Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

Facilitating Global Cooperation Key Priority for IMF

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2010 at 6:32 am

Facilitating Global Cooperation Key Priority for IMF
IMF Survey online

December 02, 2010

-Enabling and underpinning global cooperation key concern for IMF
-Work on capital flows, reserve currencies, reserve accumulation, to be stepped up
-Global financial safety net and helping low-income countries both also priorities

The IMF has just published its six-month official work program against the backdrop of continued volatility in the world’s financial markets and an uneven global economic recovery. In an interview, Reza Moghadam, Director of the IMF’s Strategy, Policy, and Review Department, explains the IMF’s strategic priorities.

IMF Survey online: What will be the priorities for the IMF’s work in the coming months?

Moghadam: The multispeed recovery—surging here, limping there, in the doldrums elsewhere—is testing policymakers, pulling them in different directions and creating new challenges as financial flows shift rapidly across the globe. The IMF’s work program for the next six months attempts to come to grips with these policy challenges, as well as some longer term ones exposed by the crisis.

At the same time, the recent intensification of pressures in Europe reminds us that our ongoing efforts to advise on, and provide financing for, stabilization programs will remain a prominent part of the IMF’s work, even if it is not a part of the formal “work program.”

Beyond the immediate task of supporting financial stabilization in member countries, our work in the coming months will focus on:

•Promoting balanced and sustainable growth (which includes work on risks, fiscal adjustment, and policy coordination)

•Strengthening the international monetary and financial system (which includes work on responses to capital flows, reserve accumulation, surveillance, and the global financial safety net)

•Building a stronger financial architecture (which includes work on macro-prudential surveillance and data gaps).

•Delivering higher growth and stability in low-income countries (which includes new work on growth drivers and an extension of the vulnerability exercise to low-income countries).

I should also note that all of the above proceeds against the backdrop of a series of landmark reforms over the last two years, in particular to strengthen our lending toolkit for emerging markets and low-income countries, and more recently, to modernize the way the IMF makes decisions.

IMF Survey online: What is the IMF’s role in helping to defuse current tension on issues ranging from exchange rates to trade?

Moghadam: The IMF was established for precisely this purpose, to avoid resort to policy options that seem to be in the domestic interest but are collectively destructive, and to use the Fund as a forum to promote cooperative solutions. There is a sense in many quarters that the spirit of global cooperation evident during the crisis is flagging under the strain of uneven and different pressures in different parts of the world. What can we do about it?

In theory, the IMF’s role should be relatively simple: to identify such solutions for individual member countries and for the system as a whole. In practice, this is not so easy, and arguably we have not done enough of this in our bilateral surveillance with member countries, which has tended to focus on domestic issues and policies.

It is precisely for this reason that this work program introduces the so-called “spillover reports,” as a means of spelling out the global systemic effects of domestic policies for each of the world systemic economies. These reports would also set out the views of policymakers on each other’s policies.

As such, they will complement our traditional global and bilateral surveillance products—the World Economic Outlook (WEO), Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR), and Article IVs. They will also inform the IMF’s contribution to the Group of Twenty (G-20) industrialized and emerging market economies Mutual Assessment Process, which has become a major vehicle for collaboration to deliver strong, sustainable, and balanced growth across the world.

IMF Survey online: Recent economic developments have been shining a light on capital flows and how to manage them. What advice will the IMF be offering its member countries?

Moghadam: This is a very topical issue that concerns countries in every region in one way or another. Large and volatile capital flows have implications for exchange rates, asset prices and financial stability across the globe, and capital flows are usually the most important channel through which one country’s exchange rates, asset prices, and financial stability affect other countries. We need to combine a global perspective with bilateral advice tailored to the specific circumstances of each country.

There is a substantial amount of work under way in this area, with a general paper on financial stability across borders to be discussed soon by the IMF’s Executive Board. Analytical work on these issues continues on a number of fronts―including in the WEO and GFSR―and work is also underway taking a closer look at selected country experiences with capital inflows. The latter is part of a stream of work that tries to lay out more explicitly how different policy responses to capital inflows could be weighed, including circumstances under which capital controls might be a reasonable choice.

Macro-prudential policies also have a role in this debate, and there too the IMF is engaging actively in the broader debate.

IMF Survey online: Will the IMF seek to enhance the role of the SDR, its reserve asset composed by a basket of leading currencies, as a means to deal with concerns over the U.S. dollar and other currencies?

Moghadam: The debate on a larger role for the SDR may have been stoked by recent volatility in major currencies, but it is fundamentally part of a much broader discussion on the reform of the international monetary system.

Alongside other reforms, for instance in the areas of surveillance, global safety nets, capital flows and reserve adequacy, the SDR may have a role in this regard as an additional reserve asset, and possibly as a unit of account for financial assets and international trade.

Our work on these issues will also inform the debates of the G-20, which under the French presidency will likely consider the broader questions related to the reform of the international monetary system.

IMF Survey online: As problems in Europe continue, what more can we expect from the IMF in terms of improving the quality and reach of its financial safety net?

Moghadam: As mentioned, reforms to our lending toolkit, especially the Flexible Credit Line and Precautionary Credit Line, along with new ways of working with regional financing arrangements (for instance, in Europe), have greatly strengthened the global financial safety net.

Nevertheless, in the coming months we will consider if there is scope to further improve the international community’s capacity to cope with shocks at the international, regional, and national levels.

There will be two broad strands to this work. The first will explore linkages between emerging markets to understand better how financial shocks are transmitted, in order to identify the scope for enhancing systemic crisis mitigation responses. The second will explore ways in which the IMF could work more closely with regional financing arrangements in order to strengthen the global financial safety net. In the immediate period this work will focus on dialogue with regional partners.

We will also look at recent experience with the IMF’s conditionality (the conditions linked to IMF-supported programs) in order to learn lessons, refine policy if needed, and to distill best practice.

IMF Survey online: What tangible benefits can we expect from recent IMF governance reforms?

Moghadam: First, let me stress that the change is tangible, and arguably the most comprehensive governance changes since the establishment of the IMF.

Among other things, the doubling of quotas comes with a shift in quota shares of over 6 percent to dynamic emerging and developing economies (thus bringing all the BRICs― Brazil, Russia, India, and China―into the top ten shareholders), an understanding on how to increase emerging market and developing country representation at the IMF’s Executive Board, and shifting to an all-elected Board.

Will the benefits be tangible too? Obviously, that remains to be seen. I do see the governance reforms as addressing long-standing grievances that undermined member countries’ sense of ownership and trust in the institution. As such, I am optimistic that it will strengthen the IMF in a very real way. This is particularly important if the IMF is to play its role in the aftermath of the global crisis, where mutual trust and a spirit of cooperation will be key.

IMF Survey online: What is the IMF doing to improve its policy advice and analysis?

Moghadam: While many steps have been taken to sharpen the focus on macro-financial stability issues and to enhance the impact of the IMF’s policy advice (for instance, analysis of financial and banking system networks and stability, cross-country analysis of employment policy responses), the job is far from done. The IMF’s stock-taking of its policy advice to its 187 member countries, known as the Triennial Surveillance Review, and review of the 2007 Surveillance Decision will provide an opportunity to take stock of recent efforts to sharpen surveillance and enhance its effectiveness, and to identify what further changes are needed.

More generally, the IMF is active across many of the key issues currently concerning policymakers, including work on capital flows on understanding reserve adequacy, and on the especially thorny issues of cross-border resolution and macro-prudential policies and frameworks.

IMF Survey online: Low-income countries face particular challenges in the current global economy. What is the IMF doing to help them?

Moghadam: Many low-income countries were impressively resilient during the crisis, with their economies cushioned as a result of the significant reforms that they had undertaken in recent years. The challenge for many now will be to rebuild policy space, and to turn attention once again to growth and development needs.

Having overhauled our lending facilities for low-income countries earlier this year, the Fund’s work in the coming months will focus in particular on a number of issues related to growth and stability.

On growth issues, one particular focus will be on new growth drivers for low-income countries, a piece of work that will consider the opportunities and challenges arising from the growing role of the BRICs. On stability issues, staff have developed a framework for analyzing the vulnerability of low-income countries and for managing volatility. This strand of work will include consideration of a possible role for contingent financial instruments.

On the policy front, the IMF’s engagement with countries in fragile situations will be reviewed to consider how it should be tailored to meet the unique challenges they face. We will also look at the future of the HIPC Initiative, launched in 1996 by the IMF and the World Bank to ensure no poor country faces a debt burden it cannot manage. The initiative is now substantially completed, with debt reduction packages approved for 36 countries, 30 of them in Africa, providing $72 billion in debt-service relief over time.

The global economy—and our understanding of it—have undergone profound changes in the past few years. The IMF has adapted at remarkable speed to help our members meet the new challenges they face. This process is still underway. It must continue. At this difficult juncture, the need for global cooperation among economies is greater than ever, and the IMF has a great responsibility to fulfill in supporting this cooperation in every way it can―analysis, financing, and collaboration machinery.


Jay Leno

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2010 at 6:18 am

“Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average, which means you’ve already met your New Year’s resolution.”

Merry Christmas from Camelia

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2010 at 6:09 am

“how does freedom of the press affect our daily lives?”

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2010 at 5:52 am

“how does freedom of the press affect our daily lives?”

how does freedom of speech affect me
how does the news affect people
how does the news media impact our daily lives
how september 11 affected on public life and freedom
how might free speech affect journalists
how the freedom of press affects our life
how the media impact affect our life
how the print media effect your life
how society is affected by government policies
how wikileaks affects economy
how free press affects government
how free press affects us
how freedom of press can affect us?
how freedom of the press affects us
how freedom of the press helps us
how has 9-11 effect the way we live today

How to Tell If a Handbag Is Authentic

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2010 at 4:06 am

How to Tell If a Handbag Is Authentic
There is almost nothing more disappointing than thinking you’ve found a great deal on that perfect designer handbag and then getting home and finding that you’ve spent your hard earned dollars on a fake.

How does the stitching on a fake handbag give it away?

What will the label of a fake handbag look like?

A fake designer handbag will be missing important paperwork and packaging, such as Certificate of authenticity, tissues and tags.

20 things we learned in 2010

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2010 at 3:42 am

20 things we learned in 2010
Observer writers and experts chart the concepts, trends and buzz words that defined the past year and are likely to shape the next one.

New prime minister David Cameron, left, and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg cement their new coalition government, on 12 May 2010. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

1 The new politics is, in fact, the old politics
Nick Clegg will regret many things about 2010. One will be his decision to produce a Lib Dem election poster warning that the Tories would raise VAT. A few weeks later Clegg, installed as deputy prime minister, was backing coalition plans to – yes – raise VAT.

Then there was the pre-election pledge to vote against any rise in tuition fees. Six months later Clegg was pushing a policy to triple them.

These shifts were damaging not just because they were old-fashioned U-turns but because they fatally undermined the party’s raison d’etre – its commitment to deliver a new, honest politics. A vote for the Lib Dems, Clegg had said, would be “a vote that counts”.

It was all part of his broader attempt to promote the merits of voting reform – the Lib Dems’ core policy. Fair votes through proportional representation would mean that everyone’s vote would matter and everyone’s voice would be heard.

Floating the idea of “new politics” and calling for an end to the duopoly of the “old parties” made Clegg more popular than Churchill for a while. But it is dangerous to take the moral high ground in politics.

A mid-December poll for the News of the World found 61% of respondents saying that they didn’t trust Clegg, compared to 24% in April. In a few months, he had gone from being one of the most trusted politicians to one of the least trusted.

To many, the “new politics” had begun to feel very much like old politics – if not rather worse, as angry protests hit the streets and chants rang out about promises broken. Toby Helm

2 Kanye West is pop’s top innovator

Kanye West performs in New York. Photograph: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

In 2009, Kanye West had the distinction of being called a “jackass” by the US president, after rudely interrupting an acceptance speech by his fellow performer Taylor Swift at an awards show.

The contrast with this year could scarcely be greater, with the rapper’s fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, voted the best of 2010 by publications including Time magazine, Rolling Stone, Billboard and Spin, as well as by influential music website Pitchfork.

Dazzlingly inventive, the album lived up to the expectations that West himself had placed on it: breaking with conventional practice, he eschewed print interviews but turned up at the offices of Facebook and Twitter to rap early versions of his songs to staff there. West then tweeted his followers, hilariously, with his thoughts on everything from Persian rugs to the merits of Leonard Bernstein.

This week’s latest aphorism? “Black is the new black.” Caspar Llewellyn Smith

3 A finger bone made us rethink the Tree of Life
The discovery of a human finger bone and a tooth in the Denisova cave, in Siberia, sparked one of the year’s most unlikely scientific sensations. DNA found in the 30,000-year-old finger bone fragment was analysed at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and found to belong to a previously unknown species of human. “The [DNA] sequence is similar in some ways to humans, but still quite distinct,” said project leader Johannes Krause.

Crucially, the Denisova hominid was the first to be identified from its DNA alone, its structure indicating that modern humans and the unknown cave dweller shared a common ancestor a million years ago. By contrast, modern humans and Neanderthals – a separate species of human that became extinct 40,000 years ago – shared a common ancestor only 450,000 years ago.

The uncovering of the new species is particularly intriguing because it follows the discovery, in 2004, of Homo floresiensis – the Hobbit folk of Flores, in the East Indies. Members of the latter species of tiny cavemen were still living 13,000 years ago.

This means that in the very recent past there were at least four different human beings in existence: Neanderthals, Denisova hominids, Hobbit folk, and, of course, Homo sapiens. The notion that human evolution progressed in a simple, single line, from ape to human, is simply wrong. Our species has continued to experiment and create different forms throughout its existence – with Homo sapiens only recently emerging as the winner. Robin McKie

4 WikiLeaks suggests that secrets are no more
For a long time now, since digital media became the defining characteristic of our age, a revolution in information and secrecy has been predicted. WikiLeaks, and in particular the continuing exposure of US embassy cables, allows us for the first time to see the contours of that revolution – and some of the implications.

Chief among them seems to be the fact that even the best resourced and most confidential of organisations can no longer rely on a properly secure intelligence network. What once could be stamped “top secret” and locked away in a filing cabinet now becomes digitised and potentially accessible to any number of people with a keyboard and a broadband connection. Diplomats, politicians and business leaders around the world will no doubt overnight become more circumspect about expressing any for-your-eyes-only opinion.

The phrase “citizen journalism” often attaches itself to WikiLeaks, as if this was a new phenomenon, but journalism has always relied on leaks and tipoffs and secrets from the wider public. What the internet, and its communities of information gatherers, allows is for this to be done on a more epic and anonymous scale. In this new world, as Julian Assange has acknowledged by using trusted news organisations to reveal the secrets, the process of editing and sifting and contextualising stories becomes more crucial than ever.

If WikiLeaks represents one version of future transparency, recent events have also revealed how those with information to protect will begin to shape the argument against that transparency. Assange was originally scrupulous in trying to avoid his medium becoming the message: it was the information that was important, not the individual or organisation that brought it to the public domain. As the bizarre circus around Assange now proves, however, news generally refuses to be depersonalised. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the particular extradition case, there will always be interests that will move to undermine and destroy the messenger, even as they lose control of the message. Tim Adams

5 Billionaires can be highly generous
In May, America’s two wealthiest citizens, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, arranged three separate dinners with those who occupied the positions directly below them in the US rich list: Michael Bloomberg, George Soros, Oprah Winfrey and the rest.

One result was that Buffett and Gates went public in June with what they called the Giving Pledge, an appeal to the conscience of their fellow billionaires that now was the time to donate half their wealth to solving some of the world’s problems. So far, 40 have signed up. Buffett had set the ball rolling by pledging 99% of his $70bn (£45.5bn) fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

You can see how the Giving Pledge is developing at and read letters from, among others, Michael Bloomberg, Paul Allen, Ted Turner and George Lucas. Bloomberg writes: “The reality of great wealth is that you can’t spend it and you can’t take it with you. For decades, I’ve been committed to giving away the vast majority of my wealth to causes that I’m passionate about. And so I am enthusiastically taking the Giving Pledge, and nearly all of my net worth will be given away in the years ahead.”

Sceptics say charity and aid never transformed societies. Gates and Buffett, though, point to the fact that in a few short years of their targeted health policies they have eradicated polio from all but three countries; they now have their sights on malaria. You can only hope the Giving Pledge proves contagious. TA

6 Great fiction can still make a huge impact

Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom. Photograph: Geoff Pugh/Rex

It kicked off in August, when Time put Jonathan Franzen on its cover, the first time the honour had been bestowed on a living writer in a decade. Then the reviews appeared, uniformly ecstatic at first, proclaiming Freedom, Franzen’s long-awaited follow-up to The Corrections, a “work of total genius”, a “masterpiece of American fiction”, a rival even to Tolstoy. Not everyone was so bowled over: one leading US magazine described the book as a “576-page monument to insignificance”, while novelists Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult complained on Twitter about white male authors getting all the attention.

By the time Freedom reached Britain, in late September, its momentum was irresistible; not even the small matter of an error-strewn first print run could derail it. It all helped to turn Franzen into the most talked-about writer of 2010 – and Freedom the best, or most overrated, novel of the year, decade, or perhaps the century. William Skidelsky

7 German foreign policy is no longer about atonement

On 11 May, a headline in Bild, Germany’s biggest tabloid newspaper, declared: “We are the schmucks of Europe yet again.” It was a tame lament, but the fit of national pique it expressed was momentous. The government had just provided emergency cash to rescue Greece from a budget crisis. Germans were unimpressed. Why, they asked, should their taxes pay for corrupt civil servants in Athens to retire early?

Chancellor Angela Merkel had little choice but to bail out the single currency – Germany had as much to lose as any member if it collapsed – but the debate revealed a change in self-image. Germany has traditionally seen integration with neighbours not only as a question of economic advantage but of moral urgency. It was a duty to atone for the sins of Nazism.

Time has weakened the taboo. Germany wants to behave like every other country, and not be embarrassed to promote its national interest. During the boom, it was well served by the euro. But broke members can quickly become a drag. Germany, meanwhile, feels a certain pious resentment for having run a budget surplus, staying sober at the financial party while everyone else got drunk. Now it’s closing time, the other euro members come pestering Berlin for lifts home.

Sorry, no money for petrol either. Merkel sits testily behind the wheel, but patience is running thin. In the future, Germany cannot be relied upon as Europe’s designated driver. Rafael Behr

8 Students are leading the way in social protest
In an interview with the Observer, Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, described the level of youth activism in 2010 as “unprecedented”, or at least not seen since the 1960s.

It began with a march that saw 50,000 students, lecturers, schoolchildren, anarchists and more pour on to the streets of London in protest at the prospect of tuition fees being almost trebled to £9,000 a year. A peaceful march turned violent, with protesters breaking into the Conservative headquarters at Millbank. Soon recriminations were flying. But one thing was clear: the events of November tapped into a mood and triggered a youth movement that would keep going, a great force unleashed by a response to a policy about fees that came alongside the largest cuts to public services in a generation. From then on, the students kept on coming, from organised marches in Westminster to impromptu rallies elsewhere.

Some events were dominated by anarchists and the far left, but often it was the students leading the way, unmasked and angry as they waved their placards and hollered that their dreams were being destroyed. There was even a return of the student occupation, with lecture theatres taken over across the country. The passion of the young, it seems, had not gone away – it was just waiting to be reignited. Anushka Asthana

9 Bond vigilantes are new masters of the universe

Forget helpless politicians and on-the-spot bankers, the winners of 2010 have been asset managers who invest the billions in our pension and insurance pots in the bond market. Firms such as Pimco or BlackRock run funds 10 times bigger than the economies of Ireland, Portugal or Greece. If they start selling those bonds, the borrowing costs of those countries rise.

The “vigilantes”, however, are not evil speculators or millionaire investors, but professionals in London, Frankfurt and Zurich who want their money back. They press countries to slash ballooning deficits as they fear that after the spending extravaganza seen in Britain, Spain, Greece and Ireland over the past decade, these sovereign nations may not be able to pay them back.

The prime ministers of Britain, Spain and Greece had to succumb to the new masters as the year progressed, even if that caused riots on the streets. Elena Moya

10 Many of us live in the squeezed middle

A couple with a combined salary of, say, £50,000 a year, are in the top fifth of British earners. But suppose they bought a house at the top of the boom with a whopping mortgage. Throw in bills, petrol, credit card debts, children, and the family doesn’t feel very rich.

People earning much less – the majority – have been pushed by the recession to live on narrow margins indeed. Many were kept afloat in the boom by low interest rates, low inflation and easy access to credit. Their insecurity in a chilly economic climate emerged this year as perhaps the most important force shaping British politics.

“We must understand,” Ed Miliband wrote, “why, despite all that was achieved over the last decade, so many people who work hard and want to get on came to feel squeezed.”

As political rhetoric “the squeezed middle” is a felicitous phrase, but the concept is baggy. The political class that touts its empathy has no real experience of meagre wages and unemployment. Media portrayals of what is “middle class” often depict an elite tier, which persuades itself it is “average” by enviously eyeing the opulence of footballers and bankers.

Meanwhile, VAT goes up at the start of next year. Inflation is rising and with it the prospect of higher interest rates and mortgage arrears. Ever more people will be caught in the middle. RB

11 The iPad promises to transform publishing

Publishers are racing to design services for Apple’s iPad. Photograph: ABACA/PA

With all the hyperbole and bunting of a quasi-religious experience, Apple unleashed its touchscreen tablet computer on the world in April 2010. After the hollow promise of digital revenues on the web, news, magazine and book publishers embraced the iPad from the start, reassured by Apple’s locked-down payment system and a covetable device pitched firmly at a small but wealthy demographic.

Apps, they discovered, might only dress content up in a different way, but with some clever customisation consumers perceive enough value to pay for it. After giving away content for years in the name of audience building, and then charging pennies for tentative iPhone apps, publishers found they could charge anything up to £4.99 for iPad apps, resulting in digital, at last, paying something like the same as print.

Even Rupert Murdoch made no attempt to disguise his enthusiasm for what he described as a “game-changing device”. News Corp has reportedly been working with Apple on The Daily, a dedicated iPad newspaper to be launched in January – complete with video and 3D content.

But publishers are unwise to rely too heavily on the iPad for salvation. An expensive and niche device, it can only supplement rather than replace the desktop screen. Publishers still need to find a way to make the internet pay – and on a platform that doesn’t involve handing a 30% cut to Apple with every sale. Jemima Kiss

12 Super salmon could help feed the world

Inevitably, it was dubbed the “Frankenfish” following September’s announcement that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was holding final consultations prior to permitting the sale of genetically engineered fish. The fish, the GM Atlantic salmon, grows twice as fast as its wild cousin, its genes having been augmented with DNA from the Pacific Chinook salmon and an ocean pout (Zoarces americanus) in order to boost its growth. Final approval to allow sale of the GM salmon is now expected early next year. Its creator, the Massachusetts company AquaBounty Technologies, says it has done everything possible to show farmed GM salmon is safe, while a coalition of greens has attacked the proposed sale as a threat to humans and the environment. RMcK

13 Deepwater drilling is a complex business

On 20 April, a surge in pressure sent oil spurting up a drill pipe below BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig, 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. The pressure dislodged a column of sludge intended to keep the oil underground, causing an explosion that killed 11 workers and injured 17.

The disaster caused an underwater rupture that left oil gushing into the ocean for almost three months. Just how much oil polluted the water is still fiercely debated – the US government says it was 5m barrels’ worth. BP, which has to pay a fine of at least $1,100 per barrel spilled, insists the true figure was 20% to 50% lower. Either way, it was an enormous quantity, scarring delicate wetland wildernesses and suspending the livelihoods of thousands along America’s coast.

The spill prompted the Obama administration to impose an embargo on deepwater drilling as engineers struggled to understand how several failsafe mechanisms had failed – including a sophisticated blowout preventer intended to slam shut the pipe.

Initially, BP alone was blamed by the White House. More recently, investigators have suggested Britain’s biggest company shared responsibility with two US subcontractors – Transocean, which owned the rig, and Halliburton, accused of botching a cement job intended to seal the well.

For BP and the rest of the oil industry, the consequences of a human and environmental tragedy will reverberate for years to come. Andrew Clark

14 Facebook seeks to outgoogle Google
Many people may now be feeling that they have underestimated Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s fresh-faced founder and chief executive. “Until a year ago, he thought this might be the next Google, but he wasn’t sure,” a friend of his told the FT in December. “Now he’s sure. The fear is gone.”

The subject of David Fincher’s film The Social Network this year, Zuckerberg now strikes terror into the hearts of his commercial rivals. Google clearly views Apple and Facebook, rather than Microsoft, as the enemy – certainly in terms of the advertising that generates 97% of Google’s revenues, $22.89bn (£14.87bn) for 2009.

Social media is the one key area where Google has largely failed, and Facebook has proved there is money to be made. More worrying for Google, Facebook is also having some success in convincing consumers that the best way to navigate the web is through the opinions and recommendations of a network of friends and contacts.

Facebook is rapidly translating that behaviour into advertising revenue, delivering personalised, cost-effective targeting. Estimates put Facebook’s revenues at $2bn for 2010.

The last straw for Google may prove to be a draining away of talent. Facebook is fast siphoning off the best engineers. With around a tenth of Google’s 23,300 employees, Facebook is smaller, lighter and crucially faster. And with Facebook “almost guaranteed” to reach a billion users, according to Zuckerberg, Google will have to get used to sharing the limelight. JK

15 Kinect allows us all to play
For 40 years we’ve struggled with the intricacies of the video-game joypad, all those analogue sticks, buttons and triggers – then Microsoft makes it all absolutely redundant. Launched on 10 November, the Kinect system for the Xbox 360 console employs an infrared emitter and a webcam to track player movements, converting them into on-screen action. You can leap, dance, sing and smile at this thing, and it registers it all.

With Kinect, gaming is all about breaking down the barrier between you and your TV. In the future, we’ll get games where we become virtual actors, talking to on-screen characters. But for now, the sheer delight of moving your arms and seeing an on-screen character mimic the motion is enough. It could be that advanced motion control is to games what the introduction of sound was to movies: a major gear shift. Certainly we learned what the Wii hinted at – that everyone can play. Keith Stuart

16 China is chasing the US for global supremacy
Two years ago, with the global financial system on the brink of meltdown, the world’s leading powers managed to co-ordinate their response at summits of the G20 group of nations. In 2010, that co-operative spirit died. The main reason was an epic rivalry between China and the US – the G2. In August, China edged past Japan to take second place behind the US in the league of large economies, with gross domestic product of around $1.3 trillion.

But the new superpower’s growth relies on pumping cheap exports into consumer markets abroad. Battered by recession, US manufacturers see subsidised Chinese exports as tools of economic aggression. In November, a G20 summit resulted in a tepid agreement by all nations to try to “resist protectionist measures”. That was code for an uneasy truce between Washington and Beijing – but neither is in any doubt that the race for supremacy is now on. RB

17 3D film and TV are here to stay

Christopher Nolan, the innovative film director, says he finds 3D “alienating”, seeming to hope it’s a passing fad. But the technology isn’t going anywhere – it’s making far too much money for that. Let’s pluck, from 20-odd 3D films released this year, March’s Clash of the Titans. Hurriedly converted to 3D in the wake of James Cameron’s Avatar, it was a confirmed mess – but took more than £300m worldwide. Alice In Wonderland, another rush job, another stinker, earned £8.3m in its opening weekend in the UK, breaking records.

The novelty of 3D was a factor; and Nolan’s right, this will dim. But the technology just about guarantees the industry extra loot via a 3D surcharge on every ticket. Nobody seems quite sure what this covers – the funny glasses are paid for separately – but we’ve paid up, hoiking UK takings up by 8% from 2009.

It has all helped 3D to spread beyond the multiplex. Sky has won approving noise from football fans for its 3D match coverage, screened in 2,000 British pubs. Around 100,000 of us have bought 3D-equipped televisions this year, and by next summer Sky expects around that number of subscribers to its 3D channel, pushed hard this Christmas with screenings of a David Attenborough nature show, as well as the film that started the fuss, Avatar. Cameron is not a fan of 3D’s new ubiquity – he thinks most 3D films “kind of suck”. Tom Lamont

18 Bankers still like, and get, their bonuses
Big bonuses will be paid out again for 2010. Wall Street was forecast to pay out the second-highest level of bonuses on record, by the state comptroller of New York, Thomas DiNapoli, while in the City of London a healthy bonus season was also expected.

In a world where public spending is being axed, jobs cut almost every day and wages being frozen, financiers continue to party on. Their lives have changed a bit. New European rules mean that no more than 20% of bonuses might be given in cash, with the rest in shares and spread out for a few years.

The Irish government halted the Christmas plans for bankers at Allied Irish Banks. Embattled Irish finance minister Brian Lenihan refused to hand over bailout cash to AIB if the bank went ahead with €40m (£34m) of bonus payments to 2,400 staff. So something did change – in Ireland at least. Jill Treanor

19 Craig Venter created artifical life (or not)
Earth’s dwindling number of species got an unexpected boost in May when scientists announced they had created the first synthetic life form. The $40m project was led by Craig Venter, the US geneticist, and involved creating an organism that at its core had an entirely synthetic genome constructed from laboratory chemicals. “It’s a living species now, part of our planet’s inventory of life,” said Venter, who claims such bacteria could one day be used to make biofuels, soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and even make vaccines.

However, the British biologist and Nobel prizewinner Sir John Sulston said the result was “clever and pretty” but not artificial life. “This is just an attempt to monopolise, through the patenting system, essentially all the tools for genomic manipulation,” Sulston said. “These tools should be in the public domain. Monopolistic control of this kind would be bad for science, bad for consumers and bad for business, because it removes the element of competition.” RMcK

20 American politics is almost broken

The founding fathers of the US were anxious to limit the power of government – hence the famous checks and balances in the constitution. In fact, the US is so checked and balanced it is a small miracle that government happens at all – which, if you think government is the source of all evil, means the constitution is doing its job. What made the US system work in the last resort was the power of reason and loyalty to a common set of core values. Both have disappeared.

Today’s US government is almost completely gridlocked – and astonishingly vulnerable to vested interests. President Obama and Congress cannot get to grips with the scale of the budget deficit, nor the need to contain the threat of a new financial crisis. Corporations write the law. The public realm is hollowed out, and most public institutions, from education to the transport infrastructure, are decaying – there seems little hope of turning the tide.

Reason is close to impossible with the Tea party. And adherence to common values is disintegrating. The American centre is crumbling, and with it economic, social and political power. Will Hutton

Hugh Hefner, 84, Engaged to Playmate Crystal Harris

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2010 at 3:22 am

Hugh Hefner, 84, Engaged to Playmate, 24Us Magazine – December 26, 2010 4:19 PM PST

Hugh Hefner’s Christmas was extra, extra jolly this year: He’s engaged again!

The Playboy founder, 84, is engaged to Crystal Harris, his 24-year-old girlfriend and Playmate, a Playboy rep confirms to

PHOTOS: See Hugh and Crystal’s Christmas card!

Hefner first Tweeted about it on Sunday. “When I gave Crystal the ring, she burst into tears,” the Girls Next Door star wrote. “This is the happiest Christmas weekend in memory…I got what I was hoping for for Christmas…Crystal’s love.”

PHOTOS: The year’s biggest engagements

To make his news absolutely clear, the mogul then added: “Yes, the ring I gave Crystal is an engagement ring. I didn’t mean to make a mystery out of it. A very merry Christmas to all.”

PHOTOS: Can you believe these couples’ age differences?

It will be the third marriage for famous bachelor Hefner. He wed first wife Mildred in 1949 (they have grown children Christie, 58, and David, 55) before divorcing in 1959. In 1989, he walked down the aisle with Playmate of the Year Kimberley Conrad, and they went on to have sons Marston, 10, and Cooper, 9. The duo’s divorce was finalized last year.

You’re having a bad day when…

In Uncategorized on December 25, 2010 at 8:03 am

Europe Christmas eve chaos as snow strands thousands

In Uncategorized on December 25, 2010 at 7:52 am

Europe Christmas eve chaos as snow strands thousands

PARIS: Thousands of travellers were stranded at the main Paris airport Friday after hundreds of Christmas flights were cancelled, as freezing weather and widespread snowfalls caused travel chaos across Europe.
About 400 flights in and out of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle were scrapped, down from an earlier estimate of 670, with flights in Belgium and Germany also affected and motorists staying off the roads as western Europe battled the latest cold snap.

Around 2,000 people had to be evacuated from Charles de Gaulle’s Terminal 2E because of a build-up of snow on the roof, a section of which already collapsed in May 2004 shortly after it opened, killing four people.

“I’m so tired that I no longer have the strength to be angry,” said Frenchwoman Zoe Stephanou, 45. “My flight to Milan has been cancelled twice. The first when there was no snow.”

The cold hit air, rail and road transport across a swathe of Europe, with thousands of travellers forced to spend the night in trains or barracks, on ferries or in airports as the snow piled up.

Improving weather conditions in northern France in the early evening allowed a greater number of flights to leave, and normal service was due to resume on Christmas morning, the airport’s operator said.

Between 200 and 300 passengers spent Christmas Eve in Roissy, an airports authority spokesman said, adding that a mass had been organised and toys and chocolates distributed.

French junior transport minister Thierry Mariani told AFP airports were struggling to deal with the third bout of ice this month, a problem compounded by workers at France’s main anti-freeze factory at Fos-sur-Mer being on strike.

However, conditions at the airport improved after a planeload of glycol arrived from the United States and a truck transported several tonnes of anti-freeze from Germany.

Pierre Graff, the head of the Aeroports de Paris Authority, said the snow blitz was unprecedented.

“Ever since Roissy came into being, we have never seen anything like this,” he told the RTL network.

Around 40 passengers spent the night on a train stuck in the snow in the northern Somme region, with the Red Cross bringing them blankets and hot drinks.

Deep drifts blocked many minor roads in the north and east, and snow also caused power cuts for around 10,000 French households, national grid authority ERDF said.

Between 10 and 20 centimetres of snow fell overnight in Belgium, sowing chaos on the roads, with many buses and taxis in the capital Brussels unable to drive on snow-blocked streets and flights delayed.

Belgian trains were hit with severe delays as many railway employees were unable to make it to work, operator Infrabel said.

At Belgium’s main airport in Brussels, only one runway was usable and many flights were delayed, with the defence ministry supplying camp beds for stranded passengers.

More snow was expected across Germany, after several trains ground to a halt overnight as service was cut between Hanover and Berlin, the national railway Deutsche Bahn said.

The country’s third largest airport, in Duesseldorf, was shut down early Friday, a spokeswoman for flag carrier Lufthansa told AFP, although it reopened in the afternoon.

Two municipal swimming pool roofs collapsed under the weight of the snow, without causing any casualties, in the city of Aachen near the Belgian and Dutch borders.

Police said a 47-year-old woman was killed when a snow laden branch fell on her in a forest in northwestern Germany.

Hundreds of tourists on the Danish island of Bornholm were forced to spend the night in an army barracks or on the ferry after heavy snow overnight.

In Britain, where heavy snow last week caused widespread transport chaos, meteorologists warned of further snow and widespread icy roads in northeast England and eastern Scotland.

Train services were disrupted across large parts of the country, hitting travellers heading home for Christmas, although Heathrow airport was largely back to normal after the chaos of recent days.

In Ireland, Dublin airport reopened Friday after being closed for much of Thursday, stranding about 40,000 passengers. – AFP

Healthy Sweat and Unhealthy Sweat

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2010 at 4:27 am

Healthy Sweat and Unhealthy Sweat
by: Junji Takano
You may be wondering whether there are any good sweat and bad sweat. There are sweats that are unpleasant, and sweat which you do not feel anything unpleasant. How nice if you can stop your face from sweating, especially when you have an important meeting. Is this possible? The answer is probably, NO.

On the side note, did you know that the palms of your hands, soles of feet, and on the forehead have the highest number of sweat glands among your back, lower chest and armpit?

Did you know that the sweat glands of your legs are the first to get a symptom of senility or aging process?

Did you know that people who work in hot areas such as in front of direct fires or under direct heat of the sun easily get symptoms of leg cramps? Muscle cramp is thought to be caused by heatstroke.

In our experiments, we requested several people to enter a sauna for 20 minutes while measuring their sweat. Some of them easily sweated while others took time to have sweat.

We placed each sweat to each laboratory dish and waited to dry up. Some dried up easily while others remained wet and oily. What does it mean?

In medical analysis, the one who easily sweat by heat is because his or her physical mechanism knows how to regulate the body temperature.

The one who does not sweat easily by heat have his or her physical condition in danger, as the acid in the sweat will be sticky. It means that the body mechanism does not know how to control body temperature normally.

Unhealthy sweat contains more acid and fat.

More than a thousand people suffer and die of heatstroke in the world. If you stay at a hot area, it is natural to sweat. The role or function of sweat is to normalize the body temperature. This mechanism is controlled by our brain. The brain controls the opening of blood vessels to maintain the body temperature, especially the blood vessels near the surface of the skin to open and secrete sweat to cool the temperature. The person who does not sweat is considered unhealthy or has some problems in their body mechanism. If there’s too much blood in the vicinity of the skin that does not sweat, dizziness or vertigo may occur due to lack of blood in the brain. If the blood accumulates in one place, and the sweat is unhealthy, then the blood becomes sticky. In this case, blood clot may occur.

Our bodies contain the same salty liquid as that of the sea, a fluid consisting of water and salt. This salt presence in the body or salinity is an important substance for the proper function of muscles and other organs. Muscle cramp may occur often if salinity in the body is insufficient. In fact, water contents in the blood are controlled by the quantity of salinity. Therefore, if the unhealthy sweat is in large quantities, you are losing both body water content as well as salinity content. This also means that even if you drink water to relieve thirst, it will not be consumed properly by the body but will be excreted as urine due to lack of salinity in the body.

When our body produces sweat to regulate the body temperature, the sweat glands try to take sodium (salt) from the capillaries. This sodium is taken mainly by using the principle of osmotic pressure, but at the same time, it sucks up the water from the blood.

When the body fluid accumulates, it will come out to the skin surface as a sweat. Actually, there is a mechanism to send the salt contents back to the blood in order to maintain salinity of the body, but in the case of a person who is having an unhealthy sweat, it is not so. Instead, various salt compounds and other minerals will come out to the surface of the skin.

Well, what is the solution with such person with malfunctioned sweat mechanism? We discovered that it is a matter of exercise to correct the sweat mechanism. Just 20 – 30 minutes of exercise, let’s say “sweat exercise” daily for a week.

By doing exercise, you must sweat whether it’s an unhealthy or healthy sweat. In a week time, you will notice that your sweat will be different. In the beginning, sweat was salty and oily, and gradually it was turning to a watery sweat, simply clean sweat. That’s it.

As a result, if you try to sweat daily, the secretion of sweat will be faster and quantity of salty and oily sweat will be reduced. This means that salty fluids near the surface of the skin will return to the blood. Thus, your blood quantity as well as water contents in the body will increase dramatically. It means that you are gaining weight in a healthy way. It does not mean that you are getting fat.

Furthermore, good and healthy sweat does not reduce salinity in the body but make you healthier and this really means that you can prevent getting heatstroke, heart attack and other maladies. Oh, and it’s good to add a gram of salt in a liter of water, too.

To have good and healthy sweat is to move and exercise daily. Healthy sweat means healthy body. Healthy sweat repels illnesses.