Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Treason is a capital crime, but is it treason?

I am split when it comes to Wikileaks. This has nothing to do with the result of the information being spread, but is rather related to the ways of working. Spreading information is essential in a democracy, thus Wikileaks is doing an important job. Especially if the information is showing governmental or corporate disregard for laws, international treaties or human rights. This is the job of a whistleblower.

However, in getting hold of this information laws are broken. To me this is really the same as the traditional espionage between nations or corporations. The only difference is that there is no clear entity in the receiving end, instead there is the general public.

What we have here is then a collision between the whistleblower act and treason/espionage. 

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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

War? Again? Still?

The Korean peninsula is yet again in a state of high tension. The two Korean nations are still formally at war since the Korean war and since then there has been numerous incidents, for example a South Korean ship was likely sunk by a North Korean torpedo. Now the North Korean army is firing grenades at the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong; several houses are burning, there have been several injuries, casualties are so far unknown. Yeonpyeong is located close to the disputed border between the nations. 

So where is all this going? Can we expect a full scale war?
Without underestimating the regime in Pyongyang, I think it is unlikely. I think there may be some skirmishes along the border and some possible retaliation. But mostly it will probably be handled on a diplomatic scale, and results will probably be limited. The North Korean army is large, but not most likely not as well equiped as the armies that would be facing them in a potential war. The USA and all western nations would be right behind South Korea in such a war, what is interesting is what stance China would take. Perhaps China could be a key player in calming the situation down. China is North Koreas largest trade partner by far and is giving the regime massive support, how long will the communist neighbours keep this up.

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Friday, 19 November 2010

Star Wars II

In the 1980's the US Department of Defense, under president Reagan, launched the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), more commonly known as Star Wars. The goal was to set up a defense against (nuclear) missiles based on directed energy weapons, for example lasers. The term Star Wars also refers to the ambition to have it based in space or at least high up in the sky. This programme was however ridiculously expensive and never finalised, in 1993 it was abandoned. Today there are ground-based anti-missile missiles in use. The US has such installations in Europe, which has angered their former Cold war enemy Russia. It has been considered a shift in the power balance. Now discussions are underway to expand this programme and cooperation between Europe and the US is set to increase. These deepened ties are somehow considered a threat by Russia, in the sense that Europe is clearly deepening its ties with USA and in doing so alienating Russia. 

Showing that this is not primarily a guard against Russia, NATO has now invited Russian leaders to talks about cooperation and some believe Russia may also be included in the missile shield. However, the Russian people seem to be reluctant to cooperate with NATO, their former enemy. This cooperation seem a bit doubtful in days where Russian nationalism is growing and the leading team with Medvedev and Putin turn away from democracy and seem determined to regain the old glory, in various ways.

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Tuesday, 16 November 2010


The earthquake in Haiti devastated the already poor country. Now since October a cholera epidemic is spreading in the temporary camps. So far over 900 have died from the epidemic and over 15 000 have been infected. Cholera spreads easily under these conditions and personal hygiene is essential to minimise spreading.
What is even more tragic is the riots caused by rumours that the cholera was spread to Haiti by Nepalese UN personnel. These rumours have now been confirmed. The riots have killed 2 persons and made work very hard for UN workers, making it worse for everybody. Apparently the riots have been started by Guy Philippe, a well-known Haitian druglord. For some reason he believes he has something to gain from this, perhaps weakening the government to gain power.

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Hunting the elusive God particle

Some possible traces of the elusive Higgs boson has been found, after collision between two protons the traces of two Z-particles were found, that in turn could be the remains of a Higgs boson. This is nowhere near conclusive evidence that the particle even exists, as Z-particles can be found after proton collisions without them being a Higgs boson first. The Higgs boson is the only missing particle in the Standard model of particle physics, thus finding it would help solve some inconsistencies in the model. The Higgs boson is thought to be the mediator of mass, as the photon is the mediator of electromagnetism.

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Monday, 15 November 2010

Food and weather

Throughout history we have been highly dependent on the weather for our supply of food. Many civilizations has gone under due to drought, bad harvests and so forth; basically hungry people will revolt, move our at least demand answers from their leaders. This is still true, especially in developing countries. Technology has helped us decrease this dependence to some extent, but it still exists.

Today bad weather makes the prices for grain and rice increase drastically, forcing governments to sell subsidised rice and grains to the citizens to keep the stability. This fall the weather phenomenon La Nina is causing drought in South America and heavy rains in Southeast Asia. This has destroyed harvests and caused market prices for rubber, palm oil and corn, among others, to increase heavily. Perhaps this is a good time to speculate in bull certificates based on food related raw materials.

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Friday, 12 November 2010

Cold Winds

As seen in the 1930's in the shockwaves of the depression, xenophobic wave are yet again hitting Europe. We all know how it all turned out in the 1930's and the following World War II. A clear parallell that can be found is the economic depression, but claiming this as the sole reason is a very simplified conclusion. A closer look on the current xenophobic wave with right wing parties gaining influence in many European countries shows a development that started before the current financial crisis, when the economy was in a period of growth and prosperity. Although it was to a large extent made on a not so steady ground, it was still perceived as a good economy, thus the depression can hardly be the only reason, or not even the main one. However the depression seem to have worsened the situation, but it did not start it.

So that brings us to the obvious question, what started it? This is obviously a very complex question and the best I can do is some loose speculation.

In the 1930's immigration to Europe was very low by today's standards, in this time period it was more a matter of finding a scape goat for the economic hardship and its consequences. Whereas today mobility over borders has greatly increased and many immigrants come to Europe for various reasons, hopefully making it the dynamic melting pot that once made the USA what it was and what it still is. This also brings new cultures and religions, to me it seems rather obvious that before you can fear something you need to experience it. Thus introducing new cultures will often be seen as a threat to what already exists. Furthermore, an decreased confidence in politicians and a general discontent turns voters to those building their image on being outsiders and against the current establishment, as these kind of right-wing parties often do.

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