Saturday, December 30, 2006

Very pregnant Germans are going to great lengths to give birth on January 1

Friday, December 29, 2006

Why economists are not worried about global warming

Robert Whaples, Chair of the Department of Economics at Wake Forest University:
The growing literature on this topic suggests that most parts of the economy are not very vulnerable to climate change. Just as importantly, parts of the economy that might be negatively impacted are pretty flexible and adaptable to change. If climate does change, crops can be modified, different crops can be planted and crops can be planted in different places, for example. If sea levels rise, we have the ability and resources to build protective structures or, in a worse case scenario, simply move to higher ground.

Thus, while potential climate changes might be devastating to parts of the environment, most economists don't think that it will affect our economic standard of living much, one way or the other. The bottom line is that recent history has shown economists that the primary cause of economic growth is technological improvement. Climate change cannot staunch the global torrent of new discoveries, processes and products. Human ingenuity is the ultimate resource and - as far as most economists are concerned - rising greenhouse gas levels cannot imperil this.
If you consider that the least developed parts of the world are generally the least adaptable, global warming could increase global income inequality.

Link via Newmark's Door.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Converting your body to an asset

Stern report on Iran

Iran's oil usage is growing at the fastest pace in the world. Its capacity to produce oil is declinging rapidly, and its reserves could be depleted in a decade.

I guess those in charge are focused on short term contentment of the domestic population. Nuclear power will not be able to replace all the domestically consumed oil. But nuclear weapons might.

UPDATE: Stern being interviewed on NPR; worth listening.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pyjama Ras Al Khaima


The head of the emirate's personnel department was quoted as saying that large numbers of civil servants were wearing sleeping clothes and pyjamas.

Starting on 1 January 2007, civil servants in the emirate will have to wear national dress - a long white robe for men and the black abaya for women.

Expatriates will be required to wear suits and ties.
Gulf News:

He stressed that the emirate's employees will have no room to bypass the new dress code, adding that the emirate's Government aims to impose the new uniform to preserve the beautification of the various departments and raise standards.

Here's the original Pyjamarama by Roxy Music:

Couldn't sleep a wink last night
Oh how i´d love to hold you tight
They say you have a secret life
Made sacrifice your key to paradise
Never mind, take the world by storm
Just boogaloo a rhapsody divine
Take a sweet girl just like you
How nice if only we could bill and coo
I may seem a fool to you for ev´rything I say or think or do
How could I apologise for all those lies
The world may keeps us far apart but up in heaven, angel
You can have my heart
Diamonds may be your best friend
But like laughter after tears
I´ll follow you to the end

Over the years Secret Dubai has developed an extensive collection of stories and commentary about the rocky emirate of RAK.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Prostitution in the UAE

Prostitution is not unknown in the UAE. Here are several local stories:
A couple of economics blogs I follow happen to have posts this week on prostitution. Lynne Kiesling at Knowledge Problem posts on the regulation of prostitution. And Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution posts on the value of pimps.

UPDATE: Police strategies that turn street prostitutes into careerists.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Update on US accreditation issues surrounding American University in Dubai

Over at UAE community blog, I've posted an update on the continuing probation of AUD's US parent, AIU.


IMF: UAE inflation underestimated

EmiratesToday, December 19:
The UAE’s inflation, which is predicted to be an average of 9.9 per cent in 2006, is being underestimated because it is calculated using an outdated formula, a top IMF official said yesterday.

“Rents are the primary cause of the UAE’s high inflation,” said Moshin Khan, IMF director for the Middle East and Central Asia.

“The influence of rents is being underestimated in consumer inflation. The rent weighting is only 34 per cent in the consumer price index basket, but this is based on a survey conducted in 1994 and the UAE is a very different place today than it was back then,” he added.
Specifically, the UAE is a different place because rent is more than 34% of the typical consumer spending, and rents are rising faster than the prices of other goods.

Khaleej Times:
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) yesterday said it was concerned about the lack of any official data in the UAE to monitor inflation.

Mohsin Khan, Director of the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia Department, said despite achieving remarkable economic growth and all-round buoyancy, the UAE "lags behind most other developing countries, even Yemen, in providing a consumer price index (CPI)," which makes it difficult to gauge the country's real inflation rate.

"We are surprised at this shortcoming. Like all other economies, the UAE must have a monthly consumer price index that will help monitor and control inflation," he said when asked if the UAE Central Bank's inflation rate of nine per cent was realistic.

The Governor of the Central Bank of the UAE, Sultan bin Nasser Al Suwaidi, on Sunday said inflation is currently around nine per cent due to rising rents which has a weighting of 30 per cent in the consumer price index. However, some economists and analysts hold a different view and believe that the underlying inflation in the UAE is between 18 per cent and 20 per cent.
The emphasis is mine.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Great Man of History, Human Nature and Culture, and You

By now you probably know that you are Time Magazine Man of the Year:
The "Great Man" theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men." He believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory took a serious beating this year.

To be sure, there are individuals we could blame for the many painful and disturbing things that happened in 2006. The conflict in Iraq only got bloodier and more entrenched. A vicious skirmish erupted between Israel and Lebanon. A war dragged on in Sudan. A tin-pot dictator in North Korea got the Bomb, and the President of Iran wants to go nuclear too. Meanwhile nobody fixed global warming, and Sony didn't make enough PlayStation3s.
But look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. . . .

Carlyle - I have noted several times - also gave economics the label "the dismal science", for reasons you thought you knew. He was denouncing economics because it conflicted with his view that history is driven by great men and great races, whereas economics claimed races are equals but cultures and institutions exlained differences in the success of nations.

There are several related items in Sunday's Washington Post.

1. Culture Matters:
The war in Iraq has produced many casualties. One lesser-noticed one may be the death of an idea -- the idea that the culture of a nation or region can be transformed quickly by well-intentioned foreigners. The recent report of the Iraq Study Group scarcely mentions the grand goals of bringing democracy to Iraq, and instead contemplates a drawdown of U.S. combat troops. It seems that the notion of transforming the political culture of the Middle East has been drawn down as well.

"Are the people of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty?" President Bush asked in 2003. "Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? I, for one, do not believe it." As his audience applauded, he went on to criticize the "cultural condescension" of skeptics who believe that Islam and democracy don't mix.

The president was, at best, half right. In the long run, the values of freedom may be right and true for all people in all societies. But the cultural values favorable to pluralism and entrepreneurship are indispensable to building democracy and capitalist prosperity.
. . .
Some cultures and some religions clearly do better than others in promoting democracy and prosperity. Iraq and Afghanistan show that, where culture is adverse, a blind belief in the power of freedom is a frail foundation for U.S. policy.

But culture is not destiny. The failures in Iraq and instability in Afghanistan do not prove that these or other countries are condemned to stagnation and political oppression. For politics to change, however, culture must change, too -- and that takes much more than dispatching troops, holding elections and writing constitutions.
. . .
Like other young idealists, I believed that President John F. Kennedy's Alliance for Progress -- a "Marshall Plan" for Latin America -- would make the region safe for democracy.

But as I encountered daily the intractability of Latin America's problems, it became clear to me that poverty and injustice were rooted in the region's values. I was learning what Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan would articulate years later, after the Russian economy collapsed in the late 1990s. "I used to think that capitalism was human nature," he reflected. "But it isn't at all. It's culture." The same is true of democracy.
2. Unlikely hypothesis: "Middle East. Former president Jimmy Carter defends his bestselling new book, which blames most of the problems in the Middle East on Israel. He's now planning a sequel, which blames most of the problems in "Ishtar" on some assistant producer named Mordecai Rabinowitz. In other news, Ahmadinejad insists he's never worked as a presidential ghostwriter."

3. Daniel Drezner examines the grand strategy of promoting democracy and free markets. About the Iraq Study Group he observes:
Two major public statements, coming less than a week apart, nicely capture the confusion besetting U.S. foreign policy these days.

The first is the report of the Iraq Study Group, released on Dec. 6. In good old-fashioned "realist" style, the report offers nothing about how to promote democracy and human rights in the Middle East, focusing instead on the single-minded, amoral pursuit of the U.S. national interest.

Just five days later, outgoing U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan delivered his valedictory address, imploring Americans to uphold human rights and the rule of law in prosecuting the war on terrorism -- idealism at its purest.
4. Doubts about Iraqi leader's capabilities persist.

It would be more correct to say doubts about the Iraqi constitution persist. Just as doubts persisted about America's future under the Articles of Confederation. George Washington was a great president under the Constitution which strengthened the power of the federal government. You don't need a Saddam to govern Iraq, but a stronger central government is necessary.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Oman opts out of GCC currency union :: Gulf News

Professor Emilie Rutledge's analysis of why.


Obesity in UK could bankrupt National Health System :: BBC

Another one for the "people respond to incentives" file.

Professor Sattar, an expert in metabolic medicine, said research had linked obesity to a range of diseases and disorders, including heart disease, cancer, depression, back pain, diabetes and skin problems.

He said: "The problem of rising prevalence in obesity may get much worse - rates could climb still further, bankrupting the health system and leading soon to reductions in life expectancy.

"So we need to think out of the box, nothing that has been looked at so far seem to have worked."

He said while individuals "clearly have some responsibility for their health", the rest of society should also play more of a role.

Actually, the rest of society is playing a role in the UK - by funding the NHS through taxes. That's the problem. Individuals do not have financial responsibility for their health choices.

Here's an interesting suggestion - shame:
[Experts] said action was needed by all of society and even recommended a helpline for people who bought larger clothes.

The number should be promoted on the labels of all clothes sold with a waist of more than 40in (102cm) for men, 37in (94cm) for boys, 35in (88cm) for women, and 31in (80cm) for girls.
. . .
But Janice Bhend, a former editor of Yes magazine, which targets larger women, said the idea of a clothes phone line was a "ghastly idea".

"We need to come at it from a different angle but I don't think the fat police need to start telling us to phone a helpline."

She added it was enough to make people depressed.
Yes, and many people gain weight when they are depressed.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

The approaching UAE elections

Over at UAE community blog I've posted a piece (mostly quotations) on the elections later this week in the UAE.

Male circumcision and HIV :: BBC

Circumcision can cut the rate of HIV infection in heterosexual men by 50%, results from two African trials show.
. . .
The two trials of around 8,000 men took place in Uganda and Kenya were due to finish in July and September 2007 respectively.

But after an interim review of the data by the NIH Data and Safety Monitoring Board decided to halt the trials as it was unethical not to offer circumcision in the men who were acting as controls.
. . .
A further trial in Uganda to assess the risk of HIV transmission to female partners is due to report in 2008 but the effect among men who have sex with men has not yet been studied.
. . .
Tom Elkins, Senior Policy Officer at the National AIDS Trust warned: "There is a real danger in sending out a message that circumcision can protect against HIV. This is not the case and could lead to an increase in unprotected sex.

"There is still a long way to go in providing comprehensive prevention programmes in many countries, and resources should go into normalising the use of condoms, which are the most effective method currently available for preventing HIV."

Indeed. How will behavior change once it is know that circumcision reduces the risk of spread of HIV in men? Will women be under more pressure to have unprotected sex? Will HIV transmission risk increase?

The NYT has more:
Researchers have long noted that parts of Africa where circumcision is common — particularly the Muslim countries of West Africa — have much lower AIDS rates, while those in southern Africa, where circumcision is rare, have the highest.

But drawing conclusions was always confounded by other regional factors, like strict Shariah law in some Muslim areas, rape and genocide in East Africa, polygamy, rites that require widows to have sex with a relative, patronage of prostitutes by miners, and men’s insistence on dangerous “dry sex” — with the woman’s vaginal walls robbed of secretions with desiccating herbs.

Outside Muslim regions, circumcision is spotty. In South Africa, for example, the Xhosa people circumcise teenage boys, while Zulus do not. AIDS is common in both tribes.

Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” contains an unnerving but hilarious account of his own Xhosa circumcision, by spear blade, as a teenager. Although he was supposed to shout, “I am a man!” he grimaced in pain, he wrote.

But not all initiation ceremonies are laughing matters. Every year, some South African teenagers die from infections, and the use of one blade on many young men may help spread AIDS.
. . .
Male circumcision also benefits women. For example, a study of the medical records of 300 Ugandan couples last year estimated that circumcised men infected with H.I.V. were about 30 percent less likely to transmit it to their female partners.
Related: Here's news of a new "smart molecular condom" for women.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

100,000th visit to The Emirates Economist

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bicycle helmets are dangerous to the biker's health

One for the people respond to incentives file:
Examining the data, he found that when he wore his helmet, motorists passed by 8.5 centimeters (3.35 inches) closer than when his head was bare. He had increased his risk of an accident by donning safety gear.

Why? You might suspect that cyclists wearing helmets are more prone to take risks. But studies have found otherwise. The real answer, Walker theorizes, is that helmets change the behavior of drivers. Motorists regard a helmet as a signal that the cyclist is experienced and thus can be approached with less caution. “They see the helmet and think, Oh, there’s a serious, skilful person,” Walker says. “And you get hit.”

Or think, oh, there's a biker who won't get as seriously hurt if by chance I hit them.

In praise of Pinochet :: Washington Post

Instapundit points us to this editorial at The Washington Post. An extract:
His death forestalled a belated but richly deserved trial in Chile.

It's hard not to notice, however, that the evil dictator leaves behind the most successful country in Latin America. In the past 15 years, Chile's economy has grown at twice the regional average, and its poverty rate has been halved. It's leaving behind the developing world, where all of its neighbors remain mired. It also has a vibrant democracy. Earlier this year it elected another socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, who suffered persecution during the Pinochet years.

Like it or not, Mr. Pinochet had something to do with this success. To the dismay of every economic minister in Latin America, he introduced the free-market policies that produced the Chilean economic miracle -- and that not even Allende's socialist successors have dared reverse. He also accepted a transition to democracy, stepping down peacefully in 1990 after losing a referendum.

By way of contrast, Fidel Castro -- Mr. Pinochet's nemesis and a hero to many in Latin America and beyond -- will leave behind an economically ruined and freedomless country with his approaching death. Mr. Castro also killed and exiled thousands.
So is this a story about uniqueness, of personality, or is it possible to predict and select the dictator that will (1) institute free market reforms, and (2) bow to the reinstatement of democracy? Certainly it is a story that illustrates that South American countries are capable of reform. But is a dictatorship necessary to trigger the first working example?

What can be learned that might apply to Iraq and the Middle East?


Guilt: The Old Hotness

NYT Magazine:
Kivetz also interviewed 69 students from Columbia University who had returned one week previously from winter break and found that as a group they were split in roughly equal numbers between regret and contentment for having worked or partied. But when Kivetz talked to alumni who graduated 40 years earlier, the picture was much more lopsided: those who hadn’t partied were bitter with regret, while those who had were now thrilled with their choice. “In the long run,” Kivetz says, “we inevitably regret being virtuous and wish we’d been bigger hedonists.”

This behavior, Kivetz theorizes, is due to the nature of guilt. This emotion is “hot” — it burns brightly but briefly. “Guilt is quick to rise,” he notes, “and quick to fall.”
Party on?

Salon: Sold! Dubai Ports World's chunk of the red, white and blue

Andrew Leonard:
Dubai Ports World announced today that it had finally completed the sale of its right to operate six American ports to an American company, AIG Global Investment Group.

Back in March, a storm of bipartisan political protest broke out when it was learned that as a result of Dubai Ports World's purchase of U.K.'s Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, an Arab company would gain operational control of vital U.S. transportation infrastructure. At worst, the purchase was depicted as outright treason. Slightly calmer heads saw it as a potent metaphor of globalization gone out of control. How could something so essential to the lifeblood of American commerce -- control of our own ports! -- be bartered and sold by foreigners like so many bales of cotton?
. . .
Funny thing, though -- despite the name, AIG was not originally a U.S.-domiciled company. It was founded in Shanghai in 1919 by an American insurance agent with the glorious name of Cornelius Vander Starr....
Starr was driven out of China by civil war and invasion in the late 1930s, but insurance companies are nothing if not resilient. In 1998, AIG set up shop in one of its old office buildings in the Shanghai Bund.

C.V. Starr, naturally, has been dubbed a "pioneer of globalization." So if you're looking for a metaphor for the global economy, out-of-control or not, AIG is at least as good a flag-bearer as Dubai Ports World.

Some of The Emirates Economist's opinions on the Dubai Ports World acquisition of US ports here, here, and here.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Instapundit :: Oil trust idea lives (?)

Not so fast, Instapundit. The NYT article you cite says:
Iraqi officials are near agreement on a national oil law that would give the central government the power to distribute current and future oil revenues to the provinces or regions, based on their population.
It says nothing I can see about what you and Hillary and Barone have been advocating -- distributing, in Barone's words, "part of the state's oil profits in payments to every individual." (Emphasis added.) To. Every. Individual.

As I have been said economist Vernon Smith has an even better idea, an Iraqi People's Fund, and he's been saying it since the capture of Saddam:
For long-term success, the enormous task of nation rebuilding in Iraq requires attention to more than the creation of a political democracy. No matter how well-intentioned and democratic it might be, the next government will be tempted to corruption, violation of rights and expanded political power if it owns and controls the great economic wealth potential of Iraq. This is the time, and Iraq is the place, to create an economic system embracing the revolutionary principle that public assets belong directly to the public -- and can be managed to further individual benefit and free choice, without intermediate government ownership in the public name.

In Iraq, the rights in question are to the former government's producing properties, transportation, terminal facilities, waterways, land and subsurface rights. These assets should first be declared transferred to the account of the citizens, recognizing the birthright of each citizen to a personal, empowering property right in the land and assets of the country of their birth. All citizens should have an equal share in this fund and be issued the same number of share claims to the fund.
Again, I've added the emphasis.

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UAE's racing camels running faster than ever :: ABC News

Video link.

It says a lot that ABC has after and before video of the ban on child jockeys. And video from a home for injured child jockeys.

The Dubai skyline is in the background.

Thanks to Brn posting at UAE community blog.


A sense of wonder

Virginia Postrel points us to an excerpt from a Clive Crook essay that begins: "Much of what is wrong with popular attitudes to capitalism comes down to one thing: a lack of wonder at what uncoordinated markets can achieve."

Crook had more to say in his essay about why economic freedom is misunderstood:
It is still true, despite Friedman's best efforts, that economic liberty is widely regarded as very much a second-class kind of freedom -- if it counts as freedom at all. . . . There is no great mystery about the reason for this double standard. Freedoms that express themselves through market relations -- the freedom to buy and sell -- are widely regarded as ethically compromised. This is the freedom to gratify one's greed, to exploit others, to con and be conned, where the market is a jungle, a war of all against all. There is a germ of truth in all that, of course, enough to lend it plausibility. But it misses the larger truth, of the market as an astoundingly productive system of voluntary cooperation, in which people of myriad beliefs, loyalties, and faiths can engage with others, freely, and to their enormous mutual benefit.
Indeed, only this past spring Friedman said:
Though it is not as true now as it used to be with the influx of immigration, the Scandinavian countries have a very small, homogeneous population. That enables them to get away with a good deal they couldn’t otherwise get away with.

What works for Sweden wouldn’t work for France or Germany or Italy. In a small state, you can reach outside for many of your activities. In a homogeneous culture, they are willing to pay higher taxes in order to achieve commonly held goals. But “common goals” are much harder to come by in larger, more heterogeneous populations.

The great virtue of a free market is that it enables people who hate each other, or who are from vastly different religious or ethnic backgrounds, to cooperate economically.
The EclectEcon takes a sceptical look a different sort of misunderstanding of economics.

A new blog: The Islamic Workplace

Here's a new blog to take a look at, The Islamic Workplace.

More about the author, here and here.

Here's his post on the latest Human Rights Watch report on the UAE.

Here's his pointer to the Yusuf Islam's latest recording of Peace Train.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Iran's cash cow drying up :: Business Week

Via Instapundit comes this story:
Iran's looming crisis is the result of years of neglect and underinvestment. As in other oil-producing countries such as Venezuela and Mexico, the government treats the oil industry as a cash cow, milking its revenues for social programs. It allocates only $3 billion a year for investment, less than a third of what's needed to get production growing again.

Compounding the pressure are policies that encourage profligate energy use. Gasoline prices are set at 35 cents a gallon, which has helped fuel 10%-plus annual growth in consumption, PFC Energy figures. The national thirst for gasoline far outstrips domestic refining capacity, so Iran will import about $5 billion in gasoline this year, or about 40% of its needs. The government is planning a $16 billion refinery building program to boost capacity by 60%. But unless Iran raises fuel prices, the new plants will just mean more consumption.

An oil squeeze could spell trouble for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The populist leader has won backing at home through generous handouts. Ahmadinejad has ratcheted up public spending this year by 21%, to $213 billion, on everything from aid to rural areas to housing loans for newlyweds. He has also promised some $16 billion in outlays from a special $30 billion fund set up to tide Iranians through future hard times. Without a healthy oil sector, Iran's social spending could bust the national budget--and reignite inflation.
Business Week headlines its story "Surprise: Oil Woes in Iran." It's not a surprise.

Interesting that despite the generousity, Ahmadinejad isn't all that popular back home. More: student protests.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

An Emirati's Thoughts on America

What a farce. You people do not appreciate great men in your presence. If it wasn't for Bush Sr. you would be the serfs of Saddam and his schoolgirl rapist spawn. If it wasn't for Bush, that psycho Saddam would still be ruling Iraq and murdering people in the hundreds of thousands.

You Intifada cheering hypocrites. America is the UAE's best and most reliable ally. America is why you can study in University and be free to say these things. America is the most moral and just empire in the history of mankind. It could murder all 25 million Iraqis and the case would be closed. It could take on the entire world, subjugate it, enslave it and have it work for it.

Palestine never did anything for the UAE. Egypt never did anything for the UAE. Hosni Mubarak and the PLO would not shed a tear or give a damn about this country if it met it's doom. The Americans helped us in 1986, they will help us in the future, and no stupid ports debate or anything similar will deter my belief in America as an ally.

He's referring to Bush Sr.'s recent Q and A with students in Abu Dhabi.

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Newspaper in the news :: CampaignME

CampaignME reports:
UAE daily freesheet 7Days was fighting for its survival last week after its distributor suddenly ended its relationship with the paper.

Distribution firm Blue Truck had been responsible for the paper's circulation across the country until it decided to stop delivering the paper to homes and offices early last week.

Blue Truck refused to comment on the reasons why it was no longer distributing the paper when contacted by Campaign.

The newspaper, published by Al Sidra Media, relies heavily on its delivery network to homes and office blocks across the UAE. It has a BPA audited circulation of 70,906.

The news comes after the paper was heavily criticised by some parts of the UAE's media for aspects of its editorial coverage in recent weeks.

A spokesman from 7Days was unavailable for comment, but a senior source at the paper claimed another distributor had been found and deliveries were slowly returning to normal.

Some advertisers have also stopped using the tabloid, Campaign understands.
. . .
Al Sidra Media, the publishers of 7DAYS, last night confirmed that the services of a journalist had been terminated as the result of an article which appeared in the newspaper on Sunday, and which caused offence among the local UAE population.

. . . a spokesman for Al Sidra Media said: “We felt the lapse was so serious that sever action had to be taken. As a result, the services of a journalist have been terminated.”

From Wikipedia:
Published by Al Sidra Media, it is the only newspaper in the UAE that is not beholden to special interest groups, whether it be major business families, or the government, and as such has become a trusted source of news in Dubai
. . .
well-known for its irrelevent style.
Irrelevent? Hmm.

Neanderthals failed to adopt division of labor? :: NYT

Unlike modern humans, who had developed a versatile division of labor between men and women, the entire Neanderthal population seems to have been engaged in a single main occupation, the hunting of large game, the scientists, Steven L. Kuhn and Mary C. Stiner, say in an article posted online yesterday in Current Anthropology.
. . .
Neanderthal sites include no bone needles, no small animal remains and no grinding stones for preparing plant foods. So what did Neanderthal women do all day?

Their skeletons are so robustly built that it seems improbable that they just sat at home looking after the children, the anthropologists write. More likely, they did the same as the men, with the whole population engaged in bringing down large game.

The meat of large animals yields a rich payoff, but even the best hunters have unlucky days. The modern humans of the Upper Paleolithic, with their division of labor and diversified food sources, would have been better able to secure a continuous food supply. Nor were they putting their reproductive core — women and children — at great risk.
. . .
Because modern humans exploited the environment more efficiently, by having men hunt large game and women gather small game and plant foods, their populations would have outgrown those of the Neanderthals.

Dr. Stiner said that in her view there was not time for [Neanderthals] to change their culture. “Although there may have been differences in neurological wiring,” she said, “I think another very important key is the legacy of cultural institutions about social roles.”
If social institutions were easy to change, then the Neanderthals could have imitated the institutions they would have witnessed in encroaching hunter-gatherers. There is another - they were just too dumb:
A rival hypothesis proposed by Richard Klein of Stanford University holds that some cognitive advance like the perfection of language underlay the burst of innovative behavior shown by Upper Paleolithic people and their predecessors in Africa.

Why did the Neanderthals fail to adapt when modern humans arrived on their doorstep? Under Dr. Klein’s hypothesis, the reason is simply that they were cognitively less advanced.

Dr. Stiner said that in her view there was not time for them to change their culture.
Is she saying same thing - the Neanderthals were dumber than the Upper Paleolithic people? No, because institutions do take time to change.

What could be true is that some cultures are more open to change than others. See this December 4th essay by Lawrence Harrison at Cato Unbound.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

UAE four times more likely than closest rival Egypt to become the dominating innovation influence in the Arab world.


About 50% of women in Saudi Arabia ...

Monday, December 04, 2006

GoToQuiz speaks to The Emirates Economist (AKA Mr. TEE)

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The South
The Inland North
The West
The Northeast
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

In other news, the Queen's English gets closer to her subjects'. I blame the tube. The boobtube.

Cost of Living :: GulfTalent news release

Monday 4 December 2006, 10:59 GMT

Dubai's Appeal Continues Despite Rising Costs, Study Reports

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, December 4 /PRNewswire/ --

- Spiralling Living Costs in the UAE Fail to Deter Inflow of Expats

Despite high inflation and the lowest savings rate in the region, the UAE remains the most popular Gulf destination for expatriates, according to the latest research released by, the Middle East's leading online recruitment firm.

The report entitled "Pay, Inflation and Mobility in the Gulf" analysed cost of living and employment patterns in the Gulf.
. . .
With the economic boom causing staff shortages across the Gulf, the UAE's immense popularity is further straining the availability of expatriate talent for the rest of the region. According to's report, employers in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman have difficulty attracting professionals in sufficient numbers and many are losing existing staff to the UAE.

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Bodies of knowledge

Washington Post, page A01:
Medicine didn't have much of a reputation back then [1807]. . . . And anyone serious about the study of anatomy had to get bodies -- somehow.

Without dissections, the only way medical students could really learn was in surgery, said Ronn Wade, director of the Maryland State Anatomy Board. "And they didn't have anesthesia then. It's kind of hard to learn anatomy when you're trying to cut something out [and] the patient's screaming and yelling and hemorrhaging."

U-Md. was the first school in the country to make dissection compulsory, Pitrof said. But it wasn't until the late 1800s, with a growing recognition of the importance of medical education, that Maryland legislators made it legal for the medical school to use unclaimed bodies.

In some countries, scientists were allowed to use bodies from poorhouses or of criminals hanged from gallows. But there was plenty of grave robbing, too -- enough so that wealthy people sometimes put slabs of stone over tombs or hired guards to stay by grave sites until the bodies could decompose.
. . .
You'd think selling bodies would be ancient history. But despite long-running programs allowing people to donate their organs and bodies after death for medical science, this year a black market of body parts made headlines nationally and internationally. In a case in California, for example, hundreds of bodies were illegally carved up.

With growing demand for tissue and bone, some corpses were disappearing, with organs and other body parts sold to medical research facilities, tissue banks and the like.
Hmmm. Seems like the Washington Post would want to more carefully research a page 1 article even if it is a puff piece. As recently posted at Marginal Revolution,
One of the most bizarre aspects of the organ shortage is that it is illegal to pay for cadaveric organs for use in transplants but it is legal to pay for cadavers. That's right, it's illegal to pay people to donate their organs for the purpose of saving lives but medical schools can pay people to donate their bodies so that plastic surgeons can practice their nip and tuck.
Oddly, just a week ago the Post ran an article by experts pointing out that the sale of cadavers is legal. An extract:
Medical schools routinely pay for the cremation or burial (often with elaborate memorial ceremonies) of the people whose bodies were donated to them for medical research and student training. In contrast, it is against federal law to offer any compensation for transplant organ procurement, including paying for organ donors' funeral expenses. This creates a bizarre asymmetry in the treatments of organ and whole body donations.

Given the current cost of funerals, the savings from donating bodies to medical schools can be substantial. This is especially true in states with funeral industry--protective regulations that are intended to keep out low-cost competitors. Those states provide us an opportunity to test empirically the effects of compensation on whole-body donation and, in turn, to extrapolate whether there is any merit to the criticisms of organ donation compensation.

If potential whole body donors respond to financial incentives, then we ought to see more body donations in stringently regulated states where funeral prices are higher. That is, in fact, what the data show.
Aside. Some of the best nose jobs in the world are performed in Iran because surgeons get a lot of practice. Here's why:
Iran's strict Islamic dress code has backfired in at least one big way.

Some young Iranian women are more obsessed with their appearance than their counterparts in the West.

And, as CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports, they're lining up in record number to improve on the look nature gave them with cosmetic surgery.

The most popular form of plastic surgery in America is liposuction, but in Iran, where the female form is kept largely under wraps, women prefer to spend their money where they can show it off.

So Iran, where the morality police used to confiscate eyeliner and lip gloss, is now the nose job capital of the world.
Iranian men are joining in.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

In games without frontiers-war without tears

If the American analysis of the relationship between power and luxury goods is correct, surely the answer is to flood the Korean market with luxury goods. Carpet-bomb centres of population with aid-drops of Rolexes and iPods and (suitably packed) bottles of Bordeaux. Then power will lie with goods that only the people can provide -- like tomatoes, and bread.
Via Adam Smith Institute Blog.

The ZeFrank video referred to at The Economist Blog is here. (Coincidentally, it starts with ZeFrank in front of the Burj with no reason given.)

Peter Gabriel gets the last word:
Andre has a red flag, Chiang Ching's is blue
They all have hills to fly them on except for Lin Tai Yu
Dressing up in costumes, playing silly games
Hiding out in tree-tops shouting out rude names
-Whistling tunes we hide in the dunes by the seaside
-Whistling tunes we piss on the goons in the jungle
It's a knockout
If looks could kill they probably will
In games without frontiers-wars without tears
If looks could kill they probably will
In games without frontiers-war without tears
Games without frontiers-war without tears

Jeux sans frontieres
Jeux sans frontieres
Jeux sans frontieres

Saturday, December 02, 2006

American blogging on KSA

Take a look at Crossroads Arabia:
This blog’s purpose is to comment, knowledgeably, about Saudi Arabia, from an American perspective. It’s not about Saudi-bashing, nor is it an apologia for the country. Rather, it’s an effort to put that country into context.


Coal power plants in UAE's future?

Seems improbable to me. Where will the coal come from? Is there a cost savings to shipping coal to the UAE when cleaner burning natural gas is available nearby?

But Gulf News reports:
Abu Dhabi: The UAE, holder of the world's fifth largest gas reserves, may build coal-burning power plants for the first time to help meet rising demand for energy spurred by a booming economy, a company official said.

"Alternative sources of energy for power generation including coal are being discussed," Peter Barker-Homek, Chief Executive Officer of Abu Dhabi National Energy told Bloomberg.

Friday, December 01, 2006

So it ain't so, Jou.

Item: Columbia journalism students ...
Caught cheatin' ... on ethics test.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Star Tribune said it is reviewing a year's worth of work by one of its editorial-page writers after finding two of his editorials contained similarities to the work of another writer.

Editorial-page editor Susan Albright said the writer, Steve Berg, would not write during the review. She cited two editorials, one from Nov. 10 and one from March 27 that contained phrases from or similarities to commentaries in the New Yorker by Hendrik Hertzberg.
. . .
Berg, who has worked at the Star Tribune for 30 years, said he couldn't comment during the review.
. . .
Similarities between a Nov. 10 Star Tribune editorial and Hertzberg's Nov. 6 commentary were first brought to light in a Nov. 11 posting on the Twin Cities-based conservative blog Power Line, long critical of the Star Tribune for having what they say is a liberal bias.
. . .
In the second incident, also brought to the paper's attention by Power Line, a March 27 Star Tribune editorial on Electoral College reform struck many of the same themes as a March 6 Hertzberg piece.
UPDATE: TigerHawk offers some lessons.

Emeritus professor of geography suggests banning seatbelts

Perhaps the Emirates should ban seatbelts in order to give drivers the incentive to drive more safely. After all, people respond to incentives.

If there's one thing we know about our risky world, it's that seat belts save lives, right? And they do, of course. But reality, as usual, is messier and more complicated than that. John Adams, risk expert and emeritus professor of geography at University College London, was an early skeptic of the seat belt safety mantra. Adams first began to look at the numbers more than 25 years ago. What he found was that contrary to conventional wisdom, mandating the use of seat belts in 18 countries resulted in either no change or actually a net increase in road accident deaths.

How can that be? Adams' interpretation of the data rests on the notion of risk compensation, the idea that individuals tend to adjust their behavior in response to what they perceive as changes in the level of risk. Imagine, explains Adams, a driver negotiating a curve in the road. Let's make him a young male. He is going to be influenced by his perceptions of both the risks and rewards of driving a car. The considerations could include getting to work or meeting a friend for dinner on time, impressing a companion with his driving skills, bolstering his image of himself as an accomplished driver. They could also include his concern for his own safety and desire to live to a ripe old age, his feelings of responsibility for a toddler with him in a car seat, the cost of banging up his shiny new car or losing his license. Nor will these possible concerns exist in a vacuum. He will be taking into account the weather and the condition of the road, the amount of traffic and the capabilities of the car he is driving. But crucially, says Adams, this driver will also be adjusting his behavior in response to what he perceives are changes in risks. If he is wearing a seat belt and his car has front and side air bags and anti-skid brakes to boot, he may in turn drive a bit more daringly.

The point, stresses Adams, is that drivers who feel safe may actually increase the risk that they pose to other drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and their own passengers (while an average of 80% of drivers buckle up, only 68% of their rear-seat passengers do).
No mention in the article that economists have being making this argument for some time.

For another example of unintended consequences Newmark's Door points us to this essay by economist Lowell Gallaway:
The upshot of the Griggs decision was to place employers in the position of being presumed guilty of job discrimination if they used ability tests to screen applicants, unless they could prove themselves innocent by showing that the pre-employment test they used had a manifest relationship to the performance of the job in question. In the Supreme Court’s view, since cognitive ability tests appeared to have a more adverse impact on minority workers than on others, their use was presumptively discriminatory.

Duke Power had also established a requirement that applicants for most jobs had to have a high school diploma. The Court also ruled that this requirement was illegal unless the employer could prove that having finished high school was necessary to the work.
. . .
One approach [for employers] would be to turn to an alternative indicator of ability. While the Court would not accept an overt requirement for a high school diploma, nothing in Griggs prevents potential employees from including their educational accomplishments in their resumes. And nothing prevents employers from reading those resumes. Thus, employers could behave as if they were imposing an educational requirement without formally doing so.

That strategy also has its difficulties, chiefly that it might still lead to a “disparate impact” on the employment of minorities. A solution would be to have a quota hiring system for minorities and beyond that rely on educational credentials to help sort out job applicants. In effect, the cost of affirmative action hires is treated as an additional fixed cost of doing business.

It appears that many employers have pursued that strategem. What are its consequences? The answer depends on how individuals seeking employment behave. Would they become aware that employers were still quietly using education credentials? Would they observe that others with whom they were competing had greater success if they had impressive educational certificates? Given the abundance of publicity emphasizing the positive association of levels of education with employment success, it seems highly likely that they would become so aware. At least, there would develop a widespread belief that it is in each individual’s interest to acquire educational credentials – and the higher the better.
. . .
Under the old regime of ability testing, which probably did a better job of identifying workers with the desired abilities, people didn’t need to spend years of their lives and huge amounts of money just to obtain a piece of paper. Griggs played a major role in catalyzing the current mania for educational credentials.
The argument has a connection to Emiratization.


Camps to be shut are 'unsuitable' for living :: Gulf News

Quote: "More than 20 per cent of accommodations in Muhaisina 2 are unsuitable for living. Some are more than 20 years old. We have been long aware of the poor state of these accommodations and are now committed to tackling the issue."