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Somali Pirates and Abu Sayyaf – Paying Bad Guys Doesn’t Work

Having made millions from ransoms in recent years, Somali pirate gangs are using increasingly sophisticated boats and radar equipments to spot, chase and capture other vessels. On average a ship is attacked every day. About one attack in seven in successful. That’s a ship seized every week. Payment of ransoms has changed a few ratbags in fishing boats to highly trained and well equipped mega-ratbags.

Good luck to this US crew who recaptured their vessel. Their captain is still being held, and US and other warships are on their way to try make sure he is returned safely.

Money paid in ransoms to Abu Sayyaf in the Southern Phillipines has helped them build up arms. Even more importantly it has helped them build support. They are able to give food, medicines, etc to villagers and make themselves look like the good guys. They are not the good guys.

The two remaining Red Cross hostages are still being held. The Red Cross has refused to consider a $5 million ransom demand – a terribly hard choice, but the right choice – and the military is refusing to pull back further, saying to do so will enable the kidnappers to escape or to obtain reinforcements or supplies.

It’s a dangerous time for the hostages, and a sad and worrying time for their friends and families. If no ransoms had ever been paid to Abu Sayyaf, it might also never have happened.

Three Interesting Lists

The top 100 films (listed by genre) – a Guinness list. I have seen all of them except a couple of the silent films. Plenty of room for debate in this list. I might have put John Carpenter’s The Thing in horror instead of The Shining. Although I like Kubrick, that film always seemed to me to lack substance somehow. Return of the King deserves a place in fantasy too.

The top ten famous movie quotes – another Guinness list. I didn’t get 5, 7 or 10.

Ten mysteries recently solved by science (not necessarily mysteries in science). 

Courtney Love Ripped Off for Over $700 Million

That’s about $45 million in cash and $700 million in real estate. She didn’t notice the money was going until there wasn’t any left.

This is the estate left by Curt Cobain to Courtney Love and their daughter Frances Bean Cobain.

I am baffled for two reasons. First, how do you just ‘lose’ $700 million without even noticing? Didn’t she have accountants? What were they doing? What was she doing?

And secondly, Curt Cobain and Nirvana were only around for about five years. They produced some great songs, and Curt Cobain was a capable and intelligent singer and songwriter. But an estate worth $700 million? That is just mind boggling. I think I want to be a pop star.

Varied Responses to Barack Obama. From ‘Non’ and ‘Nein’ to ‘No’

And yet, the things the Europeans said ‘no’ to were things I would have said ‘yes’ to.

Namely, a stronger response to North Korea’s missile launch (which was meant to be threatening, demonstrated an ability to strike as far Alaska and Australia, and has been backed up by more threats), and more troops (in fact a surge) in Afghanistan, with the hope that that will lead to a stronger and more stable government.

This comment comes from the Telegraph article linked to above: Fortunately for the President, the Republican opposition is more loyal than was the Democratic opposition to Bush. John McCain has backed Obama’s Afghanistan policy, and conservative commentators, although more than a little annoyed by the President’s rubbishing of his own country in order to pander to European and Muslim audiences, are supporting him.  Democrats in Congress are sullen but not (yet) mutinous.

I think the anonymous ‘conservative colleague’ is probably right about increasing problems for EU economies, and decreasing EU influence on global matters, over the next few years.

Education Tax Refund

I only heard of this today. Australian parents and caregivers can get back up to 50% of the cost of eligible education expenses for primary and secondary schooling. The link is worth following if you live in Australia and have children at school.

Eligible expenses includes computers and related equipment, computer repairs, internet costs, etc.

It might do my business some good, so I’m not going to complain.

But that money given back to some means more money taken from others. Or reduced government spending elsewhere.

OK, so that’s not likely. You’re right. It’s going to come out of your pocket.

Global Warming – a Brief Inroduction

I have just uploaded a brief introductory essay called Profits of Doom – An Introduction to Global Warming. Left click the link to open the PDF file in a new tab, or right click to save. There are quite a few graphs and photos. The file is about 1MB.

This was written just over a year ago as notes to accompany a PowerPoint presentation . There are few minor things I would change now. But I think it is still a good introduction.

Interesting to hear Peter Garrett say that he ‘knows’ changes in the Wilkins Ice Shelf are caused by global warming. Of course the world has been getting cooler for the last ten years, and during these Autumn months it is getting much cooler in the Antarctic. Like, actually, you know, cold. Below zero and stuff. But hey, don’t let the facts stop you. They certainly don’t get in the way of the EU.

Barack Obama Won’t Visit Normandy to Avoid Upsetting Germany

It’s 65 years since the landing at Omaha Beach in Normandy. Over 9,000 Americans are buried at the American cemetary there, including the eldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt.

President Sarkozy invited President Obama to visit while he is in Europe for the NATO summit. French and US officials walked through the cemetary to plan how Obama and Sarkozy could travel the same route.

But according to White House officials, it was never going to happen anyway.

“It wasn’t going to happen,” said an American official in Washington. “We went through the motions to placate President Sarkozy but giving special treatment to France was not on our agenda.”

I don’t know who should be more insulted – US veterans or the French. Or maybe the Germans – because it is surely insulting to think they would have been insulted by a US president visiting a US war cemetary.

What’s next? Not visiting Auschwitz because he doesn’t want to upset Iran?

Breastfeeding Mum Too Drunk for Breath Test

Oh dear.

A 19 year old woman drives her car out of a hotel car park into the path of a police vehicle. She is breast feeding her baby son, who is unrestrained. She is so drunk she cannot breathe properly into the breath testing device. In addition, she is already disqualified from driving, and the car she is driving is unregistered.

Police Superintendent Jamie Chalker said: “I find it increasingly frustrating that people show so little responsibility for their actions, but this is without a doubt one of the most stupid and reckless actions I’ve come across. People must take responsibility for their loved ones when they are clearly unable to make rational decisions for their own safety, the safety of others and the risk they pose to the general public.”

I agree. She’s an idiot. And in some ways symbolic of the whole ‘You can’t make me, I can do what I like’ attitude (which is perhaps why this story has got such wide publicity). But surely she wasn’t the only one who was irresponsible that night. Did she not have any friends? Was she drinking alone? And if she was so drunk she couldn’t give a breath sample, why were hotel staff still giving her drinks?

Government to Spend $43 Billion On Internet Infrastructure

National broadband gets the go ahead, but the government will do it itself. There are already some criticisms.

 No time to write in detail about this today, but a few questions spring to mind.

If the Federal Government has over $2,000 to spend for every man, woman and child in Australia, is this the best way to spend it?

Why does this require government intervention at all? If the government couldn’t find any corporate groups willing to invest in optical fibre technology on this scale, what makes them think they can do it 1) at all, and 2) at a profit?

When other nations are moving to high speed wireless (or satellite for remote regions) why are we even considering embarking on massively costly door to door fibre optic cabling?

This would have been exciting ten years ago. Or even five ears ago. But now – this is a horribly overpriced sytem which will be out of date before it is even completed.

New Zealand’s Murder Rate Halved in Last 20 years

Murder rates in Australian have moved up and down at about the same time, in about the same way. 

That’s interesting, because as this NZ Herald article points out, most people believe that crime rates, and especially rates of violent crime, are increasing.

People think there is more violent crime because we see so much more violence than we did. Without the media you could live a lifetime and never hear of anyone being murdered. Most of us will go through our lives without anyone close to us being a victim of violent crime. But we see violent crime everyday on the news and in TV shows and movies. So our perception is that the world around us is much more dangerous than it is.

These results confirms that media has a strong influence, compared with our own experience, on our beliefs about levels of crime:

An institute survey of 1400 people in four parts of New Zealand – including South Auckland – found that 80 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the country’s crime rate was rising. Only 4 per cent disagreed. Yet the same survey – which has yet to be published – found that only a quarter of the people surveyed believed crime was rising in their own neighbourhoods.

Increasing urbanisation, and desensitisation to violence with the rise of TV, may have contributed to the rise in murder rates from about 1970. But what has caused the recent decline?