Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Explosions in Dar

There's been an explosion in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania in which several people have died. The explosion was apparently an accident at a military camp.

Excerpt: "Officials said it was a tragic accident and not a repeat of the deadly terrorist blast that rocked the country's main commercial center in 1998."

Full BBC article here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

News Map

I found this a few weeks ago but forgot to post it. Word clouds aren't a new thing, but more and more people are starting to use them on their blogs. A word cloud is basically a group of words bunched together, but their size/color/format is directly associated with the number of times they are repeated on any given source or page.

The NewsMap above (check it out here) is interesting because it makes a word cloud of out news pages, and divys everything up by country, topic, and type of news. Sweet idea that I was going to try and work on with my RSS project, but oh well... one closed door is another door opened!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

On Pirates

I've written out a couple of posts about the pirates who have been seizing vessels off the Somalian coast. In recent weeks, pirates (likely to be from similar groups) have taken control of even more vessels, including those belonging to the United States, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia.

Now an American captain has been held hostage by the pirates, prompting the US to send in warships to "monitor the situation".

I still hold my reservations about how the general problem of piracy is being acknowledged and responded to. I will ask the same questions I asked in a previous post about this:

1. Incentive
I think it would be tremendously helpful to try to find out what is driving these pirates to seize vessels. They have held anything from lethal arms, to oil, to food aid. In my view, it seems to always come down to ransom, hence it seems the pirates are looking for money. They do not seem to want to hurt anyone (a recent BBC article mentions "pirates holding a US captain hostage have warned that using force to rescue him could result in 'disaster'"). So if it's money, we should be asking ourselves, why do these pirates use coercive means to get money? What prevents them from earning regular wages from employment? Or is it a question of whether or not they have the freedom to do so?

2. Leadership
Who do the pirates work for? Do they work for themselves? Or are they truly connected with Al-Shabab, which in recent weeks has been said to be in close ties with Al Qaida? Tracking down the leadership of these pirates is likely to provide answers to question number 1 above.

3. Accountability
OK, so its clear that there are French, Russian, US and even more eyes on the situation - literally. There's ships carrying enough arms to start a small-scale yet destructive war out on the Somalian coast. So, what really is going on? When any hostage situation with the pirates is "resolved", and the time comes for the pirates to hand over a hostage, who is held accountable after the hostage is released? Do the pirates just walk (sail?) away, and the warships go back home? Who is responsible for letting the pirates keep doing what they do? The Somali government seems to be inequipped to stop them, but if foreign governments are trying to use force to obtain their vessels back, what can they do to help prevent this from ever happening again?

It keeps happening - today the pirates seized another ship. So I feel like we might not be asking the right questions about the pirates. Moreso, I feel like this has a lot to do with geopolitical power play, with some of the most militarily powerful countries in the world surrounding the situation and watching eachother more than they're watching the pirates.

Either way, this is my opinion. These are questions that have been running through my head since I first read about the pirates taking control of ships. Comments are healthy for discussion, so feel free to say something if you stopped by to read this.

Till next time, carpe diem.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

G20 Summit pledges funds to world

Leaders who have met at the G20 summit in London have pledged $1 trillion in funds to help stimulate global financial recovery through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other institutions.

Read the Al Jazeera article here (picture above from same article). An exercpt:

"...There had been indications before the summit that G20 members were divided on how best to pull the global economy out of recession.

The US and Britain are in favor of pumping more money into the financial system, seeing the strategy as a way to encourage banks to lend to consumers and thus entice them to spend money on goods and services.

"The US has so far spent, lent or guaranteed $12.8 trillion - almost as much as the value of everything produced in the country in 2008.

But France and Germany had signaled their opposition to further fiscal stimulus packages, calling instead for an emphasis to be placed on increasing regulation of the international financial system..."

I wonder how this will play out for developing countries. The US and Britain are focused on monetary injection to stimulate consumer spending, while France and Germany support tighter regulation. Then again, will the rural youth in India, Uganda or Chile see any progress of these decisions in his/her households' lives? Will there be a safety net put in place such that subsistence farmers and other small-business owners in such countries do not suffer from external conditions affecting demand for their products, and thereby affecting their basic necessities to live?

We'll see.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Autopilot your Gmail... not

Woke up in the middle of the night last night, and checked my e-mail on my PSP when I saw that Gmail has started offering the use of an autopilot.

Check out the details here, and the back-end system, CADIE, here.

An excerpt about CADIE:

"Although CADIE technology will be rolled out with the caution befitting any advance of this magnitude, in the months to come users can expect to notice her influence on various properties. Earlier today, for instance, CADIE deduced from a quick scan of the visual segment of the social web a set of online design principles from which she derived this intriguing homepage."
Crazy eh? Now get this...

It's all an April Fool's day joke. Wiki here. Hah! I was so taken for a bit.