Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fascinating Year 2008

China hosted the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games from August 8-24, 2008. A total of an estimated US$42 billion was spent, making it the most expensive games ever. The Olympic games showed the world that China has finally come of age. The Communist China dazzled it's economic might causing some angst in the West. The western world who always saw that democracy and free enterprise exist hand in hand are forced to accept the emergence of Communist China as an economic and military super power.

According to a USNews report, China is teaching the West something new. Its economy, growing at 9 percent per year, will most likely become the second largest in the world by 2020, behind only the United States.

Americans continue to spend billions more on Chinese goods than the Chinese spent on U.S. products. And that gap has been growing by more than 25 percent per year, as China moves from building toys into more-sophisticated appliances, auto parts, and semiconductors. China's consumer class, meanwhile, is spending like lottery winners on everything from bagels to Bentleys--and will soon outnumber the entire U.S. population. China's explosive growth "could be the dominant event of this century," says Stapleton Roy, former U.S. ambassador to China. "Never before has a country risen as fast as China is doing."

The year 2008 has shown the policy makers and countries of the world that everyone lives in a truly global community. The startling financial crisis that started in US due to the subprime lending has quickly spread to other economies. Lehman Brothers, a global investment bank became the largest bankruptcy filing in the US history totalling over $600 billion in assets.

The American economy is built on credit. Credit is a great tool when used wisely. For instance, credit can be used to start or expand a business, which can create jobs. It can also be used to purchase large ticket items such as houses or cars. Again, more jobs are created and people’s needs are satisfied. But in the last decade, credit went unchecked, and it got out of control.

Mortgage brokers, acting only as middle men, determined who got loans, then passed on the responsibility for those loans on to others in the form of mortgage backed assets (after taking a fee for themselves originating the loan). Exotic and risky mortgages became commonplace and the brokers who approved these loans absolved themselves of responsibility by packaging these bad mortgages with other mortgages and reselling them as “investments.”

The United States treasury has committed US $700 billion as a rescue fund to prop up financial lenders. While the Treasury Secretary Mr Paul Hanson, a respected Wall Street veteran was criticised on the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Treasury secretary’s supporters point to failures that were averted – including Bear Stearns, Fannie and Freddie, and AIG, the insurance giant.

As markets around the world felt the impact of the financial crisis, the FTSE Asia Pacific index dropped by more than 43 per cent in value – its worst annual loss since the benchmark started in the 1980s.

Students of the markets say the only recent parallel with the current turmoil is Japan in the 1990s, but other than that they have had to study the 1930s, the Great Depression.

Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Fed, spent years as an academic studying the Great Depression and his actions over the past six months have been interpreted as a sign that he is determined the lessons from the past should be understood.

America and the world are looking upon US president-elect Barack Obama, the first black president to create the jobs, spur economic growth and make the world a more peaceful place.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Man's search for meaning

Victor Frankl who wrote about the Holocaust survivors in his book 'Man's Search for Meaning," said this:

"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of human freedoms- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances- to choose one's way."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Understanding brain based education

The brain based learning theory is based on the structure and function of the brain.
How the brain works has a significant impact on what kinds of learning activities are most effective. Educators need to help students have appropriate experiences and capitalize on those experiences.

More on understanding brain based education here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

US liberal icon Ted Kennedy's latest battle

The United States Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy suffered a seizure Saturday and has since been hospitalized at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital, who were investigating the cause of a seizure that Kennedy, 76, suffered at his Cape Cod compound on Saturday, said preliminary results from a biopsy of the brain had revealed that the senator has a malignant glioma in the left parietal lobe, the upper left part of his brain. News of the brain tumor surprised people in Washington, Massachusetts and beyond, generating reaction around the world, where Kennedy's family legacy and his 46 years in the Senate have made him a well-known figure. More on this news and responses from US leaders..

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Oil to reach $200 a barrel

Analyst Arjun Murti on writes, crude oil prices could surge to $200 a barrel in the next two years, according to the Goldman Sachs analyst who three years ago correctly predicted a price “super-spike” above $100 a barrel.

The warning by Arjun Murti came as oil prices hit a fresh high above $122 a barrel, boosted by supply disruptions in Nigeria, lower output in Russia and continued robust demand in China ahead of the Olympics.

Mr Murti said the energy crisis could be coming to a head as a lack of adequate supply growth was becoming apparent.

He said: “The possibility of $150-$200 per barrel seems increasingly likely over the next six to 24 months.”


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Asian states hit by global rice shortage

Asian countries have been struggling to cope as the cost of rice has reached record levels.

The price of the staple crop has risen by as much as 70% during the last year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), with increases accelerating in recent weeks

Rice prices hit the $1,000-a-tonne level for the first time on Thursday as panicking importers scrambled to secure supplies, exacerbating the tightness already provoked by export restrictions in Vietnam, India, Egypt, China and Cambodia.

The jump came as the Philippines, the largest rice importer, failed for the fourth time to secure as much rice as it wanted.

The unsuccessful tender followed Bangladesh’s inability to buy any rice at all this week.

The global agricultural crisis is threatening to become a political one, pitting the United States and other developed countries against the developing world over the need for affordable food versus the need for renewable energy.

Many poorer nations worry that subsidies from rich countries to support biofuels, which turn food, like corn, into fuel, are pushing up the price of staplesThe World Bank and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization both called on major agricultural countries to overhaul policies to avoid a social explosion from rising food prices.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Looming crisis of $1 trillion

Worldwide losses from the American credit crisis could near $1 trillion, the International Monetary Fund said yesterday, reflecting the massive cost of the breakdown in markets for home mortgages and other kinds of debt.

There was a recent report that the problem of the defaults on sub prime loans was two fold: first, mortgage companies lending money based on the financial statement made by the buyer and second; the falsification of income by the buyer.

This means that lending agencies allowed loans to home buyers who were not credit worthy and the risk of defaulting was very high when they borrowed the money.

Now the inevitable huge bankruptcies of home buyers in America has led to major financial meltdown in the United States with severe negative implications in the global financial markets.

The IMF estimated that banks, insurance companies, pension funds, and other kinds of investors will suffer huge losses: $565 billion on U.S. home mortgages, $240 billion on debt backed by commercial real estate such as office buildings and shopping centers, $120 billion on corporate loans such as those used to acquire businesses, and $20 billions on consumer loans such as credit cards.

Those figures add up to $945 billion in losses expected within two years. That would be about $143 for every person on Earth, or $3,100 for every U.S. resident.

Irresponsible behaviour of people borrowing, banks lending without sufficient credit checks and lack of adequate oversight by the US government has unleashed gigantic financial looses, the full extent of the pain and dislocation is hard to comprehend as yet.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

ADB warns over increasing inflation in Asia

The Asian Development Bank (ABD) has warned that inflation will reach its highest level in a decade in most of Asia this year, threatening to reverse recent gains in productivity as well as creating fiscal strains for governments that provide massive subsidies for fuel and food.

The ADB haslowered its economic growth forecasts for the region as a global slowdown weighs on exports and expansions in China and India cool.

Bloomberg reports that Asia excluding Japan is predicted to expand 7.6 percent this year, less than a September estimate of 8.2 percent, the Manila-based institution said in a report today. The economies grew 8.7 percent in 2007, the fastest clip in almost two decades.

Central banks will pursue policies to quell inflation rather than spur economic growth, the ADB said, the second organization this week after the World Bank to warn of the threat of rising energy and food prices to the region. China will implement a ``tight'' monetary policy this year, the government's State Council said yesterday.

``The major risk lies not so much in softer growth but in rising commodity prices and accelerating inflation,'' the ADB said. ``Appropriate macroeconomic responses to accelerating inflation are likely to include tighter monetary policy and some exchange-rate appreciation.''

Crude oil rose to a record $111.80 a barrel last month, while prices of food staples including rice, wheat and soybeans and palm oil have surged amid increased demand and higher fuel and freight costs.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Death of global free market capitalism?

Remember Friday March 14 2008: it was the day the dream of global free- market capitalism died. For three decades we have moved towards market-driven financial systems. By its decision to rescue Bear Stearns, the Federal Reserve, the institution responsible for monetary policy in the US, chief protagonist of free-market capitalism, declared this era over.

It showed in deeds its agreement with the remark by Josef Ackermann, chief executive of Deutsche Bank, that “I no longer believe in the market’s self-healing power”. Deregulation has reached its limits.

Read the full article. "The rescue of Bear Stearns marks liberalisation’s limit"
By Martin Wolf published on Financial Times.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Gloom for the Bear

The shocking collapse of one of America's biggest investment bank Bear Stearns is a sobering reminder of just how quickly a Wall Street firm can lose the confidence of investors, traders, and other institutions.

In a deal reached on Sunday to save Bear Stearns, JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay a mere $2 a share to buy all of Bear — which a little over a year ago was trading for as high as $170 a share.

As part of the watershed deal, JPMorgan and the Federal Reserve will guarantee the huge trading obligations of the troubled firm, which was driven to the brink of bankruptcy by what amounted to a run on the bank.

A week before the dramatic announcement, Bear executives were talking about how the firm was poised to report a profitable first quarter, after the firm posted its first quarterly loss in its history in the fourth quarter. But in the span of seven days, Bear went from being Wall Street's fifth largest firm to another in a long line of investment firms to bite the dust.

The purchase price offered by JPMorgan is an indication of just how far things have fallen at Bear, which a year ago helped spark the sub prime meltdown with the collapse of its two big hedge funds.

It appears that the housing mortgage crisis in America has taken down a giant victim. Nervous employees will now be scratching their heads as many of them will laid off with this merger. This is how the free market works and such cyclical ups and downs are part of the business process.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Faces of Innovation at ETech

From left: David Pescovitz, Xeni Jardin, Cory Doctorow and Mark Frauenfelder

Photo: Dave Bullock/

According to, this wily gang of web renegades runs, one of the world’s most popular blogs (according to Technorati). Boing Boing started two decades ago as a paper-based magazine. If something rad is happening on the net, Boing Boing will feature it.

They are featured in this picture attending the O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference which brings some of the brightest minds in the online world together every year for four days of talks, panels and workshops.

Friday, February 15, 2008

US mortgage crisis affects bond markets

The recapitalization of U.S. bond insurers hit by the subprime crisis may occur soon, but if it fails, insurers can be forced to separate riskier activities from their municipal bonds business, New York state officials said on Thursday.
"The clear preference is a recapitalization of the companies, something that could happen at some point. We would hope shortly," Gov. Eliot Spitzer told reporters after testifying before a U.S. House Financial Services subcommittee about the state of the bond insurance industry.

Lawmakers have said government intervention may be needed to ease financial strains in the bond industry that are unsettling other areas of the economy.

While one major U.S. bond insurer cautioned members of a House subcommittee against stricter government rules or a bailout, another saw its credit rating cut over worries it may lack the reserve cash to cover surging defaults.

An offshoot of the mortgage crisis, the dislocation in the bond insurance industry is spreading beyond Wall Street, threatening the cost of financing everything from student loans to public works projects, officials say.

Credit-rating agency Moody's Investors Service on Thursday downgraded from "AAA" to "A3" securities of Financial Guaranty Insurance Co., saying it does not have enough capital in reserve to cover a potential spike in claims. Bond insurers essentially need a "AAA" rating to continue writing new business.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Alarming report on mental health

A government policy launched in the 1980s namely deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill has been called a failed experiment by the British Columbia's Premier Gordon Campbell who was elected in 2001. The increasing problem of the mentally ill came out in an investigative report by the police that revealed a third of all police calls deal with the mentally ill.

The mayor of Vancouver says he's not surprised the police research report. But Mayor Sam Sullivan says he's still shocked by the actual number of such calls and the amount of resources Vancouver police have to devote to dealing with mentally ill people.

This is the result of a dysfunctional health system which refuses to treat mentally ill who aren't off drugs. The Mayor said that many of those the police encounter should be in institutions and not on the street. Due to the lack of institutional capacity, Vancouver's mentally ill are roaming the streets posing a danger to either themselves or others.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dr. Kalam's inspiring message

Former Indian President A P J Abdul Kalam has given the following message to Rediff, as India celebrates the nation's Republic Day on 26th January 2008.

1. Wherever I am, a thought will always come to my mind -- *What can I give?*

2. Whatever the mission I will do, my motto will be *to work with integrity and succeed with integrity.*

3. I will always remember that *my winged days, be not spent in vain*.

4. I realise I have to set a great goal that will *lead me to think high*, work and realise the goal.

5. My greatest friends will be *great human beings, great teachers and great books*.

6. I will firmly believe that no problem can defeat me; *I will become the captain of the problem, defeat the problem and succeed.*

7. My National Flag flies in my heart and I will bring glory to my nation.

Source: Rediff.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Critical Suharto recieves graft settlement offer

Former Indonesian President Suharto, who ruled the Southeast Asian nation for 32 years, was offered an out-of-court $1.5 billion settlement of civil corruption lawsuits against him as the 86-year-old lay in hospital fighting for his life.

The settlement of the civil case against Mr.Suharto is based on allegations that he embezzled money from a charity during his rule.

It was announced that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono agreed to the settlement offer after Suharto suffered multiple organ failure, in order to reach a 'win-win solution.'

Mr.Suharto, who had corruption charges against him dropped in 2006, is fighting civil cases for alleged misappropriation of funds.

Suharto is alleged to have taken as much as $35 billion, averaging 1.3 percent a year of Indonesia's gross domestic product, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Mohammad Assegaf, Suharto's lawyer, has said the UN report is ``nonsense.''

Suharto's family has rejected the latest offer saying the former president has done nothing wrong.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Taunting racial insults

Furious fans in India burn effigies of the Australian cricket team

India have stopped playing matches in their Australian cricket tour after one of their team was banned from playing.

Bowler Harbhajan Singh denies breaking the rules of how cricketers should behave by saying something racist to an Australian player.

Harbhajan is appealing against his three-match ban, and his team won't carry on unless he's allowed to play.

The international game is governed by The International Cricket Council (ICC) which has has 101 members: 10 Full Members that play official Test matches, 33 Associate Members, and 58 Affiliate Members.

The game is played not in the spirit of the sportsmanship and camaraderie that it used to be known for: the gentleman's game. It is driven by the big money of corporate sponsorships and broadcasting rights and highly paid contracted players.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Squeezing out net videos

YouTube fans in China may not find it easy to watch some videos when the new rules take effect.

China is to further tighten its grip on the internet and has announced strict new regulations on the broadcasting of online videos - including those posted on video-sharing websites – restricting them to sites run by state-controlled companies.

The new rules also require service providers to report questionable content to the government and "abide by the moral code of socialism".

China, the world's second-largest Internet market by users, has encouraged growth of the internet but at the same time has imposed increasingly tough controls on what can be seen online inside China.

The rules are aimed at stopping what the government calls "degenerate thinking" via the Internet and maintaining a "healthy online environment".

Pro-democracy websites are blocked, as are the sites of many international news organisations, and a force of about 30,000 internet police are thought to monitor the web for anything seen as undesirable content.

The new rules, which come into force on January 31, mark a fresh attempt by Beijing to curtail the internet habits of an increasingly web-savvy population that has become accustomed to decades of state intervention.