World’s Cheapest Gas

Fuel subsidies | Crude measures |
HALF of the world’s population enjoys fuel subsidies. This estimate, from Morgan Stanley, implies that almost a quarter of the world’s petrol is sold at less than the market price. The cheapest petrol is in Venezuela, at 5 cents per litre. That makes China’s pump price of 79 cents seem expensive, but even this is a bargain compared with $1.04 in the United States and $2.35 in Germany (see chart). A Lite is about a quarter of a Gallon.

As the gap has widened between soaring international prices and fixed domestic prices, so has the cost of subsidies. Indeed, budgetary strains are now forcing some governments to lift prices. An IMF study of five emerging economies found that the richest 20% of households received, on average, 42% of total fuel subsidies; the bottom 20% received less than 10%. That money would be better spent on health, education and infrastructure. Not only would this benefit the poor, but higher prices would also help to dampen global oil consumption, and hence the price of oil.

How We Get “Swift Boated”

Op-Ed Contributor – How Lies Live and Grow in the Brain – Op-Ed –
A false statement from a noncredible source that is at first not believed can gain credibility during the months it takes to reprocess memories from short-term hippocampal storage to longer-term cortical storage. As the source is forgotten, the message and its implications gain strength. This could explain why, during the 2004 presidential campaign, it took some weeks for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Senator John Kerry to have an effect on his standing in the polls. Journalists and campaign workers may think they are acting to counter misinformation by pointing out that it is not true. But by repeating a false rumor, they may inadvertently make it stronger.

Even if they do not understand the neuroscience behind source amnesia, campaign strategists can exploit it to spread misinformation. They know that if their message is initially memorable, its impression will persist long after it is debunked. In repeating a falsehood, someone may back it up with an opening line like “I think I read somewhere” or even with a reference to a specific source. Consumers of news, for their part, are prone to selectively accept and remember statements that reinforce beliefs they already hold.

Tom Friedman Rants

Op-Ed Columnist – Anxious in America – Op-Ed –
Since President Bush came to office, our national savings have gone from 6 percent of gross domestic product to 1 percent, and consumer debt has climbed from $8 trillion to $14 trillion.

My fellow Americans: We are a country in debt and in decline — not terminal, not irreversible, but in decline. Our political system seems incapable of producing long-range answers to big problems or big opportunities. We are the ones who need a better-functioning democracy — more than the Iraqis and Afghans. We are the ones in need of nation-building. It is our political system that is not working.

“America and its political leaders, after two decades of failing to come together to solve big problems, seem to have lost faith in their ability to do so,” Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald Seib noted last week. “A political system that expects failure doesn’t try very hard to produce anything else.”

Canada – Energy Super Power

Well-Oiled Machine – TIME
Canada is poised to become Venezuela north–without the loopy President and the deadweight national oil company as unwanted partners–as the biggest oil boom in North American history hits terminal velocity. An estimated $124 billion will be invested from 2007 to 2012, according to the Athabasca Regional Issues Working Group, an industry association. Production in Alberta’s oil sands will more than quadruple, to about 5 million bbl. daily, by 2015; Canada currently exports an average of 1.9 million bbl. daily (from all sources) to the U.S., more than any country, including Saudi Arabia. That’s about 20% of total U.S. imports. Alberta’s oil sands deposits total 2.4 trillion barrels of oil, and established reserves are only second to Saudi Arabia’s 263 billion barrels at 175 billion barrels.

The mega-projects across Alberta’s oil sands rival some of humankind’s greatest engineering achievements, including the pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China. After thousands of years, those ancient projects still bear witness to history. Conservative estimates predict the tar sands will give out in just 70 years. Their legacy to Canada is yet to be written, but it may be a great deal bigger than expectations. With new deposits still being found and technologies improving, the sands could produce for a couple of hundred years more. Forget Venezuela. Canada may become the new Saudi Arabia, the last great oil kingdom, right on the U.S. border.

The Child Brides of Yemen

Tiny Voices Defy Child Marriage in Yemen –
The average age of marriage in Yemen’s rural areas is 12 to 13, a recent study by Sana University researchers found. The country, at the southern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.

But despite a rising tide of outrage, the fight against the practice is not easy. Hard-line Islamic conservatives, whose influence has grown enormously in the past two decades, defend it, pointing to the Prophet Muhammad’s marriage to a 9-year-old. Child marriage is deeply rooted in local custom here, and even enshrined in an old tribal expression: “Give me a girl of 8, and I can give you a guarantee” for a good marriage.

QIK | Streaming video right from your phone

QIK | Streaming video right from your phone
With Qik you can stream engaging video live from your phone to the world or use your phone like a camcorder to capture entertaining, interesting and special moments. Go LIVE with your life by streaming anytime, anywhere — right from your phone. Be an eyewitness, capture those first steps, or whip up your own streaming video blog. There are just a million and one uses of qik.

Understanding Mugabe

Zimbabwean leader’s reality: Mugabe is Right –
Robert Mugabe’s mother told him when he was a child that he had been chosen by God to be a great leader. No wonder he thinks only divine power – not elections, not foreign critics, not a crumbling economy or a much younger opposition leader – can unseat him.

In the mind of Zimbabwe’s leader of nearly three decades, reality is summed up by a massive banner hanging in the entrance to the presidential offices: Mugabe is Right.

Young Tibetans Lured By Modernity

For Rural Tibetans, the Future Is in Town –
Tibetans, traditionally nomadic herders and farmers, are increasingly being lured into a commercial world, a place where Chinese and English language skills are prerequisites for success and ethnic identity is something to be marketed to tourists. Many young Tibetans like Jian jump at the chance to escape harsh farm work on mountain plateaus, but the opportunity means leaving behind a way of life that has defined one of the most romanticized cultures in the world.

Gasoline From Algae

Biomass Magazine
San Diego, Calif.-based Sapphire Energy was founded in 2006 on the basis of this principle philosophy when it debuted its “green crude”, a gasoline equivalent refined from algae that comes in light and heavy fractions; the light being gasoline and a heavy being kero-disel or jet aircraft fuel. Although it won’t divulge its production process specifically, according to Sapphire Chief Executive Officer Jason Pyle, the company is producing 91 octane gasoline built on the platform that uses nothing more than sunlight, carbon dioxide and complex photosynthetic microorganisms. Progress on Gas From Grass