Tagged: Asia

Uncle Sugar continues to fall behind in affordable broadband

30up-broadband-master675

America’s slow and expensive Internet is more than just an annoyance for people trying to watch “Happy Gilmore” on Netflix. Largely a consequence of monopoly providers, the sluggish service could have long-term economic consequences for American competitiveness.

Downloading a high-definition movie takes about seven seconds in Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Zurich, Bucharest and Paris, and people pay as little as $30 a month for that connection. In Los Angeles, New York and Washington, downloading the same movie takes 1.4 minutes for people with the fastest Internet available, and they pay $300 a month for the privilege, according to The Cost of Connectivity, a report published Thursday by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.

The report compares Internet access in big American cities with access in Europe and Asia. Some surprising smaller American cities — Chattanooga, Tenn.; Kansas City (in both Kansas and Missouri); Lafayette, La.; and Bristol, Va. — tied for speed with the biggest cities abroad. In each, the high-speed Internet provider is not one of the big cable or phone companies that provide Internet to most of the United States, but a city-run network or start-up service.

The reason the United States lags many countries in both speed and affordability, according to people who study the issue, has nothing to do with technology. Instead, it is an economic policy problem — the lack of competition in the broadband industry…

For relatively high-speed Internet at 25 megabits per second, 75 percent of homes have one option at most, according to the Federal Communications Commission — usually Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T or Verizon. It’s an issue anyone who has shopped for Internet knows well, and it is even worse for people who live in rural areas. It matters not just for entertainment; an Internet connection is necessary for people to find and perform jobs, and to do new things in areas like medicine and education.

In many parts of Europe, the government tries to foster competition by requiring that the companies that own the pipes carrying broadband to people’s homes lease space in their pipes to rival companies. (That policy is based on the work of Jean Tirole, who won the Nobel Prize in economics this month in part for his work on regulation and communications networks.)

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission in 2002 reclassified high-speed Internet access as an information service, which is unregulated, rather than as telecommunications, which is regulated. Its hope was that Internet providers would compete with one another to provide the best networks. That didn’t happen. The result has been that they have mostly stayed out of one another’s markets.

Unforeseen consequences is often the excuse offered by the corporate pimps in government. Whether getting direct kickbacks – “campaign donations” – or being obedient little trolls while awaiting the promised job opening in private industry, ain’t much to be gained by working on behalf of us ordinary working folks.

New America’s ranking of cities by average speed for broadband priced between $35 and $50 a month, the top three cities, Seoul, Hong Kong and Paris, offered speeds 10 times faster than the United States cities. In my neck of the prairie I have the choice of two of the national ISP’s. One gets me 26mbps download max for $75 all in. Their “competitor” charges about half that amount – for 7mbps.

Competition American style.

Thanks, Mike

About these ads

Dinosaur known as the Chicken from Hell!


Click to enlarge

If you’re a dinosaur with a nickname as funky as “the chicken from hell,” you had better be able to back it up…A dinosaur called Anzu wyliei that scientists identified on Wednesday from fossils found in North Dakota and South Dakota does just that.

It had a head shaped like a bird’s, a toothless beak, an odd crest on its cranium, hands with big sharp claws, long legs for fast running and was probably covered in feathers.

It is the largest North American example of a type of bird-like dinosaur well known from Asia.

Its extensive remains offer a detailed picture of the North American branch of these dinosaurs that had remained mysterious since their first bones were found about a century ago, the scientists said.

What would someone think if they encountered this creature that lived 66 million years ago?…”I don’t know whether they would scream and run away, or laugh, because it is just an absurd-looking monster chicken,” said University of Utah paleontologist Emma Schachner, one of the researchers.

Anzu wyliei measured about 11 feet long, 5 feet tall at the hip and weighed about 440 to 660 pounds (200 to 300 kg), the researchers said…

Scientists think birds arose much earlier from small feathered dinosaurs. The earliest known bird is 150 million years old.

This dinosaur’s bird-like traits included a beak, hollow leg bones and air spaces in its backbone, paleontologist said Hans-Dieter Sues of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

Its bizarre head crest resembled that of the cassowary, a flightless bird native to Australia and New Guinea.

Mostly dark meat, I hope.

Thanks, Mike

China planning a high-speed rail network to link Asia/Europe


The world’s fastest trains ready to roll — Click to enlarge

China is in negotiations to build a high-speed rail network to India and Europe that would make a trip from London to Beijing last just two days.

The network would begin in London and extend to India, Pakistan and Beijing. It could eventually carry passengers from on to Singapore, a trip that would last three days, according to project consultant Wang Mengshu, as reported in the Telegraph (UK).

A second line would extend from Beijing northward, through Russia to Germany, linking with the European railway system.

A third line would extend southward, connecting Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia…

“We are aiming for the trains to run almost as fast as aeroplanes,” said Mr Wang. “The best case scenario is that the three networks will be completed in a decade,” he added.

According to the Telegraph report, China is in negotiations with 17 nations for the massive project, which would effectively open the Central, East and Southeast Asia to Europe (and vice-versa).

In a way, it’s the Silk Road 2.0: the rail lines would allow China to transport raw materials more directly and efficiently.

According to the report, the system wasn’t China’s idea — it was the other nations, such as India. But it took Chinese know-how and tech to get it done.

China is in the midst of completing a $735.6 billion, five-year domestic railway expansion project consisting of almost 19,000 miles of new railways.

The nation unveiled the world’s fastest train, the Harmony Express, last year. The train has a top speed of almost 250 miles per hour, and will be used between the cities of Wuhan and Guangzhou.

High speed rail isn’t unique, nowadays. Except, of course, if a system was built in the United States. We’d rather wrestle with concrete highways especially as we let them fall apart from lack of maintenance.

We should be able to count on Republicans and Blue Dog Dems to stand around next to the last crumbling interchange and bridge complex and take credit for all the money they’ve saved taxpayers over the years. While food prices triple and our stature in the world of manufacturing moves to last place.

Logistics? Who cares in the GOUSA besides UPS?

Thanks, Mike

The international trade in boneless pork rectums

boneless_pork_rectums

Ever wonder what’s in those delicious dumplings? What gives them that special tang? The flavor that cannot quite be named? Wonder no further! For the secret has been revealed. Boneless pork rectums

And the secret is…boneless pork rectums, finely diced. All the hush-hush is over because, through carelessness, these boxes were allowed to be photographed just before they were hustled into a restaurant in Taiwan. But now that their presence has been revealed to the world, the silence surrounding dumpling recipes can be broken.

Take a careful look at the labels. Not only are these rectums boneless—all the best ones are—but they are inverted! Culinary insiders have long known that it is only in the cheapest dumplings that one finds non-inverted rectums.

This is almost certainly because inverting a rectum is a tedious, labor-intensive process, requiring specialized skills and arcane knowledge available to only a few. We can only imagine that the apprenticeship leading to a mastery of inversion is long and grueling.

As a consequence, the non-inverted kind are cheaper. They are usually ground together with the external tissue surrounding the orbicularis oris muscles and processed into hot dogs. The more expensive inverted cuts are saved for export and thus eventually find their way between dumpling skins…

Dawn Pork & Bacon of Ireland is acknowledged to be the best supplier of rectums, with or without crowns (those above are from Tyson Frozen Meats, Inc., a USA company). Dawn even sell the crowns separately. Being a one-stop shop, you can even load up on uteri and spleens while there…

This study in depth by William M. Briggs and originally posted at his blog not only contains a fascinating analysis of the trade in pig offal, he calculates how many packaged rectums travel in a standard 20-foot container [18,500 to 20,000].

RTFA for all the fascinating factoids you might ever wish to know about boneless pork rectums.

Thanks, Mike

Maersk, Daewoo build the World’s biggest boat

Geoje Island, where Okpo is situated, is the global capital of shipbuilding. On the other side of the island is the Samsung Heavy Industries yard. Up the coast is Ulsan, home of Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world’s largest shipmaker. DSME, formerly part of the Daewoo conglomerate, is No. 2. These facilities produce supertankers that carry millions of barrels of crude, and natural gas carriers with insulated tanks that hold hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of liquefied methane. They make $600 million drill ships, whose rotating azimuth thrusters can keep them hovering in place, hummingbird-like, in rough seas while boring exploratory wells in the ocean floor 6 miles below. To transport autos, the yards produce roll-on/roll-off ships; to transport ore, grain, or coal, they produce bulk carriers with 400,000-metric-ton capacities. For just about everything else, they make container ships.

The biggest of all the behemoths—the biggest ships in the world — are being built at the DSME yard for the Danish shipping line A.P. Møller-Maersk (MAERSKB:DC). They’re container vessels that will ply the route between Northern Europe and China. The new class of ship is called the Triple-E, and Maersk has ordered 20, at a cost of $185 million each. They’re 1,312 feet long, 194 feet wide, and weigh 55,000 tons empty. Stand one on its stern next to the Empire State Building, and its bow would loom over the heads of those on the observation deck; a single link from its anchor chain weighs 500 pounds. In early May the first Triple-E, the M/V Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller, named after the shipper’s former chief executive officer (and the son of its founder), was moored at one of DSME’s quays, nearing completion…

Maersk is the world’s biggest shipper, and its size affords it some protection from the vicissitudes of the shipping industry—it has interests in everything from oil-drilling platforms to supermarkets and banks. Nonetheless, the Triple-E is a giant financial risk. “For Maersk and every other ship line, these are big, big decisions, because if you get it wrong, you can end up dead,” says Marc Levinson, an economist and author of The Box, a history of the container-ship industry. “When a company like Maersk orders these vessels, it’s betting the company.”

Bad enough our politicians don’t consider shipbuilding an enterprise worth supporting, aiding, anymore. They’re perfectly willing to let the world’s commerce pass by without participating. Ships have been built big enough – starting with tankers – to have to ignore the Panama Canal for over a half-century. All that did to shipping was force companies to staff ships in Western and Eastern hemispheres. It was worth it.

But, the United States needn’t concern itself with Triple-E class container ships either. There isn’t a harbor in the United States large enough, fitted out, to land one of these vessels. No matter they will reduce the cost of goods shipped. If you can’t bring it alongside the United States then the question of American businesses participating in the process is a joke.

Global light patterns show economic shift to the East


Click to enlarge

The amount of light produced by a society is closely correlated with its economic status–rich developed countries tend to be brighter at night than poor developing ones. So an interesting question is how the distribution of light across our planet is changing over time.

Today we get an answer thanks to the work of Nicola Pestalozzi, Peter Cauwels and Didier Sornette at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. These guys have used data released by the US Defense Meteorological Satellite Program which has monitored night light levels around the planet continuously since the mid-1960s…

Pestalozzi, Cauwels and Sornette look in particular at the dynamics of night lights. They calculate the planet’s mean centre of light and measure how it has moved in the last couple of decades. “Over the past 17 years, [the center of light] has been gradually shifting eastwards over a distance of roughly 1000 km, at a pace of about 60 km per year,” they say.

They’ve also used night lights as a way to monitor all kinds of other changes such as the expansion of developing countries like Brazil and India, the drop in light levels in countries suffering from demographic decline and a reduction in urban population like Russia and the Ukraine, and the success of light pollution abatement programs in countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom.

Perhaps their most fascinating insight is in the rapid increase of economic regions such as the Nile Delta and the area around Shanghai. Pestalozzi, Cauwels and Sornette say that the data clearly shows how light produced by these areas in the developed world has remained remarkably stable, with the New York metropolitan region easily topping the rankings by sheer size.

However, the amount of light produced by these areas in the developing world has increased dramatically with Shenzen in China and the Nile Delta in north Africa showing the biggest increases.

No surprise to anyone involved with global commerce. I started working for Asian companies around 1974 and the size of the companies increased steadily as the firms I worked for moved from Japan to Taiwan and eventually, Shanghai.

Best place to be born in 2013 — Switzerland

Switzerland is the best country for a baby to be born in 2013, according to a new study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which is based on both subjective and objective quality of life factors.

The variables include life expectancy, gender equality, political freedoms, and even climate, but because the study looks at where “to be born” not “where to live,” some of the factors look at what life will be like in those countries in 2030, when children born in 2013 reach adulthood.

Rounding out the top 10 are:

2. Australia
3. Norway
4. Sweden
5. Denmark
6. Singapore
7. New Zealand
8. Netherlands
9. Canada
10. Hong Kong

The report authors write:

Being rich helps more than anything else, but it is not all that counts; things like crime, trust in public institutions and the health of family life matter too. In all, the index takes 11 statistically significant indicators into account.

The United States didn’t crack the top 10 this year, because American “babies will inherit the large debts of the boomer generation,” the researchers write. Could have included mediocre education, crumbling infrastructure in that same sentence.

In the 1988 survey, the United States came in first, followed closely by mostly European countries and several high-performing Asian ones, such as South Korea and Japan…

Now, Japan and South Korea rank 25 and 19, respectively, perhaps because their economies have become more troubled in recent years.

Europe has also slipped in the rankings because the ongoing euro-zone crisis there has caused severe unemployment and “eroded both family and community life,” the authors write…Germany has dropped to 16 – a tie with the United States.

Disagree with the list? The full methodology can be found here.

The Economist is a magazine grounded in conservative economics. That’s conservative in the traditional sense, rather like the term used to be in the United States before today’s Republican Party started their outreach policy for governance by homophobes, religious nutballs, various and sundry bigots.

So, the list will be accused of being part of a mythic liberal conspiracy – regardless of credentials.

Presidential election sets a new low for China bashing

As America’s election season nears its finish, the debate seems to have come unhinged. Nowhere is that more evident than in the fixation on China – singled out by both President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, as a major source of pressure bearing down on American workers and their families. Get tough with China, both stressed in the presidential debates, and the pain will ease.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Consider the following charges:

Currency manipulation. Since China reformed its exchange-rate regime in July 2005, the renminbi has risen 32% relative to the dollar and about 30% in inflation-adjusted terms against a broad basket of currencies. These are hardly trivial amounts, and more renminbi appreciation can be expected in the years to come.

Unlike Japan, which was pressured by the West into a large yen revaluation in 1985 (the “Plaza Accord”), the Chinese have opted to move gradually and deliberately. American officials call this “manipulation,” arguing that market forces would have resulted in a sharper renminbi appreciation than has occurred. Fixated on stability – a concept alien to US politicians and policymakers – the Chinese prefer, instead, to play a more active role in managing the adjustment of their currency. I call that prudence – perhaps even wisdom. Two lost decades later, the guinea pig, Japan, might have a view on which approach works best.

Continue reading

Widespread distrust of US extends beyond Middle East — even our closest ally thinks we are a bully!


Think this only showed on US television?

American influence on the world stage is being sapped by widespread distrust of US intentions, not just in the Middle East and south Asia but also among traditional European allies, according to a survey of global opinions.

Suspicion of America outweighed faith in its good intentions by large margins in the Arab world and Pakistan, and even its heavyweight European ally Germany was more sceptical than trusting, a YouGov survey found. British and French opinion was more positive but still deeply divided.

Negative Arab and Pakistani perceptions of America as overweening and untrustworthy clearly pose a daunting foreign policy challenge for the Obama administration. The fact that 78% of Pakistanis questioned by YouGov said they did not trust America to act responsibly underlines Washington’s serious lack of soft power in the region as it attempts to extricate itself from Afghanistan.

Attitudes towards the US in the Arab world were nearly as negative. Those respondents in the Middle East and north Africa who said they trusted America were outnumbered by more than two to one by those who said they did not, and 39% said they did not trust America at all.

Perhaps just as worrying for Washington is the lukewarm support among western European allies. More Germans questioned in the YouGov survey voiced misgivings than trust in the US. Perhaps surprisingly, in view of past wariness, French opinion was somewhat warmer: just over half of the French poll respondents trusted America, against 40% who did not.

The so-called special relationship between the US and Britain emerged from the survey as distinctly lopsided. There was widespread American affection for its close ally, but the sentiment was only partly requited, reflecting deep British ambivalence about America’s powerful role in world affairs…

Continue reading

DNA tests if you’re using stolen wood, helps curb illegal logging

Unlike the Crime Scene Investigators from the popular TV series, these detectives are hired to look for evidence of rogue wood from stores increasingly worried about being duped by a global trade in illegal timber now worth billions.

They take wood samples into their lab and put them through DNA tests that can pinpoint the species and origin of a piece of timber. They also track timber and timber products from forest to shop to ensure clients’ shipments are legal.

This is like CSI meets save the planet,” says Jonathan Geach, executive director of Double Helix Tracking Technologies, the Singapore company that has developed and commercialized DNA testing for wood, the only firm in the world to do so…

The money earned from a trade that Interpol estimates at up to $30 billion annually is untaxed and often run by organized gangs to fund crime and conflict. The logging increases global warming with heightened carbon emissions, and landslides through loss of watersheds. It causes loss of livelihoods in forest communities and dents global timber prices.

Until now, the battle against trade in illegal timber has been waged with regulations and preventive measures, and has not met with much success. Now it is increasingly focused on using the criminal justice system and law enforcement techniques.

Retailers such as Kingfisher, Marks & Spencer and Australian timber wholesaler Simmonds Lumber are either already using the technology or looking to add it to their existing timber sourcing practices…

As new U.S. laws started to bite over the past two years, and with tougher laws set for Europe in 2013, the number of clients is growing, says Kevin Hill, DoubleHelix’s founder.

Within two years, the aim is to license Lowe’s DNA extraction technique to accredited laboratories globally, as the $150 billion timber industry comes under increasing pressure to stamp out illegal wood.

As much as I hate the phrase, this is a true win-win situation for consumers and sellers alike. Contractors and end users will have verified questions like sustainability. Lumbering interests and mills will profit from sales with guaranteed quality, legality.

RTFA for many details about the economics and science. Interesting stuff.