Wednesday, July 31, 2013

SPAIN'S ECONOMY: Fiesta or Siesta?

SAY GOODBYE to the Tech Sounds You’ll Never Hear Again.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

LET'S PLAY A GAME: which US president said this? "And one of the interesting things that we don’t talk about enough is the contrast between what’s happened in the United States and what’s happened in a lot of other developing countries, Europe in particular."

Two gaffes in one. Must be Bush, right? RIGHT? Well, no.

Monday, July 29, 2013

RENEWABLE ENERGY IN SPAIN: Sustainable energy meets unsustainable costs.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

SEE? DIVERSITY WORKS! Reuters’s global warming about-face—A survey shows the newswire ran 50 percent fewer stories on climate change after hiring a “skeptic”

You should try more often!

COFFEE REDUCES SUICIDE RISK, according to a study that apparently this time doesn't get the correlation-is-no-causation stuff all messed up. I can understand, though in my case coffee doesn't reduce suicide risk — never had suicidal tendencies, at least so far —, just the likelihood of me killing the first person who gets on my nerves. So for me coffee doesn't reduce suicide—it's homicide, rather...

TRANSPARENCY:, the website created by the Obama transition team in 2008, has effectively disappeared sometime over the last month.

While the front splash page for has linked to the main White House website for years, until recently, you could still continue on to see the materials and agenda laid out by the administration. This was a particularly helpful resource for those looking to compare Obama's performance in office against his vision for reform, laid out in detail on

According to the Internet Archive, the last time that content (beyond the splash page) was available was June 8th -- last month.

Why the change?

Dunno. Shame, perhaps?

GUYS, I GUESS you'll have to find another boogeyman: David Koch Supports Gay Marriage, Pot Legalization, And Ending Wars.

ADMIRABLE: "[The Simpson's co-creator] Sam Simon faces down his terminal cancer diagnosis by spending his vast fortune (how much? "I don't know") on animal rights and feeding the hungry: 'I get pleasure from it. I love it.'"

YOU WANT TO KNOW what political racism is, Democrats? No, not criticizing a black president's policy, or acquitting a Hispanic for the death of a black man who attacked him. No.

This is political racism: Bananas thrown at black Italian minister during speech.

Friday, July 26, 2013

AT THE NEW YORKER: How Physics Explains the Spanish High-Speed Rail Crash.


YELLOW JOURNALISM AT THE NEW YORK TIMES on Wednesday train crash in Spain. Yeah, I know it's a bit of a tautology nowadays, but still.
The train driver did little to hide his taste for speed. He posted a photograph of a locomotive speedometer needle stuck at 200 kilometers, or about 125 miles, per hour on Facebook last year, boasting that the reading “has not been tampered with” and openly relishing the idea of racing past the authorities.
“Imagine what a rush it would be traveling alongside the Civil Guard, and passing them so that their speed traps go off,” he wrote, in all capitals. “Hehe, that would be quite a fine for Renfe, hehe,” referring to his employer, the Spanish rail company.
To be sure, this was the angle by several media organizations in Spain too, but I thought the Gray Lady would be different. They seem to be forgetting some small details:

- A high-speed train going fast is not a reckless anomaly, it's exactly what they're supposed to do! The route of the specific line where the crash took place has some segments where it has to go at 220kph, look at the chart here. That's more than the speed the guy was "openly relishing".

- They omit that in those comments — which are actually mere postings on Facebook —, the driver also said that he couldn't speed past 200kph because he was not allowed.

- Maybe that's news for the Times, but the Civil Guard speed traps are meant to control the speed of cars, not trains, so they go off at 120kph (75mph) at most. So what the driver said was clearly a joke for his friends: he said that if a police car would drive alongside the train, the speed trap would go off. Big deal. Good thing he wasn't an airline pilot saying "if the traffic police catches me at 600mph, the speed trap would BLOW UP!"

In all, we're witnessing a crude attempt of demonizing someone before we know what happened. Yes, the train was overspeeding when it fatally entered the curve. Yes, there are some security mechanisms that are supposed to avoid these situations. Yes, those mechanisms apparently can be overridden manually. Yes, the driver may, or may have not, been reckless. We will only know if he's guilty after a long and thorough investigation, not by looking at the guy's jokes on Facebook, which were clearly jokes. And even if we find he's guilty after all it won't have anything to do with those FB posts because they were nothing serious to begin with. They don't indicate any professional flaw — other than in the journalists who misreport them.

UPDATE. Compare this with the measured report by Brian Williams and the special correspondent on NBC

UPDATE II. Some people are objecting to this on Twitter because, they say, the guy shouldn't be updating his Facebook page while driving a high speed train to begin with. But, does that really show recklessness on his part? Well, only if you think a high-speed train is driven like a bus, where you need both hands on the wheel all the time. But it's more like flying a plane. Plus there was not just one, but two drivers, so it's conceivable that one of them takes a pic or two.

Again, it's important to note that the Facebook comments weren't on the moment, not even on the day, of the accident. They were from months back, when the line was opened to traffic. The guy was bragging about the speed — just as the Zapatero government, in power back then, was. Does that mean we should blame the former prime minister, for building something that travels so fast? Wouldn't that be ridiculous? Same goes for the driver.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

THE ORIGINS of "please" and "thank you."

I CAN'T BELIEVE the level of stupidity some people can reach.

I WAS LEFT SPEECHLESS when I saw the footage of the actual moment when the high-speed passenger train crashed last night in Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain, claiming at least 78 lives.

I'm no expert, but is seems to me that the driver was clearly overspeeding.

[UPDATE: Google / YouTube has removed the video, but you can watch it at El País]

[ANOTHER UPDATE: Reposted the YouTube video from another source; if it gets taken down it'll still continue at El País]
Meanwhile, this is probably the most powerful picture.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

STUNNING EXAMPLES of body paint.

GEORGE FRIEDMAN on the end of the Chinese economic miracle. "China will continue to be a major power, and it will continue to matter a great deal economically. Being troubled is not the same as ceasing to exist. China will always exist. It will, however, no longer be the low-wage, high-growth center of the world. Like Japan before it, it will play a different role."

Read it in full.

FIRST SHALE OIL AND GAS, now this: US 'Could Be Sitting on a Gold Mine' of Rare Earth Elements.

If I'm not mistaken up to 90% of rare earths are now in China. The U.S.might be about to get rid of two crucial foreign dependencies. Congrats, Americans. Less dependency, less blackmailing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

AND THE "Best Royal Baby Cover" Award goes to...

Monday, July 22, 2013

THE CURIOUS CASE of the fall in crime in the rich world:

There is no single cause of the decline; rather, several have coincided. Western societies are growing older, and most crimes are committed by young men. Policing has improved greatly in recent decades, especially in big cities such as New York and London, with forces using computers to analyse the incidence of crime; in some parts of Manhattan this helped to reduce the robbery rate by over 95%. The epidemics of crack cocaine and heroin appear to have burnt out.

The biggest factor may be simply that security measures have improved. Car immobilisers have killed joyriding; bulletproof screens, security guards and marked money have all but done for bank robbery. Alarms and DNA databases have increased the chance a burglar will be caught. At the same time, the rewards for burglary have fallen because electronic gizmos are so cheap. Even small shops now invest in CCTV cameras and security tags. Some crimes now look very risky—and that matters because, as every survey of criminals shows, the main deterrent to crime is the fear of being caught.

Keep reading.

HYPOCRISY, DEFINED: "A former marriage equality advocate turns his attention to what he calls the Obama administration’s greatest hypocrisy: pushing for a higher minimum wage while relying on unpaid interns."

ARE YOU AN IDIOT? Suffering from Impulsive Digital Isolationist Obsessive Tendencies, that is.

WHY DO Americans and Brits have different accents?

NEXT TIME she tells you "not today, I've got a headache" show her this: Sex is Better for Headaches Than Painkillers

Saturday, July 20, 2013

DOLCE & GABANNA have gone Galt for three days as 'symbol of disdain'.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

IT'S HARD not so sound paranoic when you read things like this:

Chances are, your local or state police departments have photographs of your car in their files, noting where you were driving on a particular day, even if you never did anything wrong.

Using automated scanners, law enforcement agencies across the country have amassed millions of digital records on the location and movement of every vehicle with a license plate, according to a study published Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union. Affixed to police cars, bridges or buildings, the scanners capture images of passing or parked vehicles and note their location, uploading that information into police databases. Departments keep the records for weeks or years, sometimes indefinitely.

As the technology becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, and federal grants focus on aiding local terrorist detection, even small police agencies are able to deploy more sophisticated surveillance systems. While the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that a judge's approval is needed to track a car with GPS, networks of plate scanners allow police effectively to track a driver's location, sometimes several times every day, with few legal restrictions. The ACLU says the scanners assemble what it calls a "single, high-resolution image of our lives."

DID YOU KNOW that Marlon Brando did a screen test for Rebel Without A Cause? I didn't. Here it is:

"DEAR MALALA": Channel 4 News sees a copy of a letter sent to Malala Yousufzai from a senior Taliban commander berating her "smear campaign" against them - but expressing some remorse about the attack.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I MUST HAVE BEEN a mosquito in a previous life...

Roughly 20 percent of people are more frequent meal tickets for mosquitoes than the rest of the population, and Smithsonian Magazine set out to investigate: Why?

Beer drinkers beware. Mosquitoes love the brew.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

WHAT AN AMAZING DOG. Unbelievable.

WALTER RUSELL MEADE: Spain Cuts Green Energy Losses

Spain is the latest European country to regret its foray into green energy production. On Friday the Spanish government announced some contentious reforms to its regime of green energy subsidies, which were among the most generous in Europe.

Those subsidies (in the form of guaranteed above-market rates for producers) have been wildly successful at encouraging solar and wind farm construction. They have utterly failed, though, to help build profitable industries. Now the Spanish central government is dealing with a residual tariff deficit of €4.5 billion for this year alone. That’s the difference between the amount Spanish consumers pay for electricity and the cost of producing it.

[...] While environmentalists will no doubt be upset, Spain made the clear choice. High electricity rates are an unnecessary and regressive tax on citizens and a serious drag on industry, and green energy has yet to prove itself competitive without substantial subsidies. Spain is right to cut its losses on its costly green energy boondoggle and to refocus its limited resources on the country’s more pressing problems.

IF YOU WANT to read just one thing on the Zimmerman / Trayvon Martin post-acquittal controversy, this by William Saletan at Slate is probably the best one.

NEW YORK - LOS ANGELESin 45 minutes? By train? Tesla founder Elon Musk thinks it's feasible.

SOON we may be begging for some global warming: Sun’s bizarre activity may trigger another ice age. Latest data shows solar activity has been falling steadily since mid-1940s.

SEVEN SURPRISING TRUTHS about the world. Surprising because they're, you know, good.

BBC: The receding threat from 'peak oil '.

Monday, July 15, 2013

31 PHOTOS Of New York City In The Summer Of ‘69. Don't miss 'em.

SALES OF ADULT DIAPERS to surpass baby diapers in aging Japan.

12 INNOVATIONS From The 1950s That We Still Use Today.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

OBAMA, A UNITER: Egyptian protesters (on both sides) angry at U.S.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


The sense of scandal surrounding Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has crested yet again, after another week of allegations and denials in which the former treasurer of his Popular Party continued to drip-feed the media glimpses of ledgers that appear to show that Spain’s leadership enriched itself for years with a secret slush fund.

But while the charge may be simple enough, the case is not. Having previously withheld information from the courts about secret Swiss accounts, the former treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, who now sits in prison, seems less than fully credible, and the courts incapable of digging to the bottom on the matter with real speed.

The result is less a crisis for Mr. Rajoy — though he is certainly damaged, polls show — than one for Spain, its national morale and the credibility of its institutions, with all the risk that the steady drumbeat of allegations will deny recession-hit Spain strong leadership and distract the government from pressing economic concerns as the scandal unspools for years, analysts say.


The number of Americans receiving subsidized food assistance from the federal government has risen to 101 million, representing roughly a third of the U.S. population.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that a total of 101,000,000 people currently participate in at least one of the 15 food programs offered by the agency, at a cost of $114 billion in fiscal year 2012.

That means the number of Americans receiving food assistance has surpassed the number of full-time private sector workers in the U.S.

Friday, July 12, 2013

CLIMATE SHOCKER: Rising CO2 is turning the world's deserts GREEN.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

AWESOME COVER by BusinessWeek on hedge funds, myths vs reality. (click to enlarge)


15 TED TALKS that will change your life.

"NEANDERTHALS talked like us half a million years ago", scientists now say. I'd say it's the other way 'round: too often we talk like Neanderthals...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

BEST BIOGRAPHY on Wikipedia ever:

Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO (5 May 1880 – 5 June 1963), was a British Army officer of Belgian and Irish descent. He fought in the Boer War, World War I, and World War II, was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip and ear, survived a plane crash, tunneled out of a POW camp, and bit off his own fingers when a doctor wouldn't amputate them. He later said "frankly I had enjoyed the war."


32 AWESOME THINGS you can do with Wolfram Alpha.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

AND SO IT GOES: TV Is Americans' Main Source of News.

NINE FACTS Worth Knowing About Human Attraction.

Monday, July 08, 2013


EVEN IF THIS MAY NOT BE TRUE, why take the risk? Regular sex can make you look 7 years younger, researcher says.

THE TRUTH about US jobs.

Friday, July 05, 2013

I GUESS THE 2009 Cairo speech didn't work so well, eh?


The real mystery (assuming the allegations are true) is what sort of intel did America's spies think they could glean from snooping on the European Union?

Could it have been the early word on the European Commission's directive this May (soon rescinded) mandating that olive oil be served only in nonrefillable bottles with tamper-proof caps and labels written in "clear and indelible lettering"? Or maybe it was the research notes of the three-year investigation leading to Brussels's 2011 decision to forbid bottled-water producers from claiming that water prevents dehydration—on the basis that the claim lacked scientific evidence?

Far more interesting is the growing dismay at President Obama among his former idolators in Europe. The folks who gave him the Nobel Peace Prize before he'd brokered any peace are now disillusioned that he uses drones against terrorists, hasn't closed Guantanamo, and hasn't repudiated every Bush-Cheney security policy. And Europeans keep saying Americans are naive about the world.

GOOD LORD. Bestiality brothels are 'spreading through Germany' as campaigner claims abusers see sex with animals as a 'lifestyle choice'.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

TOP TEN THINGS that precipitated Morsi's demise.

GOOD NEWS FOR CHARLIE SHEEN: Transplanting tiny 'liver buds' constructed from human stem cells restores liver function, researchers have found. For the moment it's just in mice, but it's a step by regenerative medicine towards being able to 'create' functioning organs.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

WTF? U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement. Have we all lost our minds?

DO YOU REALLY NEED a lot of research to reach a conclusion that everyone knows?

While men tend to match their partners' emotions during mutual cooperation, women may have the opposite response, according to new research.

[...] She and her colleagues found that during high mutual levels of cooperation with a romantic partner, men typically experience an "inphase" response to their significant other's emotions. That is, if the woman in the relationship is feeling more positive, the man will feel more positive. If she feels less positive, he will feel less positive.

On the contrary, it seems women experience more of an "antiphase" pattern during high mutual cooperation. If her partner is feeling more positive, she will tend to feel less positive, and vice versa.

FASCINATING: 33 Everyday Street Scenes From Late 1800s New York City.

"HOW ANGRY are the Europeans over reports of American spying in Europe? They are outraged but they are not so angry as to risk their economic interests.

IF YOU SOMETIMES THINK that your cellphone is vibrating when it's not, relax: it's perfectly normal.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


While Israel enjoys its recent finds of offshore natural gas, we keep hearing rumors of vast reserves of oil waiting to be tapped. Is that just wishful thinking? Or might the Land of Milk and Honey become the world’s next oil power?


CHINA'S ECONOMY heading for a crash?

Monday, July 01, 2013

IF I WERE JAMES TARANTO, I'd headline this 'Fox Butterfield, is that you?': "Taxes in Spain are bipolar: despite having some of the highest rates in Europe, this country also has one of the lowest fiscal pressures."

TEST: Are you a digital addict?