Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Resum Juny i primers 6 mesos de l'any.

El mes de Juny s’ha mostrat molt sec i una mica càlid.



Si apreciem la gràfica de les temperatures podem apreciar com les màximes han estat elevades, especialment la segona quinzena de mes, amb una màxima absoluta de 30ºC el dia 16. En les temperatures mínimes, destaquen els dos dies de nit tropical (quan la temperatura mínima està per sobre dels 20ºC) que varem tenir el dia 16 i el dia 30.



Pel que fa a les precipitacions, el gràfic parla per si sol. 6,2mm recollits aquest mes de Junt quan hauria de ser entorn els 35. Un mes més que ens situem per sota de la mitjana, una dada preocupant.



Si fem un repàs dels 6 primers mesos de l’any, apreciem la tendència normal d’un clima mediterrani on la temperatura va pujant a partir de Gener – Febrer fins al Juliol – Agost. Aquesta gràfica, mostra la temperatura mitjana de cada mes. Apreciem una clara diferència entre els 8,3ºC i els 21,2 d’aquest mes de Juny. La temperatura mitjana d’aquests 6 mesos ha estat de 13,6ºC.

Repassant ara les precipitacions dels 6 primers mesos de l’any, es mostra clarament com a principis d’any les precipitacions eren un xic abundants, però com arribats a la primavera i l’estiu, que és quan més falta fa l’aigua pels nostres boscos, aquesta no ha estat gaire present. Entre Abril, Maig Juny ha plogut només la meitat del que hauria de ploure. D’aquí el problema que trobem en la sequedat de la massa boscosa en els entorns a la nostra vila. Esperem que el Juliol i l’Agost es comportin bé i ens donin una mica més d’aigua.

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You must read this book…go on…buy it

The book is Princes of the Yen by Richard Werner, a young economics professor in an English University who was inside the Japanese economic scene in the 1990’s and explains the causes of the earlier boom and the following bust that the world wondered at. The book shows how countries can climb out of recessions and it is highly pertinent to our current global crisis. Any investor needs this book, and not only fund managers; landowners and homeowners too - essential reading. It warns about central banks and their powers – usually hidden from democratic control. Use this link: Amazon books to read my review. The book reads like a detective story and explains very lucidly, vital aspects of finance and economics that would normally bore you to sleep. It was a best seller in Japan on their general lists and only got knocked off by Harry Potter.Any source

Il futuro della comunicazione

La scorsa settimana, nel corso del celebre Festival Internazionale della Pubblicità, tenutosi nella città di Cannes, il nostro CEO, Eric Schmidt, ha partecipato ad una sessione di Q&A condotta da Maurice Levy, Chairman & CEO del Gruppo Publicis.

Obiettivo dell'incontro era approfondire il punto di vista di Google in merito al "futuro della comunicazione". Questo è stato fatto affrontando numerosi e delicati temi a partire dalla crisi economica e l'impatto prodotto su numerosi business, come quello pubblicitario e il ruolo assunto da Google in questo specifico ambito.
Sono stati toccati temi relativi alla strategia di sviluppo di YouTube, come piattaforma di comunicazione, le potenzialità offerte dal mercato pubblicitario mobile e la relazione tra la nostra azienda e i media tradizionali.

Infine, prendendo spunto da alcuni importanti fatti di attualità: dalle elezioni americane ai più recenti eventi accaduti in Iran, non sono mancate domande da parte di Levy su YouTube e il ruolo ricoperto da Internet per sostenere la libertà di accesso all'informazione, un tema per noi estremamente importante.

Di seguito il video dell'incontro, caricato sul nostro canale internazionale YouTube:



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Monday, June 29, 2009

Open Database License is Released and My Brow is Sweating

Engineers and technologists generally resent needing to know anything about the law, because most often the lawyers are telling them they can't do something for some inane reason. For their part, many lawyers are surprisingly interested in technical matters, but even the most technically informed lawyers resent having to acknowledge that technology often trumps the law into irrelevance.

Today's announcement by the Open Knowledge Foundation of the release of version 1.0 of the Open Database License (ODbL) will create resentment in both professions- information technologists need to understand some of its complications, and lawyers will need to understand some technological limits of the license. In this post, I will try to articulate what some of the hard bits are.

The goal of the ODbL is to provide a means in which databases can be made widely available on a share-alike basis. Suppose for example, that you spent a lot of time assembling a cooperative of volunteers to compile a database of conferences and their hashtags. If you then made it available under the ODC Public Domain Dedication and License (PDDL), a commercial company could copy the database and begin competing with your cooperative without being obliged to contribute their additions and corrections to your effort. Under a share-alike arrangement, they would be obligated to make their derivative work available under the same terms as the original work. So-called "copyleft" licenses with share-alike provisions have proven to be very useful in software as the legal basis for Open Source development projects.

The difficulty with applying copyleft licenses to databases is that open source licenses that implement them are fundamentally rooted in copyrights which cannot easily applied to databases, hence the need for the work of the Open Knowledge Foundation. Usually, databases are collections of facts, and you can't use copyright to protect facts. However, it gets more complicated than that. In the US, it's also not possible to copyright collections of facts which can in fact be copyrighted in Europe under the "Sweat of the Brow" doctrine.

So copyright protection (and thus licenses including GPL and Creative Commons) can be asserted on entire dataspaces, but that protection is invalid in the United States. What the ODbL does to address that issue is to invoke contract law to paper over the gaps created by international non-uniformity of copyright for databases. The catch is that contract law, and thus the share-alike provisions it carries in the ODbL, can only be enforced if there is agreement to the license by the licensee. That's the thing that causes such user-experience monstrosities as click-through licenses and the like. So pay attention, engineers and technologists (Linked Data people, I'm talking to you!), if the provisions of the ODbL are want you want, you'll also need to implement some sort of equivalent to the click-through license. If you expect to involve machines in the distribution of data, you'll need to figure out how to ensure that a human is somewhere in the chain so they can consent to a license, or at least you'll need to socialize the expectation of a license.

Pay attention too, you legal eagles. Be aware that mechanisms of the click-through ilk can be prohibitively expensive if implemented without thought about the full system design. The most valuable databases may have hundreds of millions of records and can be sliced and diced all sorts of ways, so you want to avoid doing much on a record-by-record basis. Also be aware that databases can be fluid. Legitimate uses will mix and link multiple databases together, and the interlinks will be a fusion that should not be judged a derived work of either of the source databases. Records will get sent all over and recombined without anyone being able to tell that they came from a database covered by ODbL.

Any organization considering the use of ODbL should study the criticisms of ODbL posted by the Science Commons people. My own view is that there are lots of different types of databases with different characteristics of size, application, and maintenance effort. ODbL provides an important new option for those situations where neither PDDL or a conventional proprietary license will maximize benefits to the stakeholders in the database. But most of all, technologists and engineers need to consider the requirements needed for successful open licensing early on in the development of database distribution infrastructure.

More on Linked Data Business models to come.
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Absence of Shariah audit a ‘serious loophole’


By Habhajan Singh
Shariah audit, one of the key missing links in the current operations of Islamic financial institutions (IFIs), is expected to gain prominence in a few years time.
A local academic, who has been studying the matter from the Islamic perspective, has said that the absence of Shariah audit is a "serious loophole" in the Islamic finance system that is now fast expanding, with Malaysia alone having 17 stand-alone Islamic banks.
A cursory examination of the Islamic financial services industry, especially in Malaysia, shows an apparent gap in the Shariah supervisory practices, said International Islamic University Malaysia's (IIUM) Dr Abdul Rahim Abdul Rahman.
He noted that even though the Shariah Supervisory Committee (SSC) — an Islamic bank's inhouse Shariah body that ensures compliance on the Shariah front — express their opinions on Shariah compliance, the thorough audit or review processes of the Shariah legal contracts, documentations and operations were rarely conducted properly.
"Without such an audit and review process will result in a functional gap of Shariah compliance processes. This gap is a serious loophole in the Islamic financial system that is founded on Shariah precepts," said Abdul Rahim who is an associate professor at IIUM's Kulliyah of Economics and Management Sciences and also a former director of IIUM's Institute of Islamic Banking and Finance (IIiBF).
Menwhile, Daud Vicary Abdullah, who has held key positions in several Islamic banks in Malaysia and is now with Delloitte Consulting Malaysia, said that Shariah audit is still at the design stage.
"There is a growing awareness of it. I sense that in the future, at some point in time, the professional services firms will be expected to conduct a review from the outside, to validate what's happening (at Islamic banks)," he said.
In a paper presented at a local Islamic finance conference late last year, Abdul Rahim highlighted Section 5(b) of the Islamic Banking Act 1983 which specifies the need for the establishment of a Shariah Advisory Council (SAC).
"That there is, in the articles of association of the bank concerned, provision for the establishment of a Shariah advisory body to advise the bank on the operation of its banking business," he said.
Here, he noted, there are two types of Shariah compliance — ex-ante compliance and ex-post compliance. The ex-ante Shariah compliance is basically the Shariah Advisory Council's (SAC) supervision, monitoring and control tasks that take place upon and during implementation of the bank's dealings.
These activities include making sure that banks and financial institutions comply with the Shariah rules and guidelines during the designing of the contracts and agreements, during the process of transactions, during the conclusion of the contract, and the execution of the contract up to the implementation of the terms of contract until liquidation, he wrote.
"So far, very few institutions undertake ex-post Shariah compliance process. Ex-post Shariah compliance process requires a thorough and comprehensive Shariah audit to review and check the transactions that took place after the execution of the contracts.
"The ex-post Shariah compliance is basically to perform the random samples of completed transactions to ensure that these transactions conform to Shariah rules and guidelines.
"An internal audit or external audit may be required to perform this where the result of the audit needs to be reported to the management," he said.
On the processes, Vicary agreed that the Shariah audit is a lot wider than just accounting as it includes areas like procesess, people and governance. Abdul Rahim noted that Shariah advisors are rarely carrying out thorough internal Shariah review or audit on the operations of Islamic banks due to their restricted scope of work.

(This story appeared in The Malaysian Reserve on June 29, 2009. The Malaysian Reserve is a daily business/finance newspaper published out of Kuala Lumpur, with a sectoral page on Islamic finance on Mondays, edited by Habhajan Singh) Any source

MASB forum on Islamic accounting

The Malaysian Accounting Standards Board (MASB) last Thursday [25 June 2009] conducted a forum to gain feedback on the ‘Financial Reporting from an Islamic Perspective’ exposure draft. The panel session was chaired by Mohammad Faiz Azmi (3rd left) from PricewaterhouseCoopers, who has been recently appointed as the board's chairman. With him were (from left) MSB technical manager Mas Sukmawati Abu Bakar, Islamic banking veteran Mustapha Hamat and Amanie Business Solutions principal consultant Dr Syed Musa Al Habshi.Any source

Rasameel's Issam: In town for Islamic finance

The point person at Kuwait-based Rasameel Structured Finance is scheduled to be in Kuala Lumpur today. The company' vice chairman and CEO Issam Al-Tawari (picture) will be discussing the topic of distressed assets at the two-day 5th International Islamic Finance Forum Asia 2009.
Issam will be one of the panel members in a session discussing investment potentials in the distressed asset market and exploring the possibility for such assets to be managed in a Shariah-compliant manner. He will also be looking at the challenges and risk appetites faced when structuring Islamic funds for distressed assets.
Moderated by The Malaysian Reserve's associate editor Habhajan Singh, other panel members in the session are Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institution's (AAOIFI) assistant secretary general Khairul Nizam, Citi's head of regional Islamic structuring for fixed income Ahmad Shahriman Mohd Shariff and Thomson Reuters global head of Islamic finance Rushdi Siddiqui.
Headquartered in Kuwait, Rasameel's primary focus is providing its clients with a Shariah-compliant portfolio of predictable cashflow generating assets and securities in the form of asset securitisation invested in structured Islamic investment products.
Issam started his career with the Bahrain-based Arab Banking Corporation (ABC), working in the area of loans and syndication covering the European market and the GCC market at a later stage. He then worked extensively on corporate finance issues with ABC’s then newly incorporated subsidiary in 1994, ABC Islamic Bank, to become an associate director whose main responsibility was syndication and marketing.
He joined The International Investor (TII), Kuwait, in 1998 in the structured finance division working on project finance, asset-backed leases and a broad range of Islamic investment products. His last position with TII was chief operating officer and a partner with the structured finance group.
Issam has served on the board of directors of a number of companies and funds. He is also the chairman of Ain Takaful Insurance company, Kuwait, cofounder of Ritaj Investment Company, Kuwait, and ex-chairman of Binaa & Namaa (Sorooh) Investment, a company which specialises in financing build-operate-tranfer projects.

(This story appeared in The Malaysian Reserve on June 29, 2009. The Malaysian Reserve is a daily business/finance newspaper published out of Kuala Lumpur, with a sectoral page on Islamic finance on Mondays, edited by Habhajan Singh) Any source

Cleaning Products UPDATED

Household Cleaning

Most of my cleaning recommendations remain the same, with GreenShield scoring top marks in every category. Unfortunately it seems that GreenShield is harder to find in stores now, with Whole Foods taking it off the shelf in many stores to make room for their own similar (read: copy-cat) formulas.  I'd rather support an independent business than the Whole Foods brand, but, in a pinch, the Whole Foods stuff will do, I suppose. :)

Hand Washing Dish Soap

Better Life DISH IT OUT Natural Dish Liquid, Unscented gets top scores with EWG's new Health Cleaning Guide.  And rightly so!  It uses only glucosides as its detergents (the safest way to go if you've gotta use a detergent) and doesn't have anything bad!

Dishwasher Soap

I just learned about this one and I'm so excited to try it out!  It's almost too good to be true...a certified organic dishwasher soap!

Squeez by GreenShield Organic.  You can find this line of products at most Whole Foods stores and at Lowe's!  And speaking of GreenShield...they're my top picks for the following categories...

Kitchen Cleaner

GreenShield Organic Kitchen Cleaner

Bathroom Cleaner

GreenShield Organic Bathroom Cleaner

Toilet Cleaner

GreenShield Organic Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Glass Cleaner

GreenShield Organic Glass Cleaner 


All-Purpose Cleaner

GreenShield Organic All-Purpose Cleaner
I use this one a lot.  I use it to clean my countertops in the kitchen, to clean up sinks, mirrors.  Great stuff.

Alternative to Scrubbing Bubbles
When we went organic, that was one of the things I really missed---my Scrubbing Bubbles.  With the Scrubbing Bubbles you just sprayed it on and as you wiped or rinsed it off, the soap scum disappeared.  When I stopped using it, it was back to using the old elbow grease on the soap scum in the bathtub. And it was hard to find a good method for cleaning the bathtub.  Baking soda and scrubbing brushes, steam cleaners...nothing really did a good job without a ton of effort. But then I found this: method bathroom cleaner.   Now, do keep in mind that this is not a perfect product ingredients-wise.  It still contains synthetic fragrance, and a couple other questionable ingredients.  However, the fragrance didn't trigger my asthma like Scrubbing Bubbles does, and is a heckuva lot better ingredients-wise. They're up-front about their fragrance in that it's partially synthetic, but state that it is free from phthalates, NPE's and carcinogens and also has been tested for skin irritation and allergies.   To my delight, it did exactly what the label said.  You can spray it on your shower tile or bath tub, let it sit for just a little bit, and then just wipe it.  The soap scum just comes right off, no scrubbing needed.  All with no overwhelming fumes.  What a dream!

Laundry Detergent


Soapnuts, yo!
Have you tried soapnuts yet?  You can use them as a laundry detergent, hair wash, all-purpose cleaner--so many things you can do with them!


GreenShield also has some good ones, too.




DIY Recipes

Window and Glass Cleaner

1 cup vinegar
1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
2 cups water


This works amazingly!  It gets your windows and mirrors sparkling clean without streaks!

Removing Coffee/Tea Stains

Baking Soda!

Just take a paste of baking soda and water, use a sponge to scrub and the stains disappear! Use it on your mugs, in your sink, tile--wherever those tannins from coffee and tea are lurking!

Handwashing Dish Soap

50 g (about a handful) soapnut shells
4 cups of water

Bring water to boil and add soapnuts. Simmer for 20 minutes. Let it cool and then strain out the soapnuts and put the liquid in to a 1 qt mason jar.  Use 1/4 cup in a sink full of hot water for hand washing dishes.  Don't be fooled by the lack of bubbles--it's still doing its job!  Store remaining liquid in fridge. Can also be used for cleaning and shining jewelry, as a shampoo, and a veggie wash.















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Designing SMS apps for mobile Africa

As is well known, our mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. We aim to do this through technology, and in Africa, that means developing tools for the mobile phone. Africa has the world’s highest mobile growth rate. Mobile phone penetration is six times Internet penetration -- one third of the population owns a mobile phone and many more have access to one. Most of these devices only have voice and SMS capabilities, which is why we have chosen to focus our initial mobile efforts on SMS.

Today, we are releasing Google SMS in Uganda. Google SMS is a suite of mobile applications which provides access, via SMS, to information on a diverse number of topics including health and agriculture tips, news, local weather, sports, and more.

The suite also includes Google Trader, a marketplace application that helps buyers and sellers find each other. Users can find, "sell" or "buy" any type of product or service, from used cars and mobile phones to crops, livestock and jobs. Google Trader has been designed to help make markets more transparent. Many people in Africa lack access to information and markets beyond their immediate business and social networks. Google Trader allows sellers to post items for sale via SMS, and for buyers to search for such items.


Google SMS Tips is an SMS-based query-and-answer service. After you text a free-form query, Google algorithms restructure the query to identify keywords, search a database to identify relevant answers, and return the most relevant answer. SMS is a very limited medium: each SMS can be no longer than 160 characters, and, unlike the web, allows for one result to be returned in response to a query. Short or ambiguous queries are particularly challenging. For example: we've received queries as brief as "hiv". What exactly is someone asking for: symptoms? Causes? Prevention? Treatment? We not only have to discern intent in order to identify a relevant answer, but we also have to convey information back to the user within the confines of SMS. The challenge is further complicated by the fact that people must pay for each individual SMS message.

These are the sorts of technical challenges that have surfaced in developing SMS Tips, so please don't view it as a finished product. We need to greatly improve search quality and add to the content that we have in the Health and Ag focus areas. Now that Google SMS is live, we're working on improving search quality and the breadth, and depth, of content. As for Tips, we will work to add more focus areas.

Clearly, we're just beginning; there's still much to be done. If you're curious about what Google is doing in Africa, visit the Google Africa Blog. And here's a video about the broader effort initiated by the Grameen Foundation to introduce mobile applications to under-served communities.



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Madoff, the "little guy", and the SEC

Bernard Madoff has been sentenced to 150 years in prison for defrauding investors of at least $13 billion.

We all pretty much know the details of his crime by now, given the months-long media coverage devoted to Madoff's decades-long ponzi scheme (which many refer to as the biggest ponzi scheme in history). We won't rehash all the details here. Instead, let's focus on how this giant fraud against investors was uncovered.

Madoff confessed to his crime back in December when adverse market conditions led to a wave of redemption requests from investors. In spite of one whistleblower's attempts to shed light on Madoff's fraudulent scheme (essentially handing the agency an investigative case file), and repeated examinations into Madoff's business by the SEC and other regulatory agencies, the fraud was never revealed. That is, until Madoff was forced to reveal it.

So what does the SEC concern itself with if it's not actively pursuing cases against the largest, most sophisticated investment firms? According to Joe Nocera at the New York Times, it's usually building a case against smaller investors and brokers, including those who have done nothing illegal or unethical:

"Three months ago, in a courtroom in Bridgeport, Conn., a 72-year-old former
Morgan Stanley broker named Richard A. Kwak was cleared of any involvement in a small-time stock manipulation scheme.

The Boston office of the Securities and Exchange Commission began the investigation around 2001. Three years later, formal charges were brought against Mr. Kwak and seven others. By the time the case went to trial, in 2007, only three defendants were left; the others had settled with the S.E.C.


In that 2007 trial, Mr. Kwak and another defendant, Stephen J. Wilson, were cleared of one charge, with a hung jury on the remaining charges. (The third defendant, who foolishly acted as his own lawyer, was found liable and fined $10,000.)

The S.E.C. retried Mr. Wilson in 2008. He was cleared. Finally, in March 2009, the S.E.C. retried Mr. Kwak, with the same result. The jury took less than four hours to exonerate him.

Mr. Kwak’s life is now in tatters. He is around $1 million in debt and suffers from emotional problems. He has struggled to stay out of bankruptcy. Although he is still a broker — he certainly can’t afford to retire — he long ago lost his job with Morgan Stanley, where he had spent several decades without so much as a hint of impropriety. Needless to say, his business is a small fraction of what it once was.

“It pretty well wiped me out,” he said a few days ago. He is extremely bitter. The same is true of Mr. Wilson, who is also deeply in debt and struggling to reclaim his life."

An isolated incident, you say? Have a look at this post from Tim Knight's blog (Hat tip: Howard Lindzon) along with this story from one similarly affected investor in the comments section (Hat tip: Bear Mountain Bull).

I suppose this is what they mean when they say that Wall Street's regulators are "looking out for the little guy"?

Related articles and posts:

1. Chasing small fry, SEC let Madoff get away - NY Times.

2. The Outrageous SEC - Slope of Hope.

3. The SEC makes Wall Street more fraudulent - Mises.org.
Any source

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Two "New" Posts

Mike at Rortybomb was kind enough to alert me that my RSS feed was not updating. It turns out that the service I use, FeedBurner, has a limit on the total size of the feed (all of the blog posts in the feed file) that is not that hard to reach for a blog.

Once this limit was reached, rather than dropping the oldest blog posts from the feed file, they just stopped adding the new ones. I've addressed this by limiting the feed file to only the newest 10 posts, so there shouldn't be a problem in the future, but in the meantime those subscribing to my blog have missed the last two posts.

I encourage you to still read them, especially, "What we do to our kids: 19% and it can never be discharged in bankruptcy". This is a very important issue that's little known and discussed. The other post, "It's far better for China to increase demand and net-imports through investment spending than consumption spending", is on a far larger and more covered issue, but I think it contributes some important points that are widely misunderstood, and is well explained.

Any source

Onada de calor.


Es presenta una setmana calorosa, d'aquelles que originen noticia. I es que al llarg d'aquesta setmana que tot just comencem, una llengua càlida provinent d'Àfrica agafarà tota Espanya i, per tant, també Tossa.
Malauradament, aquesta onada de calor, no vindrà acompañada de ruixats a excepció d''algunes zones local del Pirineu on podran tenir avui dilluns i demà, alguna petita tempesta fruit de la mateixa calorada.
Així doncs, la sequedad del territori continuarà, amb un temps assolellat i molt càlid que s'imposarà durant uns quants dies. Les temperatures màximes a Tossa podran arribar als 30ºC (amb permís de la marinada), superar els 35ºC a l'interior de Catalunya i els 40ºC en zones d'Andalucia.
Model GFS. Situació esperada de temperatures per divendres i dissabte a 850 hPa (1500 metres d'alçada) on es pot apreciar com la llengua càlida provinent d'Àfrica ens afecatrà de ple al llarg de tota la setmana.
Any source

CFN School Champions


The CFN Network this month invited several Consortium students to act as "school champions." They'll be the eyes and ears for CFN on campus. During the year, they will provide feedback, ideas, insight and trends on what's going on in finance and in opportunities from their respective b-schools.

What companies are recruiting eagerly on campus? What are career strategies of students in this environment? What sectors of finance (banking, investing, trading, asset mgt., etc.) are students most interested in these days? How can alumni and experienced professionals best help students? How are students juggling the tough demands of coursework and recruiting? School champions will help answer these kinds of questions and more.

We'll learn more about how b-schools are "teaching" the financial crisis or restructuring finance courses to include the events of the past year or focus more on risk management. We may learn more about how schools approach the study of finance differently and how schools are preparing students for opportunities in financial institutions.

We'll see where, say, a bank recruited aggressively at one campus, but avoided another. Or where a firm is on campus, but making only a token effort to recruit. Or where one school introduces new courses that study how to strengthen the financial system or measure the impact of planned regulatory changes. We'll watch trends across all campuses to see where students are leaning, seeing opportunities or getting offers.

On campus, the school champions will also promote CFN events, projects and membership. During the year, we'll share valuable information, ideas, and tidbits from one campus with another and with CFN members.

Tracy Williams
Any source

G20 Pittsburgh Edition spéciale 2, le FMI s'adapte à la crise. Par Didier REMER




Dans le cadre préparatoire du futur G20 de Pittsburgh aux Etats-Unis en septembre prochain, Finance Offshore souhaite vous informer sur l'état actuel de la planète Economie et Finance. Toujours désireux de vous communiquer la meilleure lisibilité sur les enjeux du prochain G20. Pour cette deuxième édition nous allons nous intéresser aux différentes missions et objectifs que le Fond Monétaire International souhaite porter dans son adaptation à la crise. Voici le résumé très intéressant des différents travaux et résultats acquis à ce jour. Bien comprendre les enjeux du futur G20 est indispensable pour tous ceux qui souhaitent appréhender les mutations indispensables qui s'opèrent... Ce document a le mérite d'être complet et didactique, il intègre la réelle qualité d'adaptation du FMI à la crise actuelle.

Le FMI s’adapte pour affronter la crise

Face à la pire récession que le monde ait connue depuis de nombreuses générations, le FMI s’est mobilisé sur plusieurs fronts pour venir en aide aux pays membres : il augmente ses concours, met à profit son expérience internationale pour conseiller les autorités nationales sur les solutions envisageables et procède à des réformes pour moderniser son mode de fonctionnement et mieux répondre aux besoins des pays.
Accroissement des prêts d’urgence. Le FMI a réagi rapidement à la crise économique mondiale en portant ses engagements de prêts au niveau record de 157 milliards de dollars avec, en particulier, une forte augmentation des prêts concessionnels aux pays les plus pauvres.
Travail d’analyse et conseils ciblés. Le rôle de surveillance, les prévisions et les conseils du FMI, qui bénéficient d’une perspective mondiale et de son expérience des crises antérieures, sont très sollicités et le Groupe des Vingt (G-20) y fait largement appel. Davantage de souplesse. Le FMI a réformé sa panoplie d’instruments de prêt de manière à ce qu’elle corresponde mieux aux besoins des pays membres et il a simplifié les conditions de ses prêts.

Création d’un dispositif de sécurité financière.

Le FMI s’emploie actuellement à mettre en place un vaste dispositif de sécurité financière pour contenir la propagation de la crise en obtenant des promesses de contributions en vue du triplement de ses ressources, conformément à l’objectif approuvé par le G-20.
Mise à profit des leçons de la crise. Le FMI participe à la réflexion en cours sur les leçons à tirer de la crise sur le plan de la politique économique, de la réglementation et de la réforme de l’architecture financière mondiale.

La nouvelle panoplie d’instruments de prêt du FMI

• Les plafonds d’accès aux ressources du Fonds sont doublés
• La conditionnalité est simplifiée de manière à faire disparaître le spectre du discrédit pour les pays emprunteurs
• Une nouvelle ligne de crédit modulable est créée pour les pays performants
• La réforme supprime la conditionnalité structurelle « stricte »
• L’accent est mis désormais sur les objectifs plutôt que sur des mesures spécifiques
Réforme de la panoplie d’instruments de prêt. Entre autres mesures visant à aider les pays pendant la crise économique mondiale, le FMI renforce sa capacité de prêt et
a approuvé une réforme majeure des modalités de ses concours en offrant des montants plus élevés et en en adaptant les conditions aux divers atouts et à la situation particulière des pays bénéficiaires.
Une nouvelle ligne de crédit pour les pays émergents bien gérés. Les décaissements ne sont pas étalés dans le temps et aucune condition n’est imposée aux pays admis à bénéficier de la
ligne de crédit modulable. La Colombie, le Mexique et la Pologne ont reçu à eux trois 78 milliards de dollars à ce titre.
De nouvelles règles pour les conditions des prêts du FMI. Depuis le 1er mai, les
critères de réalisation structurels sont supprimés pour tous les prêts du FMI, y compris ceux qui appuient les programmes des pays à faible revenu. Les réformes structurelles continueront à faire partie intégrante des programmes, mais uniquement si elles sont jugées indispensables au redressement du pays. En outre, le suivi des mesures prévues risquera moins d’entacher la réputation du pays emprunteur puisque celui-ci ne sera plus tenu de demander une dérogation officielle s’il est dans l’impossibilité de mettre en œuvre une mesure convenue dans les délais fixés.

Davantage de souplesse, moins de conditions.

Les programmes ayant reçu dernièrement le soutien du FMI sont adaptés à la situation particulière des pays et sont centrés sur les questions à résoudre dans l’immédiat pour surmonter la crise.

Par exemple:

1. Le programme de novembre 2008 de l’Islande permet un déficit budgétaire élevé en 2009 afin de ne pas aggraver l’effondrement en cours de l’activité économique tout en prévoyant des mesures pour stabiliser le taux de change et restructurer le secteur bancaire.
2. Le programme de septembre 2008 du Costa Rica prévoit le recours à une politique budgétaire expansionniste pour atténuer les effets néfastes du repli de la demande privée en 2009, notamment l’augmentation de la masse salariale et des dépenses d'infrastructure.
3. Le programme d'avril 2008 du Guatemala table sur une relance budgétaire modérée pour soutenir la demande intérieure, financée par un apport substantiel de ressources extérieures par des institutions multilatérales, et comprend un recentrage des dépenses publiques sur le secteur social et les travaux publics à forte intensité de main-d’œuvre.
4. En Hongrie, le programme d'octobre 2008 a été modifié récemment pour tenir compte de l'évolution moins bonne que prévu de la conjoncture économique mondiale et des marchés financiers internationaux. Les changements visent à assurer un juste équilibre entre la nécessité de préserver la confiance des créanciers dans la situation des finances publiques et la balance des paiements de la Hongrie tout en évitant les mesures qui risqueraient d’aggraver la récession. Le programme modifié prévoit notamment une légère augmentation du déficit budgétaire en 2009 par rapport au programme initial et donne une plus grande place aux mesures visant à préserver les dépenses sociales essentielles.

Accent sur la protection sociale

Le FMI fait en sorte que les ajustements économiques entrepris pour contrer les effets de la crise tiennent aussi compte des besoins des couches les plus vulnérables de la population en élaborant des dispositifs de protection sociale ou en renforçant ceux qui existent déjà.
Les dépenses sociales sont préservées ou accrues là où cela est possible. Par exemple, le Pakistan augmentera ses dépenses pour aider les pauvres à la fois au moyen de transferts en espèces et de subventions ciblées à la consommation d'électricité.
Environ un tiers des programmes des pays à faible revenu fixent des planchers pour les dépenses sociales et les autres dépenses prioritaires.
Les réformes structurelles sont conçues de manière à protéger les plus vulnérables. En Hongrie par exemple, la réduction des prestations sociales ne concerne pas les retraités modestes.
Le FMI collabore étroitement avec la Banque mondiale et les bailleurs de fonds afin de trouver des ressources extérieures pour financer la protection sociale et de promouvoir la réforme des dispositifs qui existent dans ce domaine.


Aide aux populations les plus pauvres

• Le FMI prévoit de doubler son aide concessionnelle en 2009-10 en la portant à 3 milliards de dollars par an pour aider les pays à faible revenu à affronter les retombées de la crise mondiale.
• Fin mai 2009, les nouveaux prêts du FMI aux pays d'Afrique subsaharienne dépassaient déjà 1,5 milliard de dollars.
• Les plafonds d'accès aux ressources concessionnelles du FMI ont été doublés.
• Le FMI procède actuellement à la réforme de ses instruments de prêt concessionnels en vue de les rendre plus souples et mieux adaptés aux besoins des pays à faible revenu.
• Vingt-quatre pays à faible revenu ont bénéficié d'un allégement de dette de la part du FMI pour un total d'environ 6 milliards de dollars.

Davantage de souplesse en matière de politique budgétaire.
En raison de la crise, le FMI a en général intégré dans ses prévisions une augmentation des déficits et des dépenses en 2008 et 2009 et il a introduit davantage de flexibilité dans ses programmes d'aide financière. Les objectifs budgétaires ont ainsi été assouplis dans près de 80 % des pays africains (18 sur 23) qui appliquent un programme soutenu par le FMI. Pour l'ensemble de l'Afrique subsaharienne, les déficits budgétaires se sont creusés en moyenne de 2 % du PIB en 2009 (7,5 % si l'on inclut les pays producteurs de pétrole).

Davantage de souplesse en matière d'inflation.

En octobre 2007, les programmes des pays à faible revenu tablaient sur un taux moyen d’inflation de 5,3 % pour 2008. Mais dans le courant de l'année 2008, la montée des prix des carburants et des produits alimentaires a obligé à revoir cet objectif. En octobre, les services du FMI s'attendaient à ce que, dans les pays appliquant un programme avec son soutien, l'inflation atteigne en moyenne 11 % pour l’ensemble de l’année 2008. Elle a été en fait de presque 12 %.

Simplification des conditions des prêts.

La conditionnalité est maintenant centrée davantage sur des objectifs fondamentaux. Le nombre de conditions structurelles a diminué dans beaucoup de programmes et, de plus en plus, ces conditions sont limitées aux mesures les plus essentielles, notamment aux réformes qui s'imposent d'urgence dans le domaine de la gestion des finances publiques.

Par exemple:
1. Sénégal: 12 réformes structurelles au moment de l'approbation de l'instrument de soutien à la politique économique (novembre 2007) ; ramené à 7 réformes en juin 2009.
2. Zambie: Les trois accords
FRPC avaient respectivement 12, 11 et 9 conditions structurelles. Le nombre de réformes assorties du niveau de conditionnalité le plus élevé (actions préalables et critères de réalisation structurels) a été ramené de 5 dans les deux premiers programmes à 2 dans le dernier.

Réforme des instruments de financement.

Outre le doublement récent des plafonds d'accès, le FMI s'emploie actuellement à réaménager ses facilités de financement concessionnel pour les rendre plus souples et mieux adaptées aux besoins divers des pays à faible revenu, dont beaucoup sont durement éprouvés par la crise mondiale. Cette réforme consistera notamment à rendre plus efficace l'assistance financière à court terme et l’aide d'urgence.

Création d’un pare-feu contre les crises — Le triplement des ressources du FMI

• Lors de son sommet du 2 avril 2009 à Londres, le G-20 s'est prononcé en faveur d'une augmentation considérable des ressources dont dispose le FMI pour accorder des prêts afin d’aider à combattre la crise.
• Le G-20 a décidé de tripler la capacité de prêt du FMI en la portant à 750 milliards de dollars et de lui permettre d'injecter des liquidités supplémentaires dans l'économie mondiale au moyen d'une allocation de 250 milliards de dollars de DTS, la quasi monnaie du FMI.
• Un doublement immédiat des ressources du FMI, actuellement de 250 milliards de dollars, sera rendu possible par des contributions bilatérales, dont deux apports de 100 milliards de dollars chacun du Japon et de l'Union européenne, auxquels s’ajouteront d’autres contributions.
Les ressources du FMI seront portées à 750 milliards de dollars grâce à l’expansion et à la modernisation des
Nouveaux accords d'emprunt (NAE). L’ouverture de ces accords à de nouveaux participants, aujourd’hui au nombre de 26, l’augmentation du crédit ainsi disponible, qui pourra atteindre 500 milliards de dollars (dont les quelque 250 milliards de dollars de contributions bilatérales), et l’assouplissement des NAE feront de ce dispositif un instrument beaucoup plus puissant.
Une allocation générale de DTS équivalente à 250 milliards de dollars se traduira par un quasi-décuplement du nombre de DTS. Pour de nombreux pays, notamment les pays à faible revenu, cela représentera une augmentation considérable des réserves. L'allocation équivaudra à 77 % environ de la quote-part de chaque participant.

Le rôle du FMI dans l’élaboration de l'architecture financière après la crise


• Le FMI travaille en étroite collaboration avec les gouvernements et d’autres institutions internationales pour dessiner les contours du monde au lendemain de la crise et essayer d'empêcher que de nouvelles crises se produisent à l'avenir.
• Des mesures ont d'ores et déjà été prises pour affiner l'analyse des risques, en la plaçant dans une perspective internationale, et examiner les liens entre économie réelle, secteur financier et stabilité extérieure, en particulier par la mise en place d’un exercice d'alerte avancée (en collaboration avec le Conseil de stabilité financière) et le réaménagement des programmes d’évaluation du secteur financier.
• Il est aussi essentiel de rendre la surveillance des pays plus efficace, en faisant en sorte qu’elle soit plus impartiale, plus claire et plus franche.
• Le FMI émet aussi des avis sur ce qui devrait être fait pour améliorer la réglementation et la supervision internationales des marchés.
Une structure de gouvernance qui reflète davantage l’économie mondiale
• Il importe avant tout de mener à bien les réformes en cours de la gouvernance pour assurer la légitimité et l’efficacité du FMI.
• Il convient d’approuver au plus vite la réforme des quotes-parts et celle de la représentation des pays, adoptées en avril 2008.
• Ces réformes marquent le début d’un processus visant à accroître la participation des pays émergents dynamiques et en préservant la représentation des pays à faible revenu.
• Ces réformes prévoient un relèvement de la quote-part de 54 pays membres, parmi lesquels la Chine, la Corée, l’Inde, le Brésil et le Mexique recevront les augmentations les plus fortes.
• Nous n’en sommes encore qu’au premier stade des réformes. Le G-20 a demandé que la phase suivante, à savoir la mise au point d’une nouvelle formule de calcul des quotes-parts, soit entamée avant octobre 2009 de manière pouvoir aboutir au plus tard en janvier 2011.








Source:© Copyright 2009 FMI (Fond Monétaire International) Tous droits réservés
Any source

The Commission Issues Consultation Draft on Mutual Funds

On June 16, the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission has published Mutual Funds Regulations, 2009. This consultation draft document issued under the Securities and Investment Business Act, 2009, concerns private and professional funds, public funds, and their administration.

In the first part of the document, related to private and professional funds, the obligations on them are stated by the Commission, including directors, functionaries of private and professional fund, and investment warning; also, regulations and notifications on preparation and audit of financial statements for private and professional funds.

The second part of the document contains application for registration of public funds, content of prospectus of public fund,and other requirements for this type of mutual funds. The last part of the document is devoted to administration of the funds, and includes requirements for the registers. Schedule in the end of the document concerns information to be contained in Prospectus of a Public Fund in respect of the Manager, the Administrator, the Custodian, the Investment Adviser, the Director and other relevant persons of the fund.

Other points of the Schedule are the Constitution and Objectives of the fund, the Characteristics of Fund Interests in the fund, Valuation of fund property and fund interests, fees, distribution of income, issue and redemption of fund interests, some general and additional information.
Article any source

UK can compete - so does it need subsidies?

Russia and Romania may be two of the cheapest places in the world to produce wheat, byt the UK is only a little way behind. Releasing the result of its Global Cost of Production Challenge, Bidwells Agriculture head of research Carl Atkin, said that despite the higher unit price of inputs in the UK, cost of production per tonne is only marginally higher than in eastern Europe. 'This is because of the considerable yield advantage the UK has, based on first-class soils and a maritime climate.'

Western Europe's temperate maritime climate produces one of the longest and most suitable growing seasons in the world for wheat, Mr Atkin explained. While the soils in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are often of equal or better quality, climatic and weather constraints temper output. In addition, there is considerable yield volatility in other parts of the world, where occasional crop failures need to be factored in. This is partly why UK what production costs per tonne are lower in Australia, Brazil and Canada.

Moreover, post-farmgate costs needed to be factored in. These can be substantial if infrastructure is poor and costs-to-market are high, as is generally the case in Russia. Costs are rsing in places such as Russia and Romania faster tham in, say Australia and Canada, as land and labour costs escalate.

If UK wheat can compete on world markets, do large-scale arable operations in East Anglia really need subsidies to be viable? Of course, re-directing CAP payments elsewhere could simply subsidise efficiency. Introducing a measure such as a cap on payments to large farmers would disadvantage the UK relative to other member states. But this analysis does raise questions about whether blanket subsidies are still required.Any source

Could Doha be back on?

India's new government is eager to resume the Doha round of world trade talks, according to the country's new minister for commerce and industry. Anand Sharma told the Financial Times that India was keen to break the impasse in negotiations. Mr Sharma's tone marks a significant shift from his predecessor, Kamal Nath, who was known for his uncomprising stance in the Doha talks.

Many countries blamed India for the breakdown of ministerial talks a year ago intended to forge a blueprint for concluding the Doha round. The meeting ended in disarray after India and the US failed to reach a compromise over the special safeguard mechanism, designed to protect farmers in poor countries from surges of agricultural imports. Washington said imports should have to increase 40 per cent to trigger safeguard tariffs, whereas India wanted a very low 10 per cent trigger.

World trade negotiations have been the most significant driver for CAP reform for nearly two decades and a resumption of them could counter balance strengthening protectionist forces in Europe.Any source

Friday, June 26, 2009

Why the Times took 8 days to Announce its Linked Data Announcement

It took 8 full days for the New York Times to make the same announcement on its "Open" blog that it made last week at the Semantic Technology Conference. Being that it's Friday afternoon, I present here my purely hypothetical speculations on what took so long, based on reading of tea leaves and semantic hyperparsing of the subtle, almost hidden differences between today's text and a transcription of the announcement of last Wednesday.
  1. A pitched battle between entrenched factions within the New York Times has waged over the past week, pitting a radical cabal of openists versus the incumbent "we've always done it that way" faction. The openists slipped the announcement of the announcement into their blog while the traditionalists were occupied with the battle over the type size of the headline for the Michael Jackson story today.
  2. The TimesOpen team missed last week's deadline for the "Sunday Styles" Announcements section.
  3. Normally, announcements like these take two weeks to process, but the business section was starting to get worried that USAToday was going to scoop them with a front pager on Monday.
  4. The written announcement was held up because a patent lawyer feared that the admission that the Thesaurus was "almost 100 years" old could hurt the Times' efforts to obtain a patent on the semantic web.
  5. The announcement was actually made last Thursday, but the printf() command in the Blog's subtitles crashed some key RSS syndication agents.
  6. The fact checker was on vacation.
If you have ever worked in an organization of even moderate size, you know that the real reason is almost certainly banal and boring.

On a more serious note, I think it's important to understand how organizations (not just the New York Times) adapt their internal processes to enable semantic technology in general. Over the past 15 years, the necessity to produce a web site has required many organizations to overhaul many of their internal processes, resulting in new efficiencies and capabilities that go well beyond the production of a website. At last weeks Semantic Technology Conference, there were a number of presentations that solved problem X using semantic technologies, raising immediate questions about what was so wrong with solving problem X the conventional way. Implicit in the presentations was an assumption that by approaching problems using semantic techniques, one could achieve a level of interoperability and software reuse that is not being achieved with current approaches. That's a sales pitch that's been made for many other technologies. What is certainly true is that many problems that are causing pain these days can only be solved by reengineering of corporate processes; maybe semantic technologies will be a catalyst for this re-engineering, at least in the publishing industry.

A very thoughful review of last weeks conference has been posted by Kurt Cagle. I leave you with this quote from Kurt:
There comes a point in most programmers careers where they make a startling realization. Computer programming has nothing to do with mathematics, and everything to do, ultimately, with language. It’s a sobering thought.
A reassuring thought as well.
Article any source

Lie to me, please

Have you ever noticed how pervasive lying has become in our culture?

Whether it's mass media advertising, political speech, or a sign announcing a new home development or "office park", we seem to be bombarded daily with insincere, vacuous messages or outright lies which try to re-frame our perceptions of reality.

Charles Eisenstein has written a very interesting article on this topic entitled, "The Ubiquitous Matrix of Lies"
(hat tip: Chris Nelder). Here's an excerpt from that piece:

"Increasingly, words don't mean anything. In politics, campaigning candidates make statements that flatly contradict their actions and policies, and no one seems to object or even care. It is not the routine dissembling of political figures that is striking, but rather our near-complete indifference to it. We are as well almost completely inured to the vacuity of advertising copy, the words of which increasingly mean nothing at all to the reader.

Does anyone really believe that GE "brings good things to life?" Or that a housing development I passed today - "Walnut Crossing" - actually has any walnut trees or crossings? From brand names to PR slogans to political code-words, the language of the media that inundates modern life consists almost wholly of subtle lies, misdirection, and manipulation.

We live in a ubiquitous matrix of lies, a sea of mendacity so pervasive that it is nearly invisible. Because we are lied to all the time, in ways so subtle they are beneath conscious notice, even the most direct lies are losing their power to shock us."

When was the last time you felt you were being lied to, implicitly or explicitly? Has it become harder to keep track of all the misleading messages and signals that we encounter in our daily lives? Please read "Matrix of Lies" and share your experience with us.

Related articles and posts:

1. George Orwell: "Politics and the English Language" - Mt. Holyoke.

2. Defining Bullshit - Timothy Noah for Slate.

Any source

L'addio della rete al re del pop

La notizia della morte di Michael Jackson ha sconvolto anche il popolo della rete e anche su YouTube la community esprime il proprio cordoglio attraverso migliaia di clip video in cui gli utenti raccontano di persona, o attraverso balli, il dolore per la scomparsa di quello che per molti è stato un idolo.


Ma l'attenzione del popolo della rete a Michael Jackson si manifesta anche in forme meno evidenti di addio, come i milioni di ricerche che da ieri si compiono sul motore non solo per raccogliere informazioni sulla morte della pop star ma anche per ripercorrere la storia della sua carriera attraverso i testi
dei più importanti successi: Thriller, Man in the Mirror, Billie Jean e Childhood.

Any source

LE NOUVEAU DESSIN DE REM

Any source

The debate on the post-2013 CAP

The debate on the future of the CAP after 2013 has now started following the informal Farm Council in the Czech Republic earlier this month. Those who want to influence the debate have about twelve months before the Commission publishes a Communication (effectively a White Paper) on future policy in the summer/early autumn of next year. Formal legislative proposals will then be published in the middle of 2011 together with the proposals for the financial perspectives from 2014 to 2019 or 2020.

At the Farm Council there was a surprisingly strong consensus on maintaining a strong 1st Pillar after 2013, principally in the form of Single Farm Payments (SFP). Britain sent a junior minister, Jane Kennedy, who has since resigned and she made a ritual reptition of the UK Government's position of wanting to phase out direct payments altogether. However, it is clear that this argument is going nowhere and that the French subsidisation discourse is back in the driving seat.

Justifications advanced for subsidy

What are the justifucations for continuing SFP? Are they an income support or are they there to support the provision of public goods? If the former, they are remarkably inefficient as most of the money goes to larger farmers. Commissioner Fischer Boel, however, made the argument that dairy farmers would be in even worse trouble without direct payments.

The Commission has estimated that 40 per cent of farms would disappear in some sectors if the CAP budget was stopped tomorrow - and farmer incomes would drop by more than two-thirds, from levels already below the EU average. No serious analyst is recommending withdrawing the budget overnight. We would rather not be here, but we do not start with a blank sheet of paper. However, objectives need to be clearly stated and prioritised and there needs to be a measureable link between objectives and policy instruments. In other words, no blanket subsidies that do not lead to demonstrable outcomes.

It is argued that the ovearching objective is to maintain farming across the EU, i.e., to avoid rural exodus and abandonment of the land. Leaving the land unfarmed would certainly have negative biodiversity impacts and also impair landscapes, affecting rural tourism. However, there needs to be more emphasis on the overall vigour of the rural economy, reducing its dependence on farming and ensuring that infrastructure such as broadband is in place everywhere.

A widely used argument at the Council was that the higher environmental, food safety, food quality, traceability, animal health and welfare standards that EU producers face in relation to non-EU producers cannot be rewarded by the market and therefore justify subsidies. There is certainly a case here, but the monitoring and enforcement of cross-compliace needs to be substantially improved if these subsidies are to be justified.

The food security argument was also raised and the difficulty with this is that it can become a portmanteau argument for 'business as usual', rather than taking a careful look at what might be required, for example, in terms of climate change adaptation.

Abandoning old forms of calculation

There was broad agreement that the historical reference base must be abandoned to legitimise payments after 2013. The adoption of a regional flat rate payment for all member states seems likely, although Finland is pressing for a differentiation between different types of farms, e.g., arable and livestock. Decoupling is also important, but Finland has argued in favour of coupling in sensitive regions where farming might otherwise stop.

Some are nore equal than others

Retiring European Parliament Agriculture Committee chaurman Neil Parish paraphased Orwell by stating that while all Member States are equal, some are more equal than others. New member states receive less than €200 per hectare in SFP compared with an EU average figure of just over €300. Greece receives more than €500 per hectare and Latvia barely €100.

However, French Minister Michel Barnier made it clear that 'equity was not the same as equality', arguing that a wide range of other criteria should be considered. Commissioner Fischer Boel made it clear that she thought that a flat rate payment across the EU was unrealistic.

Commissioner Fischer Boel has reserved her position about serving a second term as Farm Commissioner, but acknowledged that she would have to come to a decision in the near future.Any source

Thursday, June 25, 2009

人生、無所不賭──雙面刃賭徒‧麒麟《漫畫》


漫畫名:雙面刃賭徒‧麒麟(諸刃の博徒麒麟)
原 作:村尾幸三
漫畫家:土屋多摩
集 數:第一部五集完
譯 者:明哲
※原文版2006年3月~2008年7月‧講談社於2009年2~6月起授權長鴻中文化※


腦筋不好的關係,賭博漫畫成了我的最大死穴TvT,原以為又是苦於上手的賭博作品,結果……太好了,完全是套出乎意料之外的江戶庶民風+鬥智又鬥力+勝負靠運氣+收服同伴的有趣青年誌漫畫!


因為這邊沾一點、那邊碰一些,格局玩得很廣泛,多多少少都可以看見這一兩年流行的漫畫元素,雖然此舉讓《雙面刃賭徒‧麒麟》的商業性質成份比略高一些,但、還不壞,感覺上創作者有下過功夫,整個劇情火侯、情緒拿捏、人物性格塑造,都有維持在恰到好處的平衡感之上,即可以下探到年齡層較低的漫迷、又可以向上囊括到年齡層較高的讀者群,日本出版社的如意算盤打得真好。XD

《雙面刃賭徒‧麒麟》的背景年代設定於德川幕府末期(又名為江戶幕府),當時為一八五四年,距離江戶幕府崩盤所剩時間不過十四個年頭,劇情一開始便說明了,這是個「奪取天下和守住天下都有機會的動亂時代」,年僅十九歲的雙面刃麒麟為報答恩情,投身於狹州藩藩主旗下,成為一名跑腿跟班人員,只要無所事事便會找人聚賭,即使有著先動手再說的火爆脾氣,面臨緊要關頭倒也能沉著應對,為人性格豪爽、重義氣與人品,後來更被幕府相中、賦予維護江戶八百八町良好治安的重責大任。

即使陸續收服了幾位同伴,基本上仍是以麒麟個人秀為主,並非依靠團體戰來打天下。而這套漫畫中所謂的賭,是意指人生中不論做任何決定都有其賭上一把之風險,事實上書內並沒有特定之賭具。在「貪婪的黑船」裡,十八啦(三顆骰子合計點數越大者就是贏家)賭的是美國船應當付給幕府卻被外國將領中飽私囊的補給費;「火災現場」同樣是十八啦,對抗的卻是老千賭場莊家;「懊惱的野狗」則是以一擋百的氣勢,進而求得街頭格鬥的最大勝算;「嵌木藝品盒的霸道」玩起了雙六(類似於中國的升官圖、西洋的大富翁遊戲),以替藝妓討回公道,看似孩童遊戲,其中過關方式卻暗藏殺機;「囂張諸侯的行徑」,為幫助外國人,麒麟一行人只要於限定時間內的追捕行動中逃脫成功,則無需被貴族武士追究責任(註※)。

※當事人島津久光為薩摩藩第十一代藩主之弟、與第十二代藩主之父,按照當代慣例,遇上幕府儀仗隊之平民皆需下跪退讓,但四名英國人沒有順從,其中一人的馬匹更突然受驚衝入儀仗隊內,三人當場遭到斬殺,進而導致薩英戰爭的爆發,因發生地點位於生麥村,而稱之為「生麥事件」;當時曾有兩派說法,一是四名英國人不能理解平平都是人、何需下跪禮讓,二是外國人行徑過於蔑視囂張。也是此一戰爭,薩摩藩開始與西方列強接觸、發展壯大,進而推翻幕府政權。

儘管被修理對象都是權貴階級人物,然而麒麟一開始便先設好遊戲規則,勝負看似憑藉個人運氣,其實麒麟多少都有算計過輸贏的可能性,對方根本也無從抓住把柄,最後只能咬著牙放過麒麟。第五集並加收現代背景故事「英雄」,此為土屋多摩的出道受賞之作。

《雙面刃賭徒‧麒麟》迴響度不大實在太可惜了!它用虛構人物帶領讀者看見江戶幕府時代的真實人物與現實景像,讓麒麟成了這段動蕩歲月中的一名插曲人物,而不過份干涉到過去歷史之發展(我對日本漫畫家老是惡搞自家與別人家史實已經感到很絕望了說),劇情即流暢又緊湊,每一場賭局雖皆以人命為賭注,不過氣氛與節奏掌控得很好,整體閱讀感倒也相當輕鬆。

只是劇情太嗨的關係,連帶的我也看得一整個嗨的不得了,結果當晚幾乎無法成眠,隔天工作起來還真是要人命啊……。囧rz
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