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Archive for February 2011

Violence in Libya is roiling global financial markets today, driving down stock prices and pushing the cost of crude (CL-FT98.230.950.98%) to above two-year highs as several companies suspend output and fears grow of even more severe disruptions.

Libya is the new focus for the turmoil that began in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and elsewhere. While oil prices have bounced around amid the trouble, the crisis in Libya has heightened fears of another oil price shock. Libya accounts for 2 per cent of global crude output, and is home to the largest oil reserves in Africa, Globe and Mail writer Tavid Grant reports.

“If this means we see $100 a barrel much sooner than we expect, it is clearly going to impact on global economic recovery,” warned Yusuf Heusen, senior sales trader at IG Index. “This would only hinder share prices in the months to come.”

David Rosenberg, the chief economist at Gluskin Sheff + Associates, went further, warning about the potential hit should the tensions in the Middle East and north Africa spread to the oil powerhouse that is Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest exporter.

“The risk that the turmoil in the Arab states spreads further could very easily touch of further gyrations and upward pressure on energy prices, expecially with Chinese demand showing no sign of abating … yet,” said Mr. Rosenberg.

“After all, pricing in Libya supply disruptions is one thing but what if this social unrest spreads to Saudi Arabia, which holds 20 per cent of the world’s oil,” he said in a research note.

“If Libya can spark a $10-a-barrel response, imagine what a similar uprising in Saudi Arabia could unleash. Do the math: we’d be talking about $200 oil.”

Saudi Arabia is different from other countries in the region, and, as The New York Times reported last week, not as vulnerable because of its huge oil wealth, its “powerful religious establishment” and a popular king.

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Anti-government protests

Meanwhile, Croatian police clashed with approximately 15, 000 anti-government protesters who rallied separately in Zagreb, state television reported.

According to local media reports, officers used tear gas to disperse the group on Saturday.

At least 25 people were injured, including 12 police officers and 13 citizens.

Dozens of mostly young demonstrators charged at a police cordon preventing them from reaching a central square in Zagreb, where the government headquarters is located, Croatian television reported.

The protesters threw stones and bricks at police, who responded with tear gas, the report said, adding that nearby windows were also broken.

Croatian broadcaster, RTL, also showed riot police striking anti-government protesters with their batons. Police set up metal fences to stop the crowd, the report added, describing the situation as “chaos”.

Croatian police said that they detained 60 protesters because of “violent behaviour”.

“Their aim was to create unrest and behave violently towards police,” Tomislav Buterin, a police official, told journalists.

According to a police spokeswoman, the protesters were members of an anti-government group organised through the social networking website, Facebook, and were joined by football fans.

Economic crisis

The protests in Zagreb came just two days after several hundred protesters clashed with police at another anti-government rally.

The demonstrators demanded the resignation of Jadranka Kosor, Croatian prime minister, over high unemployment and the country’s deep economic problems.

Many Croats blame the government for the country’s economic hardships and alleged corruption.

Kosor took over the helm of the government in 2009 when Ivo Sanader, her predecessor, currently detained on suspicion of corruption and abuse of power, suddenly stepped down.

Croatia’s economy was hard-hit by the global crisis and has contracted for the past two years.

Mladen Pavic, a government spokesman, strongly condemned Saturday’s “hooliganism and violence”.

He said that “according to some information, some opposition parties were involved in organising and financing the Zagreb violence.” However, he did not elaborate.

Kosor has urged an end to the protests, warning that instability could undermine Croatia’s efforts to join the European Union.

President Ivo Josipovic has also appealed for the protests to remain peaceful.

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Even a regional nuclear war could spark “unprecedented” global cooling and reduce rainfall for years, according to U.S. government computer models.

Widespread famine and disease would likely follow, experts speculate.

During the Cold War a nuclear exchange between superpowers—such as the one feared for years between the United States and the former Soviet Union—was predicted to cause a “nuclear winter.”

In that scenario hundreds of nuclear explosions spark huge fires, whose smoke, dust, and ash blot out the sun for weeks amid a backdrop of dangerous radiation levels. Much of humanity eventually dies of starvation and disease.

Today, with the United States the only standing superpower, nuclear winter is little more than a nightmare. But nuclear war remains a very real threat—for instance, between developing-world nuclear powers, such as India and Pakistan.

To see what climate effects such a regional nuclear conflict might have, scientists from NASA and other institutions modeled a war involving a hundred Hiroshima-level bombs, each packing the equivalent of 15,000 tons of TNT—just 0.03 percent of the world’s current nuclear arsenal.

The researchers predicted the resulting fires would kick up roughly five million metric tons of black carbon into the upper part of the troposphere, the lowest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere.

In NASA climate models, this carbon then absorbed solar heat and, like a hot-air balloon, quickly lofted even higher, where the soot would take much longer to clear from the sky.

Reversing Global Warming?

The global cooling caused by these high carbon clouds wouldn’t be as catastrophic as a superpower-versus-superpower nuclear winter, but “the effects would still be regarded as leading to unprecedented climate change,” research physical scientist Luke Oman said during a press briefing Friday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

Earth is currently in a long-term warming trend. After a regional nuclear war, though, average global temperatures would drop by 2.25 degrees F (1.25 degrees C) for two to three years afterward, the models suggest.

At the extreme, the tropics, Europe, Asia, and Alaska would cool by 5.4 to 7.2 degrees F (3 to 4 degrees C), according to the models. Parts of the Arctic and Antarctic would actually warm a bit, due to shifted wind and ocean-circulation patterns, the researchers said.

After ten years, average global temperatures would still be 0.9 degree F (0.5 degree C) lower than before the nuclear war, the models predict.

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Google just changed its search algorithm and effectively declared war on Content Farms like Demand Media.

In a blog post, Google search engineers Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts write that the update, which will effect a whopping 11.8% of all search results, “is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful.”

“At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

Google does not mention any specific domains in the blog post, but we can confirm that Demand Media and other “content farms” are a target of the adjustment.

A person who works with Cutts recently told us “there’s a department full of Ph.Ds at Google that exists for the sole purpose of getting Demand Media out of the search results.”

We imagine this will deal a blow to Demand, which depends on Google both for its traffic and for its ads.

Demand makes much of its money by…

1. Figuring out which search results pages are the most expensive for search advertisers to put keywords on.

2. Hiring a freelancer to create content that relates to those search results pages.

3. Putting that content on good domains and SEO-ing the hell out of it.

4. Selling Google ads next to that content.

5. Doing this on a massive scale.

It’s Google arbitrage.

We’ve reached out to Demand Media for comment.

UPDATE: Demand says the algorithm change hasn’t hurt it at all.

Google is making this change because search is 95%+ of its business, and Microsoft Bing is more of a competitor than ever. Cutts and company are obsessed with having spam-free search results.

Read More…


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