Monday, October 28, 2013

“It’s way too early for me to put my feet up and sit on the beach.”

Matt Barrie

Said : Matt Barrie, the CEO and founder of in reaction to the decision not to sell his company. Robert Matthew "Matt" Barrie is an Australian technology entrepreneur. He is the chief executive officer of Freelancer, the world's largest freelancing, outsourcing and crowd sourcing  marketplace. Freelancer allows users to post projects online, which freelancers then bid to carry out. More than 9 million users have signed up with more than 4 million projects posted so far. It takes a cut on all jobs listed after they are completed.

Barrie, 40, decided to choosing to list his company on the Australian stock exchange rejecting numerous acquisition offers worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The latest offer he got was from a Japanese recruitment site Recruit Co. which amounted to a whopping $430 million.

The Business Review Australia reported last month that was expected to list on the stock exchange at the end of this year. KTM Capital was revealed as the broker and underwriter for the IPO. Freelancer Limited will soon be traded on Australian Securities Exchange under the ticker ASX:FLN 

The Freelancer Limited IPO General Offer Period is now open. Click here for details.

Allies Aren’t Always Friends

Stewart Baker

Said : Stewart Baker - a lawyer and former assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush - in his article in the New York Times of October 24, 2013.

Why spy on friends anyway? is the question being asked after revelation of the alleged US spying of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone and surveillance of dozens of other world leaders, too. A number of American national intelligence and security experts have justified the US surveillance program saying that "relations among countries are essentially based on interests, and no matter how friendly countries may be, their interests are rarely exactly the same."

Reuters has quoted Mike Rogers, chairman of the House of Representatives intelligence committee, as saying : "European authorities don't have enough oversight of their intelligence services. The new revelations were not surprises to European intelligence agencies, but only to the governments for which they work."
Barack Obama with Angela Merkel during his visit to Berlin in June 2013. (Pic : spiegel)
Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House subcommittee on counter terrorism and intelligence, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," said: "The president should stop apologizing and stop being defensive. the reality is the NSA has saved thousands of lives not just in the United States but in France, Germany and throughout Europe." He also added : "The French carried out operations against the United States, the government and industry. It was Germany (Hamburg) where plot began which led to 9/11. They have had dealings with Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. We’re not doing it for the fun of it. This is to gather valuable intelligence which helps not just us but also helps the Europeans."
Mr. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 
met his American counterpart, Mr. John Kerry 
(Oct 22, 2013). He reiterated his government's request 
for an explanation regarding the unacceptable 
spying practices  between partners which must stop.

French President Francois Hollande has joined Chancellor Merkel in demanding talks with the US for setting new intelligence-gathering rules. Hollande said : "Spying among friends was “unacceptable.” Ironically, it was French leader and World War II statesman Charles de Gaulle, who had said : “No nation has friends, only interests.” 

The American agencies and experts, however, believe that spying is not a new phenomenon. Every country is doing it to the best of it's ability and capability. Moreover, in a complex interconnected, interdependent and competing world of today such surveillance has become a necessity and compulsion. This is particularly very important when the global view is that the future wars will be fought in the cyberspace and from the comfort of control rooms thousands of miles away. The drone attacks, in which missiles are fired with the push of a button sitting thousands of miles away in a control station, are only a small beginning, perhaps.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

"Don't beat yourself. Beating yourself is half the problem."

Warren E. Buffett
(Pic : Mark Hirschey)

Said : Warren E. Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., in an interview with USA TODAY published on October 26, 2013. In the interview, Buffet advises investors to avoid top 3 mistakes while managing their wealth. The first one is not to time the market. According to Buffet, the short-term movement of the stock market cannot be predicted. So, don't do it and don't listen to people who do that. The second one relates to avoiding mimicking high-frequency traders. "Hanging on for the long term is a better strategy than flipping stocks like a short-order cook flips pancakes," he said. The third mistake to avoid is incurring large expenses in connection with their investing.

Buffett expressed his confidence in the US economy. "American business is going to do well. America is going to do well. So you have the tide with you. Building wealth in stocks is still the way to go, even though the ride can get bumpy from time to time," he said.

He also advised investors not to look at the prices of the stocks they own from week-to-week, or month-to-month, or even year-to-year. He is of the opinion that buying a cross-section of American stocks - spread over a time - and avoiding impulse buying just at the very top, can ensure overall good returns.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Brazil’s Lottery Ticket : “85 percent of the profits generated in Libra (Brazil'’s first pre-salt offshore oil field) will stay in Brazil and with Petrobras (state-owned oil giant).”

President Dilma Rousseff

Said : President Dilma Rousseff, after the successful auction for the country’s first pre-salt offshore oil field, Libra, as reported in the Rio Times of October 22, 2013. 

The winner was the five-party consortium presenting the only bid for the field. The consortium pledged to the government the minimum 41.65 percent of profit oil, or the barrels remaining after all costs are covered, to win the 35-year production sharing contract to develop the super-giant Libra field in deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The contract is expected to be signed in November 2013.

“This is a long way from privatization,” Rousseff said in a televised address to the nation, adding, “… production of these riches will bring profits commensurate with the huge investments that will take place in our country." She promised to divert a significant proportion of the earnings into education.

Petrobras, in a press release, said : "A consortium comprised of - Petrobras (10%), Royal Dutch Shell Plc (20%), Total SA (20%), China National Petroleum Corp., CNPC, (10%), China National Offshore Oil Corporation - Cnooc Ltd. (10%) and Petrobras - was the winner in the 1st Pre-salt bidding round held by the Brazilian National Petroleum Agency (ANP). With this result, the consortium has acquired rights and obligations to the Libra block. As set forth under the law, the National Council for Energy Policy (Conselho Nacional de Política Energética - CNPE) established a 30% stake to be acquired directly by Petrobras. Therefore, with the auction results, Petrobras total participation in the consortium will be 40% and all its rights and obligations will be proportional to this stake.

The government will receive a signature bonus of R$ 15 billion ($6.9 billion) by the winning consortium in a single payment which includes Petrobras' proportionate share of R$ 6 billion.

Brazil Privatizes Libra Oil Field 

According to the release, the winning consortium offered 41.65% of the profit oil for the Federal Government. This percentage relates to the surplus in oil to be paid under a reference scenario of an oil price between $100.01 and $120.00 per barrel of oil and production per active producing well of between 10,000 and 12,000 barrels per day. This percentage will vary in accordance to international oil price and well productivity, as set forth by the Brazilian regulator, Agência Nacional do Petróleo (ANP). ANP estimates that the recoverable resources of Libra field is between 8 to 12 billion barrels of oil and a total gross peak oil production could reach 1.4 million barrels per day. Production could begin in five years, with plans for up to 12-18 production vessels permanently anchored on the field, each of them pumping up to 30,000 barrels per day.
Libra is an economic revolution to Brazil 
Brazil's Minister of Mines and Energy Edison Lobao

According to MinnPost - a nonprofit, nonpartisan news enterprise - the deepwater Libra oil prospect in the Santos Basin about 180 miles off the coast of Rio de Janeiro is billed as one of the biggest oil discoveries this century, containing an estimated 8 billion to 12 billion barrels of oil. After discovery in 2007, the basin seemed certain to enrich Brazil and any industry partners who might help develop the presalt fields, so-called because they sit more than a mile below the ocean and under another 2.5 miles of earth and salt. 

As per the contract, the block exploration phase will last four years. The consortium will have to adhere to minimum local content requirements in each phase of the project. For the exploration phase this percentage is 37%, in the development stage - 55% for systems with first oil until 2021, and 59% for those after 2022. Petrobras is confident of the success of Libra development which is one of the most promising accumulations of the Pre-salt area.
It is worth mentioning here that, according to media reports, the internal computer network of Petrobras was one of the prime targets of surveillance by the NSA, the National Security Agency of the United States. These reports NSA espionage were based on the top secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden who has acquired world fame on account of his NSA leaks.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"Death is a slow, analogue process, rather than a digital on/off switch. A dimmer-switch (an analogue device) theory of death and aging is more appealing than the digital switch theory of death – a switch that has only two positions: on or off corresponding to fully alive or fully dead."

Dr. Guy BrownDept. of Biochemistry, Univ. of Cambridge
Said : Dr. Guy Brown of Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, in his "The Living End :The Future of Death, Aging & Immortality," a popular science book. 

Following excerpts are from the Introduction of the book by the author.

Today, the average lifespan in the developed world is about 78 years.  And this lifespan is increasing by 2 years every decade.  That is every decade you live, your expected age of death recedes by at least 2 years, or 5 hours per day, or 12 seconds per minute. If this trend persists (as it has done for at least 100 years) someone born today would be expected to live to the age of 100 years.  

Our concepts of ‘old’ and ‘old-age’ are out-of-date.   It is no longer useful to categorise everyone over the age of 65 as just ‘old’ – there are the ‘old’ (65-85 years), the ‘very old’ (85-100 years) and the ‘extremely old’ (over 100 years).  Just because we are old, or know people who are old, does not mean we know what it is like to be very old or extremely old.

There are different types of death occurring in the same person at different rates and to different extents in different people.  There is death at different levels: molecular death, cell death, and organ death; death of the individual, death of the culture and death of the species.  There are multiple deaths of different parts of our body and mind: death of our physical abilities and appearance, death of our various mental capacities.  There is Reproductive death, Social death, and Psychological death.  There is death of desire, there is the death of memory, there is death of the will to live.  All these things fade away at different ages, at different rates, and to different extents.  

Throughout history people have sought to escape Death and claim immortality in three different ways: spiritual, genetic and cultural.  We may survive as spirits in some afterlife.  We may survive through our genes passed on to our children and children’s children.  We may survive though our works, deeds and memories - ‘memes’ - left to our family, friends and society in general.  The desire to survive spiritually, genetically or culturally has been, and continues to be, one of the most important motivators in life.  Indeed society as we know it (religion, family, culture) would be impossible without such motivators.  

In the 20th century Death replaced Sex as the taboo subject we could not talk about, yet we all end up “doing it”.  The suppressed dread of death has allowed our society to sleep walk into a situation where people face real horrors at the end of life, simply because we can not face dealing with the issue of how people should exit life.  Death has been banished to hospitals, the worst possible place to end life.  Medicine has become devoted to keeping people alive at any costs, rather than helping people die.  Huge resources are devoted to preventing infectious diseases and heart attacks, possibly the ideal way to die, which inevitable condemns people to die by more protracted means.  

Only by recognising that death is part of life and that many people experience a living death at the end of life, can we make sensible decisions about whether people should be allowed to choose a dignified exit from life.  We all recognise that we need to make provision for a pension, but how many of us are making provision for dementia?  If society really cared about the last ten years of life to the same degree as the first ten years of life, then we would have a real chance of preventing aging and dementia before it was too late.  If not, we have the real prospect of creating Hell on Earth, and locating it at the end of Life.

However, looking on the bright side, many researchers are now seriously suggesting that aging may be completely solved during the 21st century.  The promise of stem cells, cloning, RNAi, gene therapy, the sequencing of the human genome and the deep understanding of our biochemistry, suggests it is just a matter of time before we can make humans for all practical purposes immortal.  However, not everyone is happy at the prospect of universal immortality.  Bioethicists and politicians are reaching out to restrain these sciences, for example banning cloning, stem cell research and genetic engineering.  But aging and dementia are not natural, and we should not accept them as our inevitable fate – allowing millions to suffer in silence.

The relatively new science of aging has discovered an inexorable process of decline at the heart of our molecular machinery, but also claims to have found potential ways to interfere with that decline. Leading aging researchers are now urgently calling for society to prepare for an era of dramatically extended life span.  Scientists, doctors, economists, social planners, philosophers, theologians and even politicians are waking up to the massive impact that aging and increased life span will have on our society. For ourselves and our children we now need to urgently consider the future of death, dying and dementia. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Innovation success leads to the emergence of a virtuous circle : once a critical threshold has been reached, investment attracts investment, talent attracts talent, and innovation generates more innovation."

Said : Global Innovation Index 2013 report, published annually since 2007. Global Innovation Index (GII) - now in its sixth edition - provides a major bench marking tool to business executives, policy makers and others about the state of innovation around the world. This year's report analysed 142 country profiles, including data, ranks and strengths and weaknesses on 84 indicators.

The Global Innovation Index (GII) is co-published by Cornell University, INSEAD (one of the world’s leading and largest graduate business schools having capuses in France, Singapore and Abu Dhabi), and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO, a specialized agency of the United Nations). 

According to this year's report, the top five innovative countries were : Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom, Netherlands and USA in that order. "The United States continues to benefit from its strong education base (especially in terms of top-rank universities), and has seen strong increases in software spending and employment in knowledge-intensive services. The US was last in the GII top 5 in 2009, when it was number one," said a GII press release.

Top Ten 2013 ranking :

  1. Switzerland (Number 1 in 2012)
  2. Sweden (2)
  3. United Kingdom (5)
  4. Netherlands (6)
  5. United States of America (10)
  6. Finland (4)
  7. Hong Kong (China) (8)
  8. Singapore (3)
  9. Denmark (7)
  10. Ireland (9)

The report notes that "despite the economic crisis, innovation is alive and well. Research and development spending levels are surpassing 2008 levels in most countries and successful local hubs are thriving. A group of dynamic middle- and low-income countries – including China, Costa Rica, India, and Senegal - are outpacing their peers, but haven’t broken into the top of the GII 2013 leader board."

The report also notes that "too many innovation strategies have been focused on trying to replicate previous successes elsewhere, like Silicon Valley in California. However, fostering local innovation requires strategies that should be deeply rooted in local comparative advantages, history and culture. They should be combined with a global approach to reach out to foreign markets, and attract overseas talent."

According to the GII 2013 report, R&D expenditures have grown since 2010 in spite of adversity and tightened budget policies. The R&D expenditures of top 1,000 R&D spending companies have grown between 9 and 10 % in 2010 and 2011. A similar pattern has been observed in 2012.

Another striking trend, the report observes, is that emerging markets have increased their R&D faster than high-income countries. Over the last five years, China, Argentina, Brazil, Poland, India, Russia, Turkey and South Africa (in that order) have been at the forefront of this phenomenon. Emerging markets, and notably China, are also largely driving the growth in patent filings worldwide.

Mr. Li Yingtao, Head of Huawei’s R&D laboratories (one of the knowledge partners), commenting on the findings of the report said : "Growing research and development investments and the rising number of intellectual property patents filed are tangible examples of a growing commitment to innovation. In the global economy, innovation from anywhere can drive change and create new opportunities everywhere. Everyone concerned with innovation as a catalyst for economic and social development needs to remain focused on how the value of innovation is to transform industries, businesses and people’s lives, not just locally but across the world.”

"At no other point in history has so much money been spent on R&D worldwide. Never before has innovation been so well distributed among countries," observed the GII 2013 publishers while releasing the same at the United Nations in Geneva (Switzerland) on 01 July 2013.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his remarks at the launch of GII 2013, said : "Science, technology and innovation have played an enormous role in advancing health, education, sustainable energy and other development challenges. This year’s Global Innovation Index shows that the face of innovation in the twenty-first century is changing. Innovation is increasingly open, collaborative and international." 

The full GII 2013 report is available here.

Syariah Law in Brunei : "The penal code (Syariah Law) - with implementation starting six months from now - will prescribe stoning for adulterers, amputation for theft and flogging for drinking alcohol and for abortion."

His Majesty delivering his royal speech
Pic:BT/Saiful Omar

Said : His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darrusalam while delivering his royal speech at this year's Knowledge Convention yesterday, reported the Brunei Times.

The Brunei Times has reported that Brunei Darussalam is enforcing its first Syariah Penal Code six months from now. According to the news report, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darrusalam has announced that the Islamic laws will be introduced in a phased manner, punishing criminal offences such as theft, apostasy and illicit sexual relations, will come into force in six months. The Syariah penal code prescribes stoning for adulterers, amputation for theft and flogging for drinking alcohol and for abortion.

According to the newspaper, the Sultan made the announcement in his titah or royal speech during this year's Knowledge Convention (Majlis Ilmu) held on 23 October, 2013. The monarch officially signed the new legislation - the Syariah Penal Code - at the launch of the Knowledge Convention (Majlis Ilmu) 2013 yesterday. The code outlines the punishment for Hudud crimes, where punishment has been ordained by Al-Quran and the Sunnah (deeds and sayings) of Prophet Muhammad. Hudud crimes cover areas including theft, illicit sexual relations, making unproven accusations of illicit sex, causing physical hurt, drinking intoxicants, apostasy, and acts contrary to Islamic beliefs.
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan being briefed on one of the exhibits.
An exhibition held alongside the Knowledge Convention showed posters explaining certain penal codes to be carried out. The posters displayed a historical portrayal of how the Syariah Panel Code came into existence. There was also a demonstration of lashing carried out by prisons personnel where a dummy was struck with a cane, showing the proper movements and the specific measurements of the cane. (watch video here)

According to the Brunei Times, the legislation states any person that sells food, drink or tobacco for immediate consumption in a public place during fasting hours can be punished by a fine of up to $4,000 and/or a prison term not more than a year. Additionally, Muslims who insult, mock, or deny the teachings Al-Quran or hadith (traditions) of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) are liable to imprisonment of up to 30 years and 40 strokes of the cane. Other offences such as theft can be punishable by amputation of the right hand, if the property stolen amounts to/exceeds the nisab (required minimum value) and two credible witnesses besides the victim are produced. The recent ban on Muslim-owned restaurants serving food during the fasting hours of Ramadhan is covered by the Syariah law. Syariah law is generally confined to Muslims, but can extend to non-Muslims if they are involved in aiding or abetting an offence committed by a Muslim.

The Sultan, according to the newsreport, also said : “This Act without doubt, is now part of the great history of our nation. The code is a special guidance from Allah (SWT) to us all. Indeed this guidance is wholly Allah’s (SWT) right to bestow upon us. By the grace of Allah (SWT), with the coming into effect of this legislation, our duty to Allah (SWT) is therefore being fulfilled."

The monarch said the country will continue to plan and develop “in our own way” and that Syariah laws will guarantee justice and well-being for all Muslim citizens. “The step we are taking, does not in anyway change our policies. As a member of the family of nations, we will continue to work together with our friends wherever they may be, to establish more cordial and harmonious relationships based on mutual respect,” he added.

The State Mufti, following Sultan's announcement, said : "The Syariah law created by Allah (SWT) guarantees justice for everyone and safeguards their well-being. In his inaugural lecture at the Knowledge Convention, he said : "both Muslims and non-Muslims are protected under Islamic criminal law as it is all-encompassing and ensures justice as well as security for everyone," adding further that “The dzimmi, non-Muslims living in a Muslim territory, are never to be hurt, they are not to be tyrannised or persecuted by anyone; to do so is a sin,” citing a narration of Islam’s final messenger, Prophet Muhammad.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"It is alarming to hear the statements on the right to use military force to ensure one's own interests in the Middle East region under the pretext of the "remaining in demand for leadership" in the international affairs. All the recent history testifies that no State - no matter how big or powerful - can cope alone with the challenges of that scope faced by mankind today."

Sergey Lavrov, the Minister of
Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

Said : Sergey Lavrov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation at the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2013.

Lavrov said that the pace of developments in today's world is very rapid and less predictable as a result of which the international relations have become more complex and multi -dimensional. UN - a truly universal organization - only has the power to undertake the urgent task to agree upon collective responses to the key issues of today's globalized world. 

Lavrov observed that certain sections of the world community has a tendency to believe that the collective actions are those which are in agreement with the viewpoint of one particular group of countries. This could happen in various areas "on issues of international security, settlement of the conflict situations, functioning of the world economy, the choice of the development models and core values."

Aiming to hint and hit at the US approach, Lavrov said : "Recently, a common argument has been increasingly used to prove that the threat or use of force, directly prohibited by the UN Charter, is nearly the most effective method to address international problems, including settlement of national domestic conflicts. There are attempts to extrapolate such an approach also to the situation in Syria. This happens despite the fact that all the experience of such interventions with the use of force in the recent years has proven that they are ineffective, meaningless and destructive." 

However, Lavrov added that solidarity efforts might be productive only if they reflect all the spectrum of views of the international community on the global challenges and threats, all historical experience and all cultural and civilization diversity of the modern world.

Lavrov cited his leader President Vladimir Putin's remark made in a recent article published in the New York Times : "we must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement."

Full text of the speech made by Sergey Lavrov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, is available here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

China's rapid development over the years has given rise to worries that China might follow the old pattern of wealth breeding arrogance and strength leading to hegemony; and various versions of the China threat theory have surfaced. However, what happened in the past should not be applied to today's China. The outdated Cold-War mentality has no place in the new era of globalization.

Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs
of the People's Republic of China

Said : Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, at the General Debate of the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 27 September 2013.

Wang talked about two "centenary" goals of China's "new central collective leadership" for its 1.3 billion people. According to Wang, the first goal was to finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020 and the second one to turn China into a modern socialist country by the mid-21st century.

Wang declared China's commitment to pursuing peaceful development and also peaceful resolution of international and regional disputes. With regard to China's disputes with some countries over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, Wang said : "We sincerely hope to properly resolve them through negotiation and consultation with countries directly involved. Those disputes that cannot be resolved now can be shelved for future resolution. This is our consistent position and practice." He repeated China's commitment of working with others to establish, what he called "a new type of international relations based on win-win cooperation."

"On the other hand, we will, under whatever circumstances, firmly safeguard China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and resolutely uphold China's legitimate and lawful rights and interests," Wang asserted.

Calling the United Nations a big family, where people of all countries are brought together, Wang said that China would like to see a United Nations that plays a bigger role in international affairs. He said China had a consistent position that the purposes and principles of the UN Charter with regard to international relations as well as world peace and stability must be observed. Wang said : "Respecting national sovereignty and opposing interference in internal affairs, safeguarding peace and opposing aggression, and promoting equality and opposing power politics are important principles of the UN and must be observed." 

Wang assured that China would firmly fulfill its due international responsibilities and obligations, although China was still a developing country facing a daunting task of development. Wang said : "China, as the second biggest economy and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, is fully aware of its responsibilities and expectations placed on it by the international community."

Full text of the speech made by Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China, is available here.

We live in a world of imperfect choices. Different nations will not agree on the need for action in every instance, and the principle of sovereignty is at the center of our international order. But sovereignty cannot be a shield for tyrants to commit wanton murder, or an excuse for the international community to turn a blind eye.

Said : US President Barack Obama in his Address at the sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on 24 September 2013.

President Obama said that today's new generation of world leaders like us are facing new and profound challenges, and the United Nations, as a world body, continues to be tested. He acknowledged that the United Nations had, in fact, made a difference by its help and contribution to eradicate disease, to educating children, to brokering peace. But now the question is, Obama asked : "whether we possess the wisdom and the courage, as nation-states and members of an international community, to squarely meet those challenges; whether the United Nations can meet the tests of our time."

President Obama outlined U.S. policy towards the Middle East and North Africa, in clear terms, as under :
  • The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region.
  • We will confront external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War.
  • We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply, and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.
  • We will dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people. Wherever possible, we will build the capacity of our partners, respect the sovereignty of nations, and work to address the root causes of terror. But when it’s necessary to defend the United States against terrorist attack, we will take direct action.
  • And finally, we will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction. Just as we consider the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be a threat to our own national security, we reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region, and undermine the global nonproliferation regime.
President Obama's full speech is available here.

As many as 46 per cent of Chinese with assets worth more than RMB10 million (US$1.57 million) are considering moving abroad. Another 14 per cent have begun the process. Chinese people’s desire to emigrate stems from dissatisfaction with life in China and by the prospect of a better life abroad.

Said a study published by the Bank of China and Hurun Report. The first destination of their liking is Singapore due to its economic stability and high quality bilingual education system. Additional advantages of Singapore include its nearness to Beijing and the language. It takes just six hour to fly to Beijing and Mandarin is spoken almost everywhere in Singapore. Wealthy Chinese have perhaps no choice but to look beyond China because of the restrictions imposed on buying property in some 40 cities. There is also a limit on the number of houses that people can own and new property taxes have been introduced in major cities like Shanghai.

According to this study, High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs) in China, whose number has increased exponentially during the fast few years, have started feeling uncomfortable with the overall deteriorating quality of life in large cities and complaining about rising pollution and inadequate health care facilities. Surveys and visa numbers show that members of China's wealthy elite are heading for the exits in search of things money can't buy in China.

According to the Harun's 2013 Wealth Report there are 1.05 million millionaires (whose assets are more than 10 million RMB) while the number of super rich, whose assets are over 100 million, has reached 64,500. 
Students attend the commencement ceremony
for Green River Community College at the
ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington, on June 14
Deng Yu/China Daily

A large number for wealthy Chinese who plan to emigrate have already made investments abroad and sent their children for studies abroad. 80% Chinese rich want to send their children abroad for education most of them before they reach university age or senior high school level. The US, UK and Canada continue to remain top three destinations of their choice. The study observes that more people are also now choosing Switzerland, which has overtaken Australia, to the fourth place. Japan, on the other hand, has fallen out of the top 10. 

With regard increasing trend of emigration of Chinese rich, the report says : "Institutionalized corruption has created a culture of dishonesty and negligence that extends to hospitals and schools, where bribing doctors and teachers has become the norm. HNWIs’ greatest fear is that if the history repeats itself, and a redistribution of wealth is carried out (a worst-case scenario), then only international investments can protect their wealth." These fears emanate from the imagination that their country can face major political unrest in coming years.

However, in order to obtain Singaporean citizenship, or even residency, a family must invest 5 million Singaporean dollars (US$3.8 million) which is quite substantial. A large number of Chinese, therefore, are routing their emigration plans via two tiny island nation of St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean which offers cheaper citizenship plans through investment programs. St Kitts and Nevis is an independent Commonwealth Realm – like Australia – and its citizens enjoy the same visa-free travel to the UK, Ireland, Canada and all EU countries that Australians do. This option turns out to be quite attractive because Chinese passport holders face lot of travel restrictions by other countries as well as their own. St Kitts and Nevis citizenship, obtainable in just five months, provides them virtually visa-free travel.
Claire van den Heever

Buying government-approved real estate for between US$400,000 and US$1 million is one way to become a citizen of St Kitts and Nevis, but only a small proportion of people – estimated at 10 percent – tend to take that route because property in St Kitts and Nevis is overvalued. The more affordable, and equally quick and easy, process of obtaining citizenship is to make a once off donation of between US$200,000 and US$250,000 to a government approved project. This option is more popular and about 90 percent of applicants go for it. 

Mr Oleg Lemeshko, a consultant for immigration and second citizenship specialist, Elma Global, has been quoted saying that : "The most difficult decision Chinese nationals face is whether they are willing to give up the nationality they were born with; China does not recognize dual citizenship. Fortunately, this is not a dilemma that new St Kitts and Nevis citizens have to face. Unlike Singapore, St Kitts and Nevis does allow dual citizenship, leaving it up to Chinese nationals to report – or not to report – their newly acquired passport to the PRC."

"Increasing number of Chinese are buying homes in Phuket (Thailand) and Dubai also. Chinese rank sixth for the number of villa-style properties bought by foreigners in Dubai. In the eyes of mainland Chinese, Hong Kong is, perhaps, the least exotic of islands – after all, it is part of China. Getting their money out of China – insofar as “China” is a separate jurisdiction – is far more important to the super rich than moving there," writes Claire van den Heever in her article

American real estate market, which is one of the most transparent in the world, also presents opportunities for wealthy Chinese. In fact, they have been buying residential properties in the U.S. for a number of years now, largely in cash, recently more and more Chinese real estate investors are thinking in terms of yields and returns, and considering commercial real estate. Number of EB-5 visas issued has nearly doubled each year since 2009, in large part because of demand from wealthy Chinese. But that's also led to rising fraud. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, which oversees the program, about 80% of the 7,641 EB-5 visas issued in the last fiscal year went to Chinese investors and their immediate families. However, many scams have been reported that are blocking Chinese investors' path to U.S. green cards.

The U.S., Canada and Britain, as well as smaller nations like the Caribbean islands of Antigua and St. Kitts, all encourage applications. Still, these programs can be both expensive and difficult to navigate. Applicants who made their start-up capital in the heady and legally ambiguous days of privatization can be the hardest to explain. Chinese HNWIs almost always want to chose U.S. citizenship for their children and have a strong desire, to have children educated in the United States. Most wealthy Chinese say they want a safe refuse overseas because they fear they will the targets of public or government anger if there were any major social unrest in China. There is also a perception that their wealth will be better protected in countries with a stronger rule of law.
Pic : U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services poster

According to a recent newsreport in the Daily Mail, "Rich Chinese couples are paying as much as $120,000 for 'designer' American babies to help get Green Cards and to bypass their nation's restrictive 'One Child' policy." Wealthy Chinese are hiring American women to serve as surrogates for their children. Chinese elite who want a baby outside the country's restrictive family planning policies, who are unable to conceive themselves, or who are seeking U.S. citizenship for their children are increasingly using the services offered by various surrogacy agencies in China and the United States. Emigration as a family is another draw - U.S. citizens may apply for Green Cards for their parents when they turn 21."

Currently 3.6 million Chinese people live in the United States - 430,000 of them in the San Francisco Bay Area. That is more than 1 percent of the U.S. population.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The bionic man is built entirely out of synthetic body parts from 17 manufacturers around the world by assembling them together for the first time. The robot has about 60 to 70% of the function of a human. It stands six-and-a-half feet tall and can step, sit, stand and talk. It also has a functioning heart that, using an electronic pump, beats and circulates artificial blood, which carries oxygen just like human blood. An artificial, implantable kidney, meanwhile, replaces the function of a modern-day dialysis unit.

The Incredible Bionic Man : On display in
"Moving Beyond Earth" through December 11

Said : Rich Walker, Managing Director of London based Shadow Robot Company. According to the company's website, Shadow was the technical consultant for the project, responsible for designing the Bionic Man and the integration of parts from high-end manufacturers. Assembly began in August 2012 and took three months to finish.  The bionic man is the first-ever walking, talking “robot” or artificial “man” with a human face. The latest vision recognition algorithms from Shadow’s research projects were used, allowing the “Bionic Man” to locate, move to and grasp objects. The robot has a motionless face and virtually no skin. It is controlled remotely from a computer, and bluetooth wireless connections are used to operate its limbs.  "The people who made it decided to program it with the personality of a 13-year-old boy from the Ukraine," Walker said. "So, he's not really the most polite of people to have a conversation with."

A documentary titled The artificial "man" can be accessed on the Smithsonian Channel - a part of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum where the bionic man is on display in "Moving Beyond Earth" through December 11 to showcase medical breakthroughs in bionic body parts and artificial organs. The Smithsonian Channel have put together a great interactive timeline entitled Rise of the Robots: A Sci-Fi History of Mechanical Men & Hybrid Humans, which includes Shadow's E1 Dexterous hand and the Bionic Man.

The video, here, produced by Troy Hauschild and titled "Explore the Million Dollar Man", shows the bionic man with an artificial heart capable of pumping 2.5 gallons of blood per minute. 

Rich Walker was at Comi-Con in New York last week to promote the Incredible Bionic Man built by Shadow Robot Company. Watch the video here to see Rich explaining the project to Mike Gambino from SilverCheeseTV.

Other video worth watching are : 

The Incredible Bionic Man : Meet the Bionic Man: a talking, breathing, walking man, made of the best prosthetic body parts and robotic technology available. 

The Incredible Bionic Man : Bringing the Incredible Bionic Man to Life

England's 'Bionic Man' Visits U.S.

Friday, October 18, 2013

I was always honest; I know I can never be otherwise. I was never able to persuade myself to use money which I had acquired in questionable ways.

Samuel Langhorne Clemens 
(Nov 30, 1835 – Apr 21, 1910), 
better known by his pen name 
Mark Twain, was an American 
author and humorist

Said : Mark Twain, America's most famous literary icon, in The Autobiography of Mark Twain citing an incident from his real life when he had absolutely no money and was struggling to find work. 

Mark Twain began to gain fame when his story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches," priced $1.25" was published - on a ten percent royalty - with the help of his friend Charles H. Webb whom he had known in San Francisco as a reporter on The Bulletin and afterwards editor of The Californian.

In the meantime, American Publishing Company of Hartford offered Mark Twain five percent royalty (or ten thousand dollars lump sum cash) on a book which would tell the adventures of his sailing in the Quaker City excursion. Twain closed the deal with the option of royalty and went to Washington. "I was out of money and I went down to Washington to see if I could earn enough there to keep me in bread and butter while I wrote the book," writes Twain in the Autobiography.

Twain then gives details of how he met William Swinton, whom he describes "one of the dearest and loveliest human beings I have ever known," and together they 'invented a scheme' which is a very common feature called the 'syndicate' in today's newspaper world. Hence, their's was the first original newspaper syndicate in the world. Describing their 'small scale untried new enterprise', Mark Twain writes : "We had twelve journals on our list; they were all weeklies, unknown and poor and scattered far away in the settlements. It was a proud thing for those little newspapers to have a Washington correspondent and a fortunate thing for us that they felt in that way about it. Each of the twelve took two letters a week from us, at a dollar per letter; each of us wrote one letter per week and sent off twelve copies of it to the journals, thus getting twenty­four dollars a week to live on, which was all we needed in our cheap and humble quarters.

He then describes how he spent a day when all of a sudden they wanted just three dollars but had none. 

"We had to have three dollars and we had to have it before the close of the day. I don’t know now how we happened to want all that money at one time; I only know we had to have it. Swinton told me to go out and find it and he said he would also go out and see what he could do. He didn’t seem to have any doubt that we would succeed but I knew that that was his religion working in him; I hadn’t the same confidence; I hadn’t any idea where to turn to raise all that money, and I said so. I think he was ashamed of me, privately, because of my weak faith. He told me to give myself no uneasiness, no concern; and said in a simple, confident and unquestioning way, “The Lord will provide.” I saw that he fully believed the Lord would provide but it seemed to me that if he had had my experience—but never mind that; before he was done with me his strong faith had had its influence and I went forth from the place almost convinced that the Lord really would provide.

I wandered around the streets for an hour, trying to think up some way to get that money, but nothing suggested itself. At last I walked into the Ebbitt Hotel, and sat down. Presently a dog came over to me. He paused, glanced up at me and said with his eyes, “Are you friendly?” I answered with my eyes that I was. He waved his tail happily and came forward and rested his head on my knee and lifted his brown eyes to my face in a loving way. He was a charming creature, as beautiful as a girl, and he was all made of silk and velvet. I stroked his smooth brown head and we were a pair of lovers right away. Pretty soon Brig. Gen. Miles, the hero of the land, came walking by in his blue and gold uniform, with everybody’s admiring gaze upon him. He saw the dog and stopped, and there was a light in his eye which showed that he had a warm place in his heart for dogs like this gracious creature; then he came forward and patted the dog and said: 

“He is very fine—he is a wonder; would you sell him?”

I was greatly moved; it seemed a marvelous thing to me, the way Swinton’s faith had worked out.

I said, “Yes.”

The General said, “What do you ask for him?”

“Three dollars.”

The General was obviously surprised. He said, “Three dollars? Only three dollars? Why that dog is a most uncommon dog; he can’t possibly be worth less than fifty. If he were mine, I wouldn’t take a hundred for him. I am afraid you are not aware of his value. Reconsider your price if you like. I don’t wish to wrong you. 

“But if he had known me he would have known that I was no more capable of wronging him than he was of wronging me. I replied: “No, three dollars. That is his price.”

“Very well, since you insist upon it,” said the General, and he gave me three dollars and led the dog away and disappeared upstairs.

In about ten minutes a gentle ­faced, middle ­aged gentleman came along and began to look around here and there and under tables and everywhere and I said to him, “Is it a dog you are looking for?”

His face had been sad before and troubled; but it lit up gladly now and he answered, “Yes—have you seen him?”

“Yes,” I said, “he was here a minute ago and I saw him follow a gentleman away. I think I could find him for you if you would like me to try.” I have seldom seen a person look so grateful. He said that he would like me to try. I said I would do it with great pleasure but that as it might take a little time I hoped he would not mind paying me something for my trouble. He said he would do it most gladly—repeating that phrase “most gladly”—and asked me how much.

I said, “Three dollars.”

He looked surprised, and said, “Dear me, it is nothing! I will pay you ten, quite willingly.”

But I said, “ No, three is the price,” and I started for the stairs without waiting for any further argument, for Swinton had said that that was the amount the Lord would provide and it seemed to me that it would be wrong to take a penny more than was promised.

I got the number of the General’s room from the office clerk and when I reached the room I found the General there petting his dog and quite happy. I said, “I am sorry, but I have to take the dog again.”

He seemed very much surprised and said, “Take him again? Why, he is my dog; you sold him to me and at your own price.”

“Yes,” I said, “it is true—but I have to have him, because the man wants him again.”

“What man?”

“The man that owns him; he wasn’t my dog.”

The General looked even more surprised than before, and for a moment he couldn’t seem to find his voice; then he said, “Do you mean to tell me that you were selling another man’s dog—and knew it?”

“Yes, I knew it wasn’t my dog.”

“Then why did you sell him?”

I said, “Well, that is a curious question to ask. I sold him because you wanted him. You offered to buy the dog; you can’t deny that. I was not anxious to sell him—I had not even thought of selling him, but it seemed to me that—”

He broke me off in the middle and said, “It is the most extraordinary thing I have ever heard of—the idea of your selling a dog that didn’t belong to you—”

I broke him off there and said, “You said yourself that the dog was probably worth a hundred dollars. I only asked you three; was there anything unfair about that? You offered to pay more, you know you did. I only asked you three; you can’t deny it.”

“Oh, what in the world has that to do with it! The truth of the matter is that you didn’t own the dog—can’t you see that? You seem to think that there is nothing wrong in selling property that isn’t yours provided you sell it cheap. Now then—”

I said, “Please don’t argue any more about it. You can’t get around the fact that the price was perfectly fair, perfectly reasonable—considering that I didn’t own the dog—and so arguing about it is only a waste of words. I have to have him back again because the man wants him; don’t you see that I haven’t any choice in the matter? Put yourself in my place. Suppose you had sold a dog that didn’t belong to you; suppose you—”

“Oh,” he said, “don’t mix me up any more with your crazy reasonings! Take him along and give me a rest.”

So I paid back the three dollars and led the dog downstairs and passed him over to his owner and collected three for my trouble. I went away then with a good conscience, because I had acted honorably; I never could have used the three that I sold the dog for, because it was not rightly my own, but the three I got for returning him to his rightful owner was rightly and properly mine, because I had earned it. That man might never have gotten that dog back at all, if it hadn’t
been for me. My principles have remained to this day what they were then. I was always honest; I know I can never be otherwise. It is as I said in the beginning—I was never able to persuade myself to use money which I had acquired in questionable ways.

Now then, that is the tale. Some of it is true."

The Autobiography of Mark Twain (From the Preface)

In this Autobiography, I shall keep in mind the fact that I am speaking from the grave…. I shall be dead when the book issues from the press…. It seemed to me that I could be as frank and free as in a love letter if I knew that what I was writing would be exposed to no eye until I was dead, and unaware, and indifferent.
- Mark Twain