Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 21st, 2014

BAE agrees price on Typhoon jet deal with Saudi Arabia government

British defence firm announces deal on 72 Eurofighter aircraft (Typhoon jets) during Prince Charles visit to Saudi royals and deputy PM
Saudi Arabia initially agreed on a £4.4 bn price-tag for the aircraft in 2007, but BAE tried to extract more money after the Saudis requested advanced weaponry and equipment for the jets, which are being built in Warton, Lancashire.
The Guardian published this February 19, 2014

Prince Charles in Riyadh with Prince al-Waleed bin Tala

Prince Charles on Wednesday with the Saudi billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal. Photograph: Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images

The so-called Salam deal (Peace deal?), negotiated between the Saudi and UK governments, was announced on Wednesday during Prince Charles‘s visit to the country. The prince’s spokeswoman said that BAE  “did not come up in any of his conversations” with the Saudi royal family and politicians, including the deputy prime minister, Muqrin bin Abdulaziz.

The Typhoon deal became politically sensitive when it was revealed that Tony Blair, as prime minister, put pressure on the attorney general to drop a fraud inquiry into BAE’s previous sale of Tornado combat jets to Saudi Arabia.

BAE refused to state how much Saudi Arabia had now agreed to pay for the jets, but said it expected a “cash settlement” in the next few months. More than 30 of the jets have already been handed over.

Ian King, BAE’s chief executive, said: “This is an equitable outcome for all parties. I am pleased that we have been able to conclude this negotiation which builds on our long-standing relationship with this much valued customer.”

BAE had warned that any further delays with the deal would knock about 15% off its earnings per share.

The Saudi deal conclusion comes 3 months after BAE lost a proposed £6 bn agreement to sell 60 of the jets to the United Arab Emirates, despite the personal intervention of David Cameron.

The prime minister made two trips to try to persuade the UAE to sign the deal and pleaded the company’s case with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

The signing of the Saudi deal was welcomed by analysts who said it could help BAE make further inroads in the region. “There is considerable relief that this long-running problem has been resolved,” said Howard Wheeldon, an independent defence analyst.

“It does open up some very interesting doors, not only in Saudi Arabia, but across the Arabian peninsula.”

Bahrain, Qatar and Malaysia are also considering buying the Typhoon rather than competitors such as the Lockheed Martin F-35 made in the US, France’s Dassault Aviation Rafale fighter, and the Gripen from Sweden’s Saab. Oman agreed in 2012 to buy 12 of the jets.

Robert Stallard, analyst at RBC Capital, said:

“With Salam cash coming in, this should give BAE more flexibility for cash deployment moving forward. It also allows the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to move on to other potential agreements.”

The money from the Saudi Typhoons will help BAE complete its pledge to return cash to shareholders by buying up £1bn of its shares.

BAE’s shares spiked in early trading at the announcement but later dropped back, to end the day down 0.8p to 436.8p.

The company, which has been affected by governments around the world cutting back on defence spending, is on Thursday expected to report a 9% increase in annual profits to £1.8bn, according to analysts at the investment bank Deutsche Bank.

Rolls-Royce, a rival, shocked investors last week when it warned that there would be a “pause in revenue and profit growth” after cuts in defence spending.

More than £3bn was wiped off the Rolls-Royce company’s share price after it called an end to a decade of revenue growth.

BAE builds the Eurofighter alongside the European aerospace group Airbus and Italian defence contractor Finmeccanica“. End of article.

Apparently, what Europe has to export to the Middle-East is military hardware.

France got $3 bn from Saudi Arabia in order to export military hardware to the Lebanese army. The army has yet to find out what kinds of weapons France is willing to deliver that would be acceptable to Israel. (to be used against whom?)

Egypt’s Al Sisi struck a $3 bn deal with Russia for arms shipment, particularly fighter jets and tanks. To be used against whom?

Iraq wants fighter jets from the US. To bomb whom?

Mind you that Israel receive for free all the most sophisticated weapons from the US and Europe, including Patriot air defenses and half a dozen nuclear submarines from Germany (to be used against whom?)

Music is a Language: Does the brain works in the same way for all kinds of languages?

For the better part of the past decade, Mark Kirby has been pouring drinks and booking gigs at the 55 Bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

The cozy dive bar is a neighborhood staple for live jazz that opened on the eve of Prohibition in 1919.

It was the year Congress agreed to give American women the right to vote, and jazz was still in its infancy.

Nearly a century later, the den-like bar is an anchor to the past in a city that’s always changing.

 published in The Atlantic this Feb. 19 2014:

How Brains See Music as Language

A new Johns Hopkins study looks at the neuroscience of jazz and the power of improvisation.
For Kirby, every night of work offers the chance to hear some of the liveliest jazz improvisation in Manhattan, an experience that’s a bit like overhearing a great conversation.
“There is overlapping, letting the other person say their piece, then you respond,” Kirby told me. “Threads are picked up then dropped. There can be an overall mood and going off on tangents.”

The idea that jazz can be a kind of conversation has long been an area of interest for Charles Limb, an otolaryngological surgeon at Johns Hopkins. Limb, a musician himself, decided to map what was happening in the brains of musicians as they played.

He and a team of researchers conducted a study that involved putting a musician in a functional MRI machine with a keyboard, and having him play a memorized piece of music and then a made-up piece of music as part of an improvisation with another musician in a control room.

What researchers found:

1. The brains of jazz musicians who are engaged with other musicians in spontaneous improvisation show robust activation in the same brain areas traditionally associated with spoken language and syntax.

In other words, improvisational jazz conversations “take root in the brain as a language,” Limb said.

“It makes perfect sense,” said Ken Schaphorst, chair of the Jazz Studies Department at the New England Conservatory in Boston. “I improvise with words all the time—like I am right now—and jazz improvisation is really identical in terms of the way it feels. Though it’s difficult to get to the point where you’re comfortable enough with music as a language where you can speak freely.”

2. Along with the limitations of musical ability, there’s another key difference between jazz conversation and spoken conversation that emerged in Limb’s experiment.

During a spoken conversation, the brain is busy processing the structure and syntax of language, as well the semantics or meaning of the words. But Limb and his colleagues found that brain areas linked to meaning shut down during improvisational jazz interactions. In other words, this kind of music is syntactic but it’s not semantic.

“Music communication, we know it means something to the listener, but that meaning can’t really be described,” Limb said. “It doesn’t have propositional elements or specificity of meaning in the same way a word does. So a famous bit of music—Beethoven’s dun dun dun duuuun—we might hear that and think it means something but nobody could agree what it means.”

So if music is a language without set meaning, what does that tell us about the nature of music?

3. “The answer to that probably lies more in figuring out what the nature of language is than what the nature of music is,” said Mike Pope, a Baltimore-based pianist and bassist who participated in the study.

When you’re talking about something, you’re not thinking about how your mouth is moving and you’re not thinking about how the words are spelled and you’re not thinking about grammar. With music, it’s the same thing.”

Pope says even improvisational jazz is built around a framework that musicians understand. This structure is similar to the way we use certain rules in spoken conversation to help us intuit when it’s time to say “nice to meet you,” or how to read social clues that signal an encounter is drawing to a close.

4. “In most jazz performances, things are not nearly as random as people would think,” Pope said. “If I want to be a good bass player and I want to fill the role, idiomatically and functionally, that a bass player’s supposed to fulfill, I have to act within the confines of certain acceptable parameters. I have to make sure I’m playing roots on the downbeat every time the chord changes. It’s all got to swing.”

5. But Limb believes his finding suggests something even bigger, something that gets at the heart of an ongoing debate in his field about what the human auditory system is for in the first place.

“If the brain evolved for the purpose of speech, it’s odd that it evolved to a capacity way beyond speech,” Limb said. “So a brain that evolved to handle musical communication—there has to be a relationship between the two. I have reason to suspect that the auditory brain may have been designed to hear music and speech is a happy byproduct.”

Back in New York City, where the jazz conversation continues at 55 Bar almost every night, bartender Kirby makes it sound simple: “In jazz, there is no lying and very little misunderstanding.”

Denmark bans kosher and halal slaughter as minister says ‘animal rights come before religion’
Years of campaigning from welfare activists brought fruit: Denmark’s government has voted for a ban on the religious slaughter of animals for the production of halal and kosher meat.
Animal rights ahead of religious freedom! Fairness and equality to all animals

Adam Withnall  posted this February 18,  2014

New law, denounced as ‘anti-Semitism’ by Jewish leaders, comes after country controversially slaughtered a giraffe in public and fed him to lions

The change to the law, announced last week and effective as of yesterday, has been called “anti-Semitism” by Jewish leaders and “a clear interference in religious freedom” by the non-profit group Danish Halal.

Al Jazeera quoted the monitoring group Danish Halal, which launched a petition against the ban, as saying it was “a clear interference in religious freedom limiting the rights of Muslims and Jews to practice their religion in Denmark”.

European regulations require animals to be stunned before they are slaughtered, but grants exemptions on religious grounds.

For meat to be considered kosher under Jewish law or halal under Islamic law, the animal must be conscious when killed.

Animal rights ahead of religious freedom! Fairness and equality to all animals
Denmark’s government has brought in a ban on the religious slaughter of animals for the production of halal and kosher meat,…

Yet defending his government’s decision to remove this exemption, the minister for agriculture and food Dan Jørgensen told Denmark’s TV2 that “animal rights come before religion”.

Commenting on the change, Israel’s deputy minister of religious services Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan told the Jewish Daily Forward: “European anti-Semitism is showing its true colours across Europe, and is even intensifying in the government institutions.” (Here we go again)

Marius the giraffe, who was shot dead and autopsied in the presence of visitors to the gardens at Copenhagen zoo

Marius the giraffe, who was shot dead and autopsied in the presence of visitors to the gardens at Copenhagen zoo.

The ban has divided opinions in the country, particularly after it recently made headlines for animal welfare policy after Copenhagen Zoo slaughtered the “surplus” young male giraffe Marius.

On Twitter, David Krikler (@davekriks) wrote: “In Denmark butchering a healthy giraffe in front of kids is cool but a kosher/halal chicken is illegal.”

Byakuya Ali-Hassan (@SirOthello) said it was “disgusting” that “the same country that slaughtered a giraffe in public to be fed to lions… is banning halal meat because of the procedures”.

Mogens Larsen (@Moq72), from Aalborg in Denmark, tweeted: “Denmark bans the religious slaughter of animals. Not even zoo lions are allowed a taste of halal giraffe.”

Last year politicians in Britain said they would not be outlawing religious slaughter despite “strong pressure” from the RSPCA, the National Secular Society and other activists.” End of article.

I have a few comments:

1. Only developed and comfortable States can afford to face off religious dogma, even on this insignificant matter of dying “fully conscious or stunned“.

2. If the ban is an implicit admonition to countries still executing people to stun the human death raw victims before being guillotined, electrocuted or hanged… that would be an interesting controversy to discuss.

3. I was thrilled that Denmark opened this breach in discussing religious customs. So many religious traditions have to be opened to discussion: This process is the best way to bring people to earth and start reflecting as rational entities.




February 2014

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