Archive for the ‘cheap’ Category

Ministers must not resort to ‘cheap options’ on defence, says British Army chief

November 14, 2008

Ministers must not take “cheap options” when it comes to equipping the Armed Forces to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the head of the British Army warns today.

By Con Coughlin
The Telegraph (London)
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Telegraph, General Sir Richard Dannatt says the Government has an “absolute responsibility” to provide the best training and equipment for the British men and women serving on the front line.

“If you are committing young people to battle they have to be given the best, and when circumstances change they have to be given the best again,” he said.

Gen Sir Richard Dannatt warns ministers must not take

Gen Sir Richard Dannatt warns ministers must not take “cheap options” when it comes to equipping the Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan

His comments came as the Ministry of Defence announced the death of two Royal Marines in southern Afghanistan, taking the British death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan to 300.

Gen Dannatt, who will retire from the Army next year, has been outspoken on defence issues since taking up his post in 2006.

In 2006, he warned that the Army could ‘break’ if British soldiers were kept too long in Iraq.

And in a leaked report last year, Gen Dannatt warned that years of Government under-funding and overstretch had left troops feeling “devalued, angry and suffering from Iraq fatigue.”

With Britain now preparing to withdraw its 4,000 troops from Iraq next year, pressure is mounting – from sources including Barack Obama, the US president-elect — for more British forces to be sent to Afghanistan.

But Gen Dannatt said that no more British troops should go to Afghanistan, insisting that the Army only has the manpower and resources to fight one foreign war at a time.

“The reason the Army has been under such pressure for the past three years is that we are committed to fighting two wars when we are only structured to fight one,” said Gen. Dannatt. “If we were to move troops from Iraq to Afghanistan we would simply replicate the problems.”

He said that many improvements had been made in equipping front line troops during the past two years, but serious consideration needed to be given as to whether it was sufficient that only 5 per cent of the government’s budget was devoted to defence spending.

“Is the amount the government spends on defence the right proportion?” he asked. “There are no cheap options on defence.”

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Coal Can’t Fill World’s Burning Appetite

March 20, 2008

By Steven Mufson and Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 20, 2008; Page A01

Long considered an abundant, reliable and relatively cheap source of energy, coal is suddenly in short supply and high demand worldwide.

A labourer searches for usable coal at a cinder dump site at ...
A labourer searches for usable coal at a cinder dump site at Daming Coal Mine in Diaobingshan, Liaoning province February 24, 2008. China, the world’s top steel producer, is struggling with a shortage of coking coal after a power crisis in the country prompted Beijing to urge its mines to focus their efforts on raising thermal coal supplies.
An untimely confluence of bad weather, flawed energy policies, low stockpiles and voracious growth in Asia‘s appetite has driven international spot prices of coal up by 50 percent or more in the past five months, surpassing the escalation in oil prices.The signs of a coal crisis have been showing up from mine mouths to factory gates and living rooms: As many as 45 ships were stacked up in Australian ports waiting for coal deliveries slowed by torrential rains. China and Vietnam, which have thrived by sending goods abroad, abruptly banned coal exports, while India‘s import demands are up. Factory hours have been shortened in parts of China, and blackouts have rippled across South Africa and Indonesia‘s most populous island, Java.

A labourer searches for usable coal at a cinder dump site in ...
A labourer searches for usable coal at a cinder dump site in Changzhi, Shanxi province.  China has the world’s deadliest mines, where explosions, cave-ins and floods killed nearly 3,800 people last year. Coal accounts for about 70 percent of electricity production for the booming economy. But efforts to improve safety have been frustrated by lax enforcement, weak safety regimes and corruption among local officials and mine owners chasing profits.

Meanwhile mining companies are enjoying a windfall. Freight cars in Appalachia are brimming with coal for export, and old coal mines in Japan have been reopened or expanded. European and Japanese coal buyers, worried about future supplies, have begun locking in long-term contracts at high prices, and world steel and concrete prices have risen already, fueling inflation.

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Shanghai: Not Lost in Translation

October 21, 2007

Shanghai – By Les Lothringer

There is nothing special about the street I live in, here in Shanghai. Once you move off the glitzy streets like HuaiHai Road or NanJing Road, Shanghai resembles most other “modern” Chinese cities with their concrete block buildings ?endless, featureless and overbuilt.

My small street is a typical Chinese street. Not too far from the police complex and police cars and motorbikes sometimes patrol it. Here few people speak any English. There are no other Westerners. We have some cheap sidewalk cafes, three hairdressers [legitimate], three fruit stalls, a few traders in copy DVD’s [mostly from Russia], one legitimate massage salon and seven brothels. As I said, it is a typical Chinese street.

I’m alone at a small table by one sidewalk cafe eating. A mid-20’s Chinese girl with pretensions about her sits down opposite avoiding face contact. I think – now why don’t you just go and sit inside. You do learn to pick them.

Many Chinese come to this sidewalk cafe, including young girl students from the high school near by, all so chatty. This one is different. She has that irritable, bitchy, condescending air about her that you do see here – girls with issues. In two minds about it, I eventually say in Mandarin, do you speak English? She indicates no with minimum effort.

Some time later her friend comes along and sits down, next to me. The table is so typically quite small and we are seated very close to each other. She acts far more pleasantly. She does speak some English. So we chat. She works in a bank. When my English gets too hard for her, she checks with her friend, who speaks better English! Now she is talking too and there is no stopping her.

The issues one asks me which hotel I live in. I said I lived right here. She repeats the question. Eventually she gets it. Other questions follow about how long I’ve been in China.

Miss Issues seems intent on educating me now. I am already far too over-educated for my own good. She will have to try hard and I am quite keen. I established that both girls are aged 25 and work in the same Chinese bank nearby. She says some very interesting things.

Chinese people are very complex. VERY COMPLEX! OK ?got it. She adds- they are very difficult to understand. Got that too. I say they are not so complex, in fact, quite easy to understand. I think – whenever I hear that a group of people are “complex”, I imagine how neurotic they well could be. No point trying to explain that concept.

She says that foreigners are unable to understand Chinese. This is a telling point from one so basically naive and “young”. I said you are right; most do not. But I do understand Chinese, as I live amongst them and have made an effort to understand them. She is none too keen to accept this.

She raises the conversation stakes. She says that when a Chinese compliments a Westerner, at the bottom of their heart, right at the very bottom, they think the opposite. I say I know this [even though not strictly true of everyone] and what’s more, this means that you are saying that all Chinese are liars. Silence ensues.

It looks like my education lesson is over. A while after she asks me if I could explain to her what a treasury note is. The question comes as no surprise, but then I did say Chinese are not complex.

Both these women live with their parents [= enmeshed, controlling families who infantilize their daughters and more]. They expect to remain there until they marry. They have no boyfriends and never had. I appreciate being instructed by unworldly virgins. She must have read my face. My instructor starts the lesson again. Miss Issues tells me that this is how Chinese live. I point out that this is how some Chinese live and that it is changing. Just last Sunday, a young unmarried couple was sitting with me here at the same table and they were quite open about living together, even though it is strictly illegal. She grudgingly admits that, yes, things are changing in Shanghai.

I just couldn’t resist it. I say ?You know, you two girls must both move out of home, shack up with some Western guys [ideally weight trained alpha-males], learn how to live, stand up to your parents [who will turn on one of their well practiced and most definitely biggest tantrums] and stop them interfering in your lives. Lost in translation.

PS: The chances of these two girls attracting any guys like that are, well, frankly zero.   

Shanghai Exploding With Development, Wealth

Shanghai Exploding With Development, Wealth

October 21, 2007

George H. Lesser
The Washington Times
October 21, 2007


Winston Churchill said that in his father’s time — the second half of the 19th century — “The world was for the few… and for the very few.” And he wasn’t talking about “the world” — or even about the West. He was talking about England, then just about the richest country on Earth.

Since World War II, we have seen economic “miracles” transform Europe, Japan, other Asian nations, and a rising tide of expectations everywhere. The few have multiplied.

But nothing prepares you for what’s happening right now in Shanghai. Perhaps never in human history has so much been built in such a short time. Perhaps never in human history have so many people gotten so rich in such a hurry.

Shànghǎi Shì

A view of Lujiazui, a financial district in Pudong.

A view of Lujiazui, a financial district in Pudong.

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Shanghai: Not Lost in Translation