Sunday, January 31, 2010

TALIBAN LEADER IN PAKISTAN HAKIMULLAH MEHSUD has been killed by a US drone, according to Sky News citing Pakistani TV. The local paper The Nation, though, says the attack took place on January 14; Mehsud was injured and succumbed three days later.

Few will shed any tears for him. Of course, if instead of being blown into pieces by a missile he had been taken to Gitmo and forced to stand up for a few hours, or listen to Metallica at loud volume, we'd hear many people accusing the US of torture...

UPDATE. For the life of me, I don't know why the links I had in this post just vanished. I'm positive I added them...

UPDATE II. Pakistani Taliban deny their leader is dead.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

JUST IMAGINE for a second if it had been a Bush cabinet member who said that Hurricane Katrina "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans," instead of Obama's education secretary Arne Duncan.

SPAIN'S JOBLESNESS jumped to almost 19 percent, which doubles Europe's average. Now, after having demonized anyone who dared to suggest the need to raise the retirement age and implement serious budget cuts, labeling them as "un-Spanish", "irresponsible alarmists" (literally, I'm not kidding), the Zapatero government plans to do exactly that: raise the retirement age from 65 to 67, and cut €50 bn in spending in 3 years. Which, of course, is a bucket in an ocean of deficit: in these 3 years at the current pace of 12 percent yearly, the deficit in those 3 years would reach a staggering €360 billion.

So going back to a 3% deficit in 2013, as dictated by the European Union (a not too realistic target, if you ask me), would require a wide range of measures. Some of them are not likely to be applied by Zapatero, such as liberalizing the economy, particularly the notoriously disatrous employment laws, making easier for companies to fire people and, consequently, giving them an incentive to hire more. Others are measures that Zapatero doesn't mind applying, but without announcing them in advance because they're extremely unpopular, like raising taxes. When he does, he'll destroy once and for all any chance of recovery.

JILLIAN KEY MELCHIOR on Climategate; read it all.

Incidentally, I still like "Climaquiddick" better, because of the role by the media in trying to cover it all up like in Chappaquiddick, while in the Watergate the press wanted to air everything. I must be the only one, though, since "Climategate" seems to have catched on.

Friday, January 29, 2010

DECLAN McCULLAGH on why people won't pay for privacy on the net, in spite of efforts by a few commercial companies. Lots of paradoxes involved.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

IT HAD TO HAPPEN: Hitler responds to the iPad. LOL.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WHAT THE HELL is this supposed to mean? The Spanish EU presidency want to give the Internet "the ability to forget." I don't they know it what it means themselves; it's just one of those empty phrases that actually shows they don't have a clue what they're talking about.

IS ANYBODY really surprised about this? "After Three Months, Only 35 Subscriptions for Newsday's Web Site" Thirty-five subscribers. In three months.

Actually I am a little surprised. I assumed there wouldn't be many, but no so few...


ROUBINI is also worried:
New York University Professor Nouriel Roubini said he’s never been more pessimistic about the future of European monetary union, saying Spain poses a looming threat to the euro region holding together.

“Down the line, not this year or two years from now, we could have a breakup of the monetary union,” Roubini said in a Bloomberg Radio interview from the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. “It’s a rising risk.”

No kidding.

EL BULLI goes into a two-year hiatus.

ONE OF THOSE metaphorical moments in life: in the middle of a Zapatero appearance before the press, a cellphone suddenly starts to ring. The ringtone? The Psycho soundtrack. Priceless.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

ACCORDING to Der Spiegel, there's new evidence that Iran's nuclear program doesn't have peaceful purposes.

SPANISH BANKS currently have some astronomical €325 billion ($456 billion) in non-performing loans by real-estate companies (link in Spanish). That's about a third of Spain's GDP, and the companies are alerting they're not going to be able to repay that.

So far, banks have been able to keep a brave face because the law allows them to buy back the property at face value when the loans become delinquent, thus avoiding the lender's bankruptcy (as the link sidebar says, 25% of all real-estate deals in the country are now of that kind) and without having to write down any loss in value to make their balance sheet reflect the real value (as you know, prices have skydived). But that means they have lots of skeletons in the closet. They're not going to be able to do it much longer, and when that happens it's gonna get ugly. Very ugly.

(Previously at Barcepundit, sadly confirmed by this: here, here, here, and here)

THE MONA LISA, a self-portrait of Leonardo in drag? That's what a group of scientists and art historians are saying. It seems some people would do anything to be on the media...

HOPE AND CHANGE! Obama's Approval Most Polarized for First-Year President. Since Eisenhower, at least.

AND YET another eco-myth goes down the drain: that 40% of the Amazonian rainforest is about to be destroyed by antropogenic global warming. It's just pseudoscience.

Monday, January 25, 2010

YET ANOTHER eco-chondriac myth busted:
THE United Nations climate science panel faces new controversy for wrongly linking global warming to an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.

BEWARE of using archival photos in your newspaper articles...

I HADN'T SEEN these great pictures on the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Never ceases to impress me how those guys were perfectly conscious that they were getting into something that kill most of them. If that's not bravery, I don't know what it is.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"OSAMA BIN LADEN claimed responsibility for the failed attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas in a new audio message released Sunday threatening more attacks on the United States. . . . There was no way to verify the voice on the audio message was actually bin Laden, but it resembled previous recordings attributed to him."

I hope it's not the FBI veryfing this. They might say it's the Spanish Commie pal Llamazares...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

UH OH: "Spanish Economist Niño Becerra: 'Two Months Until Euro Market Crash'"
In an interview on Euronews he predicted a market crash within two months and a possible destruction of the Union by high summer.
Watch it in video here.

I'M NOT much of a big fan of Conan, but his farewell speech was very classy.

Friday, January 22, 2010

THE TOP 10 craziest things ever said by Pat Robertson.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

IMAGE OF THE DAY: In the middle of a tragedy, it's difficult not to smile at this video of an 8-year-old boy rescued alive and in good condition in Haiti after one week. Look at his reaction as he's pulled out of the rubble:

Bravo, kid.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

SCOTT BROWN  FOR 2012? His victory speech was a damn fine one (here's the full text). He showed a lot of class remembering Ted Kennedy, even though his legacy (healthcare reform) is one of the first things he's going to vote against. In all, a well delivered, classy speech.

I wonder how long will it be until many start seriously calling him for 2012 GOP candidate. After all, he's exactly where Obama was in 2006, isn't it? (in fact with 10 months more experience, since this was a special election and not the November midterms). And it doesn't seem to be anyone pulling ahead among the potential candidates. At least this guy pulled off a major victory against all odds; the problem is that, after criticizing Obama's lack of experience, the GOP may find difficult to defend doing the same.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

WHY ARE HAITI IMAGES more graphic than those of other disasters? (via Instapundit). That one's easy.

Soft racism.

You would never see the same kind of pictures had the disaster taken place in a first-world location. But in Haiti, the images remind me when there's a heatwave that kills all the chicken in a farm, or when fish appear belly up in a lake for some reason. It's as if Haitians were of a lower species, different from us. What's particularly disgusting is that at the same time it's done while people act sad and compassionate (what an ugly, condescending word in this context). The cynic in me thinks that, intimately, those people unconsciously want to feel better about themselves rather than being sincerely, deep down touched by the situation. And the amateur psychoanalyst in me thinks that the more graphic the images are, the "better" they feel about themselves.

I know, I know. I shouldn't write when I'm in a foul mood. But this makes me angry. Not that I'm against showing lurid images. It's just that it should be all, or none.

UPDATE. Minor edits for clarity.

A COOL interactive chart comparing the housing bubble in the US, UK, Spain and other countries.

HAITI six days later, in pictures.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I KNEW Australia is big, but didn't realize how much.

AIN'T THAT a bit, er, late?
A group led by anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan has protested near the CIA's headquarters and former Vice President Dick Cheney's home in northern Virginia.

They were protesting the use of unmanned drone aircraft to attack al-Qaida and Taliban targets.

Is Cheney still the VP? Isn't Obama launching them now?


Sunday, January 17, 2010

ANOTHER MYTH BUSTED: the Himalayan glacier meltdown.
A WARNING that climate change will melt most of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 is likely to be retracted after a series of scientific blunders by the United Nations body that issued it.

Two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a benchmark report that was claimed to incorporate the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming. A central claim was the world's glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.

In the past few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC's 2007 report.

It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was "speculation" and was not supported by any formal research. If confirmed it would be one of the most serious failures yet seen in climate research. The IPCC was set up precisely to ensure that world leaders had the best possible scientific advice on climate change.

Some scientific consensus, huh?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

ANTARCTICA and the myth of the ice melting and the seas rising.

NOW THAT'S what I call a fixation: the FBI used the hair and forehead of Gaspar Llamazares, a leader of Spain's communist party, for the composite of Osama bin Laden (after the brouhaha it has been withdrawn from the Rewards for Justice page). They also used it (link in Spanish) for Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a Libyan citizen and al-Qaeda terrorist (link in Spanish):

UPDATE. There's now coverage by the AP, Reuters and the UK's Daily Telegraph, but only regarding the Osama bin Laden picture, at least for now.

Friday, January 15, 2010

UPDATE: Oops, they did it again...

[ORIGINAL POST] GREAT MOMENTS of the US State Department: you may have seen by now the FBI composites showing an aged Osama bin Laden; it's how he's supposed, or at least what they think, looks like today. Here's the page at the Rewards for Justice website [UPDATE: the picture has been withdrawn]

The funny thing is that the composite is done (link in Spanish) by photoshopping the hair and forehead of a leader of Spain's Communist party, Gaspar Llamazares. Take a look (click on the image for a bigger version):

Notice the hairdo and the wrinkle across the forehead. Llamazares, as any good Communist, is not likely to travel to the US anytime soon, but just in case I'd avise him to stay as far as possible...

UPDATE. Just to be clear, Madrid newspaper El Mundo, where this came from, contacted the headquarters of the Communist party and they confirmed the leader's pic is legit: it's from a campaign poster for the 2004 general election.

UPDATE II. The FBI confirms El Mundo that they took an image from Google Images and used it for the composite by mistake.

NOW THAT'S going to be fun to watch: notoriously anti-religious (except Islam, as all good leftists) Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain's PM, has been invited to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, next February 4.

He seems not too comfortable with the situation, if only because he's being mocked for it all over the country this morning after papers ran the information. So much that, even though he had got the invitation days ago, he didn't disclose it: he was merely planning a trip to DC, he said. It was only when new ambassador to Spain Alan Solomont allegedly had a slip of the tongue (link in Spanish) while meeting the local media for the first time since he took the ambassadorship, yesterday morning. According to press reports, Solomont later apologized to Zapatero's staff.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

HAITI, 48 hours later. A nightmare.

THE FACT that al-Qaeda has its own rogue airline means that we shouldn't put much hope that the new airline security measure will be effective. After all, what prevents those guys to fill one of their aircraft with explosives and crash it into a city?

DEAN SWIFT is very critical of Zapatero, his government, and the ruling Socialist party over how they deal with the opposition:
It must require a lot of cheek for the PSOE to accuse the PP of 'disloyalty' when the administration has passed every second of the last five years trying to wipe the PP off the political map; in addition to attempting to build a kind of fence surrounding the Moncloa and its inhabitants, to discourage rough men and women who disagree with the PSOE from voicing their opinion; and signing pacts with the smaller parties which disallow their forming any with the Popular Party. And in one recent case actually buying votes from Coalición Canaria and the PNV. . .

Now, as things grow steadily worse every day, when the unemployment figures inexorably rise; when eighty-seven Spanish servicemen and women have died in Afghanistan, though none of the dead knew why they were there. . . now, the Popular Party is 'disloyal' and 'critical' because it does not come running to help clear up the mess.. According to this theory, loyalty means bashing the opposition with every weapon available when things are going rather well: but when the going is not so good, expecting to be saved in the nick of time by the good Samaritans in the Popular Party. The news is not good. There are no good Samaritans in the Popular Party, which has been violently criticised and insulted by the PSOE since 2004.
Read the rest. It's been really amazing to watch people on the Spanish left shouting "fascist" at Bush when they felt he wasn't "respecting anyone who disagrees with him" (you should see the big play that Ari Fleischer's "sometimes you need to watch what you say" got in Spain... even if it was taken out of context!), while the Spanish government and the Socialists hurl extremely serious accusations of treason, being anti-Spanish, not decent, and so forth, against their opponents, as routinely as when they say "ood morning". Sometimes even from the podium at a press briefing in the presidential compound. That's something that Bush would have never done, even if he had gone back to drinking.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"IF Spain's Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodriquez Zapatero has his way, economic underperformance will soon be forbidden. Why didn't we think of that?

"SPAIN has come up with an ingenious solution to economic underperformance—make it illegal."

YOU DON'T SAY: "Obama concedes he hasn't brought country together"
President Barack Obama says he has not succeeded in bringing the country together, acknowledging an atmosphere of divisiveness that has washed away the lofty national feeling surrounding his inauguration a year ago.

"That's what's been lost this year ... that whole sense of changing how Washington works," Obama said in an interview with People magazine.

The president said his second-year agenda will be refocused on uniting the country around common values, "whether we're Democrats or Republicans."
Feeling the poll heat, eh?

THE HAITI quake aftermath in pictures.

AND IN other terrorism news:
The Basque separatist group ETA plotted to kill Spain's prime minister [José María Aznar] three times in 2001 but a shoulder-fired missile that apparently was to be aimed at his aircraft repeatedly malfunctioned, a Spanish judge concluded Tuesday.

THE March 11 perpetrators were not working autonomously, a terrorism expert says:
The 2004 Madrid bombings, Europe's deadliest Islamist militant attack, probably were instigated by al Qaeda and were not the work of autonomous cells, a top terrorism expert says.

New information ties Osama bin Laden's group closer than ever to the attack, Fernando Reinares, Spain's leading expert on militant Islamist violence, said in an article for the online edition of U.S. magazine The National Interest.

On March 11, 2004 10 bombs hidden in sports bags exploded on four packed commuter trains at the height of the morning rush hour in Madrid, killing 191 people and wounding 1,700.
"The bombings ... are often held up as an archetype of an autonomous local cell at work, and its perpetrators depicted as the epitome of self-recruited, leaderless jihadists. These assumptions are mistaken," Reinares wrote.

"New information connects some of the most relevant members of the Madrid bombings with al Qaeda's senior leadership. Al-Qaeda is alive and well and impacting the safety of the West."

RUN FOR COVER! "Everyone's Freaked Out That Spain Has The EU Presidency"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

IT may have not been clear up to now, but I think this kinda settles it:
A bomb attached to motorcycle killed an Iranian professor of nuclear physics outside his home in northern Tehran on Tuesday, the state-run Press TV broadcaster reported on its Web site.

The authorities called the killing of the scientist, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, an assassination carried out by terrorists, but did not say who was believed to be responsible. The professor taught neutron physics at Tehran University, Press TV said, but it was not clear whether he was part of Iran’s contentious nuclear enrichment program.

Why do you think he was blown up, then?

The WSJ points out that "[t]error attacks against Iranian officials and targets in remote provinces aren't uncommon. But a bombing in Tehran, the capital, is extremely rare, and the target -- a nuclear scientist -- raised immediate questions over whether the attack was related to Iran's controversial nuclear program."

UPDATE. Here's a new twist:
State media identified the victim as Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a professor at Tehran University, which has been at the center of recent protests by student opposition supporters. Before the election, pro-reform Web sites published Mohammadi's name among a list of 240 university teachers who supported Mousavi.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The bitter winter afflicting much of the Northern Hemisphere is only the start of a global trend towards cooler weather that is likely to last for 20 or 30 years, say some of the world’s most eminent climate scientists.

Their predictions – based on an analysis of natural cycles in water temperatures in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans – challenge some of the global warming orthodoxy’s most deeply cherished beliefs, such as the claim that the North Pole will be free of ice in
summer by 2013.

According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, Arctic summer sea ice has increased by 409,000 square miles, or 26 per cent, since 2007 – and even the most committed global warming activists do not dispute this.

Keep reading. (via)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

AMAZING IMAGE FROM SPACE showing Britain covered in snow from head to toes...

THIS STORY won't leave you indifferent:
Patrick Henry Hughes has the type of inspiring story that no Hollywood flick or motivational self-help book can match. Born without eyes and a joint disorder that tightens his limbs and prevents them from ever straightening, Patrick has defied expectations and developed a musical talent that landed him a spot on the University of Louisville marching band.
Don't miss the video. It's 6 minutes long, but they won't be wasted.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

By any standards, it was an unfortunate beginning. Spain’s six-month presidency of the European Union, which got underway this week, appears to have been subject to an attack [link added by me - JMG] by computer-hackers. On its first day, web-surfers navigating to the special presidency website found themselves staring at photos of Mr Bean, the hapless British comedy character who (some claim), bears a resemblance to José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister.

Mr Bean is famous for his stumbles and mishaps – and Spain is also looking accident-prone at the moment.

Read the rest.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

ONLY a couple of days since its launch, the Spanish EU presidency website was hacked*:

According to the official contract, the cost of the website development and maintenance was €12 million (over $17m).

[* It was an XSS cross-script vulnerability and not that some hacker actually went in and defaced the page, so some people object to calling this a hack properly speaking. But still is something that you don't expect from an official website, let alone one that costs so much...]

THAT'S WHAT the world looks like from the very top of the world's tallest building:


Monday, January 04, 2010

NEW YORK TIMES's John Vinocur, merciless:
If this, theoretically, is Week One of the rest of the European Union’s new life of unity, power and global impact, then it looks pretty much like the place that has struggled so long to demonstrate its relevance and leadership.
[...] Because the new constitution retains the E.U.’s rotating six-month presidency system — its “great weakness,” according to Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the Greens in the European Parliament — Spain took over this agenda-setting, pacemaking role on Jan. 1.

In spite of joblessness at an E.U.-worst of 19.3 percent, a negative rating on its sovereign debt, and a deficit close to 11 percent, Spain, no kidding, is supposed to provide impetus for a new 10-year E.U. growth strategy in time for an inaugural meeting in Valencia at the end of March.

It is a follow-up to the Lisbon Agenda of 2000, meant to make the E.U. economy “the most competitive and dynamic” in the world, but officially described since as “a synonym for missed objectives and failed promises.”

Against its record — no serious corrective action in two years of sharp economic decline and marginalization as a foreign affairs player under Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s Socialist government — how will this Spain function with its eagerly assumed lion’s share of Europe’s management?

So far, there are indications of incoherence.

On one hand, Foreign Minister Manuel Ángel Moratinos has talked about Spain acting “with modesty and discretion” while leaving space for Mr. Van Rompuy and Ms. Ashton to lead and steer.

At the same time, Madrid, as boss on its own turf, has set up a series of summits — E.U.-Balkans, E.U.-Morocco, E.U.-Latin America, a Mediterranean Union meeting, and possibly a Middle East conference — that look a lot like bread and circuses for a domestic audience at time of economic misery.

According to reports from Madrid, one of Mr. Zapatero’s biggest cheerleaders, Leire Pajin, is even talking about this semester’s routine E.U.-United States summit meeting (usually an hour’s chat, a joint declaration and lunch) as an event of “planetary” significance between “two progressive forces from both sides of the Atlantic.”

Which makes it sound as if Mr. Van Rompuy would be coming along just for the ride. And hardly clarifies what kind of foreign policy steering reverts to Ms. Ashton.

If it is left to Spain, we know this: an opportunistic Zapatero government, richer and more cocky, announced in 2005 that it was selling $1.7 billion in naval vessels and surveillance aircraft to Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, before the deal came partly undone.

On the Middle East, Spain’s open pro-Palestinian tilt and Israel’s long-time, deep mistrust of Mr. Moratinos would cast the Zapatero government as a disadvantaged negotiator for Europe and make the prospect of a greater E.U. role in the Middle East more distant.

And why would Mr. Zapatero’s unilateral decision to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq in 2003 give it special sympathy from a Democratic administration in Washington? In fact, the withdrawal met disapproval from Senator John Kerry, then a perspective Democratic presidential candidate.

Back then, Mr. Kerry urged Mr. Zapatero to reconsider his move, and “send a message that terrorists cannot win by acts of terror.”

These days, the prime minister, his approval ratings deep in negative territory, has apparently seen some advantage in sending an additional 500 men to Afghanistan.

Through all this, it is reported that Mr. Van Rompuy has clearly noticed Spain pulling the blanket of the E.U. presidency in a self-serving direction at time when it ought to be creating a precedent by setting out fewer of its own flags.

He has scheduled an informal economic summit meeting in Brussels for the second week of February, which could serve to take Spain’s questionable trademark off the new decade’s E.U. economic agenda when it is presented in Valencia a month and a half later. And he has made known that once Spain’s presidency ends in July, all future E.U. summits with third countries are to be held at E.U. headquarters in Brussels.

That’s a determined reaction. But it’s far from a guarantee of a cohesive and convincing start for Europe’s Brave New World.


VINTAGE AD BROWSER, with thousands upon thousands of print ads since the 1900s, is simply spectacular.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

WELL, Duh:
The Obama administration’s $75 billion program to protect homeowners from foreclosure has been widely pronounced a disappointment, and some economists and real estate experts now contend it has done more harm than good.

Since President Obama announced the program in February, it has lowered mortgage payments on a trial basis for hundreds of thousands of people but has largely failed to provide permanent relief. Critics increasingly argue that the program, Making Home Affordable, has raised false hopes among people who simply cannot afford their homes.

As a result, desperate homeowners have sent payments to banks in often-futile efforts to keep their homes, which some see as wasting dollars they could have saved in preparation for moving to cheaper rental residences. Some borrowers have seen their credit tarnished while falsely assuming that loan modifications involved no negative reports to credit agencies.

Some experts argue the program has impeded economic recovery by delaying a wrenching yet cleansing process through which borrowers give up unaffordable homes and banks fully reckon with their disastrous bets on real estate, enabling money to flow more freely through the financial system.
Keep reading.

Friday, January 01, 2010