Sunday, December 25, 2011

Latin American News


Economic changes in Cuba during the last 15 months [Al-Jazeera]:
- 550.000 state workers planned to be laid off (September 2010).
- Self-employment in 178 small business areas allowed (September 2010).
- Buying and selling of cars now allowed (October 2011).
- Buying and selling of houses now allowed (Novemvber 2011).
- Bank loans now available for small businesses (November 2011).

Above: Peter Hakim, Inter-American Dialogue, on Cuban economics.

Further developments:
Cuba releasing 2.900 prisoners in December 2011. [CNN]



President Hugo Chavez, in shape again after cancer treatment in Cuba, announces the erection of 125.000 state-financed new dwellings (flats) for people in need. Such dwellings are equipped with electricity and water supply. [TElesur, Caracas]



Conservative Peruvian media making front against president Ollanta Humala. In the frame of that campaign, the new president is critisized for his political association with president Chavez of Venezuela.

At the end of his first 100 days in office, president Humala has put social programs on the agenda. In 2012, he is decided to deal with fears and uncertainties of the indigenous communities. [Telesur, Caracas]

Monday, December 19, 2011

North Korea - Kim Jong Il Dead

North Korea's supreme leader
Kim Jong Il died on Dec. 17


According to People's Network 人民网, Beijing, North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il should have died on December 17. The official photo below, perhaps one of his last, is showing Kim Jong Il together with Russian president Medvedyev during his visit to Russia on August 24.

Kim Jong Il was born on February 16, 1942, in a secret camp in the White Head Mountain area that is bordering China.

[Kim Jong Il and son Kim Jong Un]: At North Korea's large Kim Il Song square, attending a giant military parade on celebrations of the 65th anniversary of the Workers' Party.

In a 2010 blogspot, we already learnt about Kim Jong Il's son Kim Jong Un who might now become the new strongman of North Korea.

Another blogspot, dating back to 2008, is showing a rare series of photos of Kim Jong Il visiting a military unit.

The general secretary of Korea's Workers' Party and chairman of the National Defence Council, Kim Jong Il, meeting with members of China's State Council and the [Chinese] Minister of Public Security Meng Jian Zhu (first left). February 14, 2011.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chinese Language Flooding the Web

These days, PEOPLE'S NETWORK 人民网, the online edition of PEOPLE'S DAILY 人民日报 in Beijing, is celebrating its 15th anniversary. I still remember their website from the very beginning as it was just about the same time BLUEPRINT magazine went online. At that time, the presentation of Chinese characters on webpages was still an unsolved problem to most webmasters, and even commercial Chinese webdesigners offered Chinese text rather on picture files than Chinese encoded text in the frame of an HTML-program.

Lucky me, being able to produce Chinese text on pictures by using a combination of rare software, already presented some BLUEPRINT articles containing Chinese scripture as early as 1997. Even though, Chinese websites using GB- and BIG-encoding could already be found on rare occasions, neither of both standard browsers at that time, the Microsoft Internet Explorer and its competitor from Netscape, was able to show simplified or traditional Chinese characters. Only later versions of the Internet Explorer were able to do so. I even remember one experimental version of the Microsoft product that required a distinct installation of the language support download for each single Chinese webpage to view. It was about the same time when "Chinese language viewers" were offered for free.

Nowadays, there are more than two Chinese encodings available and that are usually recognized by all modern browsers. Now, it makes sense to write Chinese text directly into the HTML-body of a website. Even more, Chinese is going to become the prevailing language on the internet, letting behind English that, up to then, dominated the worldwide web.

As to PEOPLE'S NETWORK, it has lived through all those changes during the 15 years of its existence. Their first website I found almost by chance as the search engines of that time were as well different from now. The GB-encoded site was characterized by a standard-grey background and contained no single picture. Instead, it summarized some older articles from the archives of PEOPLE'S DAILY. It really looked like a beginner's site. But very soon, the webdesign got a professional look and matched with state-of-the-art design of Western news magazines. Today, PEOPLE'S NETWORK is a highly professional news service with a comprehensive and well-organized structure, combined with an efficient search engine.

Of course, it should not be underestimated that Chinese media are subject to a strict administrative control. From there, restrictions to the credibility of news reports and related comments might arise when it comes to difficult subjects concerning China's internal problems. Nevertheless, PEOPLE'S NETWORK remains an important source for news and official opinion from the People's Republic of China.

As a proof for the accuracy of my evaluation, here some photos taken from a recent Chinese language article on unmanned airplanes (drones) as used by Western military [People's Network, Dec. 18, 2011]:

X-47B (U.S. drone)

RQ-4 (U.S. drone)

RQ-7 (U.S. drone)

Sentry 哨兵 RQ-170 (U.S. drone)


U.S. drone really brought down by Iran in a "tricky" landing ?
[According to] a comprehensive report from foreign media on December 16, an Iranian engineer and whose name was deliberately held back recently leaked [information] that Iran brought down an RQ-170 "Sentry" drone using electronic warfare measures. [People's Network, Dec.18, 2011]

Predator 捕食者 (U.S. drone)

Falcon 猎鹰 HTV-2 (U.S. drone)

Spirit of Lightning and Thunder 雷电神 (British drone)

Heron 苍鹭 (Israeli drone)

Habi 哈比 (Israeli drone; romanization of the Chinese name probably fitting with a Hebrew name)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

World Economy: Rise of China - Fall of Europe ?

Today, the People's Republic of China is celebrating its 10th anniversary of China's membership in the World Trade Organization WTO. [People's Daily Online / People's Network and Al-Jazeera TV, Dec.11, 2011]

As China's gross national product GNP soared to $ 4,393 per head by 2010, in comparison to $ 1,042 in 2001, the People's Republic can now be considered as the world's second largest economy, following the United States of America.

President Hu Jin Tao joined the celebrations.

As Chinese folks are known to be superstitious, nature seems to have provided a "heavenly sign" for them which did not occur for ten years: A lunar eclipse on December 10, accompanied by the temporary observation of a "Red Moon" if that has anything to mean at all. - At least, the colour "red" is a traditional sign of good luck and prosperity in China's society.


U.S. general warns of political unrest in the frame of latent economic difficulties that are just expressing themselves in the actual crisis of the European currency system. [Source: Al-Jazeera, Dec.10, 2011]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, has said that he believes the eurozone is at great risk and warned that any breakup of the bloc could have consequences for the Pentagon, even threatening its top weapons programme and which is partly relying on its European allies in Britain and Italy.

Dempsey made his comment at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. Even though, Dempsey is no recognized expert in economics, his evaluation of the eurozone crisis might represent the way of thinking within parts of the military and political community at Washingon D.C..

As the U.S.military has still more than 80,000 troops and 20,000 civilian workers in Europe, many of them based in Germany, any worsening of the European crisis could affect U.S. military plannings as well, namely the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme which is considered to be the Pentagon's costlies weapons programme and is partly relying on their European partners.

Now some remarks about economic stability in Germany. It's a fact that heavenly signs were not in favour of Germany since we met with the "Black Sun" of a solar eclipse under the Schröder administration in 1999, a time when worst mistakes had been made that are still showing their after-effect in 2011 Germany. Nevertheless, our economy has remained its vigour and even more recovered after the devastating global financial crisis. As to the eurozone crisis, Germany and France finally succeeded in finding a temporary solution that is settling the European market for a certain time while the European currency remains a stable competitor to the U.S.$. So what's all that fuzz about ?

Above: Headlines of the satirical magazine "Titanic" on the occasion of a total solar eclipse in 1999. - "Schröder is getting the Black Sun to Germany." - "That's what they have money for."

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Earth-Like Planet Found

Only some hours ago, NASA reported about an earth-like planet, Kepler 22b, found in the sky region of Cygnus (Swan) and Lyra. This planet is orbiting a sun similar like ours and in a distance that would make human life possible, i.e. where liquid water could exist which is essential for the existence of human tissue.

Area of search of the Kepler mission in the star constellations of Cygnus (Swan) and Lyra.

Here's a shortened version of the NASA report. For the original text and additional pictures refer to their website:

NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed its first planet in the "habitable zone" [of a star], the region where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface. Kepler also has discovered more than 1,000 new planet candidates, nearly doubling its previously known count. Ten of these candidates are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of their host star. Candidates require follow-up observations to verify they are actual planets.

The newly confirmed planet, Kepler-22b, is the smallest yet found to orbit in the middle of the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. The planet is about 2.4 times the radius of Earth. Scientists don't yet know if Kepler-22b has a predominantly rocky, gaseous or liquid composition, but its discovery is a step closer to finding Earth-like planets.

Previous research hinted at the existence of near-Earth-size planets in habitable zones, but clear confirmation proved elusive. Two other small planets orbiting stars smaller and cooler than our sun recently were confirmed on the very edges of the habitable zone, with orbits more closely resembling those of Venus and Mars.

"This is a major milestone on the road to finding Earth's twin," said Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Kepler's results continue to demonstrate the importance of NASA's science missions, which aim to answer some of the biggest questions about our place in the universe."

Kepler discovers planets and planet candidates by measuring dips in the brightness of more than 150,000 stars to search for planets that cross in front, or "transit," the stars. Kepler requires at least three transits to verify a signal as a planet.

"Fortune smiled upon us with the detection of this planet," said William Borucki, Kepler principal investigator at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., who led the team that discovered Kepler-22b. "The first transit was captured just three days after we declared the spacecraft operationally ready. We witnessed the defining third transit over the 2010 holiday season."

The Kepler science team uses ground-based telescopes and the Spitzer Space Telescope to review observations on planet candidates the spacecraft finds. The star field that Kepler observes in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra can only be seen from ground-based observatories in spring through early fall. The data from these other observations help determine which candidates can be validated as planets.

Kepler-22b is located 600 light-years away. While the planet is larger than Earth, its orbit of 290 days around a sun-like star resembles that of our world. The planet's host star belongs to the same class as our sun, called G-type, although it is slightly smaller and cooler.

Of the 54 habitable zone planet candidates reported in February 2011, Kepler-22b is the first to be confirmed. This milestone will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Steve Maran, a former NASA astronomer and book author ("Astronomy for Dummies"), explaining the Kepler mission in an interview with Al-Jazeera, studio Washington :

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Afghanistan - A Doomed Conference

A major conference on Afghanistan has begun in the German town of Bonn comprising delegates from 90 countries. Pakistan cancelled its participation after a devastating U.S. assault on alleged Taliban targets in the Jalalabad area, killing instead 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Missing as well are Taliban related groups including three influential members of the former Taliban administration in Afghanistan and delegates of a militant group lead by Afghan strongman Hekmatyar. As the official Afghan delegation of president Karzai has rejected any Afghan representation other than their own, such groups cannot participate officially. Nevertheless, talks with high-ranking Taliban representatives are now taking place behind the scene in Pakistan and Qatar.

The present conference has to prepare for the future of Afghanistan, because complete withdrawal of all foreign troops from that country should take place by 2014. Pakistan's participation at the meeting would have been of much importance for the stabilization of Afghanistan's security, as Pakistan's influence in the Afghan border region is steadily increasing.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

East-Asia Leading Worldwide Car Production

According to recent statistics I found in a magazine, published by the largest German organization of car drivers, ADAC, China can now be regarded as the No.1 car producer worldwide. This I took for reason to examine some aspects of East-Asian car production.

"Sai Ou 赛欧", a Chinese manufacturer of cars offers his latest model called "Xue Fo Lan 雪佛兰". As there is no intelligible translation of the model's name, it might be a combination of the Chinese word "xue" for "snow" (German "Schnee") and the sound-adaptation "fo-lan" possibly representing the German word of "Fohlen" which means young horse. The result could therefore be "Schneefohlen", a beautiful white-coloured and energetic young horse, thus hinting at German competitors on the Chinese market (Audi, BMW, Mercedes) who are offering their top models to Chinese top clients. Such interpretation of the car's name becomes even more credible when we look at the translation of the Chinese company's name of "Sai Ou 赛欧" which simply means "Surpassing Europe" or at least, in a moderate version, "Competiting with Europe", thus directly indicating Germany which is Europe's most important exporter of cars. That's just an example how Chinese folks are thinking.

Exhibition site of Sai Ou Ltd. showing their latest model in the foreground while the background poster is referring to Sai Ou's cars of the so-called "Happiness 幸福" series:

Below are photos of the Xue FoLan model:

1.4L S-TEC III (54.3 kW/L)和1.2L S-TEC II (53.1 kW/L)发动机,0到100公里加速分别可达到11.9秒和12.9秒,而百公里综合油耗仅为5.9L和5.7L。
Reaching 100 km/h in 11.9 (54.3 kW engine) / 12.9 seconds (53.1 kW engine) while fuel consumption at 100 km/h is 5.9 / 5.7 L.

There will be five versions on the market, ranging from the basic model (1.2 L S-TEC II engine) up to the premium model (1.4 L S-TEC III engine), each of them available in six different colours.

雪佛兰新赛欧正式上市 售价5.68-6.88万元:从1.2L手动温馨版到1.4L手动优逸版,并有六种车身颜色。

By the way, if the Xue FoLan model would ever invade the European market, it could even be sold at a competitive price which lies, according to delivered equipment, between 56.800 and 68.800 Yuan which is 6.700 - 8.100 €. Even though, the actual evaluation rate of the Chinese currency, usually considered as far too low, might be subject to future adjustment due to increasing political pressure from North America and Euro zone countries, such car prices alone could guarantee a decent segment on the European car market.

As to the expected quality of Chinese cars, I should add that China already reached a high standard in the production of special steel, necessary for car production and shipbuilding. Thus, Chinese cars are not likely to get rusty faster than those from America or Europe.

But it's not all about exportation to Europe: Wealthy newcomers from within an emerging middle-class in China are targeted as well by East-Asian car manufacturers. The Japanese brand Lexus which makes part of the Toyota family is trying to sell its expensive segment of brandnew landrovers together with moderate sex in a campaign named "香车美女", a name that could be translated either as "Fine Smelling Car - Beautiful Woman", thus referring to the car's low emission rates, or as "Hongkong Car - U.S. Woman", such putting stress on Western design and technology. The landrover model, up to now assembled and sold in North America under the label of LX 570, was renamed for the Chinese market into "Conquering Dragon 霸王龙". Another interpretation of the Chinese name being "Ba Wang's Dragon" which is referring to a famous but cruel Chinese warrior. Both versions would make feel the Chinese driver like a hero of the road...

Lexus LX 570:

Even though, Japanese car sellers recently lost much credibility among their Western customers, they still enjoy a large segment on the international market. Together with an uprising Chinese giant whose output of cars for, both, local requirements and international challenges already overtook declining U.S. car production, East-Asian car manufacturers as a whole are getting more and more influential, especially when it comes to modern driving technology. This is at least what car exhibitions in Tokyo and Guangzhou (Canton) are indicating.

Statistics of worldwide car production (2011):