December 28, 2005

Da Vin-Chirac...

Ridiculous.. "kickbacks" even for something like this.. Just last week, my wife and I were wondering how they had gotten permission to film inside the Louvre for the movie!

French President Jacques Chirac allegedly offered to help makers of the
film version (supposedly, in keeping with the story, t
he official movie website of The Da Vinci Code has hidden images, numbers and words in the site's flash introducion), of the widely popular novel, The Da Vinci Code ... but suggested they cast his daughter's best friend in the leading female role, according to Newsweek magazine. The role has gone to a French alright.. but not Chirac's suggestion - unless Audrey Tautou (of Amelie fame) is his daughter's best friend ;)
Meanwhile, elsewhere in France... Rage is only asleep.

The price of gold

A computer tour using Google Earth to swoop down over the rain forests and glacier-capped mountains of the remote Indonesian province of Papua, or the operations of Freeport-McMoRan, where the American company mines the largest gold reserve in the world, reveals "the deepening spiral that Freeport-McMoRan has bored out of its Grasberg Mine as it pursues a virtually bottomless store of gold hidden inside. The images also show a spreading soot-colored bruise of almost a billion tons of mine waste that the company, based in New Orleans, has dumped directly into a jungle river of what had been one of the last untouched landscapes in the world. What is far harder to discern is the intricate web of political and military ties" and questionable human rights and environmental records over the years to sustain this greed for gold..

Read more at the original

Also read:
River of waste and Behind gold's glitter

Order Order...

Michael Scharf writes in the Boston Globe that the US media's conclusion that the "Iraqi High Tribunal proceedings of the Saddam trial has been a judicial train wreck, presided over by a weak judge who has lost control of the courtroom is based on several glaring misconceptions about the tribunal. The article argues that the presiding judge, Rizgar Mohammed Amin, may be portrayed in the Western media as an ineffectual judge, but in Iraq he is getting high marks for the conduct of the trial, especially for his judicial temperament.

Read the whole
article.. it is an interesting op-ed piece.

All work and no play

South Koreans worked longer hours last year than anyone else on the planet, 30 percent more than Americans and 65 percent longer than the French..... according to a study on working life by the International Labor Organization in Geneva issued this month. However, isince economists consider productivity as a more important measure of work rather than hours worked, then the study claim that the South Koreans "could easily cut back on their long hours if they raised their productivity, which on an hourly basis stands at just over one-third the level of the French."

For all the hubris in the US about the 35-hour week French work culture, the study concludes:
that "when the French work, they are extremely efficient. But since an employee takes five weeks of vacation or more, he or she produces less for a company over the course of a year than a worker in the United States. (France is still relatively competitive on a per-employee basis, however, coming in fifth place.)"

Also, in comparing Europe and the US,
"As Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser at Harvard and Bruce Sacerdote at Dartmouth pointed out in a paper published in March, Europeans worked about the same number of hours as Americans in the early 1970s but today work on average almost 50 percent fewer. The main difference is vacations, with Europeans often taking four or five weeks a year more than Americans. And this divergence explains a key nuance in understanding productivity, the important but tricky tool economists use to measure how efficient workers are. France is the world's most productive country on an hourly basis, according to the KILM. But measured on the basis of each employee, America is leagues ahead of every other country." Also, "the gap between Europe and the United States has been widening for several years, with the exception of Ireland, which is catching up to the United States."

Strikingly, the data show that not all countries become richer by working longer hours..though the example is maybe a one-off outlier (Ireland) rather than a trend.

December 27, 2005

Ohio Patriot Act

Earlier this month, "in the final hours before the holiday recess, the Ohio General Assembly voted to pass the Ohio Patriot Act. Despite mounting pressure from the public, the amended bill passed the House in a vote of 69-23. It was then sent to the Senate to approve amendments made by the House. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 29-2 and will now be sent to Governor Taft." Taft incidentally has an approval rating of 6.5% in Ohio!!!

Among its provisions ..
(via Mefi)
  • Police can deny entry to "transportation infrastructure" to anyone not showing an ID;
  • Police can demand the name, address, and date of birth of anyone suspected of having committed a crime or being about to commit a crime, or having witnessed a crime or a plan to commit a crime. Failure to provide this information is an arrestable offense -- so basically all demonstrators could be required to give their names, addresses and dates of birth or face arrest;
  • Reminiscent of Joe McCarthy's famous question, many state licenses will begin with the question "Are you a member of an organization on the U.S. Department of State Terrorist Exclusion List?". Failure to answer means no license; answering affirmatively is self-incrimination.
  • Perhaps worst of all, the original version of the bill simply prohibited state or local governemnts or government employees from objecting to the USA PATRIOT act. The current version allows criticism, but threatens local government with the loss of funds if they in any way "materially hinder" Federal anti-terrorism efforts.
Some other components of the Ohio Patriot Act


Collapse is an economizing process

In "How Civilizations Fall: A Theory of Catabolic Collapse" [
pdf], John Michael Greer writes:
Even within the social sciences, the process by which complex societies give way to smaller and simpler ones has often been presented in language drawn from literary tragedy, as though the loss of sociocultural complexity necessarily warranted a negative value judgment. This is understandable, since the collapse of civilizations often involves catastrophic human mortality and the loss of priceless cultural treasures, but like any value judgment it can obscure important features of the matter at hand."
In The Collapse of Complex Societies, Joseph Tainter makes a distinct point that collapse "is an economizing process"

Complex societies, it must be emphasized again, are recent in human history. Collapse then is not a fall to some primordial chaos, but a return to the normal human condition of lower complexity. The notion that collapse is uniformly a catastrophe is contradicted, moreover, by the present theory. To the extent that collapse is due to declining marginal returns on investment in complexity, it is an economizing process. It occurs when it becomes necessary to restore the marginal return on organizational investment to a more favorable level. To a population that is receiving little return on the cost of supporting complexity, the loss of that complexity brings economic, and perhaps administrative, gains.

Also read earlier posts:

A Natural History of Peace: "Contrary to what was believed just a few decades ago, humans are not "killer apes" destined for violent conflict, but can make their own history"

December 23, 2005

Father of the Internet

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Director of the World Wide Web Consortium and more widely known as the man who 'wove the World Wide Web' (no..Gore didn't! ;)), has started a blog (and gets 450+ comments, so far, on his first post! :))

December 20, 2005

December 16, 2005

Patriot Act extension rejected

The Senate on Friday refused to reauthorize major portions of the USA Patriot Act after critics complained they infringed too much on Americans' privacy and liberty, dealing a huge defeat to the Bush administration and Republican leaders.

December 15, 2005

1000 days of War

Iraq: 1000 Days of War
"From Shock and Awe to a country torn between insurrection and democracy", writes Patrick Cockburn in the The Independent UK (link via Truthout). In the same link, Anne Penketh writes about the unintended consequences since the start of the war.


No jokes.. this is for real!!! Karnataka's chief minister, Dharam Singh, is taking steps to change the name of India's IT capital. The Andhra CM, Chandrababu Naidu builds a Cyber-abad to attract new IT ...theKarnataka CM does this...nice!!

I agree..this is no different than the jingoistic renaming of Bombay, Madras, or Calcutta... but it is still...RIDICULOUS, IMO.
By the way, heard from a Bengalurite (hehe..), that "Bengaluru is from benda-kaal-ooru (boiled-beans-villlage (city)) because of some king who lost his way and was tired and found someone who gave him boiled beans somewhere around Bangalore."

Boiled beans and hot air! City is going to...

Alternative Energy

Interesting study from Stanford:
Switching to a U.S. hydrogen fuel cell vehicle fleet: The resultant change in emissions, energy use, and greenhouse gases
Journal of Power Sources, Volume 150, Pages 150-181, 4 October 2005
Abstract: This study examines the potential change in primary emissions and energy use from replacing the current U.S. fleet of fossil-fuel on-road vehicles (FFOV) with hybrid electric fossil fuel vehicles or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCV). Emissions and energy usage are analyzed for three different HFCV scenarios, with hydrogen produced from: (1) steam reforming of natural gas, (2) electrolysis powered by wind energy, and (3) coal gasification. With the U.S. EPA's National Emission Inventory as the baseline, other emission inventories are created using a life cycle assessment (LCA) of alternative fuel supply chains. For a range of reasonable HFCV efficiencies and methods of producing hydrogen, we find that the replacement of FFOV with HFCV significantly reduces emission associated with air pollution, compared even with a switch to hybrids. All HFCV scenarios decrease net air pollution emission, including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, ammonia, and carbon monoxide. These reductions are achieved with hydrogen production from either a fossil fuel source such as natural gas or a renewable source such as wind. Furthermore, replacing FFOV with hybrids or HFCV with hydrogen derived from natural gas, wind or coal may reduce the global warming impact of greenhouse gases and particles (measured in carbon dioxide equivalent emission) by 6, 14, 23, and 1%, respectively. Finally, even if HFCV are fueled by a fossil fuel such as natural gas, if no carbon is sequestered during hydrogen production, and 1% of methane in the feedstock gas is leaked to the environment, natural gas HFCV still may achieve a significant reduction in greenhouse gas and air pollution emission over FFOV. Fossil-Fuel vehicles vs. hybrid electric-fossil fuel / hydrogen fuel cell vehiclesFossil-Fuel vehicles vs. hybrid electric-fossil fuel / hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

Medical Miracle

More details about the woman rescued two months after Kashmir quake that killed almost 80,000 people!

Given the hardships they are facing, it is hard to judge them... but this still sounds callous!
"We first thought she was dead but she opened her eyes as we were pulling her out," says Faiz. Naqsha was unable to respond to repeated offerings of food and water. Apparently, her condition convinced her rescuers that she was on the verge of death. That was why Faiz Din didn't take her to a doctor immediately despite being so close to Muzaffarabad. "We thought she was going to die any moment. So we just put her inside a tent and let her be."

An Ode to a Bush

Almost 10-days old news this...but it is hilarious enough to be mentioned as I commence blogging in a more traditional sense than the mess I created earlier ;)
Furore in Pakistan over Bush-praising poem in text books. Apparently, the poem originally appears on an educational materials site as part of a reading comprehension lesson.

Not one more refugee death, by Emmy Pérez

And just like that, my #NPM2018 celebrations end with  a poem  today by Emmy Pérez. Not one more refugee death by Emmy Pérez A r...