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Archive for the ‘2007’ Category

Benazir Bhutto, 1953-2007, a fallen hero for democracy.

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Here are the top ten songs in Brazil according to airplay on FM radio throughout the country. If you see a picture with the song, you can click on it to hear it on YouTube.

For the week ending December 7th 2007:


1. Chris Brown: Wall to Wall


2. Vanessa da Mata featuring Ben Harper: Boa Sorte / Good Luck


3. Backstreet Boys: Inconsolable


4. Charlie Brown Jr: Pontes Indestrutíveis


5. NX Zero: Pela Última Vez


6. Britney Spears: Gimme More


7. Tihuana: Tropa de Elite


8. Avril Lavigne: When You’re Gone


9. Pitty: Pulsos

10. Colbie Caillat: Bubbly

See also:

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Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007) was prime minister of Pakistan in the 1990s. She left the country in 1998 to avoid prison. In October 2007 she returned. She saw herself as Pakistan’s best hope for restoring democracy. On December 27th 2007 she was killed by a suicide bomber at an election rally in Rawalpindi.

She was the leader of the left-of-centre Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), one of the two main parties in Pakistan.

She is not the Bhutto who was prime minister in the 1970s. That was her father. General Zia overthrew him, put him in prison and charged him with murder. In 1979 he had him hanged.

This took place soon after Benazir Bhutto came home from studying at Oxford. The leadership of her father’s party, the PPP, fell on her young shoulders.

Zia threw her in prison: she was a democrat who now had a large following. She spent the better part of five years in a dark cell. When they let her out to see the doctor she set up the party’s London office.

In 1988 Zia was killed and democracy was restored. The PPP won the general election and Bhutto became prime minister. She was a 35-year-old woman in charge of one of the largest countries on earth.

Bhutto is a great fighter for democracy with a never-say-day spirit and great courage. But she made a terrible prime minister: she did not seem to be in control and her top men, particularly her husband, seemed to be filling their pockets with the government’s money. Some say that she was in on it too.

Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, is a businessman. Bhutto said that her enemies went after him to get back at her: he has spent years in prison on charges that have never been proved in court.

Charges were brought against her too.

The courts in Pakistan are hardly a place of blind, sweet justice, but what about Switzerland? Even a Swiss court has found them both guilty of money laundering.

She has been prime minister twice: from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996. But both times it got so bad that the president had to step in and call for new elections.

Throughout the 1990s power changed hands back and forth between her and Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League.

In 1999 General Musharraf took over.

Bhutto had left the country by then to avoid prison or worse. She lived in Dubai and London with her three children. Her husband joined them in 2004 after he got out of prison.

In October 2007 she returned to Pakistan after Musharraf promised not to put her in prison. Over 200,000 people came out to greet her. A suicide bomber tried to kill her. He killed more than a hundred people but not her.

She bravely pushed on.

But then on December 27th 2007, just two weeks before the general election, another suicide bomber came to kill her. This one succeeded.

– Abagond, 2007.

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Here are the top ten songs in Brazil according to airplay on FM radio throughout the country. If you see a picture with the song, you can click on it to hear it on YouTube.

For the week ending November 23rd 2007:


1. Chris Brown: Wall to Wall


2. Vanessa da Mata featuring Ben Harper: Boa Sorte / Good Luck


3. Britney Spears: Gimme More


4. Akon: Sorry, Blame It On Me


5. Charlie Brown Jr: Pontes Indestrutíveis


6. NX Zero: Pela Última Vez


7. Pitty: Pulsos


8. Sean Kingston: Beautiful Girls


9. Jennifer Lopez: Do It Well

10. Avril Lavigne: When You’re Gone

See also:

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Here are the top ten songs in Brazil according to airplay on FM radio throughout the country. If you see a picture with the song, you can click on it to hear it on YouTube.

For the week ending November 16th 2007:


1. Chris Brown: Wall to Wall


2. Akon: Sorry, Blame It On Me


3. Vanessa da Mata featuring Ben Harper: Boa Sorte / Good Luck


4. Britney Spears: Gimme More


5. Charlie Brown Jr: Pontes Indestrutíveis


6. Sean Kingston: Beautiful Girls


7. NX Zero: Pela Última Vez


8. Capital Inicial: Aqui


9. Jennifer Lopez: Do It Well


10. Pitty: Pulsos

See also:

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credit crunch

monopoly-house-$6428$180The credit crunch (2007) began in August 2007 when the easy money of the past few years dried up almost overnight. Banks were losing mountains of money in places they thought were safe. Now they did not know who or what they could trust. They stopped putting their money out at low interest rates and started keeping it for themselves against whatever ugly surprises might be on their own books.

The big banks in New York are still losing a ton of money, with no end in sight.

Some say this is the beginning of bad times to come.

It started when increasing numbers of Americans were unable to make their interest payments to banks and started losing their homes. But the interest payments were not just going to banks in America – they were going to banks all over the world. So the trouble has spread overseas.

The government banks – the Fed in America, the ECB in Europe and even the Bank of England – started pouring money into the markets to calm nerves. It has worked, at least for now.

The trouble was that money has become so easy in the last few years that it was given to people to buy houses who ordinarily could not be expected to pay it back: they had bad credit histories. This sort of doubtful debt is called a sub-prime mortgage.

The banks had a way to make this debt safe: they took these sub-prime mortgages and put them together with better quality debt into what are called collateralized debt obligations or CDOs. Even if the sub-prime people failed to make their interest payments, it would not affect the overall value of the CDO by much.

The CDOs not only pay interest but they are backed by the houses that were bought with the mortgages that make up the CDO. What could possibly go wrong?

The CDOs seemed like they were as good as gold. Banks all over the world started buying them up.

All was well.

Then the holders of sub-prime mortgages started getting into in trouble in increasing numbers. Interest payments stopped coming, people lost their homes. But that drove down the price of houses in America. That in turn drove down the value of the CDOs. Fear set in and drove down the prices even further.

Banks have huge amounts of money tied up in these CDOs, so when they fall in value, they have less money they can give out.

And so now the days of easy money are over.

The banking industry is like that: up and then down. The good times always end in tears when banks find that they are not as godlike as they thought they were.

Whether this means bad times are coming no one knows for sure yet. It is too soon to tell. But it looks bad: much of the good times of the past few years was underwritten by rising housing prices, especially in America.

– Abagond, 2007.

See also:

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Here are the top ten songs in Brazil according to airplay on FM radio throughout the country. If you see a picture with the song, you can click on it to hear it on YouTube.

For the week ending October 19th 2007:


1. Diddy featuring Keyshia Cole: Last Night


2. Sean Kingston: Beautiful Girls


3. Capital Inicial: Aqui

4. James Blunt: 1973


5. The Fray: Over My Head (Cable Car)

6. Britney Spears: Gimme More

7. César Menotti & Fabiano: Caso Por Acaso

8. Bruno & Marrone: Pra Não Morrer de Amor (acústico)

9. Akon: Sorry, Blame It On Me

10. Charlie Brown Jr: Pontes Indestrutíveis

See also:

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nobel-prizeThe Nobel Prizes are given every year to those who have benefited mankind the most in one of six fields: peace, literature, medicine, physics, chemistry and economics. It is a high honour – and you get a good bit of money too: more than a million dollars American (113,000 crowns).

Here are the Nobel Prize winners for 2007:

Peace:

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Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for spreading the word about global warming: that the earth is getting dangerously warm because mankind is burning too much oil and coal. The IPCC pulled together the work of 2000 experts and made the science understandable for government decision makers. Al Gore, the former American vice president, took the IPCC’s findings and made a film about it to explain it to ordinary people. It did surprisingly well. Even before the film, Gore has been warning us about this for years.

Literature:

Doris Lessing, whose best books are “The Grass is Singing” (1950) and “The Golden Notebook” (1962). She was born in Persia and grew up in Africa in the last days of the British empire. In 1949 she went to London to become one of the best British writers of the late 1900s.

Medicine:

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Martin Evans, Oliver Smithies and Mario Capecchi for their work in gene targeting. They discovered a way of breeding mice so that they are born without a particular gene. This is called gene knockout. Genes are the instructions your body has for making itself. You have thousands of them, most of them also found in mice. What most of them do no one knows. But by having mice that are born without this or that gene, you can find out what the gene was for, what effect it has. This helps science to learn about the nature of disease and medicine.

Physics:

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Peter Grunberg and Albert Fert for their discovery in 1988 of giant magnetoresistance. They found out that a weak magnetic field, if it is in material that is prepared the right way, can still be read by a computer. This is why an iPod can hold thousands of songs, not just one.

Chemistry:

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Gerhard Ertl for his work in surface chemistry. Before Ertl no one knew just what effect surfaces have on chemical reactions. He patiently found out how it all works. Because of him the air is cleaner (catalytic converters) and the ground more fertile (getting nitrogen out of the air to put into the soil).

Economics:

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Leonid Hurwicz, Eric Maskin and Roger Myerson for their work in mechanism design theory. They used game theory to find out what rules work best in things like elections and selling public property to private companies. Game theory studies how people act and think in order to win, but it assumes that they are guided mainly by reason and (imperfect) knowledge, like they are in The Economist, not by love, fear and anger, like they are in Shakespeare.

For those at home who are keeping score:

  • America: Gore, Maskin, Myerson, Hurwicz, Capecchi, Smithies
  • Britain: Evans, Lessing
  • Germany: Grunberg, Ertl
  • France: Fert

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Here are the top ten songs in Brazil according to airplay on FM radio throughout the country. If you see a picture with the song, you can click on it to hear it on YouTube.

For the week ending October 12th 2007:


1. Diddy featuring Keyshia Cole: Last Night


2. Sean Kingston: Beautiful Girls


3. Capital Inicial: Aqui

4. James Blunt: 1973


5. The Fray: Over My Head (Cable Car)


6. Maria Rita: Tá Perdoado

7. Chris Brown: Say Goodbye

8. Bruno & Marrone: Pra Não Morrer de Amor (acústico)

9. Britney Spears: Gimme More

10. Charlie Brown Jr: Pontes Indestrutíveis

See also:

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The image “https://i0.wp.com/images.derstandard.at/20060326/aung-sang-suu-kyi.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Aung San Suu Kyi (1945- ) is the leader of the movement for democracy in Burma. Her name sounds like “Owng Sahn Soo Chee”. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

In 2007, as I write this, she is under house arrest. She has been in prison or under house arrest for 11 of the past 18 years. Even when she was free in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the government still watched her closely and would not let her leave Rangoon. They would not even let her husband into Burma so he could see her one last time before he died of cancer.

The generals that run Burma will not kill her outright: her father, Aung San, is a hero to the whole country, even to the generals. In the 1940s he fought to free Burma from British and Japanese rule. He was murdered before he could become prime minister. Suu Kyi was two years old at the time.

Like her father, her courage is bottomless. Once she walked right up to a line of soldiers who all had their guns pointed at her ready to shoot.

To her the root of Burma’s troubles is not one of power and violence. They are just side effects of the deeper issue: courage and fear. Because the generals fear the people, they are violent. Because the people fear the generals they do not stand up to them strongly enough to overthrow them.

Her Buddhist faith makes up the heart of her thought, but she has also taken on Western ideas about human rights and democracy and Gandhi’s ideas about bringing change without violence.

Most of her early life was lived quietly abroad: her mother was an ambassador for Burma. Later she went to Oxford University (St Hugh’s) and then married Michael Aris, an English scholar, an expert on Tibet. They had two children.

She raised their family and continued her studies, studying the history of Burma, especially the life of her father.

They had a quiet life in England, but she warned her husband that one day she would have to return to Burma. That day came in 1988 when her mother became very sick. Suu Kyi went back to Burma to care for her.

While she was there huge protests sprang up against the government. The generals sent out their soldiers and killed thousands. She knew what she had to do.

She sent an open letter to the government, demanding a move towards free elections. She spoke at the Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Rangoon to hundreds of thousands. She crossed the country speaking for democracy. She became the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

The generals put her and other NLD leaders in prison and let the elections go ahead in 1990. But even with their leaders in prison, the NLD still won a huge victory. The generals never let them take power.

The generals still rule Burma to this day, but her story is not yet over.

– Abagond, 2007.

Update (February 19th 2021): The military allowed limited democracy, starting in in 2010, with Suu Kyi becoming the de facto leader of Burma in 2016. She had no control over the military, yet defended its actions when it ethnically cleansed Rohingya Muslims in 2017! In 2021 the military had her arrested for illegally importing walkie-talkies, which removed her from power.

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Here are the top ten songs in Brazil according to airplay on FM radio throughout the country. If you see a picture with the song, you can click on it to hear it on YouTube.

For the week ending October 5th 2007:


1. Sean Kingston: Beautiful Girls


2. Diddy featuring Keyshia Cole: Last Night


3. Maria Rita: Tá Perdoado

4. James Blunt: 1973


5. Capital Inicial: Aqui


6. The Fray: Over My Head (Cable Car)

7. Chris Brown: Say Goodbye

8. Bruno & Marrone: Pra Não Morrer de Amor (acústico)

9. Akon: Don’t Matter ®

10. Charlie Brown Jr: Pontes Indestrutíveis

See also:

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Burma

Burma (1948- ), also called Myanmar by some these days, is the country just to the east of India. It is a land of rice fields and golden temples, much of it still untouched by the Machine Age. It is the land of Mandalay. It is also home to one of the few heroes on the world stage, Aung San Suu Kyi, who leads the democracy movement against the generals, who have ruled Burma since 1962, longer than most of us can remember.

In 1988 there were protests to hold elections. The generals ordered the army to shoot on its own people. Thousands died. The protests were crushed. But in 1990 elections at last were held. Suu Kyi and her NLD party won a huge victory. But instead of becoming prime minister, Suu Kyi has been under arrest for most of the time ever since.

So things stood till 2007. In late August of that year tens of thousands of Buddhist monks came out to protest against the government. Most people in Burma are Buddhists, so the army could not very well shoot down the monks and think that would end it.

As the monks marched, people stood along the sides of the street and held hands as if to protect them. They came to Suu Kyi’s house. When she came out she cried.

But several weeks later the protests were brought to an end, at least for now. The government brought an end to the protests more by mass arrests than by mass killings, though it seems that hundreds were killed. But we do not know for sure since they cut the country off from the Internet (always a bad sign).

The monks came from the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, the most sacred place in Burma. The pagoda is over 2500 years old. It has eight hairs of Buddha and over a thousand bells of pure gold. The pagoda is made of gold, diamonds, rubies and sapphires. Kipling called it a “beautiful winking wonder.” It gets over 10,000 pilgrims a year.

The pagoda is in Rangoon, also called Yangon, the largest city in Burma. Rangoon stands on the Irrawaddy river where it flows into the sea after travelling down the middle of the country. It was once the capital but in 2005 the little known town of Naypyidaw in the middle of the country became the new capital.

The Burma Road goes from Rangoon to China. During the Second World War the British used it to supply China.

Far up the river from Rangoon is Mandalay, the second largest city. Here the king lived till the British overthrew him in 1885. Mandalay was made famous in the English-speaking world by Kipling, the first to say “on the road to Mandalay”. It was where Orwell was stationed.

From 1885 to 1948 Burma was part of the British Empire.

Burma is poor and backward, as bad as parts of Africa. In the country people still use ox carts. The roads are bad and the army controls much of the rice supply, so many are hungry.

– Abagond, 2007.

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Halo 3


Halo 3 (2007) is a video game for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 computer. Although Halo 3 just came out on September 25th 2007, it is expected to be the best-selling video game of all time.

Halo 3 follows the wildly successful Halo 2, which came out in 2004 and has sold at least 8 million copies worldwide. Halo 2 in turn succeeded Halo (2001), which continues in the line of the Quake and Doom games of the 1990s.

In Halo 3 you find yourself in the 2500s fighting the Covenant, creatures who have landed from other worlds to wipe out mankind. But it is more than just a game where you get to shoot a cool gun, though there is plenty of that. It is also a science fiction story where you become one of the characters: Master Chief.

The story of Halo has four parts. Halo 3 is the fourth and last part. The third part has not been made into a game. Peter Jackson, who gave us the “Lord of the Rings” films, intends to come out with a Halo film by 2009.

You are part human, part machine. You can use different sorts of weapons, like a flamethrower, not just guns. You can go on foot or travel by tank or something else. You go through desert, jungle and town; go to other worlds or among the stars.

You can play against the computer (which becomes the Covenant) or with friends, either on the same Xbox or over the Xbox Live network.
Halo 3 does not just advance the story, it is better than Halo 2:

  1. You have more weapons you can fight with and more kinds of vehicles you can travel in.
  2. It seems more true-to-life. The look of things is more like what you would see in a film than Halo 2. But more than that, things like leaves, water, blood, wind, shadows, talking and the reactions of other characters (managed by the computer) seem much more believable.
  3. The characters that the computer managers can think for themselves more, making them harder to beat.
  4. You can play with more people. Four, not just two, can play on the same machine. Online you can play with up to 15 others. It is now easier to join games with people you do not know.
  5. Saved films: You can record a game or part of one. Not only can you play it back and put it online for others to see, but you can watch it from any point of view you like. This lets you study your own game play as well as that of others.
  6. Forge: You can add objects to the game and even do it while the game is going on.

Halo 3 works only on the Xbox 360.

Halo 3 is made by Bungie Software, a computer game company that started out writing a Pong game for the Macintosh. They have progressed from there. Microsoft bought them in 2000.

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Here are the top ten songs in Brazil according to airplay on FM radio throughout the country. If you see a picture with the song, you can click on it to hear it on YouTube.

For the week ending September 21st 2007:

1. Bruno & Marrone: Pra Não Morrer de Amor (acústico)


2. Diddy featuring Keyshia Cole: Last Night


3. Sean Kingston: Beautiful Girls


4. Maria Rita: Tá Perdoado


5. Capital Inicial: Aqui


6. Akon: Don’t Matter ®


7. The Fray: Over My Head (Cable Car)


8. Wanessa Camargo: Culpada (Mas Mala Que Tu)


9. Fergie: Big Girls Don’t Cry


10. Rihanna featuring Jay-Z: Umbrella

See also:

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David Petraeus (1952- ) is the American commander in Iraq. As a four-star general he is one of America’s top commanders besides being one of its leading experts on counter-insurgency: how to fight a guerrilla war.

This week, on September 10th 2007, he came to Washington to report on the war. He said it is getting better, that America can still win some kind of victory. Many did not believe him.

In January 2007, when many were calling for America to pull its troops out of Iraq, President Bush thought that America could still win and found a general who agreed: General Petraeus. He put Petraeus in charge and gave him 30,000 more men in one last push to try to turn the war. That last push has been called the surge – or, if you work for Al Jazeera, the so-called “surge”.

Bush said that by September 2007 we would know whether the surge was working. Now it is September.

Petraeus says that the surge is working. Iraq is less violent than it was before the surge, even if peace is still far away. Al Anbar, a Sunni part of Iraq west of Baghdad that once was given up for lost, seems to have turned the corner: leaders there are starting to join the Americans against Al Qaeda. Few expected that.

Petraeus said the 30,000 men could probably come home next summer, but we will not know for sure till March. In addition to the 30,000 America has 138,000 other soldiers in Iraq.

That is the good news that Petraeus could give. The bad news is that he believes America will have to be there for nine years – and even then the victory will not be an all-out one.

Of the two main parties in America, the Democrats are against the war and want to bring the troops home. But most of those in Bush’s party, the Republicans, are for staying there to bring peace to Iraq. The war promises to be the big issue of the elections in 2008 for president.

Petraeus has been in Iraq since the beginning: in 2003 when the war started he commanded the 101st Airborne division. He brought peace to the north, particularly Mosul. He worked with the leaders in his region rather than trying to bring peace by force alone. Other American commanders have been heavier handed.

In 2004 he was put in charge of creating Iraq’s new army and police force. That has not gone well at all: three years later Iraq still does not have enough well-trained men willing to keep the peace.

That is why, Republicans say, America cannot simply pull out: Iraq would sink into all-out civil war and Iran would step in. Al Qaeda would use Iraq as a safe place to train its men. Things would become far worse than they are now.

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