Thursday, 30 September 2010


Protectionistic policies from the US is nothing new, there has long been a conflict with the European Union regarding tariffs for imported goods. In a similar way the US tariffs has resulted in similar tariffs in the EU. The chinese government has long been criticised for keep the exchange rates for the yuan artificially low. The reason for this policies is obviously to protect the domestic industry. The problem with this is that it helps industries that otherwise have lost their competitive advantage, and would need to develop. Protectionism may help in the short term, but for long term gains free trade would is preferable.

Isn't it ironic?
The US house of representatives is criticising the chinese protectionistic policies regarding the yuan by adopting extra fees for chinese products.

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Wednesday, 29 September 2010


 In most countries people would raise their eyebrows, if the major of a large city was making his wife enormously rich by awarding her company large building contracts. In Russia corruption seem to a part of everyday life, so when this happens in Moscow it is not really a big surprise. This has been going on for quite a while and it has not been kept a secret.

Now the major, Jurij Luzjkovs has been fired by president Medvedev. So there must be some logic behind that this happens now. Speculations has arisen about a possible conflict between president Medvedev and prime minister Putin. In a Russia where mainstream media is not free and under heavy control it is logic that media was used to discredit Luzjkovs and to serve Medvedev's purposes. It is obvious that he has been corrupt, so nothing wrong there. But the way it has been handled does not tell a story of a true democratic society.

It is obvious that a conflict between Medvedev and and Luzjkovs, perhaps Putin is also involved somewhere. The first thing that comes to mind is some sort power struggle, where Luzjkovs may have some sort of power ambitions or has challenged the ruling duo. I guess the last thing is not yet said in this matter...

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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Big Brother

The paranoid American government is now looking to formalise the internet surveillance by forcing software companies to build a backdoor through which government agencies can get information. This backdoor should be used to decrypt information, I assume it will be used on the same vague premises as the rest of the war on terror package.

The internet is already being controlled in many ways all over the world, often without laws regulating the control systems. This law is however something new, as it is forcing software to decrypt information. So, how will this be done? Are the software companies forced to send keys to their encryption?

I will assume a lot of individuals and companies will oppose this. From a corporate prespective this would increase risks of industrial espionage and leaks of sensitive information. From an individual prespective it will impose even more threats on personal integrity. 

As I see it, the problem with the internet and law is largely based on a generation gap. The generation controlling the laws do not understand the internet, whereas the generation understanding the internet is not making the laws.

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Friday, 17 September 2010

War games

In front of a computer screen sits a young man, he uses a joystick to aim and shoot. So far nothing strange, it happens all over the world. What is new is that this time a man really dies when he shoots. This is the newest weapon in the American arsenal. They are usually refered to as drones, unmanned small aircrafts with advanced weapon systems. You may say it is war, people die in wars. However, this is problematic in several ways.

The killings do not really take place in a war. The killings are more like death penalties for suspected terrorists without any trials and they have hit innocent civilians. Furthermore, this takes out the personal aspect of war, one guy presses a button and another guy in another part of the world dies. To me it is very disturbing. According to New America Foundation over 1000 have been killed in drone strikes, many of which are civilians. The U.N.'s senior official for extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston, said the United States should explain the legal rationale for the CIA's campaign of drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, which he characterized as "a vaguely defined license to kill" that has created "a major accountability vacuum."

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Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Pope

The pope is visiting the UK and will meet lots of protests. There are two very good reasons for this, firstly the conservative Catholic view on homosexuality. The Pope's view on homosexuality should have been abandoned long ago, but I guess you cannot teach an old dog to sit. In an organisation where the highest position is elected from a group of very old men that are not in touch with the real world, it may be unevitable to get a modern view on society.

Secondly, the Catholic pedophile scandal that has unraveled lately. Apparently this has been going for a long time and at a rather large scale. This obviously is totally unacceptable and making matters worse is the church's attempt to keep it quite and to gloss it over. The pope would have needed to publicly announce that it is terrible and unacceptable, which he has not.

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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Landmine Detector

In many countries in Africa and elsewhere landmine kill and severly hurt people long after a conflict is solved. Furthermore, they make land unfarmable and unlivable. Thus, in addition to the obvious danger of them, they are also increasing the poverty in many areas.

The little fellow in the image above is an African Pouched rat, he is trying to help solve these problems. After training theses small animals are doing excellent work in finding landmines that can later be defused. The training of rats is very cost efficient compared to mine-sniffing dogs; training a rat this way costs about a third of what it costs to train a dog. Hopefully, they can keep up their work and save lifes.

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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A step towards peace

 Yet again peace talk between Israel and Palestine are in progress. To me it seems rather obvious that there must be a two-state-solution. However, the details around such solution are very delicate and the situation is extremely infected. Making matters worse during the negotiations are the Israeli plans for more settlements in the West Bank territory. Furthermore, the Israeli occupants need to open up borders for trade and start by expanding the list of allowed imports.

Opening up for imports would be a good way to reduce Palestinian hostility towards Israel and decrease the power of Hamas. By allowing imports, smugglers will be cut out and opportunities for work and improved standard of living for Palestinians.

As of now Palestine is more or less a prison and Israel is the prison guard. This need to be solved, not only for the people of Palestine and Israel, but for the stability of the whole region.

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Monday, 13 September 2010

Resistance: Fall of Man ?

Antibiotics resistance in bacteria is growing to be a large problem and will most likely grow even more in the future. Current research seem to agree, it is caused by over-use of antibiotics and incomplete treatments. Bacteria develop resistance randomly over time, however when exposed to antibiotics this gives a huge evolutionary advantage. If one organism develops immunity to a certain antibiotic agent when it is present, the competing organisms will die and leave the resistant bacteria with great opporunity to grow and procreate, thuse spreading its DNA. If the antibiotic compound is not present, this resistance is not a factor giving an evolutionary advantage. Thus, using antibiotics when they are not needed may increase chances of increased growth of resistant bacteria. One problem here is that many doctors prescribe antibiotics for viral infections; antibiotics is not effective against viruses.

To be on the safe side for the future there are several antibiotic compound that have been developed, but are not used on humans. So in the case of bacteria with broad resistance we have at least some alternatives. However, what is scary is that they are to some extent used in animals, giving opportunities for development of resistance.

Will a pandemic of antibiotic resistant bacteria be our downfall?

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A tip

Gapminder is an organisation working with visual presentations of various data. I like the concept and the videos are quite educational.

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Thursday, 9 September 2010


Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, is a wanted man. USA wants for possible crimes when 90 000 secret NATO documents regarding warfare in Afghanistan were published on Wikileaks.
Shortly after this Assange travelled to Sweden, and USA pressured the Swedish government to extradie Assange. This was however refused. Shortly thereafter 2 cases of raped against Assange came up, which to me seems kind of suspicious. Within 24 hours of the charges they were changed from rape to molestation, and thereafter changed back again. I am not saying the charges msut be wrong, but to me it seems like too much of a coincidence. Furthermore, former Swedish military officers have written articles explaining that such "sex traps" for (political) opposition is a commonly known method for secret service or intelligence type of organisations.

I assume we have not heard the last from Julian Assange, and I do believe that the focus that now is on him could be his best shield and perhaps also a burden.

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On science and religion

This is perhaps not a new or even current issue, but it seems to have some sort of universal presence anyway. In medieval times religion and science were not two independent entities, in the sense that science depended on religion, needed its acceptance and too a large extent did not challenge religion dogmas. Today this has changed and science is almost entirely independent from religion. There are however som areas where religion still plays a role, at least in some parts of the world, for example when it comes to the theory of evolution. Where conservative religious Christians advocate creationism as opposed to the scientifically accepted theory of evolution.

Science is based on exploring and questioning of the world around, that is way religion should be nowhere near science. Religion is based on rules, dogmas and some sort of authority, all of which limits the opportunities for good science. I am not saying that there are no rules for science, but those rules are enabling science rather than limiting it, and they can always be challenged and changed if proven wrong. As schools are in the end based on science, religion should be nowhere near schools. We should still study religion in schools, but religion should not control the studies.

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Wednesday, 8 September 2010

A short thought on electric cars

The electric car is often brought forward as the saviour of the very oil-intensive transport sector. What is seldom mentioned when discussing its benefits is the source of energy. Sure combustion of oil-based fuels emits huge amount of carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants. But as long as the energy source for an electric car is not sustainable, the benefits are small. Thus, the key here is to make our overall energy system sustainable. To remove natural gas, carbon and oil in electricity generation and instead move towards more sustainable sources, such as solar power, hydro power, wind power and some extent also nuclear power (although its sustainability may be controversial).

That is one of our major challenges for the near future...

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Tuesday, 7 September 2010

An act of stupidity...

Time has come once again to remember 9/11. Obviously this was a terrible act of terrorism. The Dove World Outreach Center of Gainesville, Florida, has announced that they will hold an "International Burn a Koran Day" on the ninth anniversary of September 11. What were they thinking?

Firstly, this is obviously an act that will further increase the conflicts between the USA and the Muslim world. Secondly, this is an attack on all Muslims, which shows an ignorant view of all Muslims as terrorists and religious fanatics. This is not the case.

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Distributed energy systems

In rural areas in developing countries there is today often a lack electricity. This could be solved in many ways and in the long run perhaps it is likely that there will be a mix of distributed and local energy systems. However, we are not there yet and electric grids are either severly lacking in coverage and quality or non-existent. Thus the other solution is to use small-scale distributed solutions, as many developing countries are in tropical areas the potential for photovoltaic solutions should be great.

Today photovoltaic cells suffer from two main problems, low efficiency and high costs. In the aforementioned context high costs is the main problem. Large research efforts are done in these areas and more cost efficient large-scale manufacturing of photovoltaic cells should be here soon. Bringing the generation of electricity closer to the end-user would bring large advantages from a technical point of view, but also when considering standard of living. Electricity in rural areas would bring better opportunities for schools and medical care. But also would help with another huge problems in these areas, clean water. The (cheap) electricity could be use for pumps and for cleaning water.

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Monday, 6 September 2010

Finite resources

Humanity is facing many challenges the coming century. To be the most definitive is not the threat of climate change our international terrorism. Something we cannot get around is how we use natural resources. If we keep consuming resources at a faster pace than they can be regenerated we are far out on very thin ice. Some obvious examples are oil and coal, but those could possibly be replaced by greener energy sources in the not too distant future. Furthermore, many metals we are using in large quantities are scarce. A sure sign of this is that the fast growing chinese economy is buying lots of rare metals and also is driving a lot of the global concrete and steel market. Firstly, we need to start reusing and recycling a lot more. What is
even scary is the large population in developing countries seeking a Western standard of life. Who are we to deny them that after raping the planet for a long time...

I guess that when one resources becoems to scarce or to expensive we will eventually move on to an alternative resource. But at some point there are no alternatives. We need to recycle and reuse. Further we need to use resources efficiently and minimise waste. Perhaps the a sustainable energy system is the key here, since we are really running out of oil and coal, not to mention the pollutions caused by those two.

Bottom line is, we cannot have a linear system for using finite natural resources. At some point we run out...

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