Friday, February 27, 2009

More Game Theory from Middle East

In early summer 1995, a few months before his assassination, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin asked Jordan's King Hussein to approach Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on his behalf and arrange a joint visit by Rabin and Hussein to Baghdad, according to Nigel Ashton, author of "King Hussein: A political Life" (Yale University Press).

Ashton, a senior lecturer at the London School of Economics who is close to the Hashemite royal family, was given rare access to Hussein's private archives. In his Hussein biography, Ashton writes that when handed a secret letter by a Jordanian official, "Saddam did not rule out direct contacts with Rabin," but was reluctant "to work through lower-level intermediaries." No further moves on the Israel-Iraq initiative were recorded before Rabin's murder that November....

Aston calls the Rabin request for Hussein's intervention with Saddam "a bold and remarkable secret initiative." Saddam, a bitter enemy of Israel, had launched some 40 surface-to-surface missiles at it in 1991, partly in retaliation for the 1981 bombing of the Osiraq nuclear reactor.

Rabin reasoned that opening up relations with Iraq would increase pressure on Syrian leader Hafez Assad, Saddam's enemy, to cut a peace deal with Israel. Perhaps even more importantly, Rabin saw Iran, Iraq's arch-rival, as posing a more dangerous threat to Israel, with Iran bent on a nuclear-weapons program and Iraq under an international-sanctions and monitoring regime after the 1991 war.

-British author: Rabin asked Jordan to arrange secret visit with Saddam

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is it religion or culture?

A 14-year-old Israeli girl has got a divorce from her 17-year-old husband, making her what media are describing as the country's youngest divorcee.

The divorce came after a rabbinical court ruled that their wedding met the major requirements of Jewish law.

The two sweethearts had exchanged vows in front of friends, exchanged a ring, and the union had been consummated.

-Israeli girl 'youngest divorcee'

The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World

Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World.

Another former dictator's Art collection

After Ceausescu visited Pyongyang in North Korea, he decided to rebuild his own capital city. The result was to wipe out much of historic Bucharest to make way for grotesque and gigantic building projects that still spoil the city center, and sycophants kept a virtual army of state-approved artists busy painting portraits of Ceausescu and his wife, thousands of them. These ended up in public buildings and in the various homes of the dictator, who loved to receive as birthday gifts pictures of himself showing how much the Romanian people loved him. Ceausescu constructed a whole building to store these portraits.

-Romania Shrugs Off Reminder of Its Past

Economic Gangsters from Paradise

The lavish lifestyle of the former head of the tiny island nation of Maldives;

Gold Plated Toilets

Over 8 million dollars!

Private island retreat with a cricket pitch

The Palace, cost unknown, staff 300

Sunday, February 22, 2009

John Kay's ‘long walk’ problems

For years, I have identified what I think of as ‘long walk’ problems - knotty issues that are best tackled if you can get away from it all. I often come back with an answer, or a few paragraphs, composed in my head.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Steven Pinker with Colbert

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Artist of the Day

Enough About Me. Like My Portrait? ;
Donald Bachardy, the Santa Monica portraitist who is known for his drawings and paintings of celebrities like Jack Nicholson and Bette Davis, said his commissions from celebrities and Hollywood executives have increased in recent years.

In 2006, he said, he was flown to France to paint a pregnant Angelina Jolie. He contends that if a subject — famous or otherwise — is uncomfortable with a portrait, it is probably not really because of modesty, or concern about appearances, but because the subject has not picked the right painter.

“People get it backwards,” said Mr. Bachardy, 74. “They think it is the subject that is important. It is not. It’s the artist. They could get over that very easily if they chose an artist they really admired.”

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Advice of the Day- Turkey's jewish business tycoon

ISHAK ALATON, a prominent member of Turkey’s tiny Jewish community, has a secret to living more intensely: He built his house next to a cemetery.

You remember every day that you’re going to end up there,” he said.

Mr. Alaton is 81 and one of Turkey’s leading businessmen. He started with heating systems in the 1950s and expanded into construction, gyms and resorts. He has built roads in Kazakhstan, airports in Uzbekistan and a hospital in Moscow....

He also got some advice he never forgot from the father of a girlfriend at the time.

“I know you will be successful,” he recalled the man saying. “But don’t let your money muzzle you or stop you from expressing your thoughts.”...

As for worries that the current government is going to bring hard-line Islamic rule to Turkey, Mr. Alaton does not share them.

“We are too open a society for that,” he said. “They are using this to create a new scarecrow. Our history has been full of scarecrows.”

Turkey has been a democracy for years, and, unlike in Russia, which tried to erect the structures of democracy overnight after the Soviet Union’s collapse, cramming democracy down people’s throats in one painful gulp, the adjustment in Turkey has been much more gradual.

“We’ve been able to digest our democratic values,” he said. “You should be very hopeful.”

-A Businessman’s Enterprise: Cajoling Democracy Into Full Flower

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ethics for the Real World from Engineers

Ethics for the Real World: Creating a Personal Code to Guide Decisions in Work and Life
Ronald A. Howard is a professor in the Department of Management Science and Engineering in Stanford University's School of Engineering, and the director of the Department's Decisions and Ethics Center. Clinton D. Korver is the founder and CEO of DecisionStreet, which provides Web-based tools to help consumers make important life decisions.