Saturday, February 28, 2009


Europe comprises a third of world GDP. And Europe is in deep trouble...

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The Telegraph: Stephen Jen, currency chief at Morgan Stanley, said Eastern Europe has borrowed $1.7 trillion abroad, much on short-term maturities. It must repay – or roll over – $400bn this year, equal to a third of the region's GDP. Good luck. The credit window has slammed shut.

Not even Russia can easily cover the $500bn dollar debts of its oligarchs while oil remains near $33 a barrel. The budget is based on Urals crude at $95. Russia has bled 36pc of its foreign reserves since August defending the rouble.

"This is the largest run on a currency in history," said Mr Jen.

Whether it takes months, or just weeks, the world is going to discover that Europe's
financial system is sunk, and that there is no EU Federal Reserve yet ready to act as a lender of last resort or to flood the markets with emergency stimulus.

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You're not losing weight because your workouts aren't working - here's why

Variety, rest and hard work - these are key.
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Your time is valuable, and for each
precious moment you put into your workouts, you want to ensure you
get the best possible return on your investment. So, are you
getting the results you want? If your body isn't as lean or
toned as you'd like, it may be that you're committing some
key training mistakes, which can sabotage the efforts of even
veteran exercisers.
1. The faux pas Getting married to your strength

2. The faux pas Performing your reps too
The facts If you zoom through your repetitions
when strength training, you'll be using momentum instead of
muscle power. You won't get the same stimulus for muscle
building, and you won't burn as many calories. You'll also
be more susceptible to training injuries such as torn muscles or
connective tissue.

3. The faux pas Exercising too hard, too

7 more reasons your workout isn't working can be found

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Oscar Pissed-torius not 'rat faced' - so how do you crash a boat into the pier of a river?

It's not very easy to crash a boat. For one thing there's less traffic on rivers and even if you make a mistake, the water acts as a sort of cushion. You've got to be pretty out of your skull to drive head first into the side of the river, and insodoing smash your face against the dashboard of the boat.

Apparently Pistorius was as sobre as a nun. I guess the bottles of alcohol in the boat were filled with water. Meanwhile the "athlete’s friends and family appeared to be ’rat faced’ when they arrived on the scene" according to the report below.

Guys, we admire this guy for making something of his life, his determination. But he's also a human being who makes some mistakes, some of them quite dumb and not worthy of hero worship. Get over yourselves. Meanwhile, Nike must be wondering about their sponsorship.
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The agent of Oscar Pistorius has expressed confidence that there is enough evidence to show that 'blade runner' was not drinking when he crashed his boat.

Eyewitnesses at the scene of the accident said friends and family who rushed to help him, appeared to be very drunk.

Police also confirmed that alcohol bottles were found in the paralympic star’s boat when it was recovered from the bottom of the Vaal River.

At this stage there is no evidence to show that Pistorius had been drinking at the time of his crash.

However, eyewitnesses said the athlete’s friends and family appeared to be ’rat faced’ when they arrived on the scene.
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Murder, attempted murder, rape, kidnapping and robbery - all in one night

If I understand this story correctly, these guys went to three different homes, shot the people who opened the door, and then raped three different women in three different homes, killing two. Interesting what some people do for kicks in this country. I guess if you're quite confident of not being caught, this sort of nighttime activity might actually catch on.
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Durban police are searching for four men who allegedly shot and killed a man, injured three other people and raped six women. “They began their horrendous crimes on Wednesday night, and finished off this morning,” said Captain Khephu Ndlovu.

“Four unknown men went to J section in Umlazi and kidnapped four women from their house," Ndlovu reported. "They then took the women to a nearby bush where they were repeatedly gang raped.”

They then walked to a house in Welbedad, Chatsworth, not far from Umlazi, and approached a family of three.

“Two men came to the door and without even saying a word to them, [they] opened fire.”

One man was shot in the thigh, the other in the neck.

“They then ran into the house and found a lady [age unknown] in the bedroom. The four of them then took turns to rape her... after they raped her, she was shot in the head.”

The four men fled on foot after taking valuables, including cellphones and jewellery.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Breakdown or Breakthrough [PHOTOGRAPHY]

Incomprehensible Buildings - KUNSTLERCAST

NVDL: This is broadcast every Thursday night. If you can't find it I have a live feed on the sidebar. Well worth listening to...

KunstlerCast #53: Incomprehensible Buildings

A listener asks James Howard Kunstler to react to the Feb. 9 fire that destroyed a Beijing building by Dutch starchitect Rem Koolhaas. Kunstler believes many famous architects, including Koolhaas, often strive to confound people in order to appear supernaturally brilliant. It's all in the service of grandiosity and narcissism, though. Rather than attempting to disturb our expectations, architects should strive to give us buildings that are neurologically comprehensible and that satisfy our need for cultural orientation. Kunstler also takes shots at a proposed skyscraper in Boston and the Southern Poverty Law Center. **Tim Halber, managing editor of Planetizen, responds in a listener comment to Duncan's recent comments about the failures of new urbanism. Released: Feb. 26, 2009.

Direct Download:


( 29 MB | 31:34 mins.)

Rem Koolhaas CCTV building, photo by Iamdavidtheking
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When Insanity Makes Sense - er...sometimes it does!

An employee of Whole Foods in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was fired in 2007 for apprehending a shoplifter. More specifically, he was fired for touching a customer, even though that customer had a backpack filled with stolen groceries and was running away with them.

Read below for more...
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I regularly see security decisions that, like the Whole Foods incident, seem to make absolutely no sense. However, in every case, the decisions actually make perfect sense once you understand the underlying incentives driving the decision. All security decisions are trade-offs, but the motivations behind them are not always obvious: They’re often subjective, and driven by external incentives. And often security trade-offs are made for nonsecurity reasons.

Almost certainly, Whole Foods has a no-touching-the-customer policy because its attorneys recommended it. "No touching" is a security measure as well, but it's security against customer lawsuits. The cost of these lawsuits would be much, much greater than the $346 worth of groceries stolen in this instance.
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Electric Cars Are Not The Answer

So your car runs on electricity eh? And so you don't need to put gas/petroleum in the tank. Great. Er...where does the energy come from to charge the battery. Probably from burning coal or gas. The answer is less cars on the road, not more. Less motoring. How to do that? Change suburbia, how we live...and redeploy public transport, especially railway. You may think it's an interesting idea. It's not. It's the ONLY alternative.
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$6,500 to watch each Rex Grossman interception - Wayne Burdick gets $27,000 phone bill for watching Bears game online

NVDL: I can commiserate. My online bill at home is high, higher than is sane in the current economic environment.
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On November 2, Wayne Burdick (not pictured) was aboard a cruise ship in Miami waiting to depart on a Caribbean cruise. While still docked at the port, he set up his laptop and wireless card and accessed his Slingbox device which allowed him to watch a Chicago Bears game via an Internet connection. When the game was over, Burdick closed his computer, embarked on the cruise and returned home to find a bill from AT&T charging him over $27,000 for the three hours of Internet usage.

Apparently, AT&T had charged Brudick the international rate for the access. At two cents per kilobyte, the total charge was $27,788.93 for the time spent watching the game, which breaks down to about $6,500 per Rex Grossman interception.

AT&T acknowledged its mistake, saying that Burdick's device was picking up a signal it shouldn't have been.
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Madoff Suffers from Empathy Deficiency - do you?

If there is such a thing as empathy deficiency, Madoff would be its poster child. Perhaps this was a trait that he shares with his mother, Sylvia Madoff, who was registered as a broker, but in the 1960s was forced to close shop as part of an agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission not to further investigate her brokerage. (I know it's impossible with our present state of knowledge to sort out nature from nurture, but the above studies on empathy certainly suggest the possibility of there being a primary biological contribution.) -

Jeremy Clarkson misleads on BBC - implies electric car ran out of electricity

"God almighty, wave goodbye to dial-up, say hello to the world of broadband motoring," said Clarkson.

"I cannot believe this – that's biblically quick. This car is electric, literally. The top speed may only be 125mph but there's so much torque it does 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds. Not bad from a motor the size of a watermelon and which has only one moving part."

NVDL: I find this very bad humor from Clarkson. In the same way that we don't need to show in a motoring program what happens when a petrol-based car runs out of petrol (perhaps we do?), it is very bad form to 'rig' it so that an electric car appears to fail in the way Clarkson did. The other way round may be less counterintuitive, and more constructive given where unimaginative automakers (like the unable to innovate GM) are heading right now.

It was billed by Jeremy Clarkson as the ultimate test for an electric car – a drag race against a Lotus Elise on BBC2's Top Gear. And it was a test that the £92,000 Tesla appeared to fail after it dramatically slowed down on the show's test track and was pushed into a garage to await charging.

But it has since emerged that the Tesla, which can be powered from an ordinary domestic plug, did not run out of electricity.

The car's California-based manufacturer said that the charge on neither of the two Teslas used in the Top Gear test fell below 20%.

The BBC today denied it had misled viewers, saying that the programme had "at no time" claimed that the car had run out of power. Programme-makers instead showed it slowing down to illustrate what would happen when the car did run out of charge.

But some viewers were left with a different impression. "I understand trying to make interesting TV, but when it materially changes the image or performance of the product, it's pretty underhanded," said one viewer on a car website.

Another said: "How pointless, in the same way if a car runs out of petrol I know what happens without a reconstruction of the event."

The Tesla initially beat the Elise around the Top Gear track. Clarkson, who described "brown rice eco cars" as a "bit like cod liver oil – very good for you but you would rather have a plate of steak and chips", was impressed as it beat its rival from a standing start.

"God almighty, wave goodbye to dial-up, say hello to the world of broadband motoring," said Clarkson.

"I cannot believe this – that's biblically quick. This car is electric, literally. The top speed may only be 125mph but there's so much torque it does 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds. Not bad from a motor the size of a watermelon and which has only one moving part."

But later the Tesla was shown slowing down on the track, the soundtrack came to a halt and Clarkson looked around dumbfounded before the car was pushed into a garage, apparently out of electricity. "Oh," he said.

"This car really was shaping up to be something wonderful," said Clarkson in his voiceover. "But then..."

"Although Tesla say it will do 200 miles we worked out that on our track it would run out after just 55 miles," continued Clarkson's voiceover.

USA - the world will miss us when we're gone

” When it comes to the way other countries view America’s pre-eminent role in the world, he wrote, “whatever its life span, three things can be safely predicted: they will not pay for it; they will continue to criticize it; and they will miss it when it is gone.” - Michael Mandelbaum in his book, The Case for Goliath

NVDL: Interesting point of view Friedman has gotten from the perspective of Seoul,South Korea. Also interesting to see that South Korea has cut off AID to North Korea because they can no longer after it. North Korea may find themselves on a very short lead with the rest of the world and very soon. Friedman writes:

"If the North does test such an intercontinental ballistic missile again, American forces will have to consider blowing it up on the launch pad or shooting it out of the sky. We never should have allowed the North to get a nuclear warhead; we certainly don’t want it testing a long-range missile that could deliver that nuclear warhead to our shores, or anywhere else."
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Somewhere in the back of their minds, a lot of people seem to be realizing that the alternative to a U.S.-dominated world is not a world dominated by someone else or someone better. It is a leaderless world. Neither Russia nor China has the will or the way to provide the global public goods that America — at its best — consistently has. The European Union right now is so split that it cannot even agree on an effective stimulus package.

“No other country can substitute for the U.S.,” a senior Korean official remarked to me. “The U.S. is still No. 1 in military, No. 1 in economy, No. 1 in promoting human rights and No. 1 in idealism. Only the U.S. can lead the world. No other country can. China can’t. The E.U. is too divided, and Europe is militarily far behind the U.S. So it is only the United States ... We have never had a more unipolar world than we have today.”

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President Obama would like to be known as the high-speed rail president

NVDL: If Obama achieves only one thing, and that thing is the deployment of high speed rail (or high quality rail in general) he will have done Americans a great service, and one sorely needed at the time. This is good news. The answer isn't more cars, or electric cars - it's better public transport and more railways to transport people and goods over long distance rather than individual cars and trucks, or worse, planes.
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The whining about who got what in the $787 billion economic stimulus bill is well underway, but you won't hear many complaints from high-speed rail advocates. They walked away with $8 billion.

That's an unprecedented sum considering the crumbs Amtrak has collected during the past 20 years, and rail boosters are gleefully predicting the money will lead to rail investment in almost every region of the country. Opponents of the funding, who at this point can do little but complain, say it's one large pig in a bill filled with pork, and will do little to help the economy, but that overlooks the fact it will, in the short-term, put people to work improving existing track and infrastructure.


The allocation makes good on Obama's campaign promise to show rail a little love, something Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood echoed when he said, "I think President Obama would like to be known as the high-speed rail president, and I think he can be."

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Wow, the sea is washing into my living room. I wonder if this is connected to that thing they were talking about...what was it again...oh yeah, global warming...

NVDL: We're headed for very interesting times. What's that saying again - adapt or die. From where I'm standing I see people adapting very little, if at all.
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Ken Pedersen, expedition leader at the Norwegian Troll Research Station in

GENEVA – Glaciers in Antarctica are melting faster and across a much wider area than previously thought, a development that threatens to raise sea levels worldwide and force millions of people to flee low-lying areas, scientists said Wednesday.

Researchers once believed that the melting was limited to the Antarctic Peninsula, a narrow tongue of land pointing toward South America. But satellite data and automated weather stations now indicate it is more widespread.

"That's unusual and unexpected," he told The Associated Press in an interview.

By the end of the century, the accelerated melting could cause sea levels to climb by 3 to 5 feet — levels substantially higher than predicted by a major scientific group just two years ago.

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Neil Sonnekus demonstrates how not to write a movie review

As for the film’s politics, well, it’s positively Bushian in its anti-Arab sentiments. - Neil Sonnekus

NVDL: I see this quite often, and it's often based on the length of the review you're reading. The longer the review, the better the chance that the reviewer is telling you the story of the movie so that - you guessed it - you no longer need to go and watch it.

Because there is a thing known as 'tension' that filmamkers try to put into a movie. Tension adds to the emotion of a flick. Part of the magic of films is that we don't know or can't guess what happens next. One of the most common gripes about a movie is that it is unimaginative or 'predictable'. Let me be very very simple - a movie that's predictable is one where you have a good idea what's going to happen next. Audiences don't like that.

Now, I've also gone to press screenings, and it is a priviledge to see flicks before the public does. I don't understand why Reviewers (sorry that should be a small letter 'r' ) after seeing a movie, feel they have the 'scoop' on the movie, and treat it like an exclusive story. Like the directors ideas are theirs, that the zeitgeist the director probes automatically becomes the reviewer's to share with the public as though they've been given the copyright. You haven't!

When I watched Dark Knight I knew this was going to be one of the biggest movies ever (not many others did, so pat on the back for me). However, if I had gone and told (don't read this if you haven't seen it yet) you that Rachel dies in the movie I would have spoilt a lot of it for you.

In fact, that did happen to me. One of the most anticipated movies and someone kindly explained what happens... In a movie about escalation, the director is at pains to take you step by step through the escalation. Fortunately it is such a painstakingly intelligent film you can watch it a half dozen times or more and learn something new. Well, I have.

Back to Sonnekus. He starts his review of Taken really well, some nice insights on French filmmaking and Besson. But then by way of analogy for what is to follow Sonnekus defines what the slang word 'sick' means, before going through the plot details as though he'd written them himself.

Part of the knack of movie writing is providing a glimpse of the contents, just enough so you want to watch the movie, just enough so you have a reasonable idea what it's about. It's almost like pointing a finger at the thing you're promoting and then noting the pointing of the finger rather than what it's pointing to...which Sonnekus does, perhaps inadvertantly, with his introduction to french cinema.

What is the psycho psychology behind retelling a movie to someone? That's not a review, that's like an artist putting tracing paper over a cartoon and then signing his name. It's not creative, it adds nothing. It's pointless. But I guess if you can't make movies, you can tell people about everything that happens in it and sign your name to the review making sure everyone who reads your review enjoys the movie even less if they bother to go and watch it.

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The next thing he knows, his 17-year-old daughter, Kim (Grace), wants to go to that supposed city of love, Paris. She and a 19-year-old friend. Alone to a “sick apartment” in Paris, all the way from LA. And she has a paranoid, ex-forces father. The ex-wife exerts pressure and he finally relents, on condition that Kim phones him when she gets there, every night.

Are things going to go wrong? You bet they are. Kim might have meant the apartment was cool by calling it sick, in the parlance of teens today, but it turns out to have some sick consequences in the parlance of yesterday.

Is daddy going to bring all his special forces knowledge to bear on saving his daughter? Check. Thus begins his journey to the centre of the trafficking trade in human flesh in the city of love.

Does Neeson do well as a vigilante type father? Yes, in the sense that only the French can see something completely new in a non-French actor.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reality Arrives: SA moving in the wrong direction - CONSENSUS

|Ipsos Markinsor found that for the first time in November last year, more people felt the country was moving in the wrong direction. Actually, we were moving in the wrong direction for some time, but it takes time for us to catch up with reality. This 'reality-gap' or 'reality-lag' worries me. Why can we get up to the minute news, but we can't get up to the minute reality?
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ANC - The Party's Over [IPSOS MARKINOR]

The results show clearly that the ANCYL is the recipient of the highest degree of intolerance – more than half the respondents who chose the ANCYL as their least liked group, did not want members to stand as candidates in the next election, nor hold a street demonstration or speech in their community. The ANC itself was the second highest target of intolerance but not nearly as strongly disliked as the Youth League.

NVDL: Tell the poor people in the rural areas that...those holding onto hopes and promises and other false starts.

Ipsos Markinor also measured whether supporters of various political parties have any confidence in Julius Malema as a political leader and the result is as follows:

Supporters of the ANC who said that they have do not have much / no confidence at all50%
Supporters of the DA who said that they have do not have much / no confidence at all70%
Supporters of the SACP who said that they have do not have much / no confidence at all32%
All eligible voters in South Africa who said that they have do not have much / no confidence at all54%

The interesting fact is that Malema seems to enjoy the highest level of confidence amongst eligible voters who indicated that they support the SACP. Although the SACP does not participate in elections under their own banner, it is quite revealing to see that confidence in Malema’s abilities obviously emanates quite strongly from the SACP part of the tripartite alliance.

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Bending the Curve - a guide to tackling Climate Change in South Africa

“What is needed now is a public groundswell - people acting themselves, but also demanding action from governments - and a new generation of visionary leaders with the courage to implement the changes required. This book is an excellent and timely contribution to advocating action at all levels of society, starting with the individual.” David King
Bending the Curve is not just another book about the climate crisis, but a guide - co-authored by 24 experts - that will help you move from deliberation to action. Whether you are a parent or policy developer, or work for a corporate or civil society organisation, you will find a wealth of practical ideas for making changes at work and in your personal life that will improve the lives of everyone and help to tackle this scourge. There is no time to lose. We all need to get started now

“We are told that we need an elite that ploughs back; that filters down the line to every one of us. Going green used to be a trendy option and a marketing gimmick. Now it has to be a primary purpose. Bending the Curve is a positive step in that direction.” Derek Watts

Bending the Curve was born out of a need for South Africans to have access to better information about how specific sectors of society can contribute to tackling climate change.
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Leon Schuster on Piracy

Toyota's Kelp Car - Toyota Wants to Build Car From Seaweed

Toyota is looking to a greener future — literally — with dreams of an ultralight, superefficient plug-in hybrid with a bioplastic body made of seaweed that could be in showrooms within 15 years. -
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A kelp car is not as far-fetched as it might sound. Bioplastics are
being used for everything from gift cards to cellphone cases. Demand
for the stuff is expected to hit 50 billion pounds annually within five
years, a figure that would account for 10 percent of the world market
for plastic, according to USA Today. A company called NatureWorks claims
the production of its bioplastic Inego produces 60 percent less carbon
dioxide than petroleum-based plastic and requires 30 percent less
energy. And Oakridge National Laboratory has explored the possibility
of producing carbon fiber from wood pulp.

The 1/X has been kicking around the show circuit for more than a year, and the photo is from its North American debut at the 2008 Chicago auto show. It features a tiny 500cc engine and weighs about one-third as much as the Prius while offering about as much interior space. It's got a flex-fuel engine and electric motor powered by lithium-ion batteries.

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Korean Rail System To Include Longest Underwater Tunnel

Big project, but will it fly? Er..."fly" may be the wrong word, but you get my drift.

The current record holder is Japan's Seikan Tunnel (53.85Km) which crosses Tsugaru Strait, followed by Channel Tunnel (50.45Km).

The Institute stresses that it will enhance the overall economy of the existing Honam Line since the KTX bullet trains will attract near 78 percent of air travelers to Jeju. Some 8.4 million travelers visited Jeju in 2007 and they traveled mostly by air according to the Institute.
Journey time from Seoul to Jeju by KTX bullet trains will be 2 hours 26 minutes, about an hour longer than the air travel. However, if you count in the time required for passenger check in, security check and heavy city traffic to local airports, the institute is convinced, KTX trains will compete fairly well with airlines.

Government auditors discovered this week potentially crippling cracks in the concrete sleeper ties installed in the extended track between Daegu and Pusan, which is currently under construction.
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