asia

‘Nature even in chaos cannot proceed otherwise than regularly and according to order.’ –Kant

Our team has analyzed 144 of AQI’s and the ISI’s own financial and managerial documents. Captured by coalition and Iraqi forces between 2005 and 2010, these include scans of typed documents, as well as electronic files found on hard drives, USB sticks, and other media. Among them are spreadsheets listing the qualifications and training of hundreds of fighters, details on thousands of individual salary payments, and massive lists of itemized expenditures. […]

The group’s financing tactics, relying on extortion and criminal rackets, put it directly in conflict with local economic elites. […] Moreover, the way it managed human resources and finances—requiring numerous signatures and oversight—reflected high levels of internal mistrust. […]

The negative implication of our findings is that even those vulnerabilities don’t make the group easy to completely eradicate. From 2006 through 2009 the ISI was devastated by US and allied forces, Iraqi security forces, and local Sunni militias; during some months US Special Operations forces alone conducted 10 or more raids per night against the group. It stopped being a strategic threat, but it didn’t disappear. Its organizational structure was robust enough that it could go to ground, survive, and wait for the right circumstances to come roaring back.

{ Boston Globe | Continue reading }

related { One of the Islamic State’s senior commanders reveals exclusive details of the terror group’s origins inside an Iraqi prison – right under the noses of their American jailers. | The Guardian | full story }

‘War is a matter not so much of arms as of money.’ —Thucydides

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On January 2, 1977, the Shah of Iran made a painful admission about his country’s economy. “We’re broke,” he confided bluntly to his closest aide, court minister Asadollah Alam, in a private meeting. Alam predicted still more dangers to come: “We have squandered every cent we had only to find ourselves checkmated by a single move from Saudi Arabia,” he later wrote in a letter to the shah. “[W]e are now in dire financial peril and must tighten our belts if we are to survive.”

The two men were reacting to recent turmoil in the oil markets. A few weeks prior, at an OPEC meeting in Doha, the Saudis had announced they would resist an Iran-led majority vote to increase petroleum prices by 15 percent. (The shah needed the boost to pay for billions in new spending commitments.) King Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud argued that a price hike wasn’t justified when Western economies were still mired in a recession — but he was also eager to place economic constraints on Iran at a time when the shah was ordering nuclear power plants and projecting influence throughout the Middle East. So the Saudis “flooded the markets,” ramping up oil production from 8 million to 11.8 million barrels per day and slashing crude prices. Unable to compete, Iran was quickly driven from the market: The country’s oil production plunged 38 percent in a month. Billions of dollars in anticipated oil revenues vanished, and Iran was forced to abandon its five-year budget estimates.

A damaging ripple effect persisted: Over the summer of 1977, industrial manufacturing in Iran fell by 50 percent. Inflation ran between 30 and 40 percent. The government made deep cuts to domestic spending to balance the books, but austerity only made matters worse when thousands of young, unskilled men lost their jobs. Before long, economic distress had eroded middle-class support for the shah’s monarchy — which collapsed two years later in the Iranian Revolution.

[…]

In November 2006, Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi security consultant connected to Prince Turki al-Faisal, then Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post noting that if “[i]f Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half … it would be devastating to Iran … [and] limit Tehran’s ability to continue funneling hundreds of millions each year to Shiite militias in Iraq and elsewhere.” Two years later, at the height of the global financial crisis, the Saudis acted: They flooded the market, and within six months, oil prices had fallen from their record high of $147 per barrel to just $33. Thus, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began 2009, an election year, struggling with the sudden collapse in government oil revenues and forced to slash popular subsidies and social programs. The election’s contested outcome was accompanied by economic contraction and the worst political violence in Iran since the fall of the shah.

{ Foreign Policy | Continue reading }

image { Evander Batson }

previously { The Conventional Wisdom On Oil Is Always Wrong }

‘Death is the only thing we haven’t succeeded in completely vulgarizing.’ —Aldous Huxley

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Leveraging the insight that periods, while a pain, also bring women together, JWT has created an augmented reality app that combines Chinese consumers’ love of technology, cute characters and selfies into a new branded platform for Sofy sanitary pads.

{ Campaign Asia | Continue reading | Thanks Tim }

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

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Kurtz: [intercepted radio message] I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor

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{ Traditional rug-making techniques meet contemporary political imagery | full story }

Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.

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Australia has begun exporting camels to Saudi Arabia.

More than 100 animals are being shipped from the Australian port city of Darwin and are due to arrive in Saudi Arabia in early July [2002].

The vast majority are destined for restaurant tables in a major camel-consuming nation.

{ BBC | Continue reading }

photo { Janet Biggs, Point of No Return, 2013 }

Your fear of capture and imprisonment is from millions of years ago

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{ 29-year-old Akari Aoki slowly creeps down the streets of Tokyo in her zombie persona | slideshow }

Give us that brisket off the hook. Plup.

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The most disturbing thing that ever happened at the Ueno Zoo was the systematic slaughter of the garden’s most famous and valuable animals in the summer of 1943. At the height of the Second World War, as the Japanese empire teetered on the brink of collapse, the zoo was transformed from a wonderland of imperial amusement and exotic curiosity into a carefully ritualized abattoir, a public altar for the sanctification of creatures sacrificed in the service of total war and of ultimate surrender to emperor and nation. The cult of military martyrdom is often recognized as a central component of Japanese fascist culture, but events at the zoo add a chilling new dimension to that analysis. They show that the pursuit of total mobilization extended into areas previously unexamined, suggesting how the culture of total war became a culture of total sacrifice after 1943. […] The killings were carried out in secret until nearly one-third of the garden’s cages stood empty, their former inhabitants’ carcasses hauled out of the zoo’s service entrance in covered wheelbarrows during the dark hours before dawn.

{ University of California Press | PDF }

This unprecedented ceremony known as the “Memorial Service for Martyred Animals” was held on the zoo’s grounds where nearly a third of the cages stood empty. Lions from Abyssinia, tigers representative of Japan’s troops, bears from Manchuria, Malaya and Korea, an American bison, and many others had been clubbed, speared, poisoned and hacked to death in secret. Although the zoo’s director had found a way to save some of the condemned creatures by moving them to zoos outside Tokyo, Mayor Ōdaichi Shigeo insisted on their slaughter. Ōdaichi himself, along with Imperial Prince Takatsukasa Nobusuke and the chief abbot of Asakusa’s Sensōji Temple, presided over the carefully choreographed and highly publicized “Memorial Service”, thanking the animals for sacrificing themselves for Japan’s war effort.

{ The Times Literary Supplement | Continue reading }

art { Ito Shinsui, After the bath, 1917 }

This is what we have heard from him and are declaring to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.

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{ How to fix global warming before it’s too late | Is it too late to prepare for climate change? }

Even though the ways languages grasp the world may vary widely from one language to another, they all build, in fact, the same contents, and equivalent conceptions of the world. Any text in any language can be translated into a text in another language.

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On October 9th South Koreans celebrate the 567th birthday of Hangul, the country’s native writing system, with a day off work. South Korea is one of the few countries in the world to celebrate its writing system. […]

The day commemorates the introduction of the new script in the mid-15th century, making Hangul one of the youngest alphabets in the world. It is unusual for at least two more reasons: rather than evolving from pictographs or imitating other writing systems, the Korean script was invented from scratch for the Korean language. And, though it is a phonemic alphabet, it is written in groups of syllables rather than linearly. How was Hangul created?

{ The Economist | Continue reading }

photo { Ray Metzker }

If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow, and which will not, speak

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Singapore is inequality on steroids, as you might expect from a high human capital, high information tech, growing financial center.

Seventeen percent of the population are millionaires, and that is not counting real estate wealth, which is substantial.

The H&M in the shopping district is closing, because the rent was doubled and it is being replaced by luxury retailers.

{ Marginal Revolution | Continue reading | Part 2 }

photo { Thomas Prior }

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
 and—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

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Back in 1978, the Chinese politburo enacted the “one-child policy”, whose main purpose was to “alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems” in China as a result of the soaring population. According to estimates, the policy prevented more than 250 million births between 1980 and 2000, and 400 million births from about 1979 to 2011. And while not applicable to everyone, in 2007 approximately 35.9% of China’s population was subject to a one-child restriction.

Regardless of the numbers, things are about to change: with the Chinese economy now having peaked and suddenly finding itself in rapid deceleration with excess credit growth providing virtually no boost to marginal growth, the Chinese government is forced to reexamine 35 years of social policy in order to extract growth from the one place where for nearly 4 decades it had tried to stifle: demographics. 

According to the 21st Business Herald which cited sources close to the National Population and Family Planning Commission, China may relax its one-child policy at end-2013 or early-2014 (read end) by allowing families to have two children if at least one parent is from a one-child family. A plan for allowing all families to have two children after 2015 is also being reviewed.

{ ZeroHedge | Continue reading }

‘I feel an army in my fist.’ –Schiller

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In Japan, where palm reading remains one of the most popular means of fortune-telling, some people have figured out a way to change their fate. It’s a simple idea: change your palm, change the reading, and change your future. All you need is a competent plastic surgeon with an electric scalpel who has a basic knowledge of palmistry. […]

From January 2011 to May 2013, 37 palm plastic surgeries have been performed at the Shonan Beauty Clinic alone. Several other clinics in Japan offer the surgery, but almost none of them advertise it.

{ The Daily Beast | Continue reading }

photo { Brendan Baker }

[Goes back to blackboard and finishes drawing of Tarzan]

Fed’s “Deep Throat” stops delevering for now. Markets await main man next week.

Tim Cook […] reminded a Senate subcommittee that Apple is investing $100 million to make some of its Macintosh computers in the U.S. […] The operation, to be based in Texas, will be Apple’s first domestic assembly foray since 2004, and other technology manufacturers are moving jobs onshore. Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility, for example, also plans to assemble smartphones in Texas.

It’s not all public relations: These companies are taking advantage of low energy costs and a decade of wage stagnation, which has made U.S. factory jobs more competitive with those in China, where wages are rising.

{ Bloomberg | Continue reading }

I’m Mike D the one who put the satin in your panties

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The four are members of a new idol group, Machikado Keiki Japan, and stocks play an important part in their performances.

“We base our costumes on the price of the Nikkei average of the day. For example, when the index falls below 10,000 points, we go on stage with really long skirts,” Mori explained.

The higher stocks rise, the shorter their dresses get. With the Nikkei index ending above 13,000, the four went without skirts altogether on the day of their interview with The Japan Times, instead wearing only lacy shorts.

{ Japan Times | Continue reading }

‘Erotic love or falling in love is altogether immediate; marriage is a resolution.’ –Kierkegaard

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{ The latest meme to overtake the internet in China? “Gou gou chuan siwa” (狗狗穿丝袜), or in English, “Dogs wearing pantyhose.” }

The Death Star will be completed on schedule

Feb. 19
First male patient, 87, became ill with H7N9

Feb. 27
Second male patient, 27, became ill with H7N9

March 4
First male patient dies

March 9
First female patient, 35, from Anhui province became ill with H7N9

March 10
Second male patient dies
Initial report of over 900 dead pigs in Shanghai’s Huangpu River (as of Saturday, March 9)

March 11
Count of dead pigs in rivers near Shanghai reaches nearly 3,000

March 13
Officials say the number of pig carcasses in Huangpu River has risen to 6,000

March 14
Workers continued to haul dead hogs from a river in the Shanghai suburbs Thursday, where the pig body count now exceeds 6,600, according to the municipal government
Farm in Zhejiang province confesses to dumping pig carcasses into river

March 20
The number of dead pigs discovered in Chinese rivers around Shanghai has risen to almost 14,000

March 22
50 pigs wash up onshore in Changsha, Hunan province; ~1,000 dead ducks are also discovered
Number of dead pigs found in Shanghai river rises to 16,000

March 25
China pulls 1,000 dead ducks from Sichuan river
Government officials say that 1,000+ rotten duck carcasses pose no threat to human and livestock along river banks
Illegal Zhejiang pork found in food chain

March 26
Dumping of thousands of dead pigs linked with Chinese crackdown on pork black market

April 1
Dr. Michael O’Leary, World Health Organization, says that there is no evidence to show that a type of bird flu which has killed two Chinese men can be transmitted between people

April 2
Shanghai Animal Disease Prevention and Control Center tested 34 samples of pig carcasses pulled from Huangpu River and found no flu viruses

{ Foreign Policy | Continue reading }

‘I am not bothered by the fact that I am not understood. I am bothered when I do not know others.’ –Confucius

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China’s population is larger than those of North America, Europe, Russia and Japan combined, and has no tradition whatsoever of liberal democracy and memories are still fresh of the devastating breakup of the Soviet Union. Going further back, China’s more recent history saw chaos and wars, and on average from 1840 to 1978 a major upheaval every seven or eight years. So the Chinese fear of chaos is based on common sense and its collective memory, with very real fears that the country might well become ungovernable if it were to adopt the adversarial Western political system.

China is in many ways unique. It is an amalgam of the world’s longest continuous civilization with a huge modern state. It is a product of hundreds of states amalgamated over its long history into one. A very rough analogy would be something along the lines of the ancient Roman Empire continuing to this day as a unified modern state with a centralised government and modern economy while retaining all its diverse traditions and cultures, and with a huge population still all speaking Latin as their common language. […]

China tried American-style democracy after its 1911 Republic Revolution, and it turned out to be a devastating catastrophe. The country was immediately plunged into chaos and civil war, with hundreds of political parties vying for power and with warlords fighting one another with the support of various foreign powers. The economy was shattered and tens of millions lost their lives in the decades that followed. That lesson remains so sharp that even today ordinary Chinese are most fearful of luan, the Chinese word meaning chaos. Independent opinion surveys on values in China show that public order is generally ranked top, whereas for Americans freedom of speech is the number one value (even though, one may wonder how a politically correct society like the United States can have genuine freedom of speech).

Having myself travelled to over 100 countries, most of them developing ones, I cannot recall a single case of successful modernisation through liberal democracy, and there’s no better example illustrating this than the huge gap between India and China: both countries started at a similar level of development six decades ago, and today China’s GDP is four times greater and life expectancy 10 years longer.

{ Zhang WeiWei/Europe’s World | Continue reading }

photo { Jordan Fox by Jasper Rischen }

A long, intimidating, immense and rational derangement of all the senses

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So, it’s mid-March 2013 and, the S&P 500 is at 1550, right where I said it would be nine months ago. […] I see the S&P continuing to frustrate the majority (that is what markets do).  It may hit 1560-1580 prior to actually having a legitimate correction of 5-10%.  There is so much liquidity awaiting deployment upon a pullback that the pullback will be quick.  Later in the year, it’s very likely we’ll see 1600-plus on the S&P (September-November).  In my view, the market will be a good sell at that point, so will many credit products.  There is no way the Fed can shift its policy stance concurrent with having to immunize a $4 trillion balance sheet going into the end of a fiscal year.  2014 is likely to be challenging.
 
Enjoy this while it lasts. […]

The People’s Republic’s big issues will start in fiscal years 2013-2014.  China Merchants Bank, for example, is already seeing a bigger rise in bad-loan provisioning and lower good-loan growth than Western equity analysts think.  The CEOs of two large Brazilian companies, Vale and Petrobras, are starting to plan for China to “hit a wall” in 2015-2018. Essentially, China will look OK through April 2013 then big problems will hit the country.

Europe will not implode.

{ Secret top source/Minyanville | Continue reading }