Wednesday, October 31, 2007

U.S. technicians are likely to begin dismantling a key North Korean nuclear complex by the end of this week, the chief U.S. envoy in talks to disable the North's nuclear capabilities said on Thursday.The team of U.S. experts flies to Pyongyang on Thursday to oversee disabling the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, which is capabale of making plutonium for nuclear bombs.U.S. envoy Christopher Hill said the U.S. team had "a specific list of measures" and would arrive at Yongbyon to begin the dismantling process on Friday or Saturday."The first actual physical acts of disablement will probably be at the end of the week," Hill told reporters. "We are satisfied that we have an overall plan that will be effective and that will provide the disablement that we need."The moves follow a breakthrough February deal under which North Korea, which tested a nuclear device last year in defiance of international warnings, is to shut down its Yongbyon plant and admit U.N. nuclear monitors.Hill met his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye-gwan, on Wednesday to discuss steps to disable Yongbyon.Following lengthy six-party talks in Beijing involving North and South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China, Pyongyang agreed that by the end of 2007 it would have disabled its main nuclear facilities, a term meaning crippling the plants, but short of outright destruction.North Korea also agreed to fully disclose all its atomic activities by the end of the year and Hill said on Wednesday the process of making such a declaration should begin within the next two weeks.In exchange, the impoverished North will receive 1 million tonnes of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid. The United States will also move towards taking North Korea off a U.S. terrorism blacklist.

The omniscient Danwei noticed this afternooon that access to YouTube had been restored in mainland China. To be honest, I had stopped looking. Two weeks ago today, the site was blocked suddenly while the National Communist Congress convened in Beijing. The block also coincided with Google’s launch of two Chinese language YouTube sites, one in Taiwan and one in Hong Kong. This may have been what irritated China’s web censors. I’d like to think that YouTube came back for the sole purpose of allowing me to post this video, which I have been saving for the liberation of YouTube. It is every reason I love YouTube rolled into one 1-minute-and-11-second video. So welcome back YouTube. I hope you’re back for good.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The only, and I mean only, slightly pleasurable part of the wildfire disaster that has now destroyed almost 500,000 acres in Southern California is watching Arnold Schwarzenegger flip on the Terminator switch and take matters into his own hands. People like me, who do not reside in California and thus do not rely on a film actor for things like healthcare, take some sort of pleasure in watching Arnold act less like an elected official and more like Harry Tasker from True Lies. Some of the grimaces he’s been giving to the camera make me afraid that I had something to do with starting a wildfire. And I’m in China. Last week, it was reported that two of the near 20 fires burning in California were started as a result of arson. Saturday, Arnold issued a warning to those firebugs responsible saying, “We will hunt down the people responsible for that… If I were one of the people who started the fires, I would not sleep soundly right now, because we’re right behind you.” The Governator also offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of any of the arsons. What’s clear is that Arnold has resorted to the persona that launched his career as a relentless, courageous action hero, the guy that chased an Islamic terrorist off a roof on a horse in True Lies. The guy in Terminator 2 who went into a bar and threw numerous bikers through panes of glass simply to procure clothes, boots and a motorcycle. It seems in California, the line between Hollywood and the rest of the state have become as blurred as the line differentiating kindergarten teacher and cop in Arnold’s 1990 action comedy. As an AP story Monday pointed out, Arnold’s experience as a movie actor means that he understands symbolism. He knows how to march through the relief centers making sure each of those displaced Californians has blankets, food and water. He knows that a disaster like this month’s California fires can make, like Rudy Giuliani, or break, like Kathleen Blanco, a politician. Arnold knows that when his term as governor expires in 2010, his response to this disaster could mean the difference between his telling California “I’ll be back” as a U.S. senator or perhaps saying “hasta la vista” to his political career.

Australian crocodile hunter Steve Irwin had an eerie "sixth sense" that he would die young, his American-born wife Terri has revealed.More than a year after the 44-year-old wildlife presenter died from a stingray's barb that pierced his heart, Irwin's widow has admitted she had always tried to deflect her husband's darker moments.She says, "He wasn't morbid about it, or awful about it, he was open and earnest about it."Steve had a real sixth sense about so many things. He had an odd connection with wildlife. He was extraordinarily intuitive with people. I found it all very, I don't know if 'eerie' is the word, but remarkable, certainly".Terri Irwin is now writing a book about her life with the tragic star. They had one daughter, Bindi, nine, together.Meanwhile singer Justin Timberlake has donated $100,000 (£50,000) to an Australian wildlife fund, paying tribute to deceased crocodile hunter Steve Irwin.The U.S. pop superstar is currently touring Australia on the latest leg of his FutureSex/LoveShow tour.And during a concert in Brisbane on Saturday (27Oct07) evening, he announced plans to give $100,000 to a scheme set-up by Irwin.Timberlake had been given a guided tour of the facility in Queensland by Irwin on a previous tour, prompting the generous gesture.He told the crowd, "When I came here last time, it really hit me...I said to myself: 'What can I do?' "So what I did was 50 cents from every ticket sold on the Australian tour goes to Wildlife Warriors".

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Be careful what you wish for Palm Bay, Florida. The residents of this blue-collar town on the Atlantic coast will soon vote on a initiative proposed by their mayor to prohibit the city from buying any Chinese-made products. Which, unfortunately, means everything. What a shame with the holiday season just weeks away. That Mac laptop you wanted for Christmas, made in China. Pretty much any article of clothing you wear in this town, made in China. And for all you Palm Bay kids, Santa won’t be bringing you any toys this year. Well, at least not any of the 90% of the American toys made in China. And that probably means all the cool ones. Apparently, residents of Palm Bay are fed up with the substandard quality of Chinese imports and all the American jobs lost to the Chinese. On the city’s website, which I have been browsing for about 20 minutes, the slogan at the top of the page reads, “Buy American.” Palm Bay would be the first American town to enact a blanket ban on items imported from a particular country. You’re probably wondering why I’ve been on the Palm Bay website for so long. Well, to be honest, I spent about a minute reading about Palm Bay and the other 19 perusing the town’s sex offender notification page. I guarantee the camera that took all of their mugshots was made in China. And if you’re bored, try to find the lone female of this handsome bunch. What the residents of Palm Bay don’t understand is that blue-collar towns such as Palm Bay, the towns that patronize places like Walmart and Target, are the places that benefit most from Chinese imports. And as an ABC News story Wednesday points out, the town’s 107,000 residents aren’t really going to stop buying Chinese goods. Like any good Americans, they just want to make a political statement without really sacrificing anything. There are more exceptions in the proposed ban than there are lead particles in little Tyler’s rattle. First, the ban only covers items priced over fifty dollars. Second, the ban doesn’t restrict individual shoppers, only goods purchased by the city. Third, the ban only applies to items in which 50% of the parts are Chinese-made. Fourth, if the item can’t be found anywhere else, the city will be allowed to purchase it from China. And last, and most absurd, if an American-made item costs 150% more than an identical Chinese-made version, the city is permitted to buy the import. How ridiculous is that last one? That’s exactly the point — Chinese stuff is cheap. As ABC cited from a Morgan Stanley report, Chinese imports have saved American consumers $600 billion in the last 10 years. There’s a reason why laptops are so cheap. And if these Floridians don’t support America’s trade relationship with China, a silly ban that will give their town some cheap publicity isn’t the answer. If Palm Bay feels so strongly, that we all should buy American, then they should actually do something, forgo something, stop going to Walmart, stop buying Apple products. While the health risks of Chinese products might be scary for people in this town, there are things in Palm that are much more frightening. Like sex offender James Jay Davis on Seahorse Circle. Third row, fourth column.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bobby Jindal, the 36-year-old son of Punjabi immigrants, was elected governor of Louisiana Saturday becoming America’s first Indian-American governor. The conservative Jindal received 53% of the vote and when sworn in to office in January, will take the reigns of a state still devastated from Hurricane Katrina two years ago. Despite the fact that Jindal will be presiding over a state with perhaps the worst schools, health and poverty in America, the governor-elect promised a “fresh start” for Louisiana. He told supporters in Baton Rouge Saturday, “In America and here in Louisiana, the only barrier to success is your willingness to work hard and play by the rules.” The election of Bobby Jindal is a victory for two groups in America. The first is the Bush Republicans, who see Jindal as a rising star within the Conservative party. Jindal is a reborn and devout Roman Catholic, an outspoken supporter of a total ban on abortion, a staunch opponent of hate-crime laws and a defender of teaching intelligent design in Louisiana public schools. The second group celebrating Jindal’s election are Indian-Americans, who, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, at 1.5% of the total U.S. population, rank as America’s second fastest-growing ethnic groups behind Hispanics. While Indian-Americans boast a representation in America’s universities and medical and financial industries disproportionately high in relation to their numbers, Americans of Indian descent have been pretty much absent from the U.S. political arena. Jindal, U.S. Representative from Louisiana’s First Congressional District since 2004, is only America’s second Indian-American member of Congress. Hispanic-Americans on the other hand, who represent 10 times the population of Indian-Americans, have 25 times as many members of Congress (25 total), three of whom are United States senators. Jay Chaudhuri, president of the Indian American Leadership Initiative said about Jindal’s win, “Bobby Jindal replaces the Mardi Gras Indians as the best known Indian from Louisiana. We congratulate him for providing Indian-Americans a seat of the table.” And indeed, he said “seat of the table.” But Chaudhuri’s comment is correct. Indian-Americans, a group often mocked in U.S. pop culture for their thick accents, traditional dress and religious headwear, are no longer a marginal ethnic minority who, as programs like the Simpsons would have you believe, either serve Slurpees or drive cabs. They are now America’s doctors, lawyers, bankers and CEOs. And now, thanks to Bobby Jindal’s election, they are America’s highest political officials.

He survived against all the odds; now Peng Shulin has astounded doctors by learning to walk again.When his body was cut in two by a lorry in 1995, it was little short of a medical miracle that he lived.It took a team of more than 20 doctors to save his life.Skin was grafted from his head to seal his torso – but the legless Mr Peng was left only 78cm (2ft 6in) tall.Bedridden for years, doctors in China had little hope that he would ever be able to live anything like a normal life agan. But recently, he began exercising his arms, building up the strength to carry out everyday chores such as washing his face and brushing his teeth.Doctors at the China Rehabilitation Research Centre in Beijing found out about Mr Peng's plight late last year and devised a plan to get him up walking again.They came up with an ingenious way to allow him to walk on his own, creating a sophisticated egg cup-like casing to hold his body with two bionic legs attached to it.He has been taking his first steps around the centre with the aid of his specially adapted legs and a resized walking frame.Mr Peng, who has to learn how to walk again, is said to be delighted with the device.What a Self-confidence !!!! Great

Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and the US-led coalition forces during an hours-long operation killed nearly three dozen Taliban fighters Saturday in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province.The combined forces were conducting a reconnaissance mission when Taliban fighters engaged the patrol with rocket and small-arms fire, the statement said, adding that ANSF and Coalition forces returned fire and easily out-maneuvered the militants.The clash came as a sustained fighting between the combined forces and Taliban fighters Saturday entered into a second day near the Musa Qaleh Wadi region of Helmand, it said.Saturday's actions "are part of a larger operation to disrupt terrorist activities in the Helmand Province," the statement added.There were no reports of Afghan civilian casualties in the clash.On Friday, over a dozen Taliban insurgents while attacking a patrol of the combined ANSF and Coalition forces were killed in the same region of northern Helmand.Rising Taliban-related violence and conflicts have killed over 5,200 people in Afghanistan this year.The Taliban, who was removed from power by the US invasion in late 2001, has waged a years-long war against the Afghan administration and the international troops currently being deployed in the war-torn country.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Google, whose shares hit a record of $641.41 a week ago, reported that sales in its third quarter had surged by 57% compared with the period a year ago, and net income by 46%. "We are very pleased with the impressive growth we experienced across our business," said CEO Eric Schmidt, who also told analysts, drily: “It is obvious to us that our model continues to work very well.”"Our core search advertising business experienced continued momentum driven by growth in monetization and traffic, and we are creating a wider and deeper ads system through our focus on innovation, bringing more ad formats to our advertisers," Schmidt (pictured) explained in a statement accompanying the results. "Our efforts to offer more products and services in international markets as well as effectively grow our technology infrastructure and add to our deep talent base during the quarter helped to deliver growth by enabling Google to reach more users around the world," he continued. Google reported revenues of $4.23 billion for the quarter ended September 30, 2007, an increase of 57% compared to the third quarter of 2006 and an increase of 9% compared to the second quarter of 2007.Operating expenses, other than cost of revenues, were $1.25 billion in the third quarter of 2007, or 30% of revenues, compared to $1.21 billion in the second quarter of 2007, or 31% of revenues.GAAP net income for the third quarter of 2007 was $1.07 billion as compared to $925 million in the second quarter of 2007. Non-GAAP net income was $1.24 billion in the third quarter of 2007, compared to $1.12 billion in the second quarter of 2007.On a worldwide basis, Google employed 15,916 full-time employees as of September 30, 2007, up from 13,786 full time employees as of June 30, 2007.

TEHRAN, Iran - The Iranian government announced Saturday that its top nuclear negotiator had resigned, a move seen as a victory for hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that could bring about an even tougher stance in ongoing talks.Government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham, said Saeed Jalili, a little-known deputy foreign minister for European and American affairs, was to succeed Ali Larijani as lead negotiator effective immediately.Larijani in many cases held a hardline view on the nuclear standoff between Iran and the West but was also considered to be a more moderate figure than Ahmadinejad within Iran's hardline camp. He was seen as more committed to a diplomatic solution over Iran's nuclear program while Ahmadinejad is seen as not favoring talks with the West.Larijani's resignation was interpreted by many here as giving Ahmadinejad a free hand in dictating his views to the less experienced Jalili.Elham did not give a specific reason for Larijani's resignation other than to say he wanted to focus on "other political activities.""Larijani had resigned repeatedly. Finally, the president accepted his resignation," Elham told reporters.The United States and some of its allies accuse Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the claim, saying its program is for peaceful purposes including generating electricity.Elham stressed that Iran's nuclear policy would not change because of Larijani's resignation."Iran's nuclear policies are stabilized and unchangeable. Managerial change won't bring any changes in (those) policies," Elham said.Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said Larijani's resignation was "a clear victory for Ahmadinejad" and shows that "the leadership is determined to continue with the nuclear program."Bolton, who served as the Bush administration's point man on the Iran nuclear issue before becoming U.N. ambassador, said the conflict between Larijani and Ahmadinejad is "part of the larger struggle for power after (Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei dies.""It's more about personalities and internal polices, but Ahmadminejad saw Larijani as someone with a different perspective on (nuclear) negotiations," Bolton told The Associated Press, suggesting Larijani was more moderate.Elham said a meeting between the nuclear negotiator and the European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, scheduled for Tuesday in Rome would still take place."Despite Larijani's resignation, meetings ... won't change. Larijani's successor will meet Solana instead," Elham said.Ahmadinejad was elected president in 2005 and appointed Larijani, a former Revolutionary Guards Corps commander and a close ally of Khamenei, to replace Hasan Rowhani, considered a moderate politician. Ahmadinejad had accused Rowhani and his team of technocrats as weak and giving too many concessions in nuclear talks with European nations.After Larijani was appointed, Iran took a more defiant approach to its nuclear program. It resumed uranium enrichment activities, leading to its referral to the U.N. Security Council by the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2006. Iran's refusal to halt enrichment subsequently prompted a resolution by the U.N. Security Council imposing sanctions on Iran in December 2006 and another resolution widening the sanctions in March.In 2006, Larijani rejected Western economic incentives in return for a suspension of Iran's nuclear activities, saying the Security Council "should not think that they can make us happy with candies."However, differences between Larijani and Ahmadinejad were revealed earlier this year when Larijani became upset after the president contradicted him on whether Iran would attend a meeting in Egypt to discuss Iraq. Larijani traveled to Baghdad in May to discuss Iran's conditions for attending the meeting but was upset after a reporter at the Baghdad airport said Ahmadinejad had already confirmed that Iran would attend.Larijani's absence during Russian President Vladimir Putin's meeting with Khamenei, last week further raised eyebrows in Iran's political circles.Before he was appointed, Larijani was the head of Iran's state-run radio and television network and was seen as one of the hard-liners' most effective weapon in curtailing former President Mohammad Khatami's reform program. At the time, Larijani used the official media as a weapon to suppress democratic reforms and prohibited the broadcast of information that might have been harmful to hardline clerics.

Friday, October 19, 2007

This is how much China hates the Dalai Lama. So much that when the Tibetan spiritual leader met with President Bush Tuesday in Washington, what we can assume was the most important meeting between two people anywhere in world, there was not a single reporter or cameraman in sight. A day before the United States Congress honors the Dalai Lama for his humanitarian work in a ceremony that the Chinese government has deemed "extremely wrong," the media was kept away from the White House out of respect for China. Because I guess Chinese government doesn’t want its bitter Buddhist enemy seen with a man so well-respected throughout the world as George W. Bush. Reuters reported that Wednesday’s ceremony will be the first time a sitting U.S. president will appear publicly with the Dalai Lama, however the photo above from 2003 somewhat confutes this claim. If you are still confused, photo is right, Reuters is wrong. Bush has met with the Dalai Lama several times before during his presidency, however, Wednesday’s honor will be the first time a sitting U.S. president will bestow an honor upon the religious leader, who China considers to be a separatist and a threat to its sovereignty. China’s foreign minister said the Bush-Lama meeting "seriously violates the norm of international relations and seriously wounded the feelings of the Chinese people and interfered with China’s internal affairs." The Dalai Lama has lived in India since being exiled from China in 1959 for staging an uprising against the Chinese government. In China’s eyes, the legitimization of the Dalai Lama as a world leader fuels the Tibetan freedom movement and lends credence to both Tibetan separatists and the Beastie Boys. And you know what? So what. Let China be "wounded." Nobody demanded that Hu Jintao cancel his photo ops with Omar al-Bashir of Sudan or Burma’s Than Shwe, actual heads of state. The Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader with whom the United States government has every right in the world to meet and it so desires, to honor. China has to deal with the fact that most of the world views the Dalai Lama not as a rebel rouser or nuisance, but as a symbol of religious freedom and Tibet’s rightful leader. China’s leadership might not agree with it, but it might help to accept it. And from an American point of view, anything that helps guide George Bush back onto that Noble Eightfold Path that leads to Nirvana might be worth a little Chinese fury.

As China’s Communist leaders convene in Beijing for their five-yearly National Congress, it appears state internet censors have blocked access to the online video site YouTube. As of Wednesday night in Shanghai, an attempt to connect to YouTube returns an all too familiar page for Web users in China, a blank page notifying the user that the browser cannot make a connection to the site. Web surfers in China may remember this page from such blocked sites as BBC News or Wikipedia.Historically, the Chinese government engages in mass internet censorship during the Communist Party Congress and the yearly National People’s Congress. The National Congress of the Communist Party of China began in Beijing on October 15th and oversees the appointment of new Party leadership and changing party roles over the next five years. As a symbolic display of Party strength and a measure to avoid distractions, China’s Information Ministry will commonly block access to controversial Chinese websites and restrict television and radio content.The English-language media blog Danwei described a similar situation regarding YouTube in Beijing. Web users elsewhere in mainland China have verified the site is blocked and the definitive Great Firewall of China site, which tests URLs for access blockage in mainland China confirms that is indeed blocked. No blockages have been reported in Hong Kong.YouTube, the comprehensive open-source video site owned by Google, typifies media that torments China’s censors. Essentially, this means users are free to upload video content to YouTube with minimal restrictions and are able to view all of the site’s content without filtering. As the tech-minded Little Red Blog pointed out in a July 2006 post on video-sharing in China, "YouTube does monitor uploads for IPR violations and sexually explicit content (with mixed success) but it’s probably not paying much attention to things that would annoy Chinese Government censors…The Chinese Government is not, by and large, a fan of unregulated user-generated content or search. In fairness, many of us have been wondering the same thing about Flickr for some time, but it’s still accessible here." An interesting footnote: Flickr was blocked in China 10 months later.As with every internet censorship measure in mainland China, it is a guessing game as to when, if ever, access to YouTube will resume. The 17th National Congress of the Communist Party concludes on Saturday though officials have already named President Hu Jintao China’s "paramount leader" until 2012. With an apparent block and numerous emerging Chinese video-sharing pages, it remains to be seen whether YouTube will endure as China’s paramount video site.

On Wednesday the ever-credible New York Post reported that Khadijah Farmer, a transgendered lesbian, filed a suit against a restaurant in Manhattan’s West Village for tossing her out of the ladies room. As only the Post could publish, the headline read “Manly Lesbian Sues for Ejection.” The incident took place back in June at the Caliente Cab Co. Mexican restaurant, where Farmer dined after attending the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Parade. So as manly as she is on a normal day, you can only imagine how manly she must have looked on transgender pride day. As the Post reports, Farmer, on her way into to the ladies room, crossed paths with what we’d call a “typical” lady, or a female who adheres to the normative standards of femininity. This woman found a bouncer who adheres to the normative standards of Mexican bouncer and told him that a “man”, Farmer, had just entered the ladies’ room. The bouncer, unaware that the LGBT parade would bring many Ls, Gs, Bs and Ts to the restaurant, barged into the bathroom and began pounding on the stall door. The lawsuit says, “The bouncer yelled through the stall doors that he had been told there was a man in the women’s restroom, and demanded that Ms. Farmer leave the restroom and the restaurant immediately.” And 4 months later, Farmer files suit for embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress. It hasn’t yet been confirmed whether Farmer was taking a leak or a dump, a fact that interests me, but wholly immaterial to the lawsuit. I suppose even the most manly of women have the right to use the ladies’ room without a big Mexican bouncer disrupting her. But I would say this. If you are a woman, like Farmer, whose entire outward appearance conflicts with normative standards of gender, don’t be angry when you actually fool people and they react accordingly. Because that seems to be what happened at the Caliente Cab Co. The bouncer reacted to a situation that appeared to be a situation to which he needed to react. And while Farmer has the right to appear however she wishes, as a man or a woman or whatever, she has to acknowledge that the majority of the world uses appearance to make, or in this case, rush to judgments. Not every mistake is a violation of human rights or the basis of an emotional distress lawsuit. And if Farmer doesn’t conform to society’s gender roles, it’s interesting that she’s so bent on conforming to normative restroom practices. While West Village men’s rooms at Mexican restaurants might not boast the nicest stalls, Ms. Farmer might find herself a more peaceful experience there. I doubt any man would complain.