Sunday, July 29, 2007

Melting of the Andes Glaciers

A natural regulatory system in distress
The rate at which the world's largest expanse of tropical glaciers is melting, has been increasing over the last few years. Another sign of the impact of global climate change. The glaciers, sitting on the Andes and running through Peru, Bolivia, Columbia and Ecuador, are melting so fast [PDF], that climatologists expect them to completely disappear within the next couple of decades. The ramifications to human habitat in those countries will be unending hardships. The countries of South America, are, in general, poor [PDF]. The population along the Pacific coast are heavily dependent on the glacier-fed rivers -- either directly, or indirectly, via water diversion schemes. Everything from farming, to cities to portions of the Amazon, will be at risk [PDF]. The price of our terraforming the planet is about to be felt, and there's not much than can be done about it. Heavy investment in energy production and water diversion would alleviate the impact on urban populations -- but that would only be in the short term. The planet is changing, and in some places, it may be too late for reversal.

Internet Jihad

Islamic terrorists don't hail from just the Middle East. They're now originating from our own western democracies. Young men, inspired by a strict interpretation is Islam and fanciful promises of never ending virgins for martyrs, are entering a fantasy world, where the killing of innocents is the objective. As important as terrorist cells and training camps in Africa and the borders of Pakistan are, they pale in comparison to the importance of the internet for terrorists. The internet represents the ultimate borderless landscape. With near-anonymiity, freedom of expression and unparalleled access to a world audience, the new breed of cyber terrorist exhibit the same fearlessness and bravado as those who remove their social filters when anonymously commenting on the internet. For these individuals, far removed from a war zone or a scene of murder, cyber-terrorism probably feels a bit like a game. It's anything but a game however. Cyber terrorists serve the most important function in the arsenal of terrorism: propaganda and the dissemination of training information. It hardly matters whether Osama bin Laden is still alive. Terrorism doesn't need a central figure anymore. The internet has provided a network bin Laden could never have built on his own. A network he probably doesn't even understand -- if he's still alive -- but a network that certainly understand. It's disappointing then, that cyber-terrorism isn't being addressed in Bush's "global war on terrorism." Where's the US propaganda machine? In their response to terrorism, America continues to be reactionary -- not realizing that as much as the war needs to be fought with bombs, it must also be fought with ideas and information.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Medical Patents

Here's a scary bit of news ... there's a growing trend in the medical industry of doctors gaining patent protection over surgical techniques, procedures and methods -- then leveraging the courts to enforce their patents in order to gain monetary compensation. Thankfully, this form of patent protection hasn't been used to prevent the practice of medicine -- so patient care has thus far been unaffected. Patent holders have instead been suing medical equipment manufacturers. The fear does exist however, that if this slippery slope is allowed to continue, then surely it's only a matter of time before someone is sued for having a patent-protected procedure used on them.

Another reason why the patent process needs overhauling.

Can China Be Fixed?

China is in a bit of a quandary. The country, opened to economic growth by Deng Xiaoping, remains closed otherwise, by the current Communist Party leadership. The result: unparalleled economic growth by any country in the history of the world, and tremendous challenges on the social, environmental and political fronts, that ironically, perhaps only a strong central -- and dare I say, one party -- government, may be capable of solving without risking the economic collapse of the country. Unfortunately, the government that can fix the problems, is also the cause of the problems.

China's central government stresses economic growth above all else. To achieve these goals, local government officials dabble in industry, compromising the welfare of the state and its people. They invest heavily in local businesses -- sometimes tying business prosperity with personal fortunes of corrupt politicians. This has led to lax laws or simply laws that aren't enforced to protect China's people, environment and society.
The same policies that have been so successful at boosting the gross domestic product by developing new export industries and public works projects, it turns out, undermine initiatives that might move China's economy to a higher level. In its pursuit of growth at all costs, China skimped on investments needed to provide basic affordable health care and the regulatory machinery that can enforce environmental, safety, and corporate governance regulations nationwide. [BusinessWeek]
China needs to change, and just as rapidly as it has developed economically. The developed world has invested a lot in China for its production capability, but more and more, are demanding that China takes on the responsibility of joining the ranks of the developed nations. What China does in the coming decades will speak volumes on whether its aspirations lie tactically in production capability -- or strategically, as a world leader and a first world nation.

Further reading:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Stuffed Cardboard Buns

Chinese Food
Chinese food quality is making the rounds in the news in North America. Food quality is also making the news in China. Yesterday, as I flew out of Shanghai, I heard the news of an undercover TV crew that busted a dim-sum restaurant in Beijing's Chaoyang District. The restaurant, in a effort to save money amid rising pork prices, started to cut their steamed pork-stuffed buns with cardboard.
The recipe went like this: Cardboard was soaked in water and an industrial-use caustic soda, a poisonous chemical, was added. The cardboard lost its normal color and became fragile under the soda's strong causticity, making it look more like pork. Finally, pork-smell essence and pork fat were stirred into the concoction to make the stuffing more "vivid."
Product quality in China is suspect, and to be fair, China is starting to take product quality seriously. Earlier this month China executed the State Food and Drug Administration director, Zheng Xiaoyu, for taking bribes to look the other way on food and drug quality. The execution was a signal -- but hardly the end. A heck of a lot more needs to be done.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Zero Tolerance

What happens when zero tolerance rules are in place? What happens when it's in place in the Texas, in the food ole U.S. of A.? What happens? Insanity rules and all semblance of intelligence -- if there ever was any -- departs. In the case of 12-year-old Shelby Sendelbach in the Katy Independent School District, you get a 4-month suspension for writing "I love Alex" in marker on the wall of the school gym. The same punishment that is reserved for making terrorist threats, possessing drug and assaulting someone. What does a society do when this madness takes over?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Peter Tosh's Legalize It

Love this song!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Gay Computer

Destroy the Computer
There's something deeply disturbing about this picture. There's always something disturbing with homophobes in general, especially those religiously motivated. This protester however, tops the list -- and I'm assuming here that this one ain't a fake, as it seems to be in the middle of an orgy of homophobic display. This protester is specifically targeting Alan Turing, a British mathematician and cryptographer, largely regarded as the father of modern computing and the code breaker that cracked the German Enigma machine in the second world war. Turing was gay in a time when homosexuals were not tolerated, and the law and medical science tried to cure the homosexual affliction. Turing was stripped of his security clearance, which in effect led to the termination of his work for the government cryptographic department. Alan Turing committed suicide at the age of 41, in 1954.
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