Sunday, November 17, 2002

No Right To A Name?

Bill Wyman, music writer for Atlanta Journal-Constitution, meet Bill Wyman, former Rolling Stones bassist.

"Wyman, a music writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was recently notified of legal action against him for having the same name as a former Rolling Stones bassist. ", says Austin American Statesman. The problem stems from the confusion caused by Bill Wyman covering the Rolling Stones tours. To add insult to injury, Bill Wyman the bassist was born as William George Perks, and later changed his name.
Meanwhile on the "Homegrown Nut" front
BBC ©
Local daily Helsingin Sanomat reports (in finnish) that a Finnish and a Swedish "activist" have been arrested in Plymouth (Devonport Naval Base) for slipping into the British nuclear sub HMS Vanguard. The pair were found in the base during Fri-Sat night. Apparently the sub is undergoing a refit, and it's in a drydock right now.

Here's what BBC has to say about it.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Iran. Student Protests

Still continuing as before, with a class boycott this time. The judiciary is hitting back in the Aghajari case as well, at least according to IRNA. On the legislative reform front, the Guardian Council has rejected the bill passed by the parliament mandating political and press-related trials to be held openly and in front of a jury. If the Majlis refuses to amend the bill, it'll head to the Expediency Council next, and they've consistently sided with the conservatives. Also in the works: the bill to boost the presidency's power , particularly against the Guardian council. The parliament approved the draft bill. The Guardian Council is highly likely to reject it, of course, but it will bring the issue into focus once more.

So far the protests have been peaceful. Hopefully that trend continues (Why? Two words: Tiananmen Square. Determined Guardian Council backed by Basij/Revolutionary Guards just might decide to crush the protest, if it seems to be spreading wider. Seems like the reform movement hasn't gained enough traction just yet on a grassroots level.)

Friday, November 15, 2002

On Nordic/Scandinavian Economy

Details the current environment and some trends. The link was lifted from Bjørn Stærk.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Deutsche Telekom

Hemorrhaging a wee bit. Bled red ink to the tune of € 24.5 billion last year. The current debt load of the company is about 64 billion € (about the same in USD, at today's rates. Give or take a billion or two.)
Ad free day

Got the new Opera 7 Beta browser and piped the traffic through Proxomitron. Opera nails popups, proxomitron the rest. Just the fact you can turn off Macromedia Flash markedly improves the browsing experience (none of those noisy animated ads,screen hijackers,interstitials,etc.). And proxomitron does a remarkably good job of killing banner ads and such (to the tune of 90% or so). Nice.
The Economist on the Doha round

Not looking good, according to the article. And not suprisingly, looks like it'll be agriculture that'll sink it. Incidentally, it's only about a month since EU ruled there won't be any major changes to the CAP before 2006.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

More on the Chemical Detectors and Israel

From Jerusalem Post:
"Finland refuses Israel gas-detector kits fearing technology theft"

I suppose much the same as the commentary from local papers implied when the refusal broke the news originally. Exported twice before, two units each time, now they wanted a third round of two unit technology demonstrator orders, and it was nixed. No commercial orders as of yet. The reference to EU regulations seems like a smoke screen, like before, at least the analysis quoted in the original Helsingin Sanomat article noted the said regulations didn't ban the export. As for the rest of the article, the arguments are much the same, including how it hurts Israel's chemical defense etc. I suppose if they got their two units, say, one in Jerusalem another in Tel Aviv, things would be better? (The license request still was for two units. And that's all IDF apparently ever wanted).

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

On Turkey,AKP,etc.

An excellent piece in the The New Yorker.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Sweden Expels 2 Russian Diplomats

CNN:
Sweden expels two Russian diplomats in connection with the Ericsson industrial espionage case. Apparently the evidence is fearly clear cut, seeing as how one of the Ericsson employees was "detained as he met a foreign intelligence officer". Also noteworthy would be the charges filed, for serious espionage, which under local law means the case has to have national security implications.
Aside from network technology, Ericsson also works on military projects like radar technology, missile guidance systems,etc. A company source said the leaked information "appeared not to be connected" to military projects.

On plus side, it's been over a year now since someone was last detained in Sweden for industrial espionage. Heh heh. Of course in that last case Russian involvement was suspected as well, though it didn't result in anything much, for lack of evidence. And to top it off, there'll be a EU-Russia summit starting today, so they'll probably get to talk to Vladimir P. the former KGB/FSB officer about Russian espionage soon enough.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Meanwhile in Chechnya

Reuters:
"Masked men in military fatigues blew up the family home of one of 50 Chechen rebels killed after they seized a Moscow theater and held hundreds of people hostage last month, Russian media said on Friday."

No official word on who it was (as for unofficial, Russian soldiers seem a good enough guess, surprisingly enough).
A Notice:

John & Antonio's "Iberian notes" has moved. New addy would be this. Interesting swap in the sense they're one of the few who switched for blogger after something else, instead the usual graduation from blogger to MT. In any case, it's definitely worth a look, the writing's good and not a lot of weblogs cover Spain. Now.. I wonder if they'll comment on the Gibraltar referendum. Could be interesting to see the local take in Spain, especially with headlines like these "Spain calls Gibraltar referendum illegal and worthless". Sounds like some reality distortion field is hovering around Madrid, they seem to be hellbent on assimilating Gibraltar against the wishes of the inhabitants.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Smallpox stockpiles

Russia,North Korea,Iraq.... France? Of course the report notes the French stockpile is believed to be small and for defensive purposes, should there ever be an outbreak.
The more conspiratorially oriented should go check Slate which speculates on the timing of the leak and other things (highly convenient, with the way the French "defenders of the international law" are working at the UN security council,etc.). Myself, if I had to speculate I'd be very surprised if US hasn't known of it for a long time, but has chosen to remain silent until now when someone figured it'd be great entertainment to leak it to the press. Hard to say, but an amusing thought neverthless.

And here's the original Washington Post article which is longer and more detailed.
Arms deals, part n+1

An interesting article in Ha'aretz about sales of military communications equipment to Finland. If I had to make a bet, the deal was sold as "Danish equipment" in here, in keeping with the head-in-sand tradition of local arms trade. (Not to mention I didn't find anything in the local media on it, yet).
Rank hypocricy, in short, but if it keeps foreign minister Tuomioja quiet, I'm all for it (there's one fellow who shouldn't be allowed to touch anything dealing with middle-east, anyway. Like a walking definition of "bias". Thankfully it won't be long before it's election time in here. Hopefully he ends up in some suitably irrelevant job.) The deal itself is not any kind of surprise, given the prevalence of Israeli equipment in the local armed forces (recon drones,anti-tank missiles, comm equipment,etc.)
Information security: Back to basics

Interesting tidbit of news on The Register. In short, HP wireless keyboards have a bit too powerful transmitter. To the tune of one person's typing appearing on another's comp some 150 meters and two walls away.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

Elections in Turkey: AKP gaining

Erdogan's Justice and Development party (AKP) posting a strong showing, Kemal Dervis' doing ok likewise. If the results are anything remotely resembling what the polls say, Justice and Development party should come in first but still short of absolute majority , which means they'll be looking for coalition partners. So far the most popular candidate for that would be Dervis' Republican People's Party. Would make for an intriguing combination, a moderate Islamic party (they're only half joking when they call it muslim democrats. Patterned after conservative christian democrat parties in Europe. But just how moderate or strict they turn out to be remains to be seen) with Dervis & Co (Dervis being Turkey's Mr. Economy, a candidate with good reputation in the west) -Deutsche Welle and others.

Saturday, November 02, 2002

Greece pulls an Enron, restates figures

So called harmonization in action, in this case calculating the Greek figures according to the eurostat guidelines. The surpluses from 2000 onwards turned into deficits, the debt level went from 100% of GDP to 107% of GDP, a decent enough €10.3 billion "rounding error". Whoopsie.
Or as Greek paper Ekathimerini puts it: "Hidden debt eats up fake fiscal figures"
More commentary. What's noteworthy is that Greece isn't probably the only country with cooked books according to the commentary (just the most blatant example).
Joschka Fischer: No Turkey in EU

An editorial from Washington Times: "Yesterday, in a press breakfast at the German Embassy, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer compared the likelihood of Turkey's admission into the EU with Mexico and Central America's admission into the United States." Or if the German foreign minister has anything to do with it, Turkey will not be offered the negotiation date.
As for United States' wish to have Turkey included, Fischer put it this way: "..foreign minister suggested that, while friends do many things for each other, getting married to a third party because a friend requests it is not one of them."
An interesting read. Remains to be seen if that actually get published in Europe. Or anywhere else than Washington Times, for that matter.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Forbes.com CEO Halloween masks

Ever wanted to scare your CFO? Spook the accountant next door? Forbes.com is offering ready-to-print CEO halloween mask patterns. The visitors get the choice between Bernard Ebbers, Ken Lay, Dennis Kozlowski,Martha Stewart and Samuel Waksal.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Reader mail from Israel

Arutz Sheva News Service

Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2002 / MarCheshvan 24, 5763

6. FINLAND REFUSES
Finland refuses to sell to Israel what are considered to be the best
gas-detection kits in the world, despite widespread evaluations that Iraq
may attack Israel with poison chemical weapons. The computerized kits
accurately identify chemical warfare materials, but Finland claims that the
European Union forbids the export of dual-use equipment to countries in
conflict.

An email response sent in the name of Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki
Tuomioja explains that Finland did agree to sell Israel "thousands of gas
masks" - of which Israel already has a sufficient amount. On another
occasion, however, Tuomioja delivered a speech in which he said that he is
"appalled at the Israeli policy of suppression, humiliation, subordination
and impoverishment towards the Palestinians..." Tuomioja's e-mail address,
not as reported yesterday, is Erkki.Tuomioja@formin.fi .

Thank you a lot

>
Something that completely took me by surprise. I suppose starting from the fact the sort of equipment is manufactured here to begin with. What comes to the foreign minister Tuomioja, I'm not surprised in the least. He's nothing if not consistent with the stance towards Israel. I suppose goes with the territory (Sort of stuck in the 60's flower power style. Gives me the impression of him being the sort of person who turns out the lights in the room by closing his eyes.). Well, let's just say I can live with us not selling munitions, but this is beyond pale. For chrissakes, it's chemical weapons detection kits. As for that palestinian reference..I have to admit I don't quite follow his logic. How is that exactly going to help palestinians if Israeli civilians die from CW-loaded Scuds as a result? And just what makes him think Israeli would be the only people affected if it happens (seeing as how Israel is a country roughly the size of a stamp, and Scuds being what they are need a lucky shot to hit it to begin with.)

Only other web reference I found to it was from a translated Yediot Ahronot article.

As I recall, that's not the only time in recent memory where the issue has been raised, here's a Helsingin Sanomat article on a planned purchase of Spike missiles (developed by Rafael of Israel) which was put on hold. Among the most vocal opponents were Tuomioja (again) and the junior minister of finance Siimes (of Left Alliance. Surprisingly enough).

Update:
Helsingin Sanomat comments.

Update II
The equipment in question: Environics chempro 100.

Update III
Helsingin Sanomat offers further comments. Looks like trade policy is an issue as well in the decisions. Namely Israel has bought some technology samples before, but never actually placed a larger order. Or as the HS quote goes:
"..In some respects, the whole issue is a trade policy one, with scant political overtones. Israel has previously obtained sample units of gas detectors from Finland, but this has never lead to any purchases. By this Vilén seems to be hinting at the Israeli Army's possibly copying the technical solutions of the Finnish products for their own applications."
And Vilen would be the foreign trade minister (no, not a social democrat or left alliance. National coalition this time, a conservative). The article also notes nothing in EU regulations says the equipment could not be exported to Israel. And I suppose it's also noteworthy the lot in question was just two units.
Fun and Games: European Commision slaps Nintendo with a €150 million fine

About price fixing, it appears. Nintendo limited crossborder competition within EU by preventing crossborder sales and competition among Nintendo distributors. European sales of Gameboy hardware and games was €850 million, out of a global total of 3 billion.
-FT

Monday, October 28, 2002

Brazil: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wins.

Interestingly, the closer Lula and his party have been to getting elected , the more he has drifted towards the centre. Starting to sound more like a European social democrat than some real "red blooded" worker's party. He will be facing his big test soon enough, when it's time to get back to talking with the IMF. And of course, Lula's election has been causing jitters on the markets before, so he will need to be especially careful with his policies.
Non-news of the day: Japan banking reform is going nowhere

420$ billion of bad loans, says IHT. And apparently very little intention of doing anything about it.