May 23rd, 2006 by ravi
Unrealised Moscow

[via BoingBoing]

Москва невоплощенная/Unrealised Moscow
The Architecture of Moscow
from the 1930s to the early 1950s.
Unrealised projects

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May 22nd, 2006 by ravi
India’s bubble bursting?

Ok, the title of my post is more alarmist than necessary, since even I do not think this is a huge warning sign. Now, how can they spin this to blame it on the people for voting out the rightwing BJP? 

BBC NEWS | Business | Indian stocks rebound after pause

Indian shares have rebounded after a drop of more than 10% prompted the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) to suspend trading for an hour.

The BSE's benchmark 30-share Sensex index closed 456.84 points, or 4.2%, lower at 10,481.77.

Earlier it had lost 1,111.71 points, its biggest intra-day drop, amid heavy selling by domestic and foreign funds.

Investors said they were worried that recent record gains had come too fast to be justified by the profit outlook.

[…] 

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May 14th, 2006 by ravi
Blood and gore makes Army queasy

Army says all the horror of war as depicted in a documentary of Iraq war injured might be a bit demoralizing. Perhaps when compared to the much better version of reality presented in the ads with dudes climbing mountains and such? When asked if morale may improve among the troops if they were to be brought back home, rather than just ignoring the brutality of war, a spokesperson responded: That's just crazy talk! [I am kidding of course!]

Army Concerned About HBO War Film – NYT

[…] 

The documentary, titled "Baghdad ER," chronicles two months at the 86th Combat Support Hospital, where filmmakers were given broad access to follow doctors, nurses, medics and others as they treated soldiers wounded by roadside bombs and in combat. As one nurse, Specialist Saidet Lanier, says in the film: "This is hard-core, raw, uncut trauma. Day after day, every day."

The Army officials said that concerns about the documentary — which includes footage of an amputation and of wounded soldiers undergoing surgery and, in some cases, dying — were also raised by the wives of top Army officers who had seen the film.

"Given the subject matter, it's not something you're going to cheer at the end," said one senior Army official.

Richard L. Plepler, an executive vice president at HBO, said the screening would take place as planned on Monday, but he said he expected far fewer people to attend than the 300 or so that Army officials told him to expect after an initial screening at the Pentagon.

"We had discussed a larger degree of participation from senior members of the Army when we first visited the Pentagon in March," Mr. Plepler said. "One retired general who was there told us the film 'captured the soul of the United States Army.' Therefore, we're a little surprised by the change in plans."

[…] 

 

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May 13th, 2006 by ravi
Be all that you can be! And more!

[via BoingBoing] 

Sexoteric Blog: Got a towel? has a couple of great posters via Flickr. Check it out!

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May 11th, 2006 by ravi
Bush Tracker Update
  • NYT: 10 U.S. Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan

  • Ten American soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed Friday in eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border, the United States military said Saturday.
    AfghanWar  
  • NYT: Ney(R) aide with Abramoff ties pleads guilty

  • A former top aide to Representative Bob Ney, Republican of Ohio, pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring with the lobbyist Jack Abramoff to corrupt public officials and said gifts had been "corruptly offered to and accepted by" Mr. Ney.
    Corruption  
  • BBC: 1000+ people died in Baghdad in April

  • Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has called on Iraqis to help stop sectarian violence after figures showed it killed 1,091 people in Baghdad last month.
    Iraq  
  • NYT: HUD Secretary rejection of Bush critic

  • The administration's housing secretary sought to head off a furor today over his recent account of scuttling a government contract because the person who was about to get it was critical of President Bush.
    Cronyism  
    Corruption  
  • AP: Coin Dealer Asks to Change Pleas

  • A major GOP fundraiser accused in a state rare-coin investment scandal is asking to change his not guilty pleas on federal charges that he illegally funneled donations to President Bush's re-election campaign.
    Corruption  
  • ABC: Bush on NSA "Data Collection"

  • President Bush did not confirm or deny a newspaper report Thursday that the National Security Agency was collecting records of tens of millions of ordinary Americans' phone calls.
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    May 11th, 2006 by ravi
    NYT on Bolivian Gas Nationalisation

    Surprisingly, it's NYT that gives us a more balanced angle on the ongoing bruhaha over nationalisation of Bolivia's gas and petroleum production.

    All Smoke, No Fire in Bolivia – NYT

    […] 

    Latin America's newest populist leader, President Evo Morales, had just issued a decree nationalizing Bolivia's petroleum.

    In reaction to the news, the European Union warned that the move could tighten global energy supplies and increase prices at the pump. Other international analysts have expressed concern about a resurgence of dangerous "energy nationalism." However alarming Bolivia's move might appear on the surface, though, there is surprisingly little in it to worry the United States and the West.

    This is simply the way democracy sometimes works. Oil and gas nationalization has been the main political issue in Bolivia for the last several years. Mr. Morales, an Aymara Indian farmer, won a landslide victory in December on a promise to nationalize the gas industry. Now he's delivering on that promise he made to the country's nine million citizens.

    And when viewed from a Bolivian perspective, this is less of a nationalization than a return to constitutionality. Mr. Morales has a strong legal argument that the privatization that took place in the mid-1990's was unconstitutional. Under the Bolivian Constitution, the contracts that gave control to private companies were supposed to be approved by Congress, and they were not.

    Add this to resentment on the street over Bolivia's Transparency International corruption ranking last year (placing its leaders among the world's most dishonest) and a long history of swindles where natural resources like gold, silver, timber and petroleum have been "privatized" into the global economy to the sole benefit of a few very wealthy Bolivians.

    […]
    Bolivia was one of the first Latin American countries to adopt this approach back in the mid-1980's. State-owned companies were sold off. Government spending and regulation was scaled back. Foreign capital was courted. All on the promise of a new dawn of well-being.

    Twenty years later the average Bolivian is worse off than before. Exports have declined. Bolivian incomes are stagnant, and half of the population lives on less than $2 a day. The rest of Latin America has experienced similar results from neoliberalism, leading to a general disillusionment that has given rise to leftist-populist governments.

    […]

     

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    May 11th, 2006 by ravi
    Using and synchronizing contacts

    Most of you probably have a desktop computer, perhaps also a laptop, one or more hand-held device (Palm computer, iPod, etc), and a mobile/cell phone (and there is also the home phone, but I will ignore that here). The standard problem: keeping the information sync'ed up between all of them, without needing data re-entry.

    What data?

    At the least, contact/addressbook information, and calendar/task entries. Stuff that falls under the PIM (Personal Information Manager/Management) cloud.

    How is it accessed?

    You would think that in the Internet age you would store the information on a central server and access it using standard protocols supported by client applications. That, it turns out in my experience, is tougher than I would have thought.

    The technology

    If you live in a pure Microsoft world (Windows on your PC, laptop, handheld and mobile phone) you probably can stop reading, at this point, and add a comment exhorting me to come over to your side! Windows probably does a decent job of Sync'ing between your computer and your handheld or mobile phone. Throw in an exchange server and you probably get syncing across computers as well. Well, what about the rest of us?

    The standard technologies (well, one of the standards: as the saying goes, the great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from!) for contact and calendar information are LDAP directories and iCalendar based calendar subscriptions and import/export.

    Surprisingly both LDAP and iCalendar are supported by today's addressbook, email and calendar applications, including: Mozilla Thunderbird, Mozilla Sunbird, Apple Addressbook (and hence Mail), Microsoft Outlook (from what I know), the many GNU/Linux/GNOME/KDE applications (Kmail, Evolution, Kontact, etc).

    Well, are we done, then?

    Annoyances

    Unfortunately there are many annoyances to deal with:

    • There aren't many free or commercial LDAP directory services available on the net. In fact, the only one I have found, which I highly recommend, is ScheduleWorld (which provides not just LDAP directories, but also standards based calendar service). This general lack of LDAP services pretty much nixes sharing your addressbook.
    • Mozilla Thunderbird (to my knowledge) does not support lookup across multiple LDAP addressbooks for address completion, making use of LDAP just another bit tougher.
    • Access to remote information is not a viable option today on iPods and various mobile phones. They do not support LDAP or iCalendar access to your information. The good news is that many of them provide two way synchronization (where applicable) using applications and drivers on your computer.
    • There are a large set of iCalendar based calendar services available (e.g: the aforementioned ScheduleWorld, Google Calendar) As always there is a catch… well two in this case:
      • Most calendaring services use a publish/subscribe model and not a synchronization model. In other words, you can publish your Apple iCal or Mozilla Sunbird calendar to the server, or subscribe to your server calendar on one of these applications, but you typically cannot update either willy-nilly and have them synchronize with each other.
      • Free/Busy information: in order to schedule events involving multiple individuals, their free/busy information needs to centrally stored, accessible to the others. In a web-only system, this is trivial. In our multi-tool scenario, free/busy information needs to be synchronized.

    Is there hope?

    There is hope for the future, but my investigation has found nothing with enough coverage to make it worthwhile. The exception, if any, is ScheduleWorld. As far as I know, these are your options:

    • Use a fixed write (write the information using only one interface), publish to server, and subscribe from many, model: either store your data in an application that supports pushing it to a server or store it on the server. Subscribe from all relevant clients.
    • Use a service like ScheduleWorld which gives you: web-based read/write access to both calendar and contacts, a Java based multi-platform client to accomplish the same, and open interfaces (LDAP, iCalendar) for your multiple client applications. Beware of Apple Addressbook weirdness: not only does it often not import LDIF entries (from LDAP directories), it also does not sync LDAP directory entries to the iPod).
    • Wait for better SyncML support.
    • Hack up your own or use open source scripts to import data into client applications from public services such as Google Calendar.
    • Use a service like Plaxo (which has come under much scrutiny and criticism, all of which you can read easily through a Google search on Plaxo) which synchronizes (only your contact list though) across multiple platforms (Apple Addressbook, Mozilla Thunderbird, Outlook) and provides a web interface.
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    May 9th, 2006 by ravi
    Bush Tracker Update
  • Guardian: Video shows Bush warned about Katrina

  • The US president, George Bush, was warned before Hurricane Katrina struck that it could cause huge devastation, according to leaked video footage.
    Katrina
  • MSNBC: Ex Govt Insider Natsios on Iraq reconstruction

  • Natsios publicly gave vent to his long-suppressed frustrations over the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq occupation. … [H]e harshly criticized the Coalition Provisional Authority led by L. Paul Bremer III for botching the reconstruction effort and allowing ill-qualified or corrupt contractors to dominate it.
    Corruption
    Iraq
    Cronyism
  • NYT: More on Iraq detainee torture by Army

  • In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball.
    Iraq
    Torture
  • ABC: Abramoff gets almost 6 years

  • Disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison in a Florida fraud case, the minimum sentence allowed.
    Corruption
    Abramoff
  • BBC: Afghan fighting leaves 34 dead

  • US-led coalition forces say they have killed 32 "enemy fighters", assumed to be the Taleban and their allies in clashes in southern Helmand province.
    AfghanWar
  • SFGate: DeLay aide Tony Rudy flips

  • A former top aide to Rep. Tom DeLay has agreed to plead guilty to charges in the widening federal investigation of lobbyist fraud, a law enforcement official said Friday.
    Corruption
  • NYT: DeLay calls it quits from politics

  • Representative Tom DeLay, the relentless Texas conservative who helped lead House Republicans to power but became ensnared in a corruption scandal, said today that he had decided to leave Congress and relocate to Virginia, a move that could clear the way for a special election to replace him.
    Corruption
  • NYT: US report is bleak on Iraq status

  • An internal staff report by the United States Embassy and the military command in Baghdad provides a sobering province-by-province snapshot of Iraq's political, economic and security situation, rating the overall stability of 6 of the 18 provinces "serious" and one "critical."
    Iraq
  • AlterNet: Another Bush Iraq memo

  • The Manning memo uncovers even more evidence that the president knew his case for invading Iraq was based on bogus intelligence.
    Propaganda
    Iraq
  • Nation: Italy leaves US coalition

  • The Italian withdrawal will be the latest blow to the administration spin that suggests the occupation is a multinational initiative. A score of countries have withdrawn their troops or are in the process of doing so. Many of the exits were hastened by elections that — as in Italy this week — saw voters chose political leaders and parties that promised to quit the coalition.
    Iraq
  • Salon: What Rumsfeld knew

  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was personally involved in the late 2002 interrogation of a high-value al-Qaida detainee known in intelligence circles as "the 20th hijacker." He also communicated weekly with the man in charge of the interrogation, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the controversial commander of the Guantánamo Bay detention center.
    Torture
    Guantanamo
  • NYT: Inquiry says CIA flew 1000 torture flights

  • Investigators for the European Parliament said Wednesday that data gathered from air safety regulators and others found that the Central Intelligence Agency had flown 1,000 undeclared flights over European territory since 2001. Sometimes the planes stopped to pick up terrorism suspects who had been kidnapped to take them to countries that use torture, the investigators added.
    Torture
    Guantanamo
  • NYT: NO Evacuees housing grants will end soon

  • Thousands of hurricane evacuees who counted on a year of free housing and utilities are being told by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that they are no longer eligible for such help and must either pay the rent themselves or leave.
    Katrina
  • NYT: Still battering the Katrina homeless

  • The federal government's disastrous handling of the Katrina housing crisis is looking more and more like an attempt to force displaced families into the streets. The latest chapter came when the Federal Emergency Management Agency informed many families who had expected to have their rent paid for a year that they would soon be forced to assume their own housing costs or to leave their homes and apartments.
    Katrina
  • AlterNet: Potential evidence of Illegal Spying

  • The federal government's disastrous handling of the Katrina housing crisis is looking more and more like an attempt to force displaced families into the streets. The latest chapter came when the Federal Emergency Management Agency informed many families who had expected to have their rent paid for a year that they would soon be forced to assume their own housing costs or to leave their homes and apartments.
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    May 3rd, 2006 by ravi
    News bits [2006.05.03]
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    May 2nd, 2006 by ravi
    Ultimate Fight Activist

    From AlterNet:

    The Anti-Bush Anarchist

    By Gabriel Thompson, In These Times
    Posted on May 2, 2006, Printed on May 2, 2006

    Standing 5' 9" tall, weighing 240 pounds and sporting a shaved head, Jeff "The Snowman" Monson looks like a cartoon ready to pop, a compressed giant of crazy shoulders, massive biceps and meaty forearms. When he sneers, people shudder. When he sweats, they turn away. When he's angry, your best bet is to run.

    He's angry right now, even though his combat career in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) — an often-bloody tournament that combines martial arts disciplines like Brazilian Jujitsu and Muay Thai Kickboxing — is taking off. […] So no, it's not his future career prospects that have him pissed. It's the state of the world.

    "I'm not some sort of conspiracy theorist," Monson says of his political leanings. "I'm not talking about how the government is trying to hide UFOs. I just want to do away with hierarchy. I'm saying that our economic system, capitalism, is structured so that it only benefits a small percentage of very wealthy people. When I was traveling in Brazil, they had us staying at a really posh hotel. Outside the hotel there was a mom sleeping on the sidewalk with her two kids. That's when reality hits you. What did that woman ever do? Who did she ever hurt?"

    Monson wears his politics on his sleeve, as well as the rest of his body. An anarcho-syndicalist star is tattooed on his chest, an anarchy sign on his back and another "A" on his leg. While he loves his sport, he also feels a responsibility to use whatever exposure he receives for a larger purpose. "I don't think I'm more important than anyone else, but since some people are paying attention, then I'm going to use this as a vehicle to express myself," he says. Some fans have labeled him anti-American, but he shrugs off such criticism.

    […]

    Monson sees no contradiction between his radical beliefs and his full-time occupation. "What I do is completely different than war, because everyone wants to be there, and it's a competition. There's no victim. We're all entertainers," he explains. "If there is any contradiction, it's that we're part of the capitalist machine, and I'm really just a wage slave. You know, we don't make any money without fighting, and if I win I get more; if I lose I get less. But it's simply a sport. Sure, it's somewhat like a gladiator sport, but it's voluntary."

    Monson grew up middle class in Minnesota. His mother still works as a nurse, and his late father worked at a penitentiary. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he wrestled, and then received his Masters in Psychology from the University of Minnesota. During his graduate work, Monson had his political awakening — a course entitled Community Psychology.

    "Oh man, that class really opened my eyes," he says.
    "Just looking at the way the world is run, the way that the people that might be disabled or have mental issues are left behind. How education and general welfare are not a priority, and how the elite run everything for their own benefit. Then I started reading a bunch of stuff — Animal Farm, the International Socialist Review, Chomsky — and I started thinking in a different way." Monson the Ultimate Fighter uses Plato's allegory of the cave to describe the experience.

    After graduating from Minnesota, he moved to Washington State, where from 1997 to 2001 he counseled the mentally ill for Lewis County; his primary responsibility was to determine whether an individual needed to be institutionalized. "I started right when they were pushing through welfare reform, and so we had all of these huge cuts in money for mental health and welfare. It's the same basic idea with No Child Left Behind. The government tells you that you have to cut your programs, cut your money for books, cut the money for teachers, but then you are expected to somehow do better. It's a brilliant strategy, really, from their perspective."

    Despite being a world-class competitor, Monson finds time to remain politically engaged. In 2003, he marched against the Iraq War in Seattle, and protested the Free Trade Area of the Americas in Miami (where the notoriously aggressive cops wisely left Monson alone). He is also a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, and despite the controversy that surrounds him, continues to engage people within the fighting community about politics.

    So what lies ahead for "The Snowman"? At the moment his focus is on his next big fight. "But this is not my whole life," Monson says of fighting. "I've got children and a girlfriend, and I like to be with my family. I try to remain involved in political events. After my next fight, I'll be taking my son to Montreal. They're having an Anarchist Book Fair, and they invited me to come up and do a workshop." The topic: self-defense.

    First Pat Tillman, then of all things an ultimate fight type dude. As the immigrant rallies show, perhaps civil/human rights is best advanced by those outside the so-called "left"! ;-)

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