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  • 19th November, 2007

    Damn, these Chinese need energy!

    by Sunny at 5:29 pm    

    The New York Times has another interesting article on China’s energy needs:

    The Three Gorges Dam, then, lies at the uncomfortable center of China’s energy conundrum: The nation’s roaring economy is addicted to dirty, coal-fired power plants that pollute the air and belch greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Dams are much cleaner producers of electricity, but they have displaced millions of people in China and carved a stark environmental legacy on the landscape.

    At the same time, China’s insatiable appetite for energy is mostly being met with a building spree of coal-fired power plants. Coal accounts for 67 percent of China’s energy supply. Just last year, China added 102 gigawatts of generating capacity, as much as the entire capacity of France.

    To ease its addiction to coal, China wants 15 percent of the country’s energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2020, compared with 7.5 percent today. To do that, it is developing solar, wind and biomass projects so rapidly that some experts say it could soon become a world leader in renewable energy. Even so, forecasts show these sources will amount to less than 4 percent of the energy supply by 2020.

    In a few decades people will probably look back and ask how China became such a huge industrial power. This is probably how. If the country becomes a leader in renewable energy then Europe and the US will be left even further behind.

    13th November, 2007

    Gordon Brown’s Foreign Policy

    by Rumbold at 11:34 am    

    Gordon Brown spoke about his foreign policy in detail for the first time since becoming Prime Minister. Previously, Mr. Brown was considered to be obsessed with domestic policy, with foreign affairs very much on the periphery:

    Continue Reading...
    9th November, 2007

    About those Koreans and religion…

    by Sunny at 5:10 am    

    The Economist has published an interesting report on Religion and Public Life. I gleaned this interesting fact:

    In fact, many of the biggest churches are outside the United States. In Guatemala, Pentecostals have built what may be the largest building in Central America: Mega Frater (Big Brother) packs a 12,000-seater church, a vast baptism pool and a heliport. One church in Lagos can supposedly bring 2m people out onto the streets. But five of the world’s ten biggest megachurches are in just one country: South Korea.

    Korean Protestantism is certainly export-minded: Yoido sends out 600 missionaries a year. One target is North Korea, which used to be the more Christian end of the country. Yoido already has plans to build a second sanctuary in Pyongyang. Yanbian, a district in China that has a large ethnic Korean population, is choc-a-bloc with missionaries.

    The article also points out that worldwide, Christianity is still the most evangelical religion and will continue to attract converts (especially in the East)

    What I find most interesting from that report is that globally the picture is very different from what is painted by the usual suspects in Britain. Increased education does not seem to lead to decreased religiousity; the axis of all religions, including Christianity, is shifting East along with economic power; Christians are more aggressively evangelical than Muslims and will maintain their larger numbers.

    It also means that when fundamentalist Christians in this country, perhaps epitomised by blogger Archbishop Cramner, complain that Muslims show far more religious fervour and Christians are losing out in the power stakes, they don’t understand that religious power itself is moving to the East. The major conflicts of the this century, whether over religion, resources or territory, will mostly take place in the East. In economic stakes and religious stakes ‘the western hemisphere’ (albeit the US) will become a bystander.

    The conclusion is interesting:

    Choice is the most “modern” thing about contemporary religion. “We made a category mistake,” admits Peter Berger, the Boston sociologist, who was once one of the foremost champions of secularisation but changed his mind in the 1980s. “We thought that the relationship was between modernisation and secularisation. In fact it was between modernisation and pluralism.” Religion is no longer taken for granted or inherited; it is based around adults making a choice, going to a synagogue, temple, church or mosque. This has a profound affect on public life. The more that people choose their religion, rather than just inherit it, the more likely they are to make a noise about it.

    The question here is: how will atheists react? How will our definition of a secular society change? After all, if you’re going to exclude a Sikh girl from wearing her kara from school, why not be consistent and ban Christmas as well? Shouldn’t societies strive to treat everyone equally?

    25th October, 2007

    Progressives on population

    by Rumbold at 3:02 pm    

    Boris Johnson has an article in today’s Daily Telegraph on overpopulation in the world and how policy makers are ignoring the potential consequences:

    Continue Reading...
    5th October, 2007

    The inhumanity of man

    by Rumbold at 2:28 pm    

    Johann Hari reports on a little-known conflict in the centre of Africa (I had never heard anything about it). The article is a long one (6,000 words), but well worth reading.

    Continue Reading...
    26th September, 2007

    The problem with Myanmar is people know so little they still call it Burma

    by Kulvinder at 2:42 pm    

    The specialist blogs and commentators aside anyone who has written or reported on the ongoing pro-democracy struggle is essentially saying little more than theres an ongoing struggle for democracy.

    Myanmar is such a hazy country in our minds that when asked we can’t even recall the name of its leader. We know theres a military Junta, we know theres a woman called Aung San Suu Kyi and thats about it. Whilst I support the right to self-determination of any people I honestly don’t know what to say about Myanmar other than I wish the people can live as they choose. Should I applaud the red robed monks in the street or question whether they have any alternative theocratic intentions?. Aung San Suu Kyi may be a symbol for democracy but can any of us claim to know what her philosophical ideas actually are? Unlike the North Koreans and their enigmatic leader who may claim to shun the outside world but flirt with it around a nuclear table the leaders of Myanmar are so introspective as to be invisible.

    Commenting intelligently about the fast moving developments of country whose name most people don’t even know is difficult. George Bush and Gordon Brown have probably realised the political capital that can be gained from supporting freedom in this far off nation, but its really little more than political opportunism. As far as we can tell Myanmar doesn’t have any significant deposists of crude oil so we aren’t that interested in them. The vast majority of the people aren’t followers of one of the ‘Abrahamic religions’ so aren’t tied into any other political struggle.

    What more can we say about Myanmar other than we hope its people find what they’re looking for?

    Sunny adds: Clashes between the police and monks have now intensified.
    BBC Online has an article on using Burma or Myanmar. Interestingly, using ‘Burma’ is akin to taking a particular political position, which is fine for us but may not the BBC…

    There’s also a Facebook group (40k members and rising) here.

    28th June, 2007

    Brown in charge, remarkably the world keeps turning

    by Leon at 12:09 pm    

    You’d think, going by the news over the last 24 hours, that we’ve just experienced the second coming (some people appear to think we have). Brown is basking in the limelight as the Prime Minister Unelect, Blair has been given an incredulity inducing new position to bring war ‘peace’ to the Middle East and amazingly the rest of the world has other things on it’s mind.

    Growing numbers of people worldwide view environmental problems, pollution, infectious diseases, nuclear proliferation and the widening gap between rich and poor as the most menacing threats facing the planet, according to a 47-nation survey published yesterday by the US-based Pew Global Attitudes Project.

    The survey, which conducted more than 45,000 interviews, finds that global opinion is increasingly wary of the world’s dominant countries but also unimpressed by aspiring leaders in Iran and Venezuela who challenge the international status quo. In contrast, the UN receives strong support. [Via The Guardian]

    That last bit is important in my view, we wont get anywhere near a stable world without some kind of global co-ordination. Too many domestic issues are now defined abroad and without any real influence we are caught in the maelstrom of Geo-Political manoeuvring.

    George Monbiot, despite his faults, wrote an interesting book a few years back about the need for a global democratic government (more on that here). It detailed broadly how it might work, I’m beginning to think the proposal might need serious consideration…

    But anyway, back to the spectacle and substance of who Brown has chosen for his first cabinet…

    28th May, 2007

    Hugo’s the boss

    by Rohin at 10:03 pm    

    Hugo Chavez has, rightly or wrongly, become something of a cult figure amongst those who enjoy watching Bush squirm with a thorn in his side. However, whilst we can all take pleasure in Bush’s misfortune, judging Chavez and his premiereship in Venezuela objectively is something quite separate.

    It has been Venezuela’s media that has been making the world media as of late. Thousands took to the streets yesterday to protest the enforced closure of Venezuela’s oldest and most-watched TV station, Radio Caracas TV. It has been replaced by a state-endorsed station, TVES, which supports Chavez’s socialist revolution.

    In an emotional close to the station’s broadcast the staff chanted “freedom” and spent their final moments on air in silent prayer, before signing out with the national anthem. Prior to this, presenters and crew alike highlighted their plight by sealing their mouths with tape in protest at an attack on their freedom of speech.

    Continue Reading...
    17th May, 2007

    Beware the Russians

    by Sunny at 1:09 pm    

    What the hell is Vladimir Putin playing at?

    A three-week wave of massive cyber-attacks on the small Baltic country of Estonia, the first known incidence of such an assault on a state, is causing alarm across the western alliance, with Nato urgently examining the offensive and its implications.

    While Russia and Estonia are embroiled in their worst dispute since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a row that erupted at the end of last month over the Estonians’ removal of the Bronze Soldier Soviet war memorial in central Tallinn, the country has been subjected to a barrage of cyber warfare, disabling the websites of government ministries, political parties, newspapers, banks, and companies. Nato has dispatched some of its top cyber-terrorism experts to Tallinn to investigate and to help the Estonians beef up their electronic defences.

    8th March, 2007

    Stop the clash!

    by Sunny at 5:18 am    

    A group called Avaaz (meaning ‘voice’ in Hindi/Urdu) have created this video and so far gathered 42,000 signatures in support of people asking their political leaders to sort out the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

    I agree with their sentiments and believe neither in the ‘clash of civilisations’ nor the ‘civilisation v barbarism’ narratives. But. Although the conflict needs resolving, I hardly think it is the source of world problems. It’s a fight over land! Neo-con unilateralism and Al-Qaeda are far more to blame (though may not equally).

    It should be sorted out because the locals are being shot or blown up, not because arm-chair activists all around the world (who have nothing directly to do with the conflict) carry little icons of the Palestinian (or Hizballah) flag, or carry ‘support Israel or else…’ banners. They are the ones who elevate it to a clash of civilisations narrative. And if these activists really cared about people dying then they’d be more stressed about the dead in Darfur and Iraq (at the same time, not according to their politics).

    That said, the video has a poignant (but obvious) message.

    Filed under: Middle East,The World
    21st February, 2007

    A world without America?

    by Leon at 11:14 am    

    Tory TV, Fox News lite, 18 Doughty Street TV has a new “attack ad” up entitled ‘A world with America’. According to them their aim is as follows:

    At a time of rampant anti-Americanism this ad - produced with BritainAndAmerica.com - aims to remind the world of the great economic, technological and political benefits that the US has brought to the world.

    You can watch the full ad here:

    Is 18DS bang on the money or far off the mark? What would a world without America be like?

    27th January, 2007

    Never forget

    by Sunny at 8:55 pm    

    Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, the annual rememberance event now in its 6th year. The date is chosen, according to Wikipedia, because today is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet Union in 1945. A poll published last week found:

    Nearly half of Britons believe a Holocaust could erupt in the UK, according to a YouGov survey. The poll of 2,400 Britons, released to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27, found that 41% of people thought another Holocaust was possible and 36% believed most people would do nothing to stop it. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s chairman, Stephen Smith, described the findings as “alarming”. The survey also found that 79% were unaware that black people were persecuted by the Nazis, and 50% did not know that lesbians, gays, disabled people and the Roma were targeted.

    The human tendency to explain away hatred and bigotry still continues to alarm me, but only by continuing to remember such a huge blot on our collective history can we build a better future.

    Filed under: Events,The World
    3rd November, 2006

    Britons believe Bush more dangerous than Kim Jong-il

    by Leon at 4:52 pm    

    Bush, Bin Laden, Kim

    America is now seen as a threat to world peace by its closest neighbours and allies, according to an international survey of public opinion published today that reveals just how far the country’s reputation has fallen among former supporters since the invasion of Iraq.

    Carried out as US voters prepare to go to the polls next week in an election dominated by the war, the research also shows that British voters see George Bush as a greater danger to world peace than either the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, or the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both countries were once cited by the US president as part of an “axis of evil”, but it is Mr Bush who now alarms voters in countries with traditionally strong links to the US.
    …
    It exposes high levels of distrust. In Britain, 69% of those questioned say they believe US policy has made the world less safe since 2001, with only 7% thinking action in Iraq and Afghanistan has increased global security. [Via The Guardian]

    Is anyone really surprised by this? While it’s good so many see things this way the question remains what to do about Bush, and his lackey Blair? Change in the US looks possible (if only John Kerry would keep his trap shut) but what of Britain? Brown has already expressed his support for the war and Blair keeps on grinning knowing he’s not likely to be held to account for the mess he’s helped make. As for Cameron, well…who knows what the master of public relations actually thinks.

    30th October, 2006

    Talking To God…

    by Leon at 4:50 pm    

    This has been around for some time and it’s a real favourite of mine. It’s a conversation with God. It’s not real (or could be depending on your point of view) but it’s always food for thought and a good conversation starter. It’s a touch long but worth a read, enjoy.

    25th October, 2006

    Sikh banned from wearing kirpan in Denmark

    by Sunny at 2:03 pm    

    From Sikhnet:

    A Danish court ruled Tuesday that it was illegal for a Sikh man to carry the “kirpan” ceremonial knife that he traditionally gets at baptism. The Eastern High Court said that although Indian national Ripudaman Singh wore the blunt knife as a “religious symbol,” it was still a violation of a ban on bearing weapons, including knives, except for carrying out a trade, hunting, fishing or other recreational activities.

    The ceremonial knife that Ripudaman Singh carried concealed under his clothes was detected two years ago when he visited the US embassy in Copenhagen and presented it at a security check.

    Uh oh. This is going to pose a big problem for Sikhs, since it’s central for baptised (or Amritdhari) Sikhs to carry the knife/sword as part of the 5 Ks. I hope other European nations don’t follow suit.
    [hat tip: Uncleji]

    17th October, 2006

    One day we’ll all be brown…

    by Leon at 3:27 pm    

    Scary and fascinating in equal measure is this new study (speculation really given that anything could happen in the next 100 years let alone 1000) funded by the Bravo TV station. The ‘findings’ are certainly food for thought: one day we’ll all be brown!

    Continue Reading...
    14th September, 2006

    Taking action on Darfur

    by Arif at 9:10 am    

    As you may be aware, the Sudanese Government is refusing to allow UN peacekeepers to replace African Union troops to protect the people of Darfur.

    They are playing the card that the UN is an agency for imperialism. The African Union says it will leave on 30th September come what may.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: The World
    4th September, 2006

    Gerry Adams to meet Hamas leaders

    by Leon at 4:16 pm    

    This is an interesting move that’s sure to get some people up in arms; how do you characterise this; former terrorist meets present day terrorist? Political leader meets emerging political leader? Without doubt this throws a spanner in the works for the whole “all terrorists are the same” propaganda offensive of Bush and Blair.

    Perhaps Adams genuinely does want to help (after all the peace process shows you can engage “terrorist” organisations toward a shared political end) or maybe he just wants to grab some of the limelight ahead of Blair’s visit?

    Continue Reading...
    31st August, 2006

    Politics? No way maaan, let’s ‘ave some fun!

    by Leon at 12:39 pm    

    Sunny has kindly taken the reins off the heavy political opining and suggested we lighten up a bit for a day or so. Great idea!

    This thread is dedicated to that end; a kind mash up of the open weekend thread and a ‘tell us what you’ve found on the net’ thread. Go wild, post up your musings (Kismet Hardy stand ready!), your random babblings or any cool websites/blogs you’ve come across.

    One condition; NO POLITICS!

    Your time is now folks, use it well. ;)

    Filed under: Culture,Humour,The World
    30th August, 2006

    Chavez supports Syria against US

    by Leon at 4:42 pm    

    Oh dear. Chavez, angling for his UN Security Council seat, is really scraping the barrel with this lot:

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has pledged to stand by Syria in opposition to what he said was US “imperialist aggression” in the Middle East. He said he and Syria would strive to build a world free of US domination.

    “We have decided to be free. We want to co-operate to build a new world where states’ and people’s self-determination are respected,” Mr Chavez said after meeting President Assad.

    “Imperialism’s concern is to control the world, but we will not let them despite the pressure and aggression,” he said. [Via BBC News]

    This doesn’t really track with the reality of countries like Syria or China. So there you have it. The reverse of Blair and Bush is Chavez and some of the most authoritarian regimes on the planet. Great set of choices we have isn’t it?

    17th August, 2006

    Hollywood v ‘The Terrorists’

    by Leon at 10:48 pm    


    Oh dear, something like this makes me think these actors and Directors should not give up their day job. Hollywood has decided it’s time to rid the world of the terrorist scourge:

    Nicole Kidman and 83 Hollywood heavyweights are using the power of the press to speak out against terrorism. She has joined 84 other high-profile Hollywood stars, directors, studio bosses and media moguls, including News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, has taken out a powerfully-worded full page advertisement in today’s Los Angeles Times newspaper.

    It specifically targets “terrorist organisations” such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. [via deficient brain]

    Well, there you go brilliant and insightful analysis of world events provided by experts in the field. It’s almost as if these darlings of the film industry felt they had to reverse the satire in Team America…

    Filed under: Humour,Media,The World
    13th August, 2006

    Let’s treat the plotters as common criminals

    by Leon at 10:18 pm    

    Excellent piece by Mathew Parris:

    Some will see this as a good week to bury liberal scruples. Prepare yourself for the distinct possibility of a flight home by the Prime Minister, a recall of Parliament, one of those impassioned rallying speeches at which Tony Blair excels, and for renewed talk that “the rules of the game have changed”. Prepare yourself for a crude conflation of Israeli war aims with the security of the West, and of Hezbollah with al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgency. Prepare for a Reid-fest on the airwaves, and for renewed muttering about arrest without trial, house arrest and shifting the burden of evidence. “Join up the dots,” Mr Blair urged us last week. This weekend, dot-joiners will be on the rampage.

    How sides seem to have been switched since the last century turned. Rebels and mutineers used to insist that there was a war on, and governments used to insist that there wasn’t. Hardliners took the view that people who blew things up were common criminals, to be dealt with case by case. Liberals argued that it was more useful to see them as idealists in a warped and misguided army.

    Now it’s the other way round. Hardliners see a war between opposing forces. Liberals see a more fractured picture, a rebel cast of dangerous but messed-up people, idiots, nutters and psychopaths, some organised, some clever, others out of control: essentially a matter, however grave, for the police.

    Some good points but the overall one about how this should be seen is pertinent and may even be the only way to stop this lunacy. I’ve long thought characterising these acts/people as ‘evil’ is pointless. It confuses the real issue of criminal activity as well as giving its supporters/adherents a greater sense of importance. Further to this it places a heavy political burden on police officers/security services that would rather just get on with their jobs than produce spectacular plot foiling dramatics for the TV cameras…

    The language used to describe a current set of situations (and the actors behind) them is creating a higher sense of drama than is needed to solve this mess. Perhaps it’s time for calmer heads to prevail?

    Filed under: Middle East,The World
    21st July, 2006

    Lighten up

    by Rohin at 11:21 am    

    I would hazard a guess that the whiter a country, the more a tan is valued. I’m sure some smart Alec will name an exception, but in a country like Estonia, despite only seeing one other non-white person, everyone was my colour.

    Yet far from nordic blondes, in the Middle East, Africa and across Asia, women have a very different ideal of beauty. It’s something we’ve discussed a few times before on PP, but skin lightening continues to be huge business, which shows no signs of flagging - indeed, quite the opposite.

    Due to the immense scale of the international demand for skin lightening products, it’s a difficult topic to approach in a humble blog post. One could examine the phenomenon area by area.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Culture,The World
    4th July, 2006

    My wife the fanatic

    by Aparita at 2:50 am    

    The aims and plans of the alleged 17 Canadian bombers who wanted to bomb Toronto has been splashed all over the international press. Less has been said about the wives of some of the men involved, particularly how their views co-incided with that of their husbands.

    Second in the series of articles.

    Continue Reading...
    27th June, 2006

    Kofi break

    by Rohin at 1:29 am    

    Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, will be stepping down at the end of this year. Speculation has begun as to who will be filling his eloquent, but ultimately somewhat ineffectual shoes.

    Most commentators predict an Asian successor. It has been 34 years since an Asian sat at the helm of the UN, the Burma’s U Thant. Now, as more Western headlines concern the meteoric rise of India and China, Asia’s stature is growing apace. Russia and China, two of the veto-holding permanent members have announced that they will support an Asian candidate.

    Kofi Annan himself has stated he would be in favour of a female successor, but he has little sway in the matter. The UN has never been headed up by a woman before, despite being in existence for some 60 years.

    So far all the candidates in the running are Asian - and are men.

    Continue Reading...
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