Saturday, December 29, 2007

Yet More Evidence We have No Idea Who, or What, We Are Dealing With Internationally

Qaeda Eyed in Slaying of Bhutto

Staff Reporter of the Sun
December 28, 2007

WASHINGTON — American and Pakistani military leaders are seeking to account for what may be renegade commando units from the Pakistani military's special forces in the wake of the assassination of Pakistan's opposition leader and former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.

The attack yesterday at Rawalpindi bore the hallmarks of a sophisticated military operation. At first, Bhutto's rally was hit by a suicide bomb that turned out to be a decoy. According to press reports and a situation report of the incident relayed to The New York Sun by an American intelligence officer, Bhutto's armored limousine was shot by multiple snipers whose armor-piercing bullets penetrated the vehicle, hitting the former premier five times in the head, chest, and neck. Two of the snipers then detonated themselves shortly after the shooting, according to the situation report, while being pursued by local police


A working theory, according to this American source, is that Al Qaeda or affiliated jihadist groups had effectively suborned at least one unit of Pakistan's Special Services Group, the country's equivalent of Britain's elite SAS commandos. This official, however, stressed this was just a theory at this point. Other theories include that the assassins were trained by Qaeda or were from other military services, or the possibility that the assassins were retired Pakistani special forces.

"They just killed the most protected politician in the whole country," this source said. "We really don't know a lot at this point, but the first thing that is happening is we are asking the Pakistani military to account for every black team with special operations capabilities."


The prospect that Bhutto's attackers were trained special forces operatives raises profound questions for America's policy of giving financial aid to Pakistan's military. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, America has provided the Musharraf regime with more than $10 billion.

A close associate of Bhutto for more than two decades, Hussein Haqqani, yesterday said he believed Pakistan's security services were complicit in the assassination of his friend. "I don't think they were complicit, as in, they did it, I mean this as they allowed this to happen. Of course that includes the possibility of actual complicity. I think her security needs and concerns were not addressed," he told the Sun


The fact of the matter remains that Pakistani security services have many people in it who worked very closely with several jihadi groups that now work with global jihadi forces," he said. "Is it possible some of the security personnel have developed sympathy for the people with whom they used to work? Absolutely. Do we know this with certainty? No, we do not."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Morty Wants to Direct

New paradigm, or negotiating tactic?

Dan Glaister in Los Angeles
Friday December 28, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Forget Warner Brothers, Universal and Disney. Say goodnight and good luck to CBS, NBC and Fox. The Hollywood studio model is about to be turned upside down.

Leading film and TV writers, accompanied by actors, directors and Silicon Valley investors, are poised to announce the creation of new ventures aimed at bypassing the studios.

"It's a whole new model to bring content directly to the masses," said screenwriter Aaron Mendelsohn. "We're gathering together a team of A-list TV and film writers, along with their A-list equivalent from Silicon Valley."

Mendelsohn is not alone. Seven groups are thought to be working on forming companies to challenge the dominance of the studios. The new companies plan to create programmes and films and distribute them via the internet, circumventing the old model of big studios owned by even bigger parent companies churning out content and controlling when and where it is seen.

The developments come as the screenwriters' strike shows no sign of a resolution. A report presented last week to a city council committee estimated that the strike would cost Los Angeles between $380m and $2.5bn (£190m to £1.25bn).

As the two sides in the dispute - the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers - trade insults, one perhaps unintended consequence of the standoff is that the people who make the programmes and films have seen that they can get their message out without the help of the studios.

"The strike videos confirmed that you can create content directly for the internet and find an audience," said director and writer George Hickenlooper, who has made a series of short films in support of the writers.

Those films, under the title Speechless, have featured big stars - from cinema great Woody Allen to TV personalities such as Jay Leno - and attracted big audiences on the internet.

Some of those involved have even said that when they are next out of contract they may go straight to the internet, taking advantage of services such as Google Video or YouTube, to bypass the studios altogether ...

The irony for the writers involved in setting up the new ventures is that at the core of the current dispute is the question of how to reimburse writers for work that is distributed on the internet.

The studios say that it is still too early to say if the internet will generate income to be shared with the writers. The writers counter that the studios crow to Wall Street about the profits to be made from the digital sector.

"The internet is a place where they can't maintain control," he said. "They are trying to introduce an old-school control-orientated way of thinking into a system that rejects and repels that tradition of control."

The hi-tech community, he notes, is more comfortable with the notion of relinquishing control over its investments.

"It's a different model," he says. "They really believe in the free and open source software movement; a sharing, egalitarian system."

Hickenlooper is also teaming up with a high-tech entrepreneur, in this case Jordan Mechner, who created the Prince of Persia videogame. One of their first projects is a feature film released in daily segments.

"We're doing low-budget content that will be distributed on a daily basis through the internet," he said. "The idea is to use A-list talent. It's not George Clooney but it's names we know." The film will be released over a month or 50 days and subsequently released in its entirety on DVD ...

A Slightly Deeper Perspective on the Iraq Surge Than the Evening News

From Juan Cole, History Professor at the University of Michigan, click on the link above for more:

Myth: The US troop surge stopped the civil war that had been raging between Sunni Arabs and Shiites in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
Fact: The civil war in Baghdad escalated during the US troop escalation. Between January, 2007, and July, 2007, Baghdad went from 65% Shiite to 75% Shiite. UN polling among Iraqi refugees in Syria suggests that 78% are from Baghdad and that nearly a million refugees relocated to Syria from Iraq in 2007 alone. This data suggests that over 700,000 residents of Baghdad have fled this city of 6 million during the US 'surge,' or more than 10 percent of the capital's population. Among the primary effects of the 'surge' has been to turn Baghdad into an overwhelmingly Shiite city and to displace hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from the capital ...

Myth: The Iraqi north is relatively quiet and a site of economic growth.
Fact: The subterranean battle among Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs for control of the oil-rich Kirkuk province makes the Iraqi north a political mine field. Kurdistan now also hosts the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas that sneak over the border and kill Turkish troops. The north is so unstable that the Iraqi north is now undergoing regular bombing raids from Turkey ...

Myth: The reduction in violence in Iraq is mostly because of the escalation in the number of US troops, or "surge."
Fact: Although violence has been reduced in Iraq, much of the reduction did not take place because of US troop activity. Guerrilla attacks in al-Anbar Province were reduced from 400 a week to 100 a week between July, 2006 and July, 2007. But there was no significant US troop escalation in al-Anbar. Likewise, attacks on British troops in Basra have declined precipitously since they were moved out to the airport away from population centers. But this change had nothing to do with US troops ...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Essential Music

Pre-Dark Side of the Moon Pink Floyd: Live at Pompei 1971. Click this link to hear a sample song...

** To download and open this file you need this program:

Moishe, I Know You're Enjoying All the Recent Bottom Feeding

Joseph Lewis Becomes Largest Bear Stearns Shareholder (Update2)

By Yalman Onaran

Dec. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Billionaire investor Joseph Lewis raised his stake in Bear Stearns Cos. for the second time this month while shares of the fifth-biggest U.S. securities firm declined.

The 70-year-old high-school dropout first bought a 7 percent stake in September and increased it to 8 percent earlier this month. He now owns 9.6 percent, according to a regulatory filing today. That makes him the New York-based company's largest shareholder, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, ahead of James Barrow, who oversees $50 billion as the president of Barrow Hanley Mewhinney & Strauss in Dallas.

Lewis has spent more than $1 billion accumulating his stake in Bear Stearns, whose value has tumbled on concern the collapse of the U.S. subprime mortgage market would erode profits. After Lewis's original purchases sparked speculation the firm might be for sale, people close to the trader said in September he was amassing the stake for investment purposes only ...

Barrow said on Dec. 7 that he trusts the firm's management and expects the share price to recover. Chief Executive Officer James ``Jimmy'' Cayne, whose 4.9 percent stake makes him the fifth-largest holder, is forgoing a bonus for the year after delivering the first quarterly loss in the firm's history.

Bear Stearns rose 49 cents to $89.29 at 4:30 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have dropped about 10 percent this month and 45 percent this year.

Exercised Options

Investment funds Lewis controls paid as much as $110 for the shares this month, when the market price hasn't exceeded $105.75. He accumulated most of the shares when trading counterparties exercised options to sell him the stock at a preset price, according to the funds' regulatory filing. Lewis's funds also bought shares at $89 and sold some at $93, the filing shows.

Born in an apartment above a pub in London's East End, Lewis dropped out of school at 15 to become a waiter in his father's catering company. He expanded the business into a chain of eateries and opened tourist souvenir shops in Geneva, London and Rome. He got into currency trading as a means of investing receipts from his pubs and shops.

Two Bear Stearns hedge funds that bet on mortgage-linked securities failed in July, wiping out $1.6 billion of investor capital. Lewis is a customer of the Bear Stearns unit that provides brokerage services to wealthy individuals and pension plans, two people with knowledge of the matter said in September, when he first disclosed his purchases.

Bear Stearns said in October that China's government- controlled Citic Securities Co. paid $1 billion for a 6 percent stake. The firm invested the same amount in the Chinese investment bank.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Cheney accused of blocking Californian bid to cut car fumes

Dan Glaister in Los Angeles
Monday December 24, 2007
The Guardian

The US vice-president, Dick Cheney, was behind a controversial decision to block California's attempt to impose tough emission limits on car manufacturers, according to insiders at the government Environmental Protection Agency.

Staff at the agency, which announced last week that California's proposed limits were redundant, said the agency's chief went against their expert advice after car executives met Cheney, and a Chrysler executive delivered a letter to the EPA saying why the state should not be allowed to regulate greenhouse gases.

EPA staff members told the Los Angeles Times that the agency's head, the Bush appointee Stephen Johnson, ignored their conclusions and shut himself off from consultation in the month before the announcement. He then informed them of his decision and instructed them to provide the legal rationale for it, they said.

"California met every criteria ... on the merits," an anonymous member of the EPA staff told the Times. "The same criteria we have used for the last 40 years ... We told him that. All the briefings we have given him laid out the facts." ...

But Johnson's staff gave him the opposite advice, warning him that should he block California, the state would probably sue him in the courts and would probably win. The state's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, immediately announced that he would challenge the EPA's ruling in the courts, describing it as "legally indefensible".

California had wanted to implement a 2002 law limiting greenhouse gas emissions from cars and lorries. Had it been successful, 16 other states had said they would follow suit, effectively creating a national standard that car makers would have been obliged to follow.

Time to Start Thinking About Next Year's Gifts

This would go well with the "Baltimore Block":

Urban Collectables
Toy car - boxed

Each Urban Collectable car is completely unique
and has been individually hand burnt. The range includes The Joy ridden 2-door Hatchback, The Mini Van/Insurance Scam and The Petrol Bombed Jeep.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

True Story: Moishe Made His First Million This Way

Isle of Man in spin over self-proclaimed 'king'

By Gary Cleland
Last Updated: 1:39am GMT 20/12/2007

Businessman David Drew Howe, 38, claims to be a cousin to the Queen and a direct descendant of the Stanley family.

He crowned himself "undisputed" His Majesty King David of the Isle of Man, after placing a notice in the London Gazette.

When the notice went unchallenged he declared himself "de jure" King of the Isle of Man at the end of March this year.

Now a West Sussex based company, Noble Titles, is offering peerages in the name of King David - promising the money paid will go to charity.

The titles do not come cheap - among those available are a dukedom for £90,000.

Becoming a count will cost you £70,000, a countess £60,000 and a viscount £50,000 ...

On comments on website noticeboards on the Isle of Man, local residents opinions veered from anger to genuine concern.

Mick from Douglas wrote: "What started out as an interesting and amusing story of a seemingly semi-delusional American has now turned into something quite serious, as the monetary amounts stated are huge.

"Surely the authorities must intervene."

Kim wrote: "King David - get over yourself! You are NOT our King - you will NEVER be our King.

"If you've got any respect at all you will give up this silly claim."

A petition has also been set up online calling for David Drew Howe to be banned from calling himself King and to be barred from ever setting foot on the island.

The Queen is the official monarch of the Isle of Man, where she is known as the Lord of Man.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mars bitches

"Write this down. M.A.R.S. That's right! Mars, bitches!"

CAPE CANAVERAL - A rocket carrying a GPS satellite to better guide military weapons was launched into space Thursday.

The Delta 2 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 3:04 p.m. with the modernized NAVSTAR Global Positioning System Block 2R military navigation satellite aboard for the U.S. Air Force.

The satellite is part of a constellation of 24 and one of eight that were modernized to more precisely guide weapons and a variety of civilian applications.

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is asking Congress for hundreds of millions of dollars to test weapons in space, marking the biggest step toward creating a space battlefield since President Reagan's long-defunct ''star wars" project during the Cold War, according to federal budget documents.

The Defense Department's budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 includes money for a variety of tests on offensive and defensive weapons, including a missile launched at a small satellite in orbit, testing a small space vehicle that could disperse weapons while traveling at 20 times the speed of sound, and determining whether high-powered ground-based lasers can effectively destroy enemy satellites.

The military says that its aerospace technology, which has advanced exponentially during the last two decades, is worth the nine-figure investment because it will have civilian applications as well, such as refueling or retrieving disabled satellites. But arms-control specialists fear the tests will push the military closer to basing weapons in space than during Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative in the mid-1980s -- without a public debate of the potential consequences.

''Some of these things are going to be put up and tested and that is where you have the potential to cross the line" into creating actual space-based weapons systems, said Theresa Hitchens, director of the Center for Defense Information in Washington and coauthor of a new analysis on space weapons spending.

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, warned that any US move to position weapons in space ''will lead countries to pursue countermeasures. Before we cross that threshold, the United States should explore with other countries some guidelines or limits on what is deployed in space."

The big-budget projects are spread across the Defense Department, but most are under the purview of the Missile Defense Agency, which oversees the development of a national missile shield, a system heavily dependent on space-based hardware. The shield could also be used to destroy those missiles or strike back at the adversaries who fired them.

The descriptions included in the budget request mark only what is publicly known about the military's space warfare plans. Specialists believe the classified portion of the $439 billion budget, blacked out for national security reasons, almost certainly includes other space-related programs.

Rick Lehner, an agency spokesman, said there are no plans to base weapons in space, noting that out of $48 billion planned for missile defense over the next five years, just $570 million will fund space-related activities.

''We just want to do some experiments" on weapons technology in space, he said.

Under President Bush, the White House has emphasized what's known as ''space dominance" -- the notion that the United States must command space to defend the nation, a strategy that gained traction under Reagan. The military already has reconnaissance and communications satellites, but the Pentagon says weapons systems in space can protect commercial satellites as well.

In 2004, the Air Force published a paper outlining a long-term vision for space weapons, including an air-launched antisatellite missile, a ground-based laser aimed at low-earth orbit satellites, and a ''hypervelocity" weapon that could strike targets from space.

The paper stated that it is essential for the United States to deny its adversaries strategic access to space; success ''will require [the] full spectrum, sea, air, and space-based offensive counterspace systems" that the military can muster. The Pentagon has always examined space as a possible battleground, but the budget request marks a transition from laboratory theory to reality. And the Bush administration has sought to keep the military's options open despite international opposition to weapons in space.

Indeed, for the first time ever, the United States voted last fall to block a UN resolution calling for a ban on weapons in space. In the past, the US delegation abstained from voting on similar measures.

''There is a very strong desire among most states to get a negotiation going," said Peggy Mason, Canada's former UN ambassador for disarmament. But the UN Conference on Disarmament operates according to consensus and the United States has stymied talks on the issue, Mason said.

Arms-control advocates believe the space projects in the defense budget, which is under congressional review, explains the opposition.

According to a joint analysis by defense specialists at the Henry L. Stimson Center and the Center for Defense Information, several of these space programs, if brought to fruition, will create ''facts in orbit" -- weapons in space before a public debate is complete.

One $207 million project by the Missile Defense Agency features experiments on micro-satellites, including using one as a target for missiles. This experiment ''is particularly troublesome," according to the joint report, ''as it would be a de-facto antisatellite test."

The defense budget doesn't have a timetable for that test, but a Missile Defense Agency spokesman said the test is merely intended to study the missile during flight.

In another program, called Advanced Weapons Technology, the Air Force wants to spend $51 million for a series of space-oriented experiments, according to budget documents. A project description says the Air Force would test a variety of powerful laser beams ''for applications including antisatellite weapons."

A Missile Defense Agency project set to begin in 2008, the Space-Based Interceptor Test Bed, would launch up to five satellites capable of shooting down missiles, according to budget documents.

''A space layer helps protect the United States and our allies against asymmetric threats designed to exploit coverage and engagement gaps in our terrestrial defenses," the agency says in its budget proposal, referring to the interceptor test. ''We believe that a mix of terrestrial and space-basing offers the most effective global defense against ballistic missiles."

The agency also has asked Congress for $220 million for ''Multiple Kill Vehicles," a program that experts say could be proposed as a space-based missile interceptor.

Meanwhile, the Air Force wants $33 million for the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle, envisioned as space vehicle capable of delivering a military payload anywhere on earth within an hour, according to an official project description.

Philip Coyle, who served as the Pentagon's top weapons tester from 1994 to 2001, said in an interview that he sees ''new emphasis on space weapons" even though ''there is no threat in space to justify a new arms race in space."

''US missile defense is the first wave in which the United States could introduce attack weapons in space, that is, weapons with strike capability," he said. ''Once you've got space-based interceptors up there, they can just as well be used for offense as defense."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Essential Music

Wow, Kevin at breaks down the entire song. Go there (the link, as always, is in the post title above) quickly while the songs are still available to download:

Today I am exploring the samples that the Dust Brother's used on Beastie Boys "Shake Your Rump" from Pauls Boutique. When Paul's Boutique was first released it was slept on by most of the hip-hop heads because it was nothing like Licensed to Ill. The Dust Brothers were true visionaries in the sampling game circa 1989, but they were undoubtedly influenced by the chaotic sample-heavy production of the Bomb Squad on Public Enemy's landmark recording It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. I'm not 100% sure about this, but it's rumored that Paul's Boutique contains more samples than any other hip-hop record in history. "Shake Your Rump" contains thirteen samples alone, so I can only imagine that the entire record is tipping the scales at over one-hundred samples.
The Dust Brothers artfully juxtaposed rare jazz drum breaks with old-school hip-hop and funky soul to craft the sample masterpiece "Shake Your Rump". I will now take you on a journey through the various samples from "Shake Your Rump". Fasten your seatbelts cause it's going to be a bumpy ride! ...

It's crazy out there on "the track"

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bus driver solicits sex; students aboard

Norman Sinclair and Jennifer Mrozowski / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- A 30-year-old bus driver transporting Detroit Public Schools special needs students was arrested Wednesday after allegedly pulling his bus alongside an undercover officer, propositioning her for sex from his window, and promising to return after he dropped the children off at school.

"In my 35 years in law enforcement, I've seen a lot of outrageous things, particularly in the area of prostitution," Wayne County Sheriff Warren C. Evans said in a statement. "But the very idea that someone entrusted with the safety and security of special needs children would instead put his own selfish and illicit needs first, blows my mind."

Deputies took custody of the children and drove them to McKenny Elementary School. Their parents were notified....

Finally! Sharks!

The upside to the current credit crunch

Courtesy of Cumberland Advisors, there is an upside to the current problems in the credit markets:

Dysfunctional markets = opportunity. Written by Peter Demirali.
December 19, 2007

This commentary was written by Peter Demirali, Cumberland’s VP and lead portfolio manager in the taxable fixed income asset class. Peter can be reached at

Volatility has increased dramatically in virtually all markets since this summer. The credit markets have made the most headlines because they stopped functioning normally.

This change was due to the news about sub-prime mortgage delinquencies and defaults reaching record levels. In addition, we saw major banks and brokerage firms write down the value of their Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO) and Structured Investment Vehicles (SIV). Losses are measured in the tens of billions.

The result has been a reduction in risk taking by market makers as well as investors. We see this in the actions of banks that have become unwilling to lend in the inter-bank market. At Cumberland, we believe that volatile markets are not always a bad thing. They can also present opportunity.

Here is an example of an actual trade.

During the time that market tension grew before the last Fed meeting, the Idaho Housing and Finance Association came to market with a $15 million taxable municipal bond. We found this offering extremely attractive for our clients that had cash to invest. These bonds are rated AAA on their own. This is the natural rating and without any bond insurance as a credit enhancement.

The new issue bond yield at the time it was offered was 6.45%. That was a spread of more than 290 basis points over the five year treasury reference benchmark. This yield spread level was unheard of just two or three months ago for a bond of this quality.

The bond was structured so that, under normal assumptions, these bonds would have an average life of less than five years. Under the slowest prepayment speed scenario, its average life extended to roughly nine years. In addition, the deal was over-collateralized by fifteen percent. That insured that under almost every scenario there would be enough cash flow generated to cover interest and principal payments. The maximum loan-to-value of each mortgage in the deal was 80 percent; that’s a very conservative position for bond investors. Having borrowers pay 20 percent of the value of a home is an added cushion that we believe made this deal attractive in the present climate.

We were very fortunate to get a reasonable allocation of bonds from the underwriter. We expect these bonds will perform extraordinarily well and provide our clients with excellent income and total return results.

We offer this as an example of some of the extraordinary pricing that is now in the market due to the widening of credit spreads. The current dysfunctional environment in the credit markets enables us to capitalize on situations like this one. Opportunities like this occur infrequently. When they appear in times like these, one must act quickly and seize them.

What? You've Never Wondered? Just Morty? Whatever ...

Study Reveals Why Monkeys Shout During Sex

By Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience

Female monkeys may shout during sex to help their male partners climax, research now reveals.

Without these yells, male Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) almost never ejaculated, scientists found.

Female monkeys often utter loud, distinctive calls before, during or after sex. Their exact function, if any, has remained heavily debated.

Counting pelvic thrusts

To investigate the purpose behind these calls, scientists at the German Primate Center in Göttingen focused on Barbary macaques for two years in a nature reserve in Gibraltar.

The researchers found that females yelled during 86 percent of all sexual encounters. When females shouted, males ejaculated 59 percent of the time. However, when females did not holler, males ejaculated less than 2 percent of the time.

To see if yelling resulted from how vigorous the sex was, the scientists counted the number of pelvic thrusts males gave and timed when they happened. They found when shouting occurred, thrusting increased. In other words, hollering led to more vigorous sex.

Counting monkey pelvic thrusts is admittedly "quite weird, but it's science," researcher Dana Pfefferle, a behavioral scientist and primatologist at the German Primate Center, told LiveScience. "You get used to it." ...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Do You Realize How Many Knishes This Could Buy? Morty Likes Knishes

How High is Up? The Defense Budget gets even crazier
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

For those of you concerned about the state of US security--levees that don't collapse, for example, or bridges that don't fall into the Mississippi river, sit down before you see these numbers.

Last week, both houses of Congress approved the conference report on the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill, H.R. 1585. The bill includes $506.9 billion for the Department of Defense and the nuclear weapons activities of the Department of Energy. The bill also authorizes $189.4 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This funding is NOT counted as part of the $506.9 billion ...

Keep in mind, today's defense spending is 14% above the height of the Korean War, 33% above the height of the Vietnam War, 25% above the height of the "Reagan Era" buildup and is 76% above the Cold War average

In fact, since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the annual defense budget - not including the costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan - has gone up 34%. Including war costs, defense spending has gone up 86% since 2001 ...

(via: Http://

Still Not a Shark ...

Giant rat species found in Papua forest

By Nick Squires in Sydney
Last Updated: 12:01pm GMT 17/12/2007

The huge rat - about five times as large as a sewer rat - had no fear of people and regularly wandered into a camp set up by scientists in the remote region of Papua, the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea.

Dr Ucok holds this 1.4 kg giant rat that is probably a new species
The 1.4 kg giant rat that is probably a new species

In contrast, the Cercartetus possum was shy and ranks as one of the world's smallest marsupials.

Both creatures were found by scientists from the US-based group Conservation International and the Indonesian Institute of Science, which led an expedition to the Foja mountains of eastern Papua in June.

It is extremely rare to discover new species of mammal, particularly one as large as the Mallomys rat.

"The giant rat is about five times the size of a typical city rat," said Kristofer Helgen, a scientist with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

"With no fear of humans, it apparently came into the camp several times during the trip."

Must read - series of articles from Bloomberg on sub prime

here is a little taste:

Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Representatives of five of Wall Street's dominant investment banks gathered around a blonde wood conference table on a February night almost three years ago. Their talks over take-out Chinese food led to the perfect formula for a U.S. housing collapse.

The host was Greg Lippmann, then 36, a fast-talking Deutsche Bank AG trader who aspired to make mortgage securities as big a cash cow for Wall Street as the $12 trillion corporate credit market.

His allies included 34-year-old Rajiv Kamilla, a trader at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. with a background in nuclear physics, and 32-year-old Todd Kushman, who led a contingent from Bear Stearns Cos. Representatives from Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. were also invited. Almost 50 traders and lawyers showed up for the first meeting at Deutsche Bank's Wall Street office to help set the trading rules and design the new product.

``To tell you the truth, it's not very glamorous,'' Lippmann says. ``Just a bunch of guys eating Chinese discussing legal arcana.''

Those meetings of the ``group of five,'' as the traders called themselves, became a turning point in the history of Wall Street and the global economy.

The new standardized contracts they created would allow firms to protect themselves from the risks of subprime mortgages, enable speculators to bet against the U.S. housing market, and help meet demand from institutional investors for the high yields of loans to homeowners with poor credit.......

This looks good - Scorcese Rollings Stones documentary

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Very Useful Link for Mac Users

Top 100 Mac Apps

Chris Pirillo:
I’ve compiled a list of my top 100 Mac apps for your perusal, since so many people have been asking for it. Thanks to Taylor Olson and Jason for helping me put all the icons and links in place! These apps are certainly Tiger compatible, and most of ‘em work inside Leopard (though the VNC utilities are now unnecessary). I did my best to avoid overly popular titles, but couldn’t avoid it in some cases.

The Worst Case Scenario

Stagflation May Return as Price, Credit Risks Meet (Update1)

By Rich Miller

Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The world economy is facing the risk of both recession and faster inflation.

Global growth this quarter and next may be the slowest in four years, while inflation might be the fastest in a decade, say economists at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The worst U.S. housing slump in 16 years, coupled with a tightening of credit by banks, has brought the world's largest economy ``close to stall speed,'' according to former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. At the same time, rapid growth in China and other emerging markets is driving energy and food prices higher worldwide.

``What lies ahead is a period of stagflation -- slow or no growth combined with rising inflation -- in the advanced economies,'' says Joachim Fels, co-chief global economist at Morgan Stanley in London.

Harvard University economist Martin Feldstein is among those who say it would be just a mild case of what the world endured in the 1970s and early 1980s, when a 10-fold increase in oil prices drove both unemployment and inflation above 10 percent. Still, it poses a dilemma for the Fed and other central banks as they struggle to decide which problem they should tackle first.

How they respond will go a long way in determining which danger proves to be the biggest: a slumping global economy or rising prices worldwide.

For now, traders in futures markets are betting the Fed will remain focused on supporting growth, even after the latest government inflation reading last week showed consumer prices rose in November at the fastest pace in more than two years ...

Not to beat a dead horse, but are you kidding me with this ad?

Separation of church and state is a political and legal idea usually identified with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… The phrase building a wall of separation between church and state was written by Thomas Jefferson in a January 1, 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Another potential sign of a bottom in housing market

Developer Behind
Time Warner Center
Gets Capital Infusion

December 17, 2007; Page A2

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the investment arm of Abu Dhabi and others have agreed to inject a combined $1.4 billion into Related Cos., the closely held real-estate developer behind New York's Time Warner Center, executives at Related Cos. said.

The deal, which was announced today, includes about $400 million in equity from Goldman and MSD Capital, Michael Dell's investment firm. The equity investment gives Goldman and MSD a 7.5% stake in Related, valuing the New York real-estate firm at more than $5 billion.

In addition, Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Development Co. and the Olayan Group, a Saudi Arabian company, as well as an unnamed international investor, have invested about $1 billion total in Related in the form of subordinated long-term debt......

Sorry, Moishe, Looks Like You Need to Talk Some Sense Into Robert Plant...

Led Zeppelin: No Spring Tour, But Maybe Belfast, and Save Those Ticket Stubs

After Led Zeppelin's "triumphant" reunion show at London's O2 Arena last Monday, the rumors of an upcoming tour were inevitable. E! reports that a set of dates in early 2008 seemed possible, and that a headline slot at Tennessee's Bonnaroo festival in June was also rumored. But alas, it's not meant to be: Robert Plant has set aside May for a European tour with Allison Krauss, with whom he made the critically-acclaimed album Raising Sand. Plant is also rumored to be the one Zep most opposed to the idea of continuing the band's successful tour, telling the Sunday Times that "a cavalcade of merciless repetition is not what it's all about."

But now the Belfast Telegraph is reporting that a local promoter is negotiating to bring the band back to the Northern Ireland city, where they played "Stairway to Heaven" for the first time in public. While that legendary show was at the Ulster Hall, the promoter says that venue is "too small" and that they would likely play an arena.

And finally, if you were one of the lucky fans who scored a ticket to the aforementioned O2 Arena show, don't throw out that ticket stub: NME reports that the crumpled scraps are going for up to £125 ($250) on eBay.

Something To Keep in the Back of Your Mind

China, Iran Sign $2 Billion Oil Production Agreement (Update2)

By Wang Ying and Dinakar Sethuraman

Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) -- China Petrochemical Corp. signed a $2 billion agreement to develop Iran's Yadavaran oil field, advancing prospects for a contract on the sale of liquefied natural gas to the world's fastest-growing major economy.

The field will produce 85,000 barrels a day in four years and a further 100,000 barrels a day three years after that, China's official Xinhua news agency cited Iranian Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari as saying yesterday. Under an initial agreement in 2004, China would pay Iran as much as $100 billion over 25 years for LNG and oil and 51 percent stake in Yadavaran.

Sinopec Group, as China Petrochemical is known, hopes to talk about liquefied natural gas supplies ``later,'' Iran's state news agency IRNA said today, citing Zhou Baixiu, president of Sinopec Group's international exploration and production unit. China is ``willing'' to buy LNG from Iran, Zhou said.

China, a veto-holding member of the United Nations Security Council, has resisted pressure from the U.S. to isolate Iran and impose a third round of international sanctions over the country's nuclear program. The Chinese government wants its oil and gas producers to step up their global search for energy resources to meet rising consumption, spurred by an economy that surged 11.5 percent in the third quarter ...

Moishe likes green

First Global Carbon Index Unveiled


LONDON, Dec. 10, 2007 -- Barclays Capital has launched the first index to track the performance of carbon credits issued though major greenhouse gas emissions trading schemes.

The Barclays Capital Global Carbon Index is meant to be a comprehensive benchmark for the carbon emissions market and is governed by the Barclays Capital Environmental Markets Index Committee.

Initially it will track carbon credits associated with the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU Allowances) and the Kyoto Clean Development Mechanism (Certified Emission Reductions), and add new schemes as they develop.

"The BGCI offers investors direct and transparent access to the global carbon arena, which has the potential to become one of the world's largest and most important commodities markets," said Harshika Patel, head of environmental markets product and business development for Barclays.

Barclays Capital is the investment banking division of Barclays Bank PLC.

Morty Has Always Stressed That Market Research and Focus Groups Add Value to Every Business

Sweet, flavored cocaine now in U.S.

Published: June 26, 2007 at 2:48 PM

Font size:
SACRAMENTO, June 26 (UPI) -- Police in California report a growing trend in cocaine traffickers adding flavors to the powder and charging 40 percent more for it.

The most recent arrests were in Yolo County where deputies arrested six people and seized three pounds of sweetened cocaine flavored with strawberry or coconut, the Sacramento Bee reported Tuesday.

Yolo Narcotic Enforcement Team Cmdr. Roy Giorgi told the newspaper the street price of the flavored varieties is about 40 percent higher than unflavored.

"They (users) said regular cocaine gives a medicine taste in the back of the throat when snorted," Giorgi said. "With the flavored, you get a strawberry taste."

He said there have been reports nationally of cocaine also being flavored with vanilla, banana and chocolate, and that other drugs such as Ecstasy and methamphetamines are also popping up with flavors.

Not that Morty or Moishe are doing dirt, but this scary for everyone

Sunday New York Times (December 16, 2007)

WASHINGTON — For months, the Bush administration has waged a high-profile campaign, including personal lobbying by President Bush and closed-door briefings by top officials, to persuade Congress to pass legislation protecting companies from lawsuits for aiding the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program.

But the battle is really about something much bigger. At stake is the federal government’s extensive but uneasy partnership with industry to conduct a wide range of secret surveillance operations in fighting terrorism and crime.

The N.S.A.’s reliance on telecommunications companies is broader and deeper than ever before, according to government and industry officials, yet that alliance is strained by legal worries and the fear of public exposure.......

And see this Frontline episode from May 15, 2007 -

"So many people in America think this does not affect them. They've been convinced that these programs are only targeted at suspected terrorists. … I think that's wrong. … Our programs are not perfect, and it is inevitable that totally innocent Americans are going to be affected by these programs," former CIA Assistant General Counsel Suzanne Spaulding tells FRONTLINE correspondent Hedrick Smith in Spying on the Home Front.

9/11 has indelibly altered America in ways that people are now starting to earnestly question: not only perpetual orange alerts, barricades and body frisks at the airport, but greater government scrutiny of people's records and electronic surveillance of their communications. The watershed, officials tell FRONTLINE, was the government's shift after 9/11 to a strategy of pre-emption at home -- not just prosecuting terrorists for breaking the law, but trying to find and stop them before they strike.

President Bush described his anti-terrorist measures as narrow and targeted, but a FRONTLINE investigation has found that the National Security Agency (NSA) has engaged in wiretapping and sifting Internet communications of millions of Americans; the FBI conducted a data sweep on 250,000 Las Vegas vacationers, and along with more than 50 other agencies, they are mining commercial-sector data banks to an unprecedented degree.....

Watch the episode here:

Watch Out for Those Damn Developers!

'Eco-city' in China gives off aroma of green — money

CHONGMING ISLAND, China — The world's first major eco-city designed from the ground up to minimize environmental impact may soon take shape on this island near Shanghai. That is, if developers don't hijack the plan.

As word spreads of the Dongtan Eco-City and its whisper-quiet streets and canals, where battery-powered buses will transport residents, the whiff of money is in the air, and developers already talk of building a Disney theme park to raise property values.

Dongtan is still just a vision. Groundbreaking won't occur until next year. On the drawing boards, though, it's a showcase of low-impact living. Each resident will live within a seven-minute walk of the buses and solar-powered water taxis that will pulse silently through the city.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Morty is Enjoying the Recent Republican Crackup Like a Nice Piece of Lox and His Sunday Times

From a Conservative Perspective, Andrew Sullivan:

It's amazing to me to watch Rich Lowry and Charles Krauthammer begin to panic at the signs of Christianism taking over the Republican party. Where, one wonders, have they been for the past decade? They have long pooh-poohed those of us who have been warning about this for a long time, while cozying up to Christianists for cynical or instrumental reasons. But now they want to draw the line ...

And that is why part of me, I confess, wants Huckabee to win. So he can lose. So the GOP can lose - as spectacularly and humiliatingly as possible. If we are to rid conservatism of this theocratic cancer, we need to start over. Maybe it has to get worse before it can get better. But it is certainly too late for fellow-traveling Christianists like Lowry and Krauthammer to start whining now. This is their party. And they asked for every last bit of it.

And From a Liberal Perspective, Roy Edroso:
Alan Keyes has been a prominent conservative for a long time. Ronald Reagan ("I've never known a more stout-hearted defender of a strong America than Alan Keyes") appointed him to the UN and to the State Department. The National Review used to be cool with Keyes, too: he has been interviewed and even written for the magazine ...

But this year Keyes got on Wednesday's Iowa Republican Presidential debate, and spouted much the same gibberish as usual. This time the National Review crowd is incensed. "I Wish the Des Moines Register Had One More Republican Debate This Cycle," says Kathryn Jean Lopez, "so I could demand a place on the stage. It makes as much sense as Alan Keyes being there." Rich Lowry said Keyes "shouldn't have been on the stage." Mark Hemingway suggested Keyes be pushed off future debate stages with sticks ...

What changed? Well, for one thing, the Republicans aren't doing so hot, so the hijinks of olden times have to be kept on the down-low. The "mainstream" Republican candidates, knowing what a tough slog they have ahead of themselves, are making strenuous efforts to look and sound normal for the cameras. Conservative commentators play gamely along, talking about their debates as if they were business as usual, though were a soul innocent of the current GOP's bizarre standards of normalcy to happen upon one of these scenes, it would probably fill him with confusion and horror.

But most of us are not so well-protected, and are by now kind of inured to the Jesus-infused, torture-happy madness of Republicans. Their best chance is to keep a straight face over the course of the remaining 732 debates, and get us all acclimated to their insane ideas once more. Then Keyes comes along frothing at the mouth. Under ordinary circumstances, his competitors might see this as an opportunity to look more normal by comparison. But their supporters, at least, are wrapped too tight at the moment to see it that way. They see the rampaging id of Republicanism let loose upon their stage, and they are terrified that his mania might be catching. They had just learned to live with Ron Paul, and now this!

No wonder Keyes drives them bonkers. He's blowing their cover.

Pretty Much Sums Up Morty's Feelings about Al Gore

Matthew Yglesias:
Gore hits the sweet spot of experience and vision in a way that nobody else can. What's more, a person who's in a position to be a viable presidential candidate and who believes the things Gore says he believes almost has a duty to run, a duty that I'm sad he hasn't seen fit to take up.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Inspiration for Morty's dollhouse

Best. Dollhouse. Ever.

Click on the link for many more photos of "The Baltimore Block"...'sPages/TheBlock.htm

Good Advice From Al Gore at the Bali Climate Conference

“One year and 40 days from today, there will be a new inauguration in the United States. Over the next two years, the United States is going to be somewhere it isn’t right now. You must anticipate that.”

Collorary To Moishe's Post Below

The Long and Short of It at Goldman Sachs

Published: December 2, 2007

... Goldman Sachs is a huge name in terms of moneymaking and prestige. I totally understand the respect it receives for its financial dexterity. The firm is a superstar in that regard, and I, a small stockholder, am grateful ...

More thoughts came to me as I read a recent piece in Fortune by my colleague Allan Sloan, a veteran financial writer. Mr. Sloan traces the life and death throes of a Goldman Sachs-arranged collateralized mortgage obligation. He shows how truly toxic waste was sold to overly eager investors who now have major charge-offs, and he also points out that some parts of the C.M.O. were indeed safe and were either current or had been paid off.

But what leaps out at me from this story is that Goldman Sachs was injecting dangerous financial products into the world’s commercial bloodstream for years.

My pal, colleague and alter ego, the financial manager Phil DeMuth, culled data from a financial Web site, (for “asset-backed alert”), that Goldman Sachs was one of the top 10 sellers of C.M.O.’s for the last two and a half years. From the evidence I see, Goldman was doing this for years. It might have sold very roughly $100 billion of the stuff in that period, according to ABAlert. Goldman was doing it on a scale of billions even when Henry M. Paulson Jr., the current Treasury secretary, led the firm ...

The point to bear in mind, as Mr. Sloan brilliantly makes clear, is that as Goldman was peddling C.M.O.’s, it was also shorting the junk on a titanic scale through index sales — showing, at least to me, how horrible a product it believed it was selling.

The Goldman Sachs spokesman said that the company routinely shorts the securities it underwrites and said that this is disclosed. He noted candidly that Goldman is much more short in this sector than usual.

Smart money

The subprime-mortgage crisis has been a financial catastrophe for much of Wall Street. At Goldman Sachs Group Inc., thanks to a tiny group of traders, it has generated one of the biggest windfalls the securities industry has seen in years.

The group's big bet that securities backed by risky home loans would fall in value generated nearly $4 billion of profits during the year ended Nov. 30, according to people familiar with the firm's finances. Those gains erased $1.5 billion to $2 billion of mortgage-related losses elsewhere in the firm. On Tuesday, despite a terrible November and some of the worst market conditions in decades, analysts expect Goldman to report record net annual income of more than $11 billion.....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

File this under, really really intelligent

BERLIN (AP) - A man nearly died from alcohol poisoning after quaffing a liter (two pints) of vodka at an airport security check instead of handing it over to comply with new carry-on rules, police said Wednesday.

The incident occurred at the Nuremberg airport on Tuesday, where the 64-year-old man was switching planes on his way home to Dresden from a holiday in Egypt.

New airport rules prohibit passengers from carrying larger quantities of liquid onto planes, and he was told at a security check he would have to either throw out the bottle of vodka or pay a fee to have his carry-on bag checked as cargo.

Instead, he chugged the bottle down—and was quickly unable to stand or otherwise function, police said.

A doctor called to the scene determined he had possibly life- threatening alcohol poisoning, and he was sent to a Nuremberg clinic for treatment.

The man, whose name was not released, is expected to be able to complete his journey home in a few days.

Essential Music

If you've ever enjoyed early Funkadelic, this is a great find. Click this link to hear a sample track...
Somewhat of a mythical figure, original Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel pioneered an innovative funk-metal sound in the early '70s, best exemplified on his mammoth classic instrumental jam "Maggot Brain."

Named one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time by both Rolling Stone and Mojo, Brooklyn native Eddie Hazel was the original lead guitarist for George Clinton's wildly influential funk-rock ensemble Funkadelic. After shredding on acid-soaked classics like "Maggot Brain" "I Wanna Know If It's Good To You," and "Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On," Hazel left the band in 1974 amid a flurry of drug use and financial disputes.
Released in 1977, Game, Dames And Guitar Thangs is a full-tilt, jam-filled showcase for Hazel's far-out virtuosity. He cuts loose on fiery extended versions of The Mamas And The Papas' "California Dreamin'" and The Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." Elsewhere he taps the Parliament/Funkadelic tradition with "Frantic Moment," "So Goes The Story," and "Physical Love" -- all co-written by Clinton and Bootsy Collins. Female PFunk backers the Brides Of Funkenstein handle the majority of vocal duties

*to download and decompress this album you need the UnRar program

Good article

Dec 12 2007 9:16AM EST

Led Zep, YouTube, and a Broken Record from Warner Music

As we report on today, within hours of Led Zeppelin's historic reunion concert in London on Monday, fans in attendance started posting videos of the performance on YouTube -- and Warner Music lawyers started pulling them down.

The disconnect -- the inability of music labels to get it -- is continually astounding.

Our story said this: The Telegraph reported that Led Zeppelin record sales skyrocketed 500 percent the day after the concert. Warner has good reason to want to protect its intellectual property in this case, given that the company is expected to release a DVD of the concert for sale next year.

Record sales don't rocket 500 percent because of a concert seen by 20,000 people. The DO rocket 500 percent or more when millions of people around the world see a few video clips and renew their love of an old band. And does Warner Music actually think that people would skip buying a beautifully-produced DVD because they watched a few songs shot with a cell phone from seats near the rafters?

Granted, there's a lot more at stake for Zeppelin compared to far lesser draws. But I thought it was interesting -- last time I saw my friend Roger McGuinn play (to a packed house at The Barns at Wolftrap near DC), he at one point asked everyone to get out their cell phones, video a song or two, and -- please -- post them on YouTube...

Dont know if this will fit in with the formica 80s look in Morty's time share condo?

Any florist or gardening company can place potted plants in an office, then dutifully drop by to water them when needed. But it takes skilled artisans to create the indoor walls of greenery that are indoorlandscaping’s speciality. The German firm’s Grüne Wand (green wall) adds a welcome green element to sterile office environments and improves air quality while taking up less floor space than potted vegetation does.

Indoorlandscaping isn’t the only company creating green walls for public spaces. Green Fortune, launched by two Swedish entrepreneurs, has already amassed an impressive list of international clients, placing their Plantwalls in offices, stores, restaurants and even car dealerships. Likewise, French artist Patrick Blank’s meticulously sculpted Vertical Gardens have transformed ordinary walls in Paris and elsewhere into works of foliage art.

From LEED certification to green roofs, commercial buildings are being swept up in a big eco-wave. Which isn’t just good and necessary, but also creates a host of new business opportunities for entrepreneurs—whether creating their own eco-friendly concepts, or partnering with up-and-coming players like Green Fortune and indoorlandscaping. And how about making green indoor walls feasible and affordable for private homes? (Related: Urban farming.)


You Stay Classy, Republicans

Thompson slams Romney on $50 abortions in Mass.

WASHINGTON — Fred Thompson escalated the Republican presidential candidates' war over abortion Wednesday by tying former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to "$50 abortions in Massachusetts."

Romney, the governor from 2003 until January, helped create Commonwealth Care, a state-run and subsidized program for low- and moderate-income people. The state helps determine what services are to be covered, and its list includes a provision in which women can get abortions for $50 co-payments.

The legislation also created a MassHealth payment policy advisory board that gave Planned Parenthood a seat, but not an anti-abortion group.

"Romney claims to be pro-life," the Thompson campaign said in a statement. "But under his health care plan, Massachusetts residents now have access to taxpayer-funded abortions for $50."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Led Zep: We'll rock again in NY

LED ZEPPELIN celebrated their triumphant comeback gig by planning world domination over cups of tea and coffee.

Unlike in their hellraising heyday, singer ROBERT PLANT and guitarist JIMMY PAGE slapped each other on the back and were handed giant mugs of hot drinks.

But then the rock fighting talk began and they discussed returning to Madison Square Garden in New York - where they did three sell-out shows in 1973.

My source backstage at London’s O2 arena said: “Robert had a couple of bottles of beer before going on stage but afterwards it was just hot mugs of tea and coffee.

“The band were really fired up and were talking about their late drummer JOHN BONHAM and what he would have thought about it - it was a time for reflection.

“Then the talk went to, ‘What next? Was this it or would there be something else?’ One of the guys started talking about their three concerts at the Garden.

“There was a consensus of, ‘Why not?’ It is one of the best live music venues in the world. I have no doubt after their reaction backstage that they will be there next year playing to a sell-out crowd.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Morty's Head Hurts, and He Needs to Lay Down

"So Waterboarding Is Legal"

Tue Dec 11, 2007 at 12:36:34 PM PST

From today's White House press briefing:

Q Did the questioning of al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah conform with the interrogation program approved by President Bush? [...]

MS. PERINO: I will say that all interrogations -- all interrogations have been done within the legal framework that was set out after September 11th...All of the -- the entire program has been legal.

Q Are you saying that whatever was done in this case was not torture?

MS. PERINO: I am saying that the United States does not torture. The President has been -- [...]

Q But when you have a former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, now saying that waterboarding was used -- since you're saying the interrogations were legal; he's saying on the record now, waterboarding was used in at least one case. You're saying waterboarding is legal?

MS. PERINO: Ed, I'm saying I'm not commenting on any specific technique. I'm not commenting on that gentleman's characteristics of any possible technique. I've given you a very general statement about interrogations being legal, limited and --

Q You just said it was legal.

MS. PERINO: I'm sorry?

Q You said it was within the legal framework.


Q Everything that was done.


Q So waterboarding is legal.

MS. PERINO: I'm not commenting on any specific techniques.

Did You Know That Malcom Gladwell Has a Blog?

He doesn't post very frequently but nonetheless...


Editorial Notebook

China Shrinks

Published: December 9, 2007

Few people noticed, but China got smaller the other day. According to new estimates, the colossal Chinese economy that has been making marketers salivate and giving others an inferiority complex may be roughly 40 percent smaller than previously thought: worth $6 trillion rather than $10 trillion. That means it lost a chunk roughly the size of Japan’s output.

What happened was a large statistical glitch. When comparing the size of economies, economists mostly avoid using the standard currency exchange rates seen in bank windows. These fluctuate too much, driven by housing woes, trade deficits or presidential popularity. Economists prefer to use what is known as “purchasing power parity” — or P.P.P. — a rate that adjusts for price differences between countries ... The problem is that the World Bank’s measure of China’s rate, everybody’s benchmark, had been based on a 1980s survey of Chinese prices. This year, the World Bank did its own survey to update the measure ... It turns out that things in China are more expensive. It’s as though we discovered that the real price of the noodles in Beijing was 50 yuan, yielding a P.P.P. of 12.5 yuan to the dollar rather than 10. That means the Chinese are relatively poorer and China’s economy is smaller than everybody thought.This is not a mere technicality. Suddenly the number of Chinese who live below the World Bank’s poverty line of a dollar a day jumped from about 100 million to 300 million, roughly the size of the United States population ... The reassessment does not just involve China. India is also likely to be downsized. And, by the way, global growth has very likely been slower than we thought.

Please tour, Moishe needs it

As Much as Morty Loves Bill...

Hillary Clinton Might Be the Least Electable Democrat

By Guy T. Saperstein, AlterNet. Posted December 7, 2007.

Last Sunday's New York Times contained an op-ed by Frank Rich ("Who's Afraid of Barack Obama," Dec. 2) suggesting that, for a variety of reasons, Barack Obama is the Democrat the Republicans fear most. While Rich emphasized Obama's authenticity, his early and unequivocal opposition to the Iraq war and his cross-over appeal to independents and Republicans, missing from his otherwise excellent article were polling results confirming why Republicans fear an Obama presidential candidacy and why they would prefer to run against Hillary Clinton.

While Clinton maintains her lead in national polling among Democrats, in direct matchups against Republican presidential candidates, she consistently runs behind both Barack Obama and John Edwards. In the recent national Zogby Poll (Nov. 26, 2007), every major Republican presidential candidate beats Clinton: McCain beats her 42 percent to 38 percent; Giuliani beats her 43 percent to 40 percent; Romney beats her 43 percent to 40 percent; Huckabee beats her 44 percent to 39 percent; and Thompson beats her 44 percent to 40 percent, despite the fact Thompson barely appears to be awake most of the time.

By contrast, Obama beats every major Republican candidate: He beats McCain 45 percent to 38 percent; Guiliani 46 percent to 41 percent; Romney 46 percent to 40 percent; Huckabee 46 percent to 40 percent; and, Thompson 47 percent to 40 percent. In other words, Obama consistently runs 8 to 11 percent stronger than Clinton when matched against Republicans. To state the obvious: The Democratic presidential candidate will have to run against a Republican.

Clinton's inherent weakness as a candidate shows up in other ways. In direct matchups for congressional seats, Democrats currently are running 10 percent to 15 percent ahead of Republicans, depending on the poll, while Clinton runs 3 percent to 7 percent behind -- a net deficit ranging from 13 to 22 percent. No candidate in presidential polling history ever has run so far behind his or her party.

To look at Clinton's candidacy another way, Clinton runs well behind generic polling for the presidency: In the NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted Nov. 1-5, 2007, voters were asked, "Putting aside for a moment the question of who each party's nominee might be, what is your preference for the outcome of the 2008 presidential election -- that a Democrat be elected president or that a Republican be elected president?" By 50 percent to 35 percent, voters chose "Democrat" -- a 15-point edge. Thus, Clinton is running 10 to 15 percent, or more, behind the generic Democratic candidate. This is not a promising metric nor the numbers of a strong candidate.

Monday, December 10, 2007

This is pretty huge

Researchers create printed solar cells

We've seen a lot of attempts to cut the costs of solar cells, but a team in Japan has managed to create an inexpensive flexible cell that's as thin as a sheet of paper using what they describe as traditional printing techniques. The team, composed of researchers from Toin University in Yokohama and private firm Fujimori Kogyo, managed to eliminate the expensive silicon component of regular solar cells, reducing thickness to just .4mm (.015 inches), and allowing a factory to pump out reams of the material every month -- enough to generate 10 megawatts of juice. That's actually a fairly low estimate, as the cells are only at 6% efficiency right now, but we can imagine that number shooting upwards after they start shipping in February.

You have to be kidding me?????

worth reading the whole piece, but enjoy this gem:

Huckabee also explained why he left pastoring for politics.
"I didn't get into politics because I thought government had a better answer. I got into politics because I knew government didn't have the real answers, that the real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

If US plays this right, Moishe sees opportunity

if the US can develop a viable and profitable alternative(s) to oil, these countries may be f"ed as their oil consumption continues to increase - this could reshape the balance of power.

December 9, 2007

Oil-Rich Nations Use More Energy, Cutting Exports

The economies of many big oil-exporting countries are growing so fast that their need for energy within their borders is crimping how much they can sell abroaadding new strains to the global oil market.

Experts say the sharp growth, if it continues, means several of the world’s most important suppliers may need to start importing oil within a decade to power all the new cars, houses and businesses they are buying and creating with their oil wealth......