Saturday, July 31, 2010

THIS IS PROBABLY the NYT's most euphemistic headline ever: "White House Seeks to Clarify F.B.I. Powers vis-à-vis E-Mail" Clarify? Take a look at the first paragraph:
The Obama administration has asked Congress to give clear authority to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain records related to the context of e-mails and other Internet-based communications without first obtaining a warrant from a judge.
If you recall the Gray Lady's coverage of the proposed warrantless surveillance during the Bush administration, leaks included, the contrast is even more striking.

I SINCERELY HOPE that Julian Assange never manages to sleep well again: "Taliban hunt Wikileaks outed Afghan informers." Being against the war is one thing. Condemning people to a most certain death in order to position yourself as a self-aggrandizing do-gooder is quite another.

Friday, July 30, 2010

THE ECONOMIST on Zapatero: "Nationalists to the left of him, markets to the right, Spain’s prime minister is in a tricky spot."

GREAT MOMENTS IN PROGNOSTICATION, back from February, 1995: "The Internet? Bah!"

Thursday, July 29, 2010

ARE PEOPLE exaggerating the seriousness of the damage cause by the Gulf oil spill? Time thinks so:
Yes, the spill killed birds — but so far, less than 1% of the birds killed by the Exxon Valdez. Yes, we've heard horror stories about oiled dolphins — but, so far, wildlife response teams have collected only three visibly oiled carcasses of any mammals. Yes, the spill prompted harsh restrictions on fishing and shrimping, but so far, the region's fish and shrimp have tested clean, and the restrictions are gradually being lifted. And, yes, scientists have warned that the oil could accelerate the destruction of Louisiana's disintegrating coastal marshes — a real slow-motion ecological calamity — but, so far, shorelines assessment teams have only found about 350 acres of oiled marshes, when Louisiana was already losing about 15,000 acres of wetlands every year.
Keep reading: there's lots more.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

THIS CHART of the comparative cost of the financial rescue package will take your breath away. And not in a good way.

UPDATE. My mistake (I'll repeat 100 times: I won't write a quick post in haste again...). It's not the cost of the financial rescue package, but the estimated cost of the financial crisis. The fact that the amount is about 80% of US's GDP should have jumped out to me, but it didn't. Sorry about that.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

THIS IS MORE MEANINGFUL, and has lots more implications, than it looks at first sight:


THE LATEST in Obama's Facebook feed. LOL.

Friday, July 23, 2010

SO MUCH FOR public banking being the solution to the financial mess in Spain:
Seven out of 91 European banks failed the region's long-awaited stress tests and may need to raise more than 3.5 billion euros ($4.5 billion) of additional capital, the Committee of European Banking Supervisors said Friday.

Five of the banks that failed were in Spain, with Germany's Hypo Real Estate and Greece's ATEBank also unable to maintain a Tier 1 capital ratio of more than 6% under the most severe scenario tested.

All the other German lenders including the troubled landesbanks passed the test, along with all of Europe's big listed banks.
It needs to be noted that the five Spanish banks who failed are all cajas (savings banks), which are owned and operated by local or regional governments.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

NEW YORK IN BLACK AND WHITE: an impressive set of old pictures.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

AND YOU THOUGHT that Dick Cheney was a scary vice-president. Check out Spain's Maria Teresa Fernández de la Vega, in parliament, joking (we have to assume...). Click to enlarge, if you dare:

UPDATE. Here's the scene in video.

SELLING THE 'NAZI CAR' TO THE JEWS: the fascinating story of how the Beetle was advertised in New York.

MUSLIM EXTREMISTS 'infecting' UK's health system?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

IF WOODY ALLEN AND BETTE MIDLER wish to make a sequel to their '91 movie, they've got the perfect location. In Gaza.

Friday, July 16, 2010

NEW YORK CITY FROM ABOVE: an impressive set of aerial pictures of the Big Apple.

AMAZING DRAWINGS done with a humble Bic pen. (some may be NSFW)

THE SWEET AND CHARMING Queen Rania of Jordania has just written a children's book touching issues such as "getting to know others, openness and multiculturalism." Of course, that means rejecting any offers to publish an edition in Hebrew...

North Korea's health care system is in shambles with doctors sometimes performing amputations without anesthesia and working by candlelight in hospitals lacking essential medicine, heat and power, a human rights watchdog said Thursday.

North Korea's state health care system has been deteriorating for years amid the country's economic difficulties. Many of its 24 million people reportedly face health problems related to chronic malnutrition, such as tuberculosis and anemia, Amnesty International said in a report on the state of the health care system.

A 24-year-old defector from northeastern Hamkyong province told Amnesty that a doctor amputated his left leg from the calf down without anesthesia after his ankle was crushed by a moving train when he fell from one of the cars.

"Five medical assistants held my arms and legs down to keep me from moving. I was in so much pain that I screamed and eventually fainted from pain," said the man, identified only by his family name, Hwang. "I woke up one week later in a hospital bed."

The report was based on interviews with more than 40 North Koreans who have defected, mostly to South Korea, as well as organizations and health care professionals who work with North Koreans. Amnesty researchers did not have access to North Korea, one of the world's most closed countries.
At least they have a public health system, not like that cruel and merciless private healthcare in the US...

CAN YOU IMAGINE the uproad if it had been Bush's Secret Service, instead of Obama's, who dragged away a reporter?

"IT'S NOT ANTI-SEMITISM, it's anti-Zionism". Yeah, right:
MALMO, SWEDEN — At some point, the shouts of “Heil Hitler” that often greeted Marcus Eilenberg as he walked to the 107-year-old Moorish-style synagogue in this port city forced the 32-year-old attorney to make a difficult, life-changing decision: Fearing for his family’s safety after repeated anti-Semitic incidents, Eilenberg reluctantly uprooted himself and his wife and two children, and moved to Israel in May.

Sweden, a country long regarded as a model of tolerance, has, ironically, been a refuge for Eilenberg’s family. His paternal grandparents found a home in Malmo in 1945 after surviving the Holocaust. His wife’s parents came to Malmo from Poland in 1968 after the communist government there launched an anti-Semitic purge.

But as in many other cities across Europe, a rapidly growing Muslim population living in segregated conditions that seem to breed alienation has mixed toxically with the anger directed at Israeli policies and actions by those Muslims — and by many non-Muslims — to all but transform the lives of local Jews. Like many of their counterparts in other European cities, the Jews of Malmo report being subjected increasingly to threats, intimidation and actual violence as stand-ins for Israel

Thursday, July 15, 2010



SPAIN'S BANKS are all dried up:
Spanish banks' recourse to European Central Bank funding hit a record high in June, against a backdrop of intensifying turmoil on financial markets.

Spanish banks raised €126.3 billion ($160.6 billion) in funding from the ECB in June, up 48% from €85.62 billion in May, according to data the Spanish central bank published on its website Wednesday. The June borrowings are the largest on Bank of Spain records dating back to 1999.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A SAUDI WOMAN comments on France's banning the face-covering veil:
Covering the face has been a highly emotional and politicized issue in the Muslim community for the past two decades. I have written about it before and called it the sixth pillar of Islam. It has become a false banner for Islamic piety. Islam is now reduced to a dress code. It does not matter if you lie, steal or slander your friends and neighbors, if you cover your face you are perceived by society as an untouchable religious God fearing person.

[...] Covering the face is the very essence of objectifying women. With her face covered, a woman is reduced to an object that needs to be protected by a male guardian. For every woman who truly chooses of her own freewill to cover her face, there are hundreds if not thousands forced and pressured to by the religious establishment, family and society.

[...] What are women covering from? They believe that the sight of their face will cause men to commit sin. Fitna they call it. And yet the places where most women cover their faces, like in Saudi’s central region, you can’t take a step outside your house without being harassed, it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 80. It’s much more dangerous to walk the streets of Riyadh as a woman than it is in New York. Hence what the face cover is protecting us from has proven to be the complete opposite upon implementation.

It doesn’t stop at face covering. The subtle difference between putting the abaya tent style over your head or leaving it like a cloak on your shoulders decides if you’re “asking for it”. In both cases the face is covered but in the first the shape of the shoulders isn’t defined and so it’s a more religious and respectable style. Covering the face escalates into such silly issues like the seductive powers of a woman’s toes.  Isn’t it about time that men take responsibility for their actions instead of using the centuries old argument “she seduced me into it by not dressing properly”?!

How many public Islamist women figures (do they even exist?) do you know advocate face covering? The majority out there calling for it are men; Muslim men who brazenly stand there in Western clothes and with clean shaven faces and say it’s their religious belief that women should cover. Walk down Oxford Street London in July and see how many abaya swathed women with their niqabs are accompanied by their shorts wearing clean shaven male guardians.

FASCINATING IMAGES from inside a sex doll factory. (NSFW, I guess)

CONTRARY TO what the Spanish government is wishing, the World Cup won't save the country's economy.

IT WAS THE DRIVERS, not the Priuses.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A shamed Tory MP has admitted he was too drunk to vote in the debate on the Budget after a night of debauched behaviour on the Commons terrace.

Former banker Mark Reckless was so inebriated that he fell to the floor of a Commons bar before the crucial vote in the early hours of the morning, before being bundled into a taxi home by fellow MPs.

Conservative chiefs also apologised after another MP, Sheryll Murray, was allegedly rude to a parliamentary official after she, too, had been drinking on the terrace overlooking the Thames.

The extraordinary scenes came during a six-hour drinking session that lasted until 2.30am on Wednesday, involving dozens of MPs and their aides.
Commons bars took a record £5,000 during the evening as taxpayer-subsidised Pimm’s, wine, beer and champagne flowed.

Witnesses said a ‘significant number’ of MPs who took part in the Budget vote were either drunk or under the influence of alcohol.

‘It was disgusting,’ said a female MP. ‘The chamber and the voting lobbies stank of booze and sweat.

'There we were, voting through the most drastic Budget in decades, and some MPs barely knew where they were, let alone what they were voting for. Some could hardly stand.’
Hmmm. Not sure that a lawmaker (and not just in the UK) needs to get hammered not to know what he's doing, no?

Long-term global cooling began in 2002, according to a just-released study in the Journal of Cosmology, a peer-reviewed publication produced at Harvard-Smithsonian’s Center for Astrophysics. Man-made global warming was real and dangerous, the study finds, but the danger has passed.

The study, authored by Qing-Bin Lu, a rising star at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo in Canada, explains why climate models have been so spectacularly wrong in trying to tie the global warming of the last half of the 20th century to CO2 — the climate modelers fingered the wrong culprit when they targeted CO2. The true culprits, Dr. Lu explains, were CFCs, the now banned substances that until the 1990s had been a refrigerant and propellant to products as diverse as air conditioners and hair spray cans.
The actual study on pdf here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

CBS HAS a 'Dewey Defeats Truman' moment (click to enlarge):

15 hours since the game ended this is still up at CBS's site.

Friday, July 09, 2010

PETA wants Paul the Octopus free. Bummers.

The Spanish government will approve Friday an overhaul of savings-bank regulations, opening the door to private ownership of the mutually owned savings banks or "cajas," Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said Thursday.

"This is the most important reform ever of our banking system," Mr. Zapatero said at a meeting with journalists.

With close ties to local communities and often controlled by local governments, Spain's cajas have borne the brunt of the collapse of Spain's decade-long housing boom. Their fast-rising bad debt levels, combined with a lack of transparency, have stoked investor concerns and created severe financing difficulties for both the cajas and the country's listed banks.
A welcome step. Does this mean that the ticking time bomb is now ticking not so much, or is that it was so close to blowing up that even the reform-averse Zapatero realized it had to be done asap?

Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv treats up to 100 patients a month from Gaza, and often Hamas takes the role of middleman between Gaza residents and the Israeli hospital, Ichilov Director Professor Gabi Barabash said Thursday. Barabash spoke to Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara, a resident of the Druze village of Dalyat El Carmel near Haifa, who was touring the hospital and viewing its care for foreign Arab patients.

In addition to caring for patients from Gaza, the Ichilov staff treats many citizens of foreign Arab countries, including those that have no diplomatic ties with Israel. They all receive dedicated care, and the relatives who accompany them are provided with free food and a place to stay, Barabash said.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

BEST CAPTCHA EVAH, as I was trying to repost someone's status on Facebook:

Facebook hates Mankind.

WHY LIBERALS should love the Second Amendment.

I'D WAGER that quite a few Spaniards are gonna swatch teams and will root for the Netherlands in the World Cup final on Sunday...

HOW THE WORLD keeps defying the prediction of modern-day Cassandras.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

THE DAY EINSTEIN DIED: a slideshow from Life magazine. Not so worried about my messy desk, now...

HOW TO NAME an abortion clinic. Especially if targeted to geek women..

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

SPAIN'S SAVINGS BANKS: a ticking time bomb?

Monday, July 05, 2010

EIGHT HISTORIC SYMBOLS that mean the opposite of what you think.

Sunday, July 04, 2010


Thursday, July 01, 2010

NOW HE TELLS US: "Michael Mann says hockey stick should not have become 'climate change icon'"