Saturday, February 20

Egypt: Female Judges Barred from Council Positions

Very nice, the world is moving forward while Egypt is moving backwards. I think of the advertisements for Egypt which say that its the cradle of civilisation and looking at this, I think its also moving back to that time. People keep on asking why Muslim countries do not have the wherewithal to go and rejoin the golden age of Islam? Well, why do you think? If you keep on shoving your women into veils and bar them from everything other than pregnancy, teaching and shopping, what do you think your country will be? Its like having a one legged man running with two legged men in a race. Here, read this.

I quote:

Dozens of Egyptian women and human rights activists have staged a protest in Cairo against a recent decision that bars women from holding judicial positions.

Thursday's protest came after the Council of State's association voted on Monday by an overwhelming majority against the appointment of women as judges in the council, an influential court which advises Egypt's government. "Three-hundred and eighty judges took part in the general assembly and voted, with 334 rejecting the appointment of females to judicial posts and 42 agreeing, with four abstentions," the Egyptian MENA news agency reported on Tuesday.The country's supreme judicial council, which has jurisdiction over criminal and civil courts, selected 31 women in 2007, who were later appointed by presidential decree.

But the decision angered conservatives who said women were not suited for the role.

Up until 2007, Egypt had only one woman serving as a judge who was appointed by Hosni Mubarak, the president, to the constitutional court.


And then I read that the Malaysian women who were caned for extramarital sex said that they deserved it. Good grief.

Meet the Ex-Jihadis

This is very interesting, to find out why young British Muslims go rogue. Very long, but very interesting, go read the full thing.

Friday, February 19

Comparing a worker in the UK and Philippines

I came across this short essay written by Kannu. Take a look, I am quite impressed by how he framed his arguments. Never you mind his grammar (I am surprised he speaks English anyway after the textspeak and grunts that he uses..) Luca says we have created a monster.. lol



Wednesday, February 17

Reader's Digest collapses into administration – the pensions time bomb

First the news.

Publishing company Reader's Digest, famed for its magazine of the same name, has gone into administration in the UK, putting 117 jobs at risk.

The decision comes after talks between the company's US parent group and the UK Pensions Regulator broke down.

The dispute centred on how to pay down a £125m deficit in its UK pension fund.

Administrators said the UK magazine, which has more than 540,000 subscribers and was founded in 1938, would continue to trade while a buyer was sought.

Reader's Digest had agreed a deal with the Pension Protection Fund to pay off a small part of the deficit, but the regulator vetoed the agreement.

As a deal could not be done, the UK publisher said it would not be able to meet its pension obligations and so could not sustain operations.

The independent says:

> The title's failure means its UK pension fund, which has > 1,600 members, may have to be bailed out by the Pension
> Protection Fund (PPF) lifeboat.
> The PPF pays out in full for members currently drawing a > pension from failed schemes, but caps payment for those who
> are yet to retire at 90%, with a ceiling of around £28,000.
> This limit is expected to leave around 32 members - 2% - out > of pocket.

I am not sure people realise the importance of this. More and more firms are going to head into administration because their pension obligations are way too much. Worst case scenario: the government will withdraw from the open ended promise to fund all existing pensions (and this has still got a high probability). So if I was still contributing to a pension and working, then I will make sure that my pension is diversified away from one company and under my control rather than others. But this is going to happen more and more. This kind of open ended commitment from the government or the PPF is simply not sustainable and will throw a very large number of Brits into pensions penury. You better be sure that the firm you belong to has good financials or you are able to handle the pension outside the firms financials. The pensions time bomb is the most worrisome for me, who will pay this giant amount of money? It is going to be you and I and our kids. Thanks Pops..

Smart Article Generator

This blew me away. Basically, this will put together an article for you on a selected topic based upon electronically and automatically scraping content together from the web. Recycle text so to say. How amazing.

The implications for scholars, researchers, website content creators, journalists, students,etc. etc. etc. are huge. After all, as they say, if you want a new idea, read an old book. Plus with more and more digitised information coming online (such as with the google books initiative), we will have a steady stream of this kind of interesting pap.


Now what are the chances of this happening, eh?

A Turkish man on the point of divorcing his wife, who gave birth to twin boys three years ago, has had a nasty surprise. Thanks to a DNA test, it is has been uncovered that only one of his sons is in fact his own. Daily newspaper Sabah has reported on the surreal matter caused by an extremely rare phenomenon called super-insemination. The newspaper reports that the man, a security services agent from Istanbul named only as A.K., had started to suspect that his wife was being unfaithful and, before launching the divorce process, he had DNA tests carried out on his two sons. From these tests it emerged that only one of the presumed twins was 99.99% his own, a result confirmed by a second laboratory appointed by the court to repeat the test. The explanation of everything lies in the fact that before marrying A.K. at the wishes of her family, the woman had a lover who was already married and who, in turn, has three children and who she still saw after getting married. One day the woman had sexual intercourse with both men: with her lover in the morning and with her husband in the evening. With a one in a million chance statistically speaking, she had a double ovulation that day and thus got pregnant twice. The ending to the story is that A.K.s real son has been entrusted to his father by the court while the other son has been sent to an orphanage, while A.K.s wife - who has received death threats from her own family members and from her ex-husbands family (who feel dishonoured) - has received a restraining order to remain at least 500m away from her ex-husbands home.

From a statistical basis itself, its fascinating, but then again, the chutzpah of the woman is breathtaking as well, lol.

Sunday, February 14

Book Review: The Book of Curiosities of the Sciences and Marvels for the Eyes

Sorry about this, but this book review is a tad late compared to the time the book was published. It is estimated that the book is a copy of an original work compiled and copied by unknown authors somewhere in the 11th century in Egypt. This copy is roughly dated to approximately 12th or 13th century and refers to work done by a variety of astronomers, historians, scholars, travellers, cartographers and scribes from the 9th to the 11th century. It is currently available in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, UK and its reference shelf mark number is Bodleian Library, Dept. of Oriental Collections, MS. Arab. c. 90.

The original book contained 5 separate books, only two of which have been copied in the current book. The first book relates to astronomy and has 10 chapters. The second book relates to the earth and has 25 chapters. Totalling 96 pages, it measures 324 x 245 mm. Unfortunately, there have been some losses of chapters in the second book. The paper used is brownish and black ink has been used to write the text and red ink for the headings. There are also other versions and copies of the original book in various other places such as in Cairo, Milan, Mosul, Algiers and another copy in the Bodleian Library.

Here is the full table of contents. As can be seen, book 1 talks about the celestial sphere, zodiacal signs, constellations, stars with occult influences, comets, stars with bad and good influences, planets and their influences / properties, lunar aspects etc.

Here’s a screen shot of the celestial sphere. The sections on the outermost circle relate to constellation signs like Aries, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, etc. Left is the eastern horizon and the right side is the western horizon (remember the centre for the writer is Cairo). Then the next circle inside relates to the major stars, constellations, and bodies such as Ursa Major, Cepheus, Lupus, Orion, etc. Then comes what looks to me like a monthly cycle around zodiacal signs and then the central circle talks about the earth’s seven climes which are aligned to the zodiacal signs. I have absolutely no idea about this detail, but it looks quite impressive.

This page shows details of comets and their properties.

Book 2 talks about the depiction of the earth and time zones, lands beyond the equator, the Arabian Peninsula, cities, seas, islands and other geographical entities, the cities and forts along the Indian ocean, the eastern Mediterranean sea and the cities/forts along the sea shore, the Caspian Sea, various other islands, lakes, rivers, fishes and animals of the seas, and then wondrous waters, plants and animals.

This is how the ancients looked at the world. This is the world map.

You have to put aside your current cartographic perspective to read this map. In the old days, a particular spot which was well known then, would become the centre of the map. So for example, Jerusalem was, for many many centuries, the centre of the map and everything else would be drawn with reference to that single location. Also, cartographically speaking, you will not measure distances and locations by latitude or longitude but by the distance travelled from the centre. As with everything, accuracy of places and diagrams was maximum closer to the centre. This map is actually somewhat oriented with geographical south in the top. In the centre you have the Nile Delta and the River Nile flowing up into the Mountain of the Moon and the Sudan. On the far right is Morocco. The bit in the bottom right quadrant is Europe with Constantinople, Spain, France, and Italy marked out. On the bottom left quadrant is Asia and Central Asia. See the two round fingers in the top left quadrant? They are supposed to be the Arabian Gulf with Mecca and the second finger is a mix of India and Iran. The round spot between the 2 fingers is Sri Lanka. The little edge on the far left is China. The blue lines indicate rivers. Deserts are marked and so are mountains. Pretty fascinating.

The text also has lots of maps of the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Caspian, Scicily, Madina, Tinnis, Cyprus, Aegean Bays, etc., and then maps of rivers. Some of the explanations of marvelous sea creatures are very fascinating such as:

فهولا المشوهه خلقهم من تلك الامم فمنهم امة سكان بحر / برهاندين [؟] في بحر الهند ي15سُود الوُجُوه كخلق عادية واقدامهم من خلف أعقابهم مقدار الذراع شمط الشعور مرد الوجوه / طوالها ياكلون من وقع ياليهم من الرجال ويستبقون النسا ي

English translation:
Of these nations, the deformed peoples are the following: Creatures in the Sea of Barhāndīn [?]
7 in the Indian Ocean. They have black faces, like normal humans, but their feet are turned backwards and are a cubit long. Their hair is grey, and their faces long and beardless. They eat any man who falls in their hands, and they share their women.

The map of Indian ocean was brilliant

It talks about two cities in India, Thaneswar, Dipalpur and then 3 additional unnamed cities. All these cities are separated by various rivers which rise in various mountains. They even mention Manila in here, showing how far the Arab sea farers fared in their voyages. It was difficult for me to conceptualise and mentally visualise these maps. It's so foreign to me, the current cartographic framework so settled in my mind, with the globe and Mercator projections that this kind of 2 dimensional, directionally challenged mapping was just so strange.

Interestingly they also talk about the infidel Turks. I am guessing they are referring to the Turks and Mongols. I think the Mongols heard that the Muslims in Fatimid Cairo were calling them Infidels and in 1258, the Mongols invaded the Arab lands pretty much destroying the Arab civilisation. Many draw the decline of Muslim civilisation from that event.

Here’s a circular map now:

South is at the top, West to the right and East to the left. Remember this is following on from ancient Egyptian times. The Nile River is one of the very few rivers in the world which flow to the north, for some strange reason, most rivers flow east / west or to south, very few flow to the north. So when the Egyptians would look at the river which provided them with their water, life and sustenance, they would look south. So for them the south direction was most important. Hence “Upper” Egypt. All Egyptian maps, till recently, were all oriented South on top. Sort of made me have a cricked neck, but it is a fascinating exercise to think how we are so accustomed to think north is top, and when something like this happens, you get all confused. It's like seeing the water circle the other way around when going down the toilet when you are in the south. You look at it but dont know what’s wrong.

The website is seriously flaky in term of performance, although it is well laid out. It took me 2 days to complete this review and this was after trying to connect over 20 times. I was not very happy with it but still, one day I will go to Oxford and see if I can sniff at it. There is something about old books and their smell which appeals to me. All in all, this document which is now free and freely accessible to everybody in the world with a net connection (when the site is up of course), is one of the world’s treasures. I strongly suggest you go take a peek at the book here.

Go Trade Young Man!

The firm i work in is a sponsor of an international NGO called SIFE (see, which brings together business and university students to assist the students to learn how to make a difference to their communities through projects. This in turn provides them with valuable training on a variety of different ways ranging from teaching the basics of banking to understanding cashflows to revenue generation to economics. As part of this engagement, volunteers from firms become part of business advisory groups for particular projects and help guide/assist the students in achieving the objectives of their projects. Look at the website, these young chaps are actually making a huge difference.

Personally speaking, I have been involved with SIFE since 2008 and it has been a very exciting time. To sit there with the students and see their bright, passionate eyes light up when they talk about how they are making a difference is amazing. I have sat in meetings where I have had students helping a bunch of villagers in Ghana setup their own cooperative to weave baskets and sell them, training NEET youngsters how to improve their financial well being in Birmingham, teaching some long term unemployed how to explore additional opportunities for employment by using job search databases etc. in Swansea, etc. You know what makes me humble? It is to see these kids wanting to change the world, having a good design to do so, the determination to succeed and the confidence to actually deliver. We are helping them to become better managers and actually make a difference., something that actually makes me proud to work for HSBC.

As part of this exercise, I am on the business advisory group for the London School of Economics and Political Science. This kicked off in late November and I have been in touch with a very bright young man on email and finally managed to meet him and another colleague last week. This is a post about that conversation. The team conducts a stock and foreign exchange trading game for school students (usually 6th Form) in London. Their objective is to familiarise the students with the logistics of trading, the basics of demand and supply, the stock market, the Foreign Exchange Market, etc. In the initial presentation, they said that they hoped that the school students would decide to go into higher university education, pick economics or business studies. All laudable objectives, but then I asked the two SIFE students, what’s in it for you? The answer I got back was “fun”.

Which is good, but I would have expected some more concrete outputs and benefits as an answer from the SIFE students but more about that later. I also inquired about their business plan. Now I have seen a presentation, but unfortunately, I hate presentations. Far too many times, presentations are used as documents and one can go animation / graphic crazy. If one is talking about a business plan or a project plan, a word document helps to clarify exactly what they are trying to achieve, show who are involved, timelines, budgets, measures of success, etc. etc.. We are going to work on putting a business plan together, so that it’s very clear on what this project will do and deliver. More importantly, this will become sustainable and when the next year’s LSE SIFE students come in, they can build on what has already been done rather than start from scratch.

But to go back to the success criteria, I delved a bit deeper into it. I asked them about how they are going to measure their success? What is in it for them? It has to be a measurable quantity, because you can’t manage what you cannot measure and if we are going to run a proper sustainable business, then clear metrics are important. I suggested that they might think about actual trading or run a fantasy trading game where one’s progress can be measured.

I specifically gave an example of an experiment that I am running with my son, who is now 14 years of age. I have been training and teaching him on the basics of stock market investments since he was 12. Every quarter he gets £100 to invest, I ask questions about his stock selection but I will never say no. Over the past 18 months or so, he has now invested a tidy sum. Till about the middle of last year, he was seriously in the red, but now he is up about 33%. Given that I have told him that this money that he is making will help his education and buy his first car (and presumably to impress girls…), you can see the motivation behind him being pretty clued up in trying to understand the intricacies of the UK market.

I am using First Direct as (FD) our broker; it is one of the cheapest to trade (a tenner per trade) and has a good set of analytical tools. The downside of using FD is that it does not allow you to trade US stocks, which is a shame. The students got quite excited about this and wanted to discuss it more. We talked about potentially giving prizes to the highest return earner per period (quarter, six monthly, yearly), perhaps linking with our First Direct colleagues to provide some help, etc. I am meeting them this week to take this to the next stage.

What I am quite excited about is that this project is educating more students to take responsibility for their own financial results. Higher education is obviously going to become more and more expensive. If they can be helped to start on a stock trading trajectory from their early days, with dividends reinvested, they would definitely go into and come out of higher education with less debt and better financial health than now.

What else can we tell them? What am I missing? If you had a 14-15 year old brother, sister, son or daughter, what can we do to help them as far as stock market trading is concerned? Any links? Remember that the actual project is being done by undergraduate LSE students who are in full time education, so we have to propose simple low impact solutions, nothing that will suck up major amounts of time, money or energy can work. Any ideas? Has anybody else across the world seen anything like this? Is there something concrete that the bank can do?

The far left mainly responsible for driving Jews out

This is tragic, that the far left will be mainly responsible for driving the Jews out of Malmo. Malmo is a hellhole in the great socialist republic of Sweden. But why am I surprised, the left has frequently gotten into bed with horrible creatures such as the Nazi’s (and no, i am not violating Godwin’s law, this comparison was important in Europe). I quote:

“More often it’s the far-left that commonly use Jews as a punching bag for their disdain toward the policies of Israel, even if Jews in Malmö have nothing to do with Israeli politics. In addition to the far-left, Sieradzki said that a “very small segment” of the city’s growing population of Muslim immigrants from Arab countries in the Middle East are also responsible for growing anti-Semitism. “This is a small group of extremists who have decided to go after Jews wherever they are in the world and regardless of their relationship to Israel,” he said.

Last year there were 79 crimes against Jewish residents reported to the police in Malmö, roughly double the number reported in 2008, according to the Skånska Dagbladet newspaper. In addition, Jewish cemeteries and synagogues have repeatedly been defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti, and a chapel at another Jewish burial site in Malmö was firebombed in January of last year.
There are currently an estimated 3,000 Jews living in the south of Sweden, with most residing in Malmö, Helsingborg, and Lund.
About 700 currently belong to the Jewish Community of Malmö, but the group's membership rolls have been dropping steadily in recent years.
“It’s sort of a downward spiral,” Sieradzki told The Local.
“People want to maintain their Jewish traditions, but when they see others leave after being threatened, they begin to question whether or not they want to stay here.”
Skånska Dagbladet highlighted the case of Marcus Eilenberg, a 32-year-old father of two who has decided to move to
“My children aren’t safe here. It’s going to get worse,” he told the newspaper
Eilenberg’s family on his mother’s side has roots in Malmö that date back to the 1800s, while his father’s parents came to Sweden in 1945 after surviving Auschwitz.
He describes for the newspaper how people call him “damn Jew” (‘jävla jude’) when he walks to synagogue and that his friends are frequently harassed and threatened.
“Imagine that my family can’t feel safe in fantastic Sweden. It’s really terrible,” Eilenberg told Skånskan.