 is a common virus in which we have achieved transcriptional targeting by replacing an endogenous viral promoter sequence by…'

It sounds too kindly of the gods to be true: a virus that eats cancer.

'I sometimes use the phrase "an assassin who kills all the bad guys",' Prof Essand agrees contentedly. Telegraph

His idea is worth pursuing, no? 

Record low for Artic Ice

Nasa has reported the lowest levels of sea ice in the Arctic since it began monitoring in 1979.

A report from the US space agency said this week that sea ice calculations had reached the lowest total in more than 30 years, at 1.58m sq miles (4.1m sq km), compared to the previous low of 1.61m sq miles (4.17m sq km) seen in 2007. Ice News

No, there's no global warming, it's just God using Artic ice for sky lemonades.