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Shark slaughter shock September 30, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Business, Enviroment, News.
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Shark slaughter shock – life – 30 September 2006 – New Scientist
At least four times as many sharks are killed for their fins as are reported in official figures.

From inventories of shark-fin sales at auctions in Hong Kong, researchers from the University of Hawaii and elsewhere estimate that the numbers of sharks caught around the world are far higher than the figures published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Matsuzaka beef September 30, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Business, Food.
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Bloomberg.com: Spend
Kazahana specializes in Matsuzaka beef from Mie prefecture which has the highest grade in Japan. The cattle are raised on beer and massage and the taste is spectacular. You barely have to chew the meat as it melts in your mouth. My dining companion and I looked at each other in amazement.

This doesn’t come cheap. A course costs 20,000 yen ($172) per person and there is only space for six people at the two teppanyaki counters.

Our chef brought us a card listing the cow our sirloin and fillet came from, where it was raised and the farmer that raised it. Ever since “mad cow” disease appeared in Japan in 2001, it is obligatory for restaurants to offer customers proof of where their steak originates, he told us.

The standards maintained for Matsuzaka beef are very high. The cow is raised in a quiet, serene area surrounding Matsuzaka, with the Kumozu River to the north and Miya Gawa River to the south. It must be from a good breed, and must not be bred. It will live quietly for two to three years and treated with the utmost care. It is said that if the cow has calves, then the sashi, the fatty parts, do not retain the characteristic patterns. For the best feeding methods, each farm has a different approach, such as including beer in the diet. The key lies in the feed.

Brazilian election pre-empted by sex video September 30, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Humor, Life, Lifestyle, News, Streamingvideo, Video.
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Bloomberg.com: Exclusive
The hottest topic on many Brazilian voters’ minds isn’t this weekend’s presidential election. It’s the video of a Merrill Lynch & Co. banker having a sexual encounter on a Spanish beach with an ex-girlfriend of Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo.

The video showing MTV host Daniella Cicarelli, 27, a triathlete and model, with Renato Malzoni Filho, 33, a private banker at Merrill in Sao Paulo, has crashed computers on trading floors in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The topic dominates office and party chat more than the future of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is forecast to win a new term, said Brazilian gossip columnist Ricardo Boechat.

“This has become a sensation, and it’s much more exciting than the election,” Boechat said. “In Brazil, people find it hard to resist anything with a rich, handsome young man and a gorgeous young woman.’

Here’s how the world works September 30, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, philosophy & politics, Politics.
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Telegraph | News | Here’s how the world works
A new catchphrase is buzzing its way around the political salons of Washington and New York. Move over, “tipping point”.

The “J curve” is an explanation for the way the world works that is so simple that you can draw it on the back of a paper napkin.

Meanwhile, the J curve fascinates the dinner-party bluffers who, five years ago, bored everyone senseless by explaining Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point (a groundbreaking study of social epidemics which was able to explain why, for example, American teenagers suddenly rushed to the shops to buy Hush Puppies).

J curve graph

How does the curve work? The J is suspended between a vertical axis, “stability”, and a horizontal axis, “openness” (to both political and economic reforms).

At the top left of the graph are totalitarian dictatorships. North Korea is the classic example. At the top right are Western democracies, such as the United States and Britain. “Think about the presidential election here in 2000,” says Bremmer. “The other guy got more votes, the result was decided by a controversial Supreme Court vote, and what happened? Nothing. That’s stability.”

The world would be a much safer place if countries could leap across the top of the graph, staying stable while introducing democracy and free markets. But that is not what happens. Although dictatorships can be amazingly stable – Castro has been in power since Eisenhower’s presidency – the moment the prison door swings open, things fall apart.

Authoritarian states or command economies typically move down the J curve once their citizens taste freedom. And the downwards slope is usually pretty steep. The climb to the sunny uplands of free-market democracy, by contrast, is a painfully slow business. The slope may be gentle, but the journey can take decades, if it is completed at all.

The state that really worries Bremmer is Iran. A few years ago, Teheran seemed to be moving from the bottom of its curve towards democracy: liberals won seats in parliamentary elections, while young people were visibly embracing Western values. “It’s hard to believe that, not long ago, Iran was the third most liberal regime in the Middle East,” says Bremmer.

Nothing covers up a surreptitious slide back up the J curve more effectively than an outbreak of popular nationalism. But Iran remains a semi-democracy – which means that Ahmadinejad and the mullahs must work hard to sustain the mood.

China thought it could beat the J curve, jumping from closed stability to open stability. Now it is finding out that this is not possible, and the smell of panic is spreading. “The state employs 50,000 security officials whose sole charge is to monitor chat rooms and to police the internet,” says Bremmer. “But they’ll be busy. There are 100,000 new internet users in China every day.”

And that brings us to the tricky subject of Russia. “After the end of the Soviet Union, Russia seemed headed towards the right side of the curve,” says Bremmer. “Then, thanks to a combination of mismanagement in Moscow and lack of commitment from America, we lost the plot. Putin has led Russia back to the left-hand side.” Towards stability? That depends. The scariest passage in The J Curve is where Bremmer discusses Russia and terrorism.

“Russia is the only country in the world with the combination of unaccounted-for radiological material, specialised scientists who are significantly underpaid, and well-organised terrorist groups,” he writes.

In other words, pundits who expect the world’s first “dirty bomb” to explode in an American city centre could be looking in the wrong place. No wonder the Russians are rediscovering their taste for authoritarian government.

“What we need to realise is that, if the world moves faster, then the speed with which things go wrong picks up,” explains Bremmer. “Terrorists need less and less space in which to operate – and the people who commit atrocities are by no means highly trained operatives enmeshed in a global conspiracy.”


The march of Islam September 30, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, Politics, Religion.
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Telegraph | Entertainment | The march of Islam
Nuclear power is not the only weapon Iran has at its disposal – its population is growing seven times faster than Britain’s. In this exclusive extract from his new book, Niall Ferguson reveals how Islam is winning the numbers game:

Europeans, quite simply, had ceased to reproduce themselves. The United Nations Population Division forecast that if fertility persisted at such low levels, within 50 years Spain’s population would decline by 3·4 million, Italy’s by a fifth. The overall reduction in ‘indigenous’ European numbers would be of the order of 14 million. Not even two World Wars had inflicted such an absolute decline in population.

On the eve of the 20th century, H. G. Wells had imagined a ‘War of the Worlds’ – a Martian invasion that devastated the earth. In the hundred years that followed, men proved that it was quite possible to wreak comparable havoc without the need for alien intervention. The War of the Worlds remains science fiction. The War of the World is, however, historical fact. Perhaps, like Wells’s story, ours will be ended abruptly by the intervention of microscopic organisms such as the bird flu virus, which could yet produce a worse mutation and pandemic than that of 1918. Until that happens, however, we shall remain our own worst enemies. We will avoid another century of conflict only if we understand the forces that caused the last one – the dark forces that conjure up ethnic conflict and imperial rivalry out of economic crisis, and in doing so negate our common humanity. They are forces that stir within us still.

The war of the world September 30, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, philosophy & politics, Politics.
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Telegraph | Entertainment | The war of the world

Historian Niall Ferguson’s latest book, The War of the World, examines a century of history and finds that the West is well on the way to being eclipsed by Asia. Ferguson tells Steve Inskeep that it’s a destiny that was set a long time ago was recently featured on NPR

Niall is a regular contributor to the UK’s Daily Telegraph. The link at the top of this post goes to a book excerpt.

I identify ‘the descent of the West’ as the most important development of the 20th century. Powerful though the United States was at the end of the Second World War – the apogee of its unspoken empire – it was still much less powerful than the European empires had been 45 years before. The combustible character of ethnically mixed borderlands; the chronic volatility of mid-20th-century economic life; and the convulsions that marked the decline of Western imperial dominance.

A hundred years ago the West ruled the world as result of centuries of overseas conquest and colonisation. Now little remains of Western imperialism, aside from America’s waning military presence in the Middle East and Asia. Then, the frontier between West and East was located somewhere in the neighbourhood of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Now it seems to run through every European city. That is not to say that conflict is inevitable along these new fault lines; history suggests that there may be as many clashes within civilisations as between civilisations in the years that lie ahead. But it is to say that, if the history of the 20th century is any guide, the fragile edifice of civilisation can very quickly collapse even where different ethnic groups seem well integrated.

How to beat anyone at Rock Paper Scissors September 29, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in cool stuff, Life.
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World RPS Society – How to beat anyone at Rock Paper Scissors
Basically, there are two ways to win at RPS. First is to take one throw away from your opponent options. ie – If you can get your opponent to not play rock, then you can safely go with scissors as it will win against paper and stalemate against itself. Seems impossible right? Not if you know the subtle ways you can manipulate someone. The art is to not let them know you are eliminating one of their options. The second way is to force you opponent into making a predictable move. Obviously, the key is that it has to be done without them realizing that you are manipulating them

Watch Full Length Cartoons Online September 29, 2006

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Watch Full Length Cartoons Online (Massive List)

Geniuses, Geocoding, and the Forbes 400 List September 29, 2006

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Paul Kedrosky’s Infectious Greed: Geniuses, Geocoding, and the Forbes 400 List
I’m in a mapping frame of mind recently, having just Google mapped MacArthur awardees. This time around it’s the Forbes 400 list of the wealthy that got my attention, and so here is a map of the billionaires among us. Click on it for a live version:

Interestingly, at least to me, the geographic distribution of Forbes 400 sorts is considerably more even than MacArthur “genius” award-winners. That said, it is useful to see where Forbes 400 members aren’t, which is North and South Dakota, New Mexico, Louisiana, Alabama, etc. You might think that would be correlated with state GDP per capita, it is actually somewhat more closely related to state populations.

Diver’s last catch a fatal one September 28, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Life, News, Sports.
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MiamiHerald.com | 09/15/2006 | Diver’s last catch a fatal one
Gary Cagle, an avid free diver, made two mistakes on a Key West fishing trip last Saturday:

He speared a goliath grouper, a fish that is illegal to kill in the Florida Keys. He also forgot to bring along his knife.

That error cost him his life.

Cagle, spearfishing a half-mile off Smathers Beach, shot a 40-inch goliath grouper. The fish bolted under a coral head, entangling the diver in the line and, acting like an anchor, held him underwater until he drowned. Thanks to Darryl Edwards for thie fish story.

‘Daily Show’ viewers ace political quiz September 27, 2006

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CNN.com – ‘Daily Show’ viewers ace political quiz – Sep 29, 2004
Daily Show” viewers know more about election issues than people who regularly read newspapers or watch television news, according to the National Annenberg Election Survey.

Dannagal Goldthwaite Young, a senior research analyst at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, said “Daily Show” viewers came out on top “even when education, party identification, following politics, watching cable news, receiving campaign information online, age and gender are taken into consideration.”

Thanks to Caroline Collier for pointing this out. Also”Why Jon Stewart isn’t Funny” has been one of our most read posts here.

Jihad’s New Master Plan September 27, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, Politics, Religion.

The Master Plan 

Appropriately in the 9/11 issue of the New Yorker is the post- Al- Quaeda strategy. For the new theorists of jihad, Al-Qaeda is just the beginning. (Requires Adobe Reader)

Ensuring global security: no zero deductible September 26, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, News, Politics.
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KnoxNews: Columnists
So long as nukes make great power war unthinkable, global stability is an existential reality that requires no regular blood premiums from America.

This mindset survived the Cold War’s end. In the 1990s, Western great powers got involved with great reluctance in situations where globalization’s disintegrating impact spun secessionist conflicts into genocidal fits of ethnic rage – such as the Balkans.

And, if the killings were located far enough away from our integrating global economy, as in the case of Central Africa, then we made no effort at all.

After 9/11, Americans grimly embraced the idea that defending our way of life would once again require regular sacrifices of both treasure and blood, and although many dispute President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, there remains a strong consensus that freedom isn’t free.

So long as they delay strategic alliance between Beijing and Washington, America gets stuck playing globalization’s sole bodyguard while “rising China” free rides in our wake.

In the Long War, that’s one zero-deductible policy the United States cannot long endorse.

Intell agencies on Iraq September 25, 2006

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Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog: Intell agencies on Iraq [updated]
ARTICLE: Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Hurting U.S. Terror Fight, By Karen DeYoung, September 24, 2006; Page A01

This analysis is typical intell stuff: obvious, useless, and playing into a do-nothing mind-set that here says, “Do nothing to piss off the terrorists!”

Duh! When we engage the security situation–any security situation–in the Middle East, we piss off (and create more) terrorists. We do it when we’re pro-active, like in Iraq. We do it when we’re passive, like our military support to Israel. And we do it when we’re behind the scenes, like our intell co-op with regimes throughout the region.

So it’s never been a question of whether or not we piss off terrorists (who live to be pissed off, and when there’s not enough going on, they’ll get jacked over a film (e.g., Van Gogh), a book (Rushdie), a speech (Benedict)–whatever).

We can either engage the region militarily to deal with its security deficits that hold off economic connectivity and keep this overwhelmingly young population from engaging the future (globalization) or we can sit back, try to firewall America (something the spooks are always up for) and wait for the next explosion–or 9/11.

We have this tendency to define all attacks that come our way as terrorism, but to define away all the rest (meaning not directed at us) as somerthing else (radicalism, fundamentalism, insurgency, rebels–whatever). Terrorism doesn’t start nor end with our involvement. What the intell community is ultimately guilty of in this kind of blame-the-messenger mindset (and yes, we are seen the world over as the harbinger of all things globalization) is confusing friction with force, assuming that you can somehow reduce force by avoiding friction, when guess what? We’re not in control of the force (globalization), we’re just walking behind that elephant, sweeping up its leavings.

Nuke the Tar Sands 2 September 25, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Business, Enviroment, Technology.
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Peak Oil Debunked: 126. NUKE THE TAR SANDS 2

The only other option is to generate heat by burning the oil itself, and that would be a carbon emission nightmare. One thing is clear, however: the oil sands will be produced. It’s just a question of whether we’re going to do it the dirty way (and waste vast amounts of the oil in the process); or do it the clean way with nuclear. Environmentalists need to get their head around that. The option where we don’t produce the oil sands is a utopian dream. It’s not on the table.

From the recent article about the natural gas shortage that Calrton Palmer informed us about:

Oil sands producers are clearly concerned about natural gas prices and are experimenting with a range of alternatives that would reduce or eliminate the need for gas.

At its Whitesands in situ project, Petrobank and its partners are working on a plan to burn residual bitumen underground in order to loosen and recover the commercially available crude. That process would leave the carbon dioxide created from the burn trapped underground.

Several companies are also planning to burn asphalt-like bitumen to produce electricity and steam above ground.

Experts believe the future will be like Sci-Fi movies September 25, 2006

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Experts believe the future will be like Sci-Fi movies
In the latest study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, over 700 technology experts were asked to evaluate an assortment of scenarios in an attempt to determine potential trends for the year 2020. With responses from representatives of the World Wide Web Consortium, ICANN, the Association of Internet Researchers, and major corporations like Google and IBM, the report reflects the perceptions of “Internet pioneers,” more than half of whom “were online before 1993.”

The highly speculative scenarios presented to respondents are all vaguely reminiscent of various themes commonly found in contemporary science fiction. From artificial intelligences dominating humanity to disgruntled Luddites engaging in violence, the poll looks more like an abandoned script by Michael Piller than a serious exploration of the future

Non-Retiring ‘Retirees’ Fastest-Growing Job Market Sector September 24, 2006

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Non-Retiring ‘Retirees’ Fastest-Growing Job Market Sector –
Seventy percent of Baby Boomers plan to stay in the workplace beyond the traditional retirement age of 65, according to research, as employers embrace older workers and job seekers more than ever.

In August, the number of workers over 55 reached its highest level ever recorded, 24.6 million. Approximately 25 percent of this group (5.2 million) was 65 and older, 45 percent more than 10 years prior.

Who is Louis Bayard? September 24, 2006

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Who is Louis Bayard? | Salon Books

Thanks to Bob Bopp for this look into the world of “Jeapordy”.

In a country where half of all households don’t buy books, why should this show continue to thrive? I think the secret lies in its original design. Like its sibling show, “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy” is crafted to make viewers at home feel smarter than the contestants on the tube. Start with the game’s rules, which require players to hold off on answering until Trebek has finished reading the question. (Ring in too early, you’re blocked out for a precious half-second.) Viewers at home are under no such obligation. If they know the answers, they can shout them out well before their counterparts on the screen, and because they’re not competing with anyone, they can cumulatively answer more questions than anyone on the show (except possibly Jennings). Watching “Jeopardy” confers, on a certain class of geek, a feeling of mastery. In our couch-potato hubris, we believe that, given a chance, we can sweep category after category, stunning our opponents into silence.

It’s an entirely American contradiction. A show that celebrates the intellect (“You don’t have to eat bugs here,” one of the contestant coordinators reassured us) really comes down to speed and muscular coordination. Brain to thumb to mouth.

Islamists as Imperialists September 24, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Geopolitics, Politics, Religion.
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Article or Op-Ed
There had always been an Islamist component to the “resistance” against Israel, but it had traditionally played a supporting role, first to the Arab states, and then to the PLO. It was Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamist revolution in Iran, who pioneered an entirely different vision of the role Islamism should play opposite Israel.

Khomeini rejected the view that Israel had become a fait accompli and thereby entitled a place in the region. He believed that Islam had the power to call forth the sacrifice and discipline needed to deny legitimacy to Israel and ultimately defeat it.

To achieve that goal, Islamists could not rest content with a supporting role; they had to push their way to the front. By establishing Hizbullah as an armed vanguard in Lebanon, Khomeini sought to open a new Islamist front against Israel, independent of weak Arab states and the ineffective PLO.

Putting a Different Face on Islam in America September 24, 2006

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Putting a Different Face on Islam in America
This month, Professor Ingrid Mattson, a 43-year-old convert, was elected president of the Islamic Society of North America, the largest umbrella organization for Muslim groups in the United States and Canada. She is both the first woman and, as a Canadian, the first non-immigrant to hold the post.

Embassies in Norway targeted in terror plot September 24, 2006

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Embassies targeted in terror plot
Police believe that the four men charged with shooting at Oslo’s synagogue also planned acts of terrorism against the US and Israeli embassies. Terrorism in Norway of all places?!

Tolerance: A Two-Way Street September 22, 2006

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Charles Krauthammer – Tolerance: A Two-Way Street – washingtonpost.com
The fact is that all three monotheistic religions have in their long histories wielded the sword. The Book of Joshua is knee-deep in blood. The real Hanukkah story, so absurdly twinned (by calendric accident) with the Christian festival of peace, is about a savage insurgency and civil war.

Christianity more than matched that lurid history with the Crusades, an ecumenical blood bath that began with the slaughter of Jews in the Rhineland, a kind of preseason warm-up to the featured massacres to come against the Muslims, with the sacking of the capital of Byzantium (the Fourth Crusade) thrown in for good measure.

And Islam, of course, spread with great speed from Arabia across the Mediterranean and into Europe. It was not all benign persuasion. After all, what were Islamic armies doing at Poitiers in 732 and the gates of Vienna in 1683? Tourism?

However, the inconvenient truth is that after centuries of religious wars, Christendom long ago gave it up. It is a simple and undeniable fact that the violent purveyors of monotheistic religion today are self-proclaimed warriors for Islam who shout “God is great” as they slit the throats of infidels — such as those of the flight crews on Sept. 11, 2001 — and are then celebrated as heroes and martyrs.

Conspiracy theorists must face the truth of Mars hill September 22, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Cool photos, News, Technology.

Conspiracy theorists must face the truth of Mars hill – space – 21 September 2006 – New Scientist Space
New images of the “face” on Mars have been obtained by Europe’s Mars Express spacecraft. They reinforce what scientists thought from the beginning – that the face is just a naturally sculpted hill.

Mission controllers have been trying to get images of the region since 2004 but had been thwarted until recently by dust and haze in the atmosphere. Finally, on 22 July 2006, the team obtained clear images of the region with the HRSC. (Click to Enlarge Picture).

Who Was the Pope’s “Educated Persian”? September 20, 2006

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Scribal Terror: Who Was the “Educated Persian?”
Since the Papal Brouhaha erupted I have been very interested in identifying the “Educated Persian” with whom Manuel II Palaiologos carried on his famous religious debates. The answer is fascinating.

Manuel’s conversations about Islam therefore took place with an expert in Sharia law in the presence of the sultan. It was Manuel who was in a position of subordination to his Muslim overlords and was at the time a guest of the Qadi.

How interesting indeed, that in the old days of Muslim ascendency, no one offered to cut off the head of the questioning infidel, although they could easily have done so. Instead, his gracious hosts encouraged him to speak his mind and amused themselves by answering his objections and correcting his misconceptions, as they understood them.

The behavior of the Qadi and his Sultan, in my opinion, should be celebrated as one of the high points of Muslim civilization. Has that civilization declined so much in the intervening centuries, that the way debates are settled is now by vitriol and violence instead of by reasoned and dignified discourse?

If it stops plague, will it stop hospital superbugs? September 20, 2006

Posted by tkcollier in Enviroment, Life, Technology.
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If it stops plague, will it stop hospital superbugs? – health – 20 September 2006 – New Scientist
Disease bugs come equipped with a whole tool kit of tricks for evading our immune system. Now it seems that turning off just one of them can render bubonic plague harmless. A similar approach might lead to vaccines against many pathogens, including antibiotic-resistant hospital superbugs.

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