Egyptians clear the way for elections, approve amendments

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission
Judge Mahmoud Attiya

Egyptian voters overwhelmingly approved proposed constitutional amendments that pave the way for parliamentary elections in June, according to the head of the judicial committee overseeing the referendum.

“We are proud of the Egyptian people for deciding their own destiny,” Judge Mahmoud Attiya said Sunday. “We assure the world that the March 19 referendum was fair and transparent at all stages.”

Of the 18,366,764 ballots cast Saturday, there were 14,192,577 “yes” votes and 4,174,187 “no” votes, Atiya said…

The proposed amendments included limiting the president to two four-year terms, capping emergency laws to six months unless they are extended by public referendum, and placing elections under judicial oversight…

Presidential candidate and head of the Arab League Amre Moussa, who urged a “no” vote, lauded the referendum as “the first official step towards the democracy called for in the January 25 movements.”

“‘Yes’ or ‘no’ is not the issue — that Egyptians are participating and voting today is what’s important,” he said Saturday.

Attiya told CNN that the next step in the transition to a civilian government is for the military to move forward with parliamentary elections in June.

Hey – it’s a start.

One of the joys of a constitutional democracy is that there can be – hopefully, will be – opportunities for further discussion and referendums if needed. The essential point is that the Egyptian people have had a first chance at an election that wasn’t rigged by a despot.

Yarnbombing – equivalent of graffiti without vandalism

From Yury Dolgoruky kitted out as Santa Claus to Mikhail Sholokhov donning a colourful woolly hat, Moscow’s monuments are getting an impromptu makeover. A growing trend among pranksters has seen many of the city’s statues decorated with so-called “yarnbombing” (pryazhemetanie) or knitted graffiti. And it seems to be a mixture of official initiative and individual exuberance which has prompted the colourful displays.

But opinion is divided over whether this is just harmless fun, or alarming disrespect.

One of the first monuments to get a makeover was Yury Dolgoruky’s statue opposite the mayor’s offices on Tverskaya. On the orders of Yury Luzhkov, City Hall boss at the time, the city’s founder was dressed up in the red robes of Santa Claus for the festive season from 2006-2008. But while that has since stopped, the idea has caught on and statues across the city have been kitted out in woolly hats or colourful scarves by jokers wishing to brighten up the city.

The designers of the works involved tend to be in favour of these temporary new looks, Noviye Izvestiye reported.
When brightly-striped knitwear or sculpted birds appear on the Gogolevsky Bulvar monument to Mikhail Sholokhov, author of “Quiet Flows the Don”, the creator sees it as a success.

“The author of the monument, Alexander Rukavishnikov, considers it an indication that the monument has successfully been integrated into the urban environment,” said Sergei Polovinkin of the city’s department of culture. But Polovinkin himself warned that such gestures might spark annoyance on other occasions, pointing out that nobody would consider doing this in a cemetery and suggesting that monuments in the city should enjoy the same respect…

Some people think cemeteries are suitable for everything from picnics to sex, Sergei. Although I wouldn’t recommend sex on a statue in front of city hall, a picnic might not be so bad. And bring a scarf for the statue.

AT&T is buying T-Mobile for $39 billion

AT&T has announced a definitive agreement to buy Deutsche Telekom’s American T-Mobile subsidiary in a cash and stock deal worth about $39 billion, and giving the German carrier an 8 percent stake in AT&T…

T-Mobile and AT&T share similar GSM and UMTS/HSPA networks, and both are working to build new next generation networks using HSPA+ and LTE. However, obtaining the rights to radio spectrum and building out these networks is both expensive and complex.

AT&T’s chief executive Randall Stephenson said the deal “provides a fast, efficient and certain solution to the impending exhaustion of wireless spectrum in some markets, which limits both companies’ ability to meet the ongoing explosive demand for mobile broadband…”

T-Mobile adds 33.7 million subscribers to AT&T’s network of of about 95.5 million, creating a total of about 130 million users, and becoming the largest American carrier. The deal will also expand Apple’s iPhone to three of what were the top four US carriers, as Apple has already brought it to Verizon earlier this year.

RTFA for the details. Fascinating – and expanded choices for anyone who owns or intends to own a GSM mobile device. In our market in northern New Mexico, we had held off on buying any iPhones or 3G iPads because of the requirement of dealing with AT&T. Their service is mediocre here at best. T-Mobile has been our personal choice for cellular service for years.

OK – aside from the new availability of hardware and increased network access across the country, what will this mean for consumers? In the opinion of many, we’re more likely to be screwed by higher prices, narrower opportunities for software and app developers.

One of the best analysts in the world on the dynamic mobile market is Om Malik. Here’s a link to his analysis as the story broke. Not especially optimistic.

Where is Boris Spassky?

“I’m eating my damn breakfast. Leave me alone!”
(Actually, I’d be delighted to get that response)

OK, so this isn’t a current story at all. Or is it? I pose this question as a followup to reports from September 2010, which indicated that Spassky had suffered a stroke in Moscow. The last I read, he was receiving physical therapy in France. Details were sketchy at best, and it wasn’t clear where information was coming from.

So.. maybe someone who knows something will run across this and give me an update?

It never hurts to ask. I hope he is well.

A decade on – buyers still don’t understand hybrid cars

In this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama proclaimed that there would be one million electric vehicles on the road in the United States by 2015. Toyota recently celebrated the building of the company’s three millionth hybrid worldwide. More and more automakers are turning to the battery pack and electric motors to improve fuel economy or remove petrol from the equation altogether, but do Americans know what any of this means? Not really, at least according to a recent study.

MediaPost reports that marketing firm Synovate recently polled 1,898 would-be car buyers to gauge their knowledge of hybrids and electric cars, and the results are not encouraging. Only two-thirds are aware that hybrids use both petrol and battery power for propulsion, and a large portion didn’t know hybrids even had batteries onboard. And while regular readers might know that some hybrids can run for short distances on electricity alone, only a third of those polled were aware of that little tidbit.

The results of this poll are likely disheartening to advertisers who have tried tirelessly over the years to explain how hybrids work. And with plug-ins and electric cars starting to hit the market, the education of the car-buying public has just begun. Case in point? Less than half of the nearly 2,000 car-buyers polled knew that plug-in hybrids can run on electric power alone. So… just what is that plug for, then?

Ignorance really ain’t bliss, you know.