Friday, August 30, 2013

US intelligence report on Syria chemical attack

"We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. We assess that the scenario in which the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information used to make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime’s preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation."
They know where the rockets were launched from
Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in themorning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.
They also addressed the silly "false flag operation" accusation :
"We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs, and other information associatedwith this chemical attack."

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Kevid Rudd, the current PM of Australia, is doing a Q/A session reddit

To address housing supply the first thing we have done is to bring in the national rental affordability scheme that is designed to provide 50,000 units worth of affordable rental housing across the country. The second thing is to reduce the cost of land developments for new housing for co-investing with developers. The third is that we have added another 20,000 units of social housing across the country and repaired 80,000. On top of that we now have interest rates at the lowest they have been in 60 years. That means on a $300,000 mortgage you are now paying $6000 a year less. Still I agree there is much more to be done. Reddit
This is a sample of his answer regarding the astronomical cost of housing in Australia.

The debate on Syria Retaliation

The UK parliament is having a fierce debate on the merit of attacking Assad's Syria. This is great. This is how it should be. Any military intervention on Syria is always risky (as also the act of doing nothing).

Haaretz is reporting that the UK intelligence indicated that Assad's regime used chemical attacks 14 times so far. Here's the PDF of the statement.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

So the West is going to war against Syria

If you do, please please do not go half way. Fight Assad and destroy its regime and support the Syrian Free Army to destroy the Islamist fighters in the aftermath.

Otherwise stay put. Mark the Syrian regime's chemical attack on civilians as lamentable fact of a brutal civil war and move on.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Cost of living comparison around the world

A book on Terrorism in Indonesia

The ideology of Darul Islam [or DI, an Islamist group that launched an armed revolt in 1949 to set up an Islamic state] didn’t originate from overseas. It came from the political genius of its leader [Sekarmadji Maridjan] Kartosuwiryo. From 1947 to ’49, he and his supporters fought in the independence war against the Dutch. Kartosuwiryo wanted an Islamist state because he saw Indonesia as an infidel nation. He was captured and executed in 1962. [The revolt was crushed and DI went underground.]

From 1985 to the early ’90s, DI sent people to Afghanistan to undergo military training. When they met the international jihadists there, they realized they shared the same beliefs. DI members easily embraced al-Qaeda ideology. When these Afghanistan alumni returned, they brought home Salafist jihadist ideology and Wahhabi religious practice. It created a stir among the DI members at home because they were essentially traditionalist Muslims in the Indonesian sense — they also believed in mysticism. Kartosuwiryo was an abangan [a Javanese Muslim who practices a syncretic version of Islam that integrates pre-Islamic traditions], and he couldn’t even read Arabic. The Afghanistan returnees, who thought the local practice was heretical, split from DI and in 1993 set up Jemaah Islamiah [or JI, the group responsible for the Bali bombing of 2002 and implicated in the Bali bombing of 2005]. JI carried out terrorist acts in the first decade of this century, but it’s not too active now. In contrast, out of the 77 cases uncovered between 2010 and 2013, 50 involved members or ex-members of DI. Time
As long as Indonesians believe in mysticism, the country will not turn into a sorry copy of a fucked up Middle Eastern country.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

25 weirdest languages in the world

The 25 weirdest languages of the world. In North America: Chalcatongo Mixtec, Choctaw, Mesa Grande Diegueño, Kutenai, and Zoque; in South America: Paumarí and Trumai; in Australia/Oceania: Pitjantjatjara and Lavukaleve; in Africa: Harar Oromo, Iraqw, Kongo, Mumuye, Ju|’hoan, and Khoekhoe; in Asia: Nenets, Eastern Armenian, Abkhaz, Ladakhi, and Mandarin; and in Europe: German, Dutch, Norwegian, Czech, and Spanish. Idibon
I am surprised Arabic is not included here. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

For the best discussion on Steve Balmer's planned retirement as Microsoft CEO

It's hard to beat Mini Microsoft

Today's MB rally is a fizzle but it's still early.

The curfew will be shorten to start at 9 - 10PM instead of the current 7PM - 6AM curfew.

Today the call for mass rally by Muslim Brotherhood did not receive many attendance - understandably because people are worried about getting shot on the street by local residents or polices (Cairo population is very hostile towards Muslim Brotherhood)

So today we did not see any widespread bloodshed but it is not night yet.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bats of Hell

The outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, has been going on for 15 months, with most victims falling ill in Saudi Arabia and others growing sick after having traveled to the Middle East. In a study released Wednesday, an international team of doctors blamed coronavirus in bats for the human outbreak, but said that many questions remained, in part because a perfect match for the virus was found in only a single insect-eating bat out of about 100 Saudi bats tested. And since such bats do not normally bite people, drool on fruit or do other things that might transmit the disease to people, it was still unclear how the virus leapt to humans. NY Times
And here's the culprit
The bat is a Taphozous perforatus, or Egyptian tomb bat, which roosts in abandoned buildings, and the virus was found in a fecal sample.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Possible major chemical weapon attack in Damascus suburbs

The Guardian covers it live. I will add additional materials posted on Facebook.

This is a reddit discussion on the situation, complete with graphic images. Right now casualties estimate is hovering around 1000.

Al Jazeera live blog is here.

A local report (not graphic)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

India horror story (your mileage might vary)

When people compliment me on my Indian sandals, do I talk about the man who stalked me for forty-five minutes after I purchased them, until I yelled in his face in a busy crowd?

Do I describe the lovely hotel in Goa when my strongest memory of it was lying hunched in a fetal position, holding a pair of scissors with the door bolted shut, while the staff member of the hotel who had tried to rape my roommate called me over and over, and breathing into the phone?

How, I ask, was I supposed to tell these stories at a Christmas party? But how could I talk about anything else when the image of the smiling man who masturbated at me on a bus was more real to me than my friends, my family, or our Christmas tree? All those nice people were asking the questions that demanded answers for which they just weren't prepared. ireport.cnn

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Living under a curfew in Cairo

Mobarak tried to impose one in early 2011 and Morsi tried another one earlier this year.

This time people actually respect the curfew. This shows the amount of support that people are giving to the army, if not the various security forces that exist in Egypt.

One interesting fact is the Interior Ministry has been the force that cracked down on the Rabaa sit in and shooting at Ramsis Sq. protests. The army has deployed APCs and Tanks on the streets but have not engaged its soldiers against the Islamist protesters.

We have not had any problem with food distribution in my middle class neighborhood of Dokki (300 meters from Nahda sq./Cairo University). From time to time gunshots would rang out on a street nearby but there was never any engaged gun battles in our neighborhood since the crackdown last Wednesday.

The crackdown of the Islamist's sit in is popular in Egypt. You would hear people saying that even though over 800 people have been killed, the government was still to soft on the Islamists.

Make no mistake, the Islamist sit ins were tarred by armed elements who would smuggled AK-47 and ammunition and use it to intimidate residences and fought the security forces. Rabaa crackdown was pretty much a running gun battle between the armed elements and security forces and caught a lot of people in cross fires.

Last Friday a few Islamists protesters sprayed the safest neighborhood in Cairo with automatic weapons and all of these were captured on camera. The footage of armed 'protesters' firing indiscriminately from above the 15th of May bridge that passed through the neighborhood kept hammering the point that the Islamists protesters were indeed terrorists.

Bottom line: there is not enough support for the Islamist to trigger a civil war but there's enough support for them to create more misery in Egypt.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Check out this BBC report.

This area is about 30 minutes by driving (usually through bad traffic) from where I live. What you see burning is tons of makeshift tents prepared by people on the sit-ins.

I live about 300 meters from the other broken sit-in, Nahda Sq. My neighborhood is fine but you can feel that everybody goes out about their day in heavy heart.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Massacre of Rabba sit-in

The bloody clearing of Nahda Square, Cairo

I took this from my apt in Dokki this morning. This picture is taken toward Orman Garden, about 300 meters from where I am. Cairo University is just beyond this skyline. The Egyptian security forces are clearing out the month long Muslim Brotherhood sit in.

Fuck. It's going to be a bloody day in Cairo today.

This link comes from The Daily Mail so ignore the reporting and just take a look at the pictures.

This video was recorded by El Watan News on some burned protesters in Nahda sq where MB used to have a sit in. (300 meters from my home) - GRAPHIC!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

UK Mail Rail

It's tiny
  A group of "place hackers" did an (illegal) exploration of the London Mail Rail. They returned back with an amazing report and wonderful photographs.
An hour or so later, the city was crawling. Police cars bolted up and down side streets, combing the area for those they’d assumedly seen on CCTV. We met with Otter and Siologen too, and congregated on a non-descript street to arrange ourselves.

Sirens blazed. A van buzzed down the street. The siren stopped. The van stopped. The questions started. Postman Pat and Mrs Goggins arrived. I’ve seen him on CCTV. And him. And him. Arrest them all, we’ve got all of them.

It was Siolo’s smooth talking to the police that ultimately saved us a night in the cells – by the end Postman Pat and Mrs Goggins were annoying the police more than we were and we were told to leave and not come back, having been searched.
Place Hacking

Monday, August 12, 2013

Charlotte's Web - A medical marijuana success story


It almost cured a young baby that got 300 seizures by the time she got to 3 years old.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Eid Mubarak

 Today is the last day of Ramadan. In Egypt, we will have 4 days long weekend starting tomorrow. So I'll be spending some sweet time in Southern Sinai and I won't be back until Monday.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Civil Forfeiture in America

The basic principle behind asset forfeiture is appealing. It enables authorities to confiscate cash or property obtained through illicit means, and, in many states, funnel the proceeds directly into the fight against crime. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, cops drive a Cadillac Escalade stencilled with the words “this used to be a drug dealer’s car, now it’s ours!” In Monroe, North Carolina, police recently proposed using forty-four thousand dollars in confiscated drug money to buy a surveillance drone, which might be deployed to catch fleeing suspects, conduct rescue missions, and, perhaps, seize more drug money. Hundreds of state and federal laws authorize forfeiture for cockfighting, drag racing, basement gambling, endangered-fish poaching, securities fraud, and countless other misdeeds.

In general, you needn’t be found guilty to have your assets claimed by law enforcement; in some states, suspicion on a par with “probable cause” is sufficient. Nor must you be charged with a crime, or even be accused of one. Unlike criminal forfeiture, which requires that a person be convicted of an offense before his or her property is confiscated, civil forfeiture amounts to a lawsuit filed directly against a possession, regardless of its owner’s guilt or innocence. 
New Yorker

Monday, August 05, 2013

Fighting over a piece of rock

Gibraltar /dʒɨˈbrɔːltər/[6][7] is a British Overseas Territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. It has an area of 6.8 square kilometres (2.6 sq mi) and a northern border with the Province of Cádiz in Andalusia, Spain. Gibraltar figures on UN's list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. The Rock of Gibraltar is the only landmark of the region. At its foot is the densely populated city area, home to almost 30,000 Gibraltarians and other nationalities.Wikipedia
Diplomatic relations between Britain and Spain have come under further strain after Downing Street said David Cameron was seriously concerned about events on the Spanish border with Gibraltar. Guardian
Spain has always claimed Gibraltar although it's been part of the UK since 1713.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Turning an abandoned WalMart box into a giant library

 "Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle transformed an abandoned Walmart in McAllen, Texas, into a 124,500-square-foot public library, the largest single-floor public library in the United States. Web Urbanist