Saturday, January 31, 2009

And now for something that will raise your serotonin level

Some background here and here.

Oh, and here's the commercial PETA prepared for the Super Bowl. It was rejected by NBC as too sexy. It is presumed PETA intended that all along. It's receiving plenty of attention on youtube.

This just in: Study: NFL TV ads full of violence, sex, alcohol - NFL- nbcsports. Warning: Its not Victoria's Secret ads that are driving this results; it's ads for ED drugs.

Some have wondered whether the networks' ads for their own programming were included in the study, and have noted it would not change the results.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The CIA station chief in Algeria is accused of a series of rapes. ABC News has an extensive report. He made videos of his exploits.
Long article in The Financial Times on Gulf sovereign wealth funds:
The Gulf region’s national investment vehicles, hit by the global economic downturn and falling oil prices, can no longer be regarded as the investors of last resort.
At home or abroad.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama's Middle East envoy has al Maktoum links

George Mitchell, President Barack Obama’s special Middle East troubleshooter, was chairman of a law firm that was paid about $8 million representing Dubai’s ruler in connection with a child-trafficking lawsuit.

The DLA Piper law firm did legal and lobbying work on the case, which alleged that Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and another official used children kidnapped from other countries to ride as jockeys in camel races.
The camel-jockey suit was thrown out after the U.S. Justice Department notified a Miami federal judge that it planned to intervene and argue that al-Maktoum was immune from the suit as a foreign leader.
A February 2005 report on the U.S. State Department Web site says that in the United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai, “trafficking of young, noncitizen boys employed as camel jockeys continued to be a serious problem, although the Government has pledged to eliminate this practice for boys under the age of 15.”
Mitchell was quoted by the state-owned Emirates News Agency in January 2007 as praising the United Arab Emirates and Dubai for a “remarkable partnership with UNICEF to locate, care for and repatriate underage camel jockeys. This program has been justly praised by the international community as a model solution to a serious problem.”


Mmmmm, schwarma

This explains why I love schrwarma. Fat, broiled, mystery meat:
...contain "shocking" levels of salt, fat and calories, a survey has concluded.
Six kebabs [in the UK study] were found to include pork when it had not been declared as an ingredient. Two of the six were described as Halal - food or drink permitted for Muslims, which must not contain pork.

Dubai property prices continue fall

Gulf News
Property prices in Dubai could fall about 20 per cent on average, the chairman of the emirate's largest developer, Emaar Properties, said in remarks published on on Monday. He did not give a timeframe.
Asked about views that real estate prices could fall as much as 60 per cent, Al Abbar told Al Khaleej newspaper: "In my opinion a decline of 60 per cent is illogical. There will be a variation in the percentage of decline based on the location and level of units."
Property prices in the emirate fell 23 per cent in the last quarter of 2008, HSBC said last week.
The National(Jan. 21): HSBC report confirms Dubai property decline


Monday, January 26, 2009

Divorce UAE style

Can anyone explain to me why the url for this article ends in "/SPORT"?

The National:
There are no official statistics on divorce in the UAE. The GWU [General Women’s Union] has approached the Judicial Department to begin gathering figures, as well as the main reasons cited when married couples split.

A spokeswoman for the Judicial Department said the authority was in the process of compiling the data. According to the UN’s statistics division, the number of divorces in the country rose 13 per cent, to 12,974 a year, from 2002 to 2004.
It's not stated, but I believe these numbers refer to Emiratis only. Emiratis make up about 1 million of the 5 million residents of the UAE.

As to the reasons:

Dr Sayegh [Dr Fatma Sayegh, a professor specialising in woman’s issues at UAE University in Al Ain], who has conducted several studies on divorce in the UAE, said many couples were married too young and did not fully understanding its significance.
Tony Maalouli, a divorce lawyer and the managing director of Dubai-based ProConsult Advocates, said he thought the high number of expatriates in the Emirates, with different values and lifestyles, had created problems.

“If there’s a lot of exposure to other nations and other ways of life, then this can put extra strain on the marriage,” Mr Maalouli said.
One reason the number of divorces is high in the Arab world may be the ease with which a man can divorce under Shariah law. If a man says, “I divorce thee” to his wife once, the couple have a three-month separation in which to reconcile their differences. But if a man says the phrase three times it indicates a final, irrevocable separation.

Too often, that is a move taken rashly, said Sheikh Abdul Rahman Ammoura, a mufti with the fatwa call centre.
Many of the problems young married couples face are exacerbated by the fact that they don’t know each other well before getting married, the GWU official said.
[Dr Sayegh said,] “They need to change this spend, spend, spend mentality. There is more to marriage than being provided for and things aren’t always easy. Both sides go in with very high expectations and then divorce for small reasons.”
Related: Earlier Emirates Economist article here.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Government to clarify chilling media law

The National:
Ibrahim al Abed, the NMC’s director general, said the Government would release an appendix to the law within eight weeks that should clear up what critics have termed “vague provisions”.
Mohammed Yousef, the director of the UAE Journalists Association, said last week that he would continue to lobby for changes to the law before it was passed. Mr Yousef said the FNC committee had integrated almost none of his association’s recommendations.

Other critics have said the articles were too open to interpretation and could have a chilling effect on the way the media is able to report.

But according to Mr al Abed, the legislation is aimed at preventing stories from being fabricated. “If one is confident of the source, then there’s no problem,” he said. “We’re talking about rumours such as spreading false news about a major company going bankrupt or that the economy is collapsing.”


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dumb and dumber

Canadian Broadcast Corporation:
Chinese websites removed references to communism and dissent from translations of U.S. President Barack Obama's inauguration address, as state media urged him not to ignore progress made by the former administration in forging ties between the two countries.

The official Chinese translation of the speech, credited to the website of the state-run China Daily newspaper, was missing the word "communism." The paragraph with the sentence on dissent had been removed entirely.
The country's state broadcaster, China Central Television, also abruptly cut away from the live feed of the speech when the Chinese translator said the word communism. The program quickly shifted to a news anchor, who appeared caught off-guard before asking an analyst a question about the economy, said reports.
Not so inscrutable. That's what I call drawing attention to message you don't want to be heard.

London goes after the mushroom

Let's hope she doesn't lead the child astray.

The picture accompanies this story from The Telegraph (UK):
Fat people will be offered cash incentives to lose weight and take regular exercise under a radical Government strategy announced yesterday to tackle the obesity epidemic.

Employers will be encouraged to set up competitions with money, vouchers and other rewards for people who give up junk food in favour of healthy eating and living. Those losing the most weight would earn the biggest prizes.

Ministers believe that by giving people incentives to do something about their weight now, it will help avoid larger costs associated with treating cancer, heart disease and diabetes caused by obesity. Similar schemes have worked well in America and British medical insurance companies already offer discounts for people who go to the gym regularly.
People respond to incentives. But be careful about the design. What's to stop me from bulking up first and then entering the competition to lose the most weight?

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

UAE considering "gag" law on bad economic news

This doesn't sound good. Wall Street Journal:
The United Arab Emirates plans to crackdown on media freedoms amid a slew of bad headlines about the impact of the global financial crisis on the Persian Gulf state's economy and corporate scandals in Dubai.

A new 45-article law, which was introduced by the National Media Council, the government arm responsible for all media affairs, was presented to the country's Federal National Council to replace the 28-year-old Publications Law.

The law, which is still at draft stage, will introduce a system of fines, ranging from 50,000 U.A.E. dirhams ($13,600) to AED1 million, for damaging the country's reputation or its economy, according to a copy of the legislation published in local media Wednesday.
The National also has coverage:
Despite protecting journalists from imprisonment and guaranteeing the anonymity of sources, the draft law drew criticism from some in the media and lawyers for being vague.

Under the proposed law, journalists and newspapers who damage the reputation of the UAE, or publish material that harms the national economy, can be fined and banned.

However, Dr Qubaisi said that had to be read in context. While the law stated that publishing news that misled public opinion or harmed the national economy was punishable, truth could be used as a defence. It was false information that was “knowingly” printed that was deemed a violation.

Addendum. Fake Plastic Souks goes back and compares the new law to the old law (1980) and writes that you can "wonder for yourself at how much has changed."
And he notes he notes the new law is as archaic as the old in at least this respect: the law makes no reference to the 'e-world' and remains firmly rooted in the idea that 'the media' is content produced by licensed entities that squash ink onto dead trees and that would be held to account according to the terms of their trade license.
Addendum 2. Some say the West is becoming increasing comfortable with regulation of speech:
“What we’re learning here is really the bedrock difference between the United States and the countries that are in a broad sense its legal cousins,” Mr. Steyn added. “Western governments are becoming increasingly comfortable with the regulation of opinion. The First Amendment really does distinguish the U.S., not just from Canada but from the rest of the Western world.”
Addendum 3. Gambia gives a British couple a year hard labor for sedition.


Another big egg

Wall Street Journal:
Unless large aluminum producers make deeper cuts in output instead of waiting for peers to do it, prices will take years to recover from their slump, industry executives said.

Producers are privately warning that this game of brinkmanship, in which just 10% of world aluminum output is slated to be taken offline, is likely to create long-lasting damage to the sector.
Middle Eastern producers such as Dubai Aluminium Co. and Aluminium Bahrain BSC haven't announced cuts, nor has India's National Aluminium Co.
Aluminum prices on the London Metal Exchange have halved since a peak in July at $3,380 a metric ton.
Dubal is "one of the largest non-oil contributors to Dubai's economy."

Another good sentence

Within economics, macro has the most obvious policy implications, so it is the most perverted part of economics.

- John Seater

Best sentence I read today

In the mind of the anti-free-marketeer, the government occupies the same kind of intellectual territory as the divine designer in the mind of an anti-Darwinian.
That's Brian Micklethwait. (Thanks, Instapundit.)

Some good lines from Obama's inaugural speech:
The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.

And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.

But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
You could quibble, but I won't.

And there's this:
And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.

And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
Another part I liked:
Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old.

These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This [see paragraph above] is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence: the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall. And [this is] why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

Monday, January 19, 2009

All your eggs in a few baskets

Another sector in which Dubai specializes is also hit hard by the global downturn: shipping. Global international trade is down.

I don't have a way of knowing whether it has hit the transshipment business in Dubai --stop rss feed, there's this* --, but remember that Dubai has worldwide holdings in Dubai Ports World.

Dubai's status as a key global sea-air hub has come under threat from falling air freight rates. Declining production in China and overcapacity at airlines — combined with low fuel prices — has made the all-air option more attractive to shippers.

"It looks as if Dubai is going down rapidly," said Tobias Siegl, MD of ECS's Dubai subsidiary, Globe Air Cargo.

"Air freight rates are cheaper than sea-air rates, which heavily affects the whole idea of the Middle East as a transit point.

"There is a rumour that Dubai may be on the financial edge. Nobody is willing to tell you anything in Dubai these days. Everyone is bugging you for cheaper prices, and carriers are offering rates just covering their costs."

Cutting rates in a transhipment market cannot stimulate demand if the volumes have dried up, he pointed out.

China is reducing production, so the incoming loads are simply not there any more. People are just trying to grab loads from others."

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Kerala braces for return migration from the Gulf

The Indian state of Kerala is bracing for return migration due to the global slowdown that has hit the Gulf economies. So reports Free Exchange:
THE lush state of Kerala in the south of India generates most of its foreign exchange either by exporting people or importing them. It earned almost 20 billion rupees ($500m) from foreign tourists in 2006 (the latest year for which figures are available) and about 245 billion (in the same year) in remittances from Keralites working abroad, 89% of whom go to the Gulf.

The state has an astonishing 24.5 emigrants per 100 households. Kerala’s per capita output is one of the lowest in India, but its per capita expenditure is one of the highest. (Gopinath Pillai, a Singaporean diplomat of Keralite descent, describes the situation like this: one poor fellow works three shifts in Dubai, saving every penny to send home, where there will be eight guys reading two newspapers a day and discussing politics.)
But the Gulf economies where most of these NRKs work are slowing. Some construction projects are on hold. As a result, Kerala may have to brace itself for a wave of reverse migration. At the recent Indian diaspora conference in Chennai, several speakers called on the government to set up a department for returnees.
If any place is a sweatshop, the Gulf is one. You'll notice the irony. Kerala loses when there are fewer opportunities in the sweatshop.

Carpe Diem has a recent roundup, "In Praise of Sweatshops." Don't forget this golden oldie also titled In Praise of Sweatshops. This, too.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Reversal of Fortune

As recently as June 2008 the Council of Foreign Relations was reporting Persian Gulf Nations' Bulging Coffers Bring 'Wrenching Transformation'. Since that time of course oil prices have collapsed, and so too have the value of assets in sovereign wealth funds.

The council this month issued a new report by Brad Setzer and Rachel Ziemba, entitled GCC Sovereign Funds: Reversal of Fortune. They estimate the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority lost 40 percent of its value over the course of 2008.

Thanks to Gulf News for drawing the paper to my attention. Setzer and Ziemba do not do a comparable analysis for Dubai, and Gulf News makes no reference to what is said about Dubai. What Setzer and Ziemba say is,
Dubai’s financial difficulties are by now well known: Dubai’s external debts exceed its external assets. With roughly $20 billion of its roughly $80 billion in foreign debt coming due in 2009, Dubai will likely require a significant loan from Abu Dhabi—particularly as it can no longer finance its current account deficit by borrowing from the rest of the world.
Dubai in particular currently faces a financing squeeze. Its government and ruling family-sponsored firms have $80 billion in debts. Investment vehicles like Istithmar Global and DIC have invested abroad—but their external investments are illiquid and likely have suffered significant losses recently.31 Furthermore, these vehicles were funded from the proceeds of Dubai’s other investments, including the domestic property market, where prices are falling. There is little doubt that “Dubai Inc”—defined as entities owned by the government and ruling family—has more external liabilities than external assets, and far more short-term external debts than liquid external assets. Moreover, Dubai has relied on a roughly $20 billion annual increase in its external debt to cover an ongoing current account deficit: it consequently needs more financing than implied by the amount of its maturing external debt.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

UAE banks assigned negative outlook

Financial Times:
Moody’s Investors Service, the credit rating agency, has placed the United Arab Emirates banking sector on a negative outlook, amid mounting signs that the country’s real estate market is heading for a correction.
Tightening credit conditions, liquidity constraints, a collapse of regional equity markets and tumbling oil prices will also contribute to increased strains at UAE banks, Moody’s added in its report.

However, the credit rating agency added that UAE banks generally enjoy strong economic fundamentals, were sufficiently capitalised and provided for non-performing loans.
UBS, the Swiss wealth manager, said on Wednesday that Dubai’s population could contract 8 per cent this year as cancelled projects cause a mass of layoffs in the construction and real estate sectors, which account for more than half the emirate’s populace.

One wonders how much of Dubai's past growth in GDP was growth in population rather than growth in per capita GDP.

“We estimate this may result in a residential oversupply of 27 per cent of the current market by 2010, thereby incrementally pressuring home prices,” UBS said in a report.
In, um, unrelated news, traffic in Dubai is "no longer a nightmare" -- attributing it to an increase in carpooling due to the economic downturn. Or is it a fall in population?

And there's this:
He foretold the collapse of Lehman Bros., the U.S. investment bank, and anticipated the resulting plunge of the South Korea currency, the won, all the while castigating policymakers for their blunders.

But prosecutors say Minerva crossed the line.

In a Dec. 29 posting, the online commentator wrote that the South Korean government had ordered financial institutions to stop buying dollars in order to curb the won's fall against the greenback.

The posting devastated the local foreign exchange market, forcing the nation's financial authority to spend $2 billion of its reserves as the demand for dollars surged wildly, prosecutors claim.

This month, investigators arrested a 30-year-old man who they say has admitted to being Minerva. They have criminally charged him with spreading false rumors on the Internet that damaged the government's reputation in the world financial market.

In other words, men are redundant

Does your family tree have more women than men? In all likelihood it does.

Pity those bare branches.

In a more theoretical vein check out this economic literature.


Obama's Cadillac

Take a look.

Fact of the day

Men are red, women are green. Caucasians at least.

Forecasting growth in UAE

The Economist Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) "has downgraded its forecast of UAE GDP growth to 1.5 per cent this year, before recovering to 4.7 per cent in 2010."

That's as reported in Gulf News. More:
The UAE Federal Government should take a lead in reviving the country's economy, in case of a further slowdown, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in its latest report.

The Economic Bulletin stated: "If the UAE economy goes through a period of slowdown due to the turmoil in the world markets, then the burden of reviving the economy lies on the government."

The UAE economy is showing signs of slowing down due to the impact of the global economic downturn and lower oil prices - which fell to $36 (Dh132.4) a barrel yesterday. In response, economic forecast analysts have revised their figures for the UAE.
The DCCI bulletin stressed the importance of government initiatives to spur growth with demand- side factors, particularly to bolster investment - and more importantly - private sector investment.

"The lesson to be learned from the Great Depression of the 1930s is that the US government at the time did not play an active role in pre-empting the economic slowdown", the DCCI bulletin said.
As I posted yesterday, the Financial Times reported the Dubai government has "tame[d] its previous GDP growth targets of 11 per cent a year to 2015 down to a more modest 4 to 6 per cent."

EIU reports historical averages for UAE economic aggregates here. Real GDP growth 2003-2007 was 9.3 percent.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Best sentence I read today

Jules Crittenden takes the prize:
If demand is that high, it sounds like a lot of working girls could save themselves a lot of trouble, go for the big bucks in a one-off and retire.
Miss Dylan (not her real name) appears to have discovered an untapped market. We can expect a flood of entrants followed by falling prices.

Crittenden also writes, "the whole thing sounds like a story" -- that is, a hoax. I posted on this earlier taking it to be true, but I'm inclined now to hedge my bets, too. If only because you don't expect to see a quarter of million dollars lying in the street.

Saudis will pump below their OPEC target

Price rises above $37/barrel.


Experts confused by Dubai's transparency

The Financial Times:
An understated press conference to announce details of the 2009 budget should have been a run-of-the-mill event. But in the context of Dubai’s infamously opaque finances, Saturday’s statements were revolutionary.
The spate of figures suddenly falling out of a black hole at of the finance department left economists confused.

“It’s more evidence of transparency but the figures don’t leave us all that wiser in terms of actual spending and debt obligations,” said one economist. “There isn’t much to compare it to.”

Over the past few months, the government’s statistics centre has been revising Dubai’s GDP upwards with the help of international consultants. The previous system, officials argued, was outmoded and unrepresentative of the emirate’s true economic output.

The new methodology, to be unveiled by the statistics centre this year, puts 2007 GDP at almost $73bn, officials said – well above the last official figure of about $50bn for 2006. The Dubai government has said its overall debt obligations amount to $80bn.

The revision, which at a stroke helps reduce the emirate’s debt-to-GDP ratio, was balanced by Mr Shaikh’s acceptance that the government will have to tame its previous GDP growth targets of 11 per cent a year to 2015 down to a more modest 4 to 6 per cent.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ending virginity highly valued

The Telegraph:
A student who is auctioning her virginity to pay for a masters degree in Family and Marriage therapy has seen bidding hit £2.5million ($3.7m).
"I think me and the person I do it with will both profit greatly from the deal."

She added: "It's shocking that men will pay so much for someone's virginity, which isn't even prized so highly anymore."
Via Carpe Diem.

Sentence of the day

There's an industrial organization paper waiting to be written here.
That's Chris Blattman writing about this LA Times article on Nigerian pimps in Naples. Chris quotes from the Times article:
Nigerian gangsters have made Castel Volturno a European headquarters. In the 1990s, demand boomed here for African prostitutes -- prosecutors call it "the Naomi Campbell phenomenon." Camorra clans "rented" turf to Nigerian pimps, a line of work that Neapolitan gangsters disdain.

And as cocaine flows increasingly to Europe through West Africa, Nigerians have graduated from their previous role as smuggling "mules" and pay the Camorra for a cut of street trafficking action.

"The Camorra worked well with the Nigerians at first," said Antonio Laudati, a top Justice Ministry official who led a major prosecution of the Nigerian mafia last year. "They were low-cost labor. They were well-received because they were cheap and very loyal. But then the Nigerians started to rise to a new level."

Reproductive cheating punished

Worker ants in colonies with a queen are physically attacked by their peers if they try to reproduce, a study says.

In ant society, workers normally give up reproducing to care for the queen's offspring, who are also their brothers and sisters.

The researchers found that chemicals produced by the sneaky ants gave away their fertility status.

This "reproductive policing" plays an important role in maintaining harmony in the ant world, Dr Liebig explained.

"The idea that social harmony is dependent on strict systems to prevent and punish cheating individuals seems to apply to most successful societies," he said.

The left Bank

How many historical examples can you find of countries refusing to take back territory that was once, in some form or another, theirs?
That's Tyler Cowen writing about Jordan's lack of interest in taking back the West Bank. His example?
Could Puerto Rico be an example? Maybe the U.S. would gladly "give it back" (that is debatable, however) but it seems that Puerto Rican voters don't want full, unencumbered title.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

What punctuation mark am I?

Somehow I don't think this test gives results that make you feel bad about yourself no matter how you answer it.

You Are a Question Mark

You seek knowledge and insight in every form possible. You love learning.

And while you know a lot, you don't act like a know it all. You're open to learning you're wrong.

You ask a lot of questions, collect a lot of data, and always dig deep to find out more.

You're naturally curious and inquisitive. You jump to ask a question when the opportunity arises.

Your friends see you as interesting, insightful, and thought provoking.

(But they're not always up for the intense inquisitions that you love!)

You excel in: Higher education

You get along best with: The Comma

H/T to The Bohemian State who is a Comma. We should have lunch sometime.

Sweet crude at $42/barrel

Sweet crude for February delivery tumbled 12 percent, or $5.95, to settle at $42.63 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after the report was released.

The Energy Information Administration said inventories of commercial crude oil inventories rose 6.7 million barrels, well beyond the 1.5 million-barrel build expected by analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos., can influence market trading.

Analyst Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Ritterbusch and Associates, said it was one of the more bearish EIA reports he's seen in a while.
The crude futures market is now in what oil traders call a "contango" -- in which oil delivered in the next few weeks is cheaper than in the following months. Sweet crude for March delivery was trading at $49.34, about $5 cheaper than the February contract.

"A steep contango in the front of the NYMEX crude curve and the low cost of carry due to easier monetary policy has provided the economic incentive to store barrels," Linda Rafield, senior oil analyst for Platts, said in an analyst note.

Crude has become so cheap, it is being stored at sea to avoid selling it at current market prices.

"Demand for oil appears to remain weak as traders are seeking as many as 10 supertankers to store crude," Addison Armstrong, director of market research at Tradition Energy, said in a research note. "The carriers hold about 2 million barrels of crude and traders are seeking to lease the ships for three to nine months."

There were already millions of barrels of crude being stored in oil tankers at sea.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Jon Stewart on the unpleasantness in Gaza

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Truth about cars

'93 Camry wups 2008 Dodge Charger. Why would anyone build such a car?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Local teenage scene in Fujairah

As reported by The National
On a recent Saturday evening, a group of Emirati break-dancers who call themselves the Crip Killers crew – named after a violent street gang that originated in Los Angeles – prepare to face off against local rivals.

As the bass of the Shop Boyz rap song Party Like a Rockstar thunders from the subwoofer speakers of a customised Honda Accord, a scrum of other hyped-up teenagers encircles the Crip Killers.

Wearing headbands, white trainers and jean shorts, they stare down the rival crew until one slender teenager steps into the circle shimmying his shoulders and performing headstands and front and back flips, the opening salvo in a dance battle.

“We want to be like Americans – but we can’t,” says Ali Abdullah, 18, an Emirati student at a military academy and member of the Crip Killers. “I only dance to hip hop – I love it.”

A dancer from the opposing crew, Mohammed Hamdan, 17, a former gymnast, steals the show with high-flying back flips.

Although kids from all backgrounds take part, there is general agreement in the crowd that the Emirati dancers are best. “They’re better than me, man, they’re better,” Abdullah, 15, an Iraqi, says ruefully after the other dancers race off in their expensive Hummers and sport utility vehicles.

As Khamis looks on, a group of teenagers walks by wearing bright yellow T-shirts emblazoned with silver dollar bill signs.

“Wearing those kinds of clothes is comfortable for them,” Khamis says. “But trust me, when they’re 18, they’ll go back to wearing kanduras.”

According to the twentysomething generation of Emirati men, however, something odd is happening to their break-dancing younger brothers.
Lots of picture accompany the story.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Media piling on Dubai

CBS News:
The gulf city state's property prices went up as fast and as high as the towering buildings. But reality has suddenly intruded.

One investor said it was as if someone had thrown a switch, as the global credit crunch slammed a city that was, in effect, the world's biggest construction site.

It took just 20 years for Dubai to go from a desert outpost with a handful of office towers to a world metropolis, where one fifth of the world's cranes operate, and property became a very hot commodity, with some people playing real estate the way others play poker.
Take the world's tallest building, the Burj Dubai, which remains under construction. In the last month prices there dropped at least 50 percent.

House prices on the man-made Palm - the iconic frond-shaped island colony - down 40 percent.

A seven bedroom villa? $10 million last year, under $6 million now.

Banks aren't lending. Projects are shelved. And the normally secretive government has had to acknowledge it has one of the highest levels of per-capita debt in the world -- and not enough oil to pay for it.

"The worst is still yet to come in the sense of people losing properties" Khadri says. "That will happen."
Wall Street Journal:
Dubai may yet weather the storm. It remains the most business-friendly enclave in the Gulf for foreigners. Over the past month, Dubai-controlled entities have repaid more than $1 billion of debt. And, in extremis, Abu Dhabi would probably support Dubai. Its ruling al Nahyan dynasty is tied by blood to Dubai's al Maktoum family.

Bankers say any such move could come in the form of Abu Dhabi taking stakes in Dubai's largest companies such as Emirates Airline or a direct financial bailout.

But any rescue would come at a price. It could mean reining in Dubai's Westernized style and economic openness. A new era already is beckoning. The downturn has coincided with a crackdown on corporate crime, with dozens of Dubai executives arrested without charge.

Day-to-day running of the emirate is returning to the sheik's Diwan, or royal court. Previously, Sheik Mohammed had handed over responsibilities to lieutenants outside his family and tribal inner-circle. Any signs of the emirate becoming a less-transparent place to do business may only make it harder to rebuild the Dubai dream.