Wednesday, November 13, 2013

“The Indian Ocean will be the true nexus of world power and conflict in the coming years”

Robert David Kaplan

Said : Robert David Kaplan, an American journalist, in his book 'Mansoon' as reported by  his colleague Antonia Colibasanu in her post of Nov. 11, 2013 titled "India: the Pivot of the 21st Century."

Antonia describes the recent meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, China and India - on Nov. 10 on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting - as noteworthy especially since the three countries’ prime ministers have recently held bilateral meetings. She has linked this meeting between Sergei Lavrov, Salman Khurshid and Wang Yi in New Delhi with the growing importance of the Indian Ocean in the global politics of the 21st century. She feels that India has the strategic importance in the Indian Ocean geography and can be termed as "the natural pivot state of our century."

According to Antonia : "China’s interest in deepwater ports in friendly countries along the Indian Ocean coastline is notable and worthy of monitoring, as Beijing seeking to consolidate a presence it can use for civilian and military purposes. This aligns with the strategy China is pursuing in the South China Sea." She quotes Kaplan, who notes : “China, through the combination of its economic and military power, will undermine the sovereignty of countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore, all of which are de facto or de jure U.S. allies.”

Kaplan, in his guest lecture at the Carnegie Council's Public Affairs Program on November 1, 2010, spoke on his book "Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power." His remarks provide a good base of Antnia's observations in her blog. Kalpan, concluding his lecture, had said : "Vietnam looks like it will emerge like France or England in the 20th century, as a major ally of the United States in the South China Sea. The South China Sea will be somewhat of a diplomatic battleground. Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and other countries, all have claims over it. The world we are entering in is going to be one of a kind of Metternichian balance of power, where India, China, the United States, Vietnam, and other countries will leverage and cooperate with each other in some points, come into conflict in others. It will be a world where the center of strategic gravity will move from Europe to the southern rim land of Eurasia."

Robert D. Kaplan is Chief Geopolitical Analyst for Stratfor, a private global intelligence firm, and a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. He has been a foreign correspondent for The Atlantic for over a quarter century. He is the author of 14 books on foreign affairs and travel translated into many languages. Kaplan was chosen by Foreign Policy magazine as among the world’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers".

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"The one sure prediction : All predictions will be proven wrong"

Prof. Henry Kautz

Said : Prof. Henry Kautz - Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Director of the Rochester Data Science Institute at the University of Rochester - speaking on the impact of AI on society during the IJCAI-13, the Twenty-third International Conference on Artificial Intelligence held in Beijing, China from August 3-9, 2013.

According to Kautz's presentation, technology is shaping society… by making it fatter. He presented a slide showing the rapid rise in the rate of obesity, especially in the technologically developed countries. 

"We are remarkably bad at predicting the form technology will take, and how it will change our lives. We rarely envision the actual as even one of the possible futures," he said in relation to being pessimistic about predicting the future. "Future must be almost upon us before we can see it coming providing us a short window to act to change the outcome," he added.
Kautz illustrated several pros and cons if Artificial Intelligence (AI) was achieved. He concluded showing the following slide.

Monday, November 4, 2013

“Please, open your markets. Invest in Pakistan. Make profits, and help drive our economic development.”

Foreign Minister Westerwelle with Chief Minister
Sharif, State Secretary Herkes of the Federal
Economics Ministry and Stefan Dircks of the
Association of German Chambers of
Commerce and Industry (DIHK)

Said : Chief Minister of Punjab, Pakistan, Shahbaz Sharif (Brother of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) on October 30, 2013 at the launch of 'Pakistan Days' in Berlin - an event in organized by the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Pakistan German Business Forum.

According to Germany's Federal Foreign Office, more than 300 participants from Pakistan and Germany gathered at the House of German Business in Berlin to work together on deepening German‑Pakistan trade relations. The discussions centered on the search for new markets and fresh opportunities open to investors and businesses in the two countries.

The German Foreign Minister Westerwelle advised the Government of Pakistan to "continue its reform policy, even if some of the necessary steps will be unpopular, like raising the tax base or restructuring public enterprises.”

Germany is an important market for Pakistan’s businesses selling medical instruments and jewelry as well as textiles and agricultural products.

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.