Filed under: International News, International Politics
The death of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il at age 69 has made news all over the world. Apparently, he had a heart attack whilst on a train.
He will be remembered for his skillful use of nuclear brinkmanship to protect his tyrannical regime and how he starved and brutalised his people, whilst lavishing the country’s limited wealth on himself and the military.
Here are a few sites with collections of reputed crazy facts about his lunatic, eccentric and brutal rule:
His son Kim Jong-Un has taken over. No-one really knows what to expect – he is young and baby-faced, in his late 20’s. Some in the media hope that he may be more modern-minded as he was educated in Switzerland, and so he may liberalise North Korea. I don’t buy this type of wishful thinking.
I recall the case of another long-ruling dictator – Syria’s Hafez al-Assad. When he died in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad took over. Prior to becoming leader, Bashar was an opthamologist who spent several years studying in the UK – a democratic society. People believed he would bring democratic ideals to Syria. They were proven wrong.
The fact is, Bashar had to maintain the loyalty of the old guard of military men and politicians, and act ruthlessly to prevent civilian unrest from toppling his regime, so he had to continue in his father’s tyrannical ways. It is only due to the momentum of the “Arab Spring” that began at the end of 2010 that Bashar’s rule is now at risk, with popular protests fueled by the Islamic movement.
The people of North Korea are far more isolated that the people of Syria and do not have a passionate political or religious movement to rally the population. Nonetheless, we will see what happens.
- Israeli research shows that an injection of cortisone after a traumatic event can reduce the risk of PTSD by 60% – http://t.co/V4FqJG5L 2011-12-09
- Slashdot discusses "Is the Apple App Store A Casino?": what chance do typical developers have of making serious money? http://t.co/PEta5Tac 2011-12-08
- Brilliant comic showing how our modern world has become like the dystopic societies in "Brave New World" and "1984": http://t.co/w2Qk4jZB 2011-12-08
- A job in the Australian mining industry – the easy way to wealth? See what the Wall Street Journal has to say: http://t.co/BylgEj3i 2011-12-08
- Richard Stallman's dissenting view of Apple's Steve Jobs – a very polarising piece, but necessary to provide balance: http://t.co/3TPgNqDo 2011-12-08
- Why is everything so expensive? A reasonably good explanation about the nature of the cost of living: http://t.co/cHIViYg3 2011-10-24
- Excellent article about double-standards and corruption on Wall St: "Wall Street Isn't Winning – It's Cheating": http://t.co/0S6mvRlK 2011-10-26
- Israel agrees to release 1027 Palestinian Arab prisoners in exchange for return of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit: http://t.co/XR4eDWv6 2011-10-13
- Article from the Barefoot Investor discusses the threat of online shopping to Westfield: http://bit.ly/oJJsR9 2011-08-10
- For years, Choice Magazine has helped protect consumers. Are they still trustworthy? http://bit.ly/ocTsSN 2011-08-10
- Frequently asked questions about the US National Debt: http://bit.ly/qk866w 2011-08-10
- Cherry Picking, Black Swans and Falsifiability – well argued article on judging global warming as a scientific theory: http://bit.ly/oNgUSo 2011-08-10
- Challenging a Parking Infringement Notice in NSW? No victims compensation levy is payable if you go to court: http://bit.ly/mSCmaw 2011-08-10
- Need to contact Facebook and don't know how? This should help you out: http://bit.ly/ntvxg1 2011-08-10
- The Channel 9 "Cash in toilet" mystery – perhaps it was one of Kerry Packer's tax avoidance strategies? http://bit.ly/rux989 2011-08-11
- The History of the West Bank – facts often omitted from mainstream news coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict: http://bit.ly/oplvSY 2011-08-11
I congratulate the US government and their special forces for successfully tracking down and eliminating Osama Bin Laden, who was captured in his hideout located 60km north of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.
You would have to have been living in a cave (pun intended) to have not heard this by now, but just in case, here are some fantastic articles with timelines, details and lots of photos:
I wish to add my few cents to this ordeal.
Following the election of Australia’s first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard, I expected her to tread carefully by not embarking on any decisions policies that would anger the population and endanger her political survival. Sadly, I was wrong.
In a major pandering to her Greens Party coalition partners, she has backflipped on her pre-election promise to NOT introduce a tax on Carbon Dioxide emissions.
She has now announced that a carbon tax will be introduced from July 2012. The price per tonne of carbon will be fixed for a period of up to 5 years, after which market-based mechanisms will be used to set the price. Although the carbon price has not been announced, a popular figure thrown around in the media is $26/tonne. This will increase the cost of electricity across the nation, as Australia generates most of its power from coal and natural gas. The government has not announced whether petrol will also be subject to the carbon tax, but various Green party members have announced that they want it to. This will also result in an avalanche of other price increases as businesses pass on their increased costs directly to consumers.
Gillard has claimed that “low-income families” and the Agricultural sector will receive some form of compensation for the increased costs, but has not gone into details. Liberal Opposition Leader Tony Abbot has claimed that the carbon tax will result in an average electricity bill increasing by $300/year and the price for petrol increasing by 6.5c/Litre. Abbot has already pledged to repeal this tax if he wins the next election.
Regardless of one’s opinion of the causes of climate change, this tax is a stupid and pointless exercise that will needlessly punish the middle class and hard the Australian economy, whilst making no global impact on carbon dioxide emissions.
- None of the tax money is being used to replace our fossil fuel burning power stations with non-CO2 producing alternatives like Nuclear power
- We will still be exporting coal that will be burnt and converted into CO2 overseas, contributing to global emissions. No-one would ever dare suggest that we stop selling coal.
- Even if Australia ceased to exist and emitted no CO2, the growth in Chinese emissions would replace it within a few months.
- Australian households have already been forced to reduce electricity and fuel consumption in the face of skyrocketing global crude oil prices and increases in domestic electricity costs. The fact is, Australians still need gas and electricity for cooking and powering appliances and in this 21st century, no-one should have to return to a pre-industrial age state of existence. People also need to travel to work and transport their children to school. There really is little scope for further drastic cuts
- Australia goes to great lengths to protect its own agriculture sector from foreign competition, so that we can be self-reliant on food. Also, Australia is raking a fortune in from mining and resources, which generates a lot of tax revenue to fill government coffers. Both these sectors intrinsically emit a lot of CO2. Do we really want to bite the hands that feed us?
- There will be absolutely no indicator or measurement that can prove that this carbon tax is having any effect on either global CO2 levels or climate events, so it will be impossible to tell whether this policy is working. Money is effectively being thrown into a black hole.
Daily Telegraph journalist Tim Blair brilliantly demolishes the case for a Carbon Tax in his article here where he addresses a series of rhetorical questions regarding the purpose and implementation of the “Carbon Tax”:
Regardless of the outcome, no-one will ever trust Julia again.
UPDATE 3-1-2011: Skype eventually posted a detailed explanation here, which satisfied most of my previous doubts. This post has been kept as a historical reference.
Millions of people around the world use Skype to make cheap phone calls over the Internet. That’s why when their service went down for two days last week, it made headlines all over the world. The outage was reported to have started on Wedneday, 22nd December at 9am PST (Thursday 23rd December 4am here in Sydney).
I am also a Skype user and both my Windows client and Android client on my smart phone reported my status as being offline, with none of my regular contacts visible. It went back to normal for me when I logged in on Friday morning.
Skype’s Official Explanation
On Skype’s blog, their official announcement stated:
“Under normal circumstances, there are a large number of supernodes available. Unfortunately, today, many of them were taken offline by a problem affecting some versions of Skype. As Skype relies on being able to maintain contact with supernodes, it may appear offline for some of you.”
What is a Supernode?
For those that don’t know what a supernode is, any computer that is running the Skype client can be automatically appointed a supernode, in which it acts like a hub and helps other nearby Skype users to find each other. The reason for this is due to the fact that some of Skype’s functionality is decentralised, using a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) topology. so having supernodes improves the efficiency of network communication. Computers with broadband connections that are not behind firewalls are likely to be chosen to act as supernodes.
Why I don’t believe Skype’s Official Explanation
I do not believe Skype’s explanation for the following reasons:
- As far as I know, all users were affected around the world, not just “some”
- If the problem was limited to a single defective version, you would only expect some contacts to be unreachable, not all of them
- If the problem only affected some versions of Skype, all the other clients running the good versions would still be able to operate as supernodes, allowing Skype to function
- Why would the problem hit so many systems at once, at the same time? Surely, they are not implying that millions of people around the world suddenly switched to defective versions! Something must have triggered it
My Alternative Theory
If I were to make a guess at the cause, it looks more like a carefully planned Denial-Of-Service attack. A malicious person may have found a weakness in Skype’s protocol or software, obtaining a list of IP addresses of all supernodes who were on the network at that time, and then sending those supernodes specially crafted data to cause a software failure.
Perhaps their protocol has little or no redundancy to protect against supernode malfunction, i.e. all the skype users known to a single supernode will be lost to the rest of the network if that single supernode fails. This would not happen if the system were designed so that each user is registered with two or more supernodes.
The motivation would be to cause Skype embarrassment at Christmas time, when many people are making long-distance phone calls to relatives, friends and business associates. The perpetrator could be a business rival, online extortionist, or simply some troublemaker with nothing better to do with their time. It is known that Skype is trying to attract large corporations as clients, and an outage of this scale would really cause people to lose confidence in the reliability of their platform.
This is just speculation on my part. I have no direct knowledge of the Skype protocol, and I have no evidence of foul play, but I sure as hell do not believe Skype’s explanation.
I do not condone what Julian Assange and Wikileaks have done by releasing classified US diplomatic cables, but I do not condemn it either.
Diplomacy is a sensitive area and sometimes sensitive issues, especially where there is huge difference between both sides, or are controversial, need to be discussed quietly outside the public eye. For example, meeting with a belligerent force to negotiate a ceasefire, surrender or peace treaty.
But where is the accountability? When is it okay for our politicians and bureaucrats to tell lies, and when does it cross the line? How does the voting public know? How can the public judge the effectiveness and competence of our government without knowing the truth.
When Scotland released the Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, I knew that something was amiss. Although he reportedly was dying of prostate cancer and only had months to live, prisons do not usually hesitate to let someone die in prison, especially one convicted of mass murder.
It was clear that the West wanted to benefit from Libya’s petrol money (they have nothing else to offer), which is controlled by the whim of madman Muammar Gadhafi. Now, thanks to Wikileaks, we have some insight into the matter.
Other matters of interest are the fact that Arab countries wanted military action against Iran, Saudi Arabian royalty enjoy parties with liquor and prostitutes whilst ordinary folk get lashed or stoned to death.
Julian Assange is only responsible for publishing, but not the actual leaking. It is the people who are leaking the information that are deciding for themselves whether something should be leaked. The only controversy that Julian Assange could be legitimately questions about is if he is releasing some information but not others, then he could be proven to have an agenda. Kind of like when CNN admitted that they had kept quiet about the most brutal actions taken by the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.
Also, isn’t it amazing how VISA, Mastercard, Paypal, Amazon and other organisations quickly stopped handling money transfers (or web hosting). Never before have I seen this kind of action by these symbols of capitalist freedom in any other matter, be it terrorism or child pornography.
Malcolm Turnbull had something interesting to say about making a martyr out of Julian Assange as well.