Survive and thrive – Watford thoughts

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Wembley – 24 April 2016 – FA Cup semi-final

Quique Sanchez Flores is a nomad.

The calls for him to stay at Watford for at least another season ignore the fact that Flores requested that a one year break clause was inserted in his Wtaford contract. Either party can activate this clause.

Flores played for Valencia between 1984 and 1994. In that time the club’s manager changed nine times, including two stints from Guus Hiddink and one, lasting a creditable two years and two months, from Flores’ very own godfather, the late, great Alfredo Di Stefano.

Yes, Flores is related to footballing royalty. That may be why he carries himself with such quiet dignity.

But he is still a nomad. His appointment at Watford last summer was his eighth in 11 years, including two at Getafe and two in the United Arab Emirates before he pitched up in Hertfordshire.

This season Watford were favourites for instant relegation back to the Championship.

Instead Watford’s Premier League status is secure for another season, and teh club reached the FA Cup semi final.

The tam has surpassed all expectations.

Yet Flores may still lose his job this summer when the team’s performance is reviewed.

Watford survived this year. They need to thrive next year. The issue is what division they will be in for 2017-2018 if league results follow the same downward trend they have pursued in the second half of this season.

Watford’s owner Gino Pozzo is ruthless. The Pozzos own Granada and Udinese. They look for affordable footballing mercenaries.

Under Flores this season, Watford took 29 points (1.52 per game) from their first 19 games. In the subsequent 15 games since the midpoint of the season they have amassed 12 points (0.8 per game). While it has been enough to survive, it is not enough to send the club’s owners off on their summer holidays confident about next season.

Less than 12 months ago, Watford’s hierarchy were given short shrift for dispensing with Slavisa Jokanovic , the man who oversaw their promotion, when the two parties could not agree on his new contract.

Watford FC. now epitomises football as a business. It was the right move. There will be no sentimentality at the club preventing them from changing managers again.

The money in the Premiership now rules every decision. The club does not belong to the fans. It does not belong to football journalists. It belongs to the boardroom.

Watford is never going to be one of the big clubs. To thrive the owners have to be as ruthless as the players, and managers, who see Vicarage Road as stepping stone to somewhere better.

Consider the warning in the fall of Newcastle United and the rise of Leicester City over the last two seasons. In 2014-2015, Newcastle gathered 26 points from their first 19 games last season at a rate of 1.36 per match. In the second half of that season they accumulated half that, 13, at the rate of 0.68 per match and avoided relegation by three points.

They have carried that form into this season and are currently 19th and one point from safety.

Conversely, last season Leicester City took 13 points (0.68 per game) from the first half of last season and then 28 (1.47 per game) in the second half. There is a lesson there that is not lost on Watford: if you finish the season a certain way, there is a good chance you will start the next season the same, unless radical change is made.

Watford was never the be all and end all for Flores. His time at the club will have been a mutually beneficial relationship, and both will be the better for not hanging around too long to see it fail.

Wemberley!

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I am off to Heathrow on Saturday and onto Wemberley on Sunday (ok Wembley).

Watford play Crystal Palace in the FA Cup semi final. It really is too close to call. The last time we played Palace at Wembley was the Championship play off final in 2013. This was always going to be a hard game to get ready for after the drama of the second leg play off game at home to Leicester.

Some of this drama would be very welcome – and another heroic Troy Deeney moment – why not.

You know – I doubt there has ever been a better last two minutes of a football match than this. The Deeney goal was 7 minutes into injury time after Almunia had double saved a penalty that should never have been.

Watford have been in the FA Cup semi final just three times since 1970 – and I will have seen all three matches.

Villa Park v Plymouth 1-0 in 1984
Villa Park v Tottenham 1-4 in 1987. Horrible day.

I flew in from Toronto for the Tottenham game landing that morning.

It was a painful day. Gary Plumley was dragged out of his wine bar to keep goal after injuries to Sherwood and Coton. I could have taken my gloves as I was still playing. It would have made no difference. We were 0-3 down by half-time. Game over.

A different result would be good this year. But in reality this is a bonus game. The objective this year was Premiership survival. A trip to Wembley is an extra. A treat for the fans. Including me.

Enjoy the game!

9/11 myths, fairytales and truthers

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Picture taken in 2007 of some of those lost at the WTC on 9/11

I was a mixture of angry and frustrated this evening at getting caught up in a facebook debate that questioned the events of 9/11.

It started with a post by James de la Cloche – our photographer friend in Chiang Mai. He posted a link to an article claiming that no airplane hit the world trade centre.

I do not know whether James posted this to provoke or out of agreement or disagreement.

I commented that I find this sort of conspiracy nonsense so disrespectful to the crews and passengers that died that day and to the people who died a truly awful death working in or attempting to rescue people from the WTC.

Of course as soon as I post this comment out come the conspiracy theorists to shoot me down in flames. There may be more to come.

They feel like attention seekers waiting to pounce. And if you do not agree with them you become naive, stupid or worse. Engage with them and they get the attention that they want.

So why do people believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories? It is a simple question to ask, but not necessarily an easy one to answer.

One basic reason; people don’t want to trust their government. The rise of the Internet has also made it easier than ever to spread alternative suspicions about what “really” happened. What’s more, once someone is convinced a conspiracy is truth, it’s very difficult to change their mind.

9/11 was unprecedented chaos. No one has the complete story of the events, the emotions, the decisions, the errors (which people are never going to want to admit to) and the failings of that day and the subsequent days.

There are dozens of conspiracy theories surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Some speculate inside traders knew about the attack beforehand. There are people who are convinced that bombs, not airliners, destroyed the Twin Towers. One of the more popular theories states that the U.S. government, not al Qaeda, was behind the attacks.

Bollocks. But you cannot just say that.

The Internet also helps conspiracy theories win over new followers. It is easier to spread untruths. The internet can turn fiction into fact – fuelled by an innate distrust of authority.

It doesn’t help that people often turn to the Internet for information that backs up their personal views. I may be doing that right now. People go on to the internet to seek confirmation. At that point there is no interest in facts that might trip up your own belief. People either disguise them, ignore them or argue that those facts are planted.

Once you believe in a conspiracy theory, the condition is hard to break.

In the USA there is this assumption that the government keeps millions and millions of papers classified as secrets. Conspiracy theories thrive on this: “Why are they keeping this stuff classified? Why do we need so much secrecy? There must be something that the government isn’t telling us.”

Here is what happend on 9/11. The USA was attacked by terrorists, and there were multiple institutional failures within the federal government. The George W. Bush White House was at the very least unimaginative and deaf to warnings about terrorist attacks on U.S. soil that appeared in CIA briefings for months leading up to 9/11. The government was incompetent, not a co-conspirator.

The predictable reaction after the attack was a combination of bureaucratic infighting, turf protection and ass covering.

But this may be the biggest problem with the 9/11 conspiracies; the federal US government is not competent enough to carry out, and then cover up, what would have been such a vast, complicated operation in total secrecy.

So what happens when you get into a debate with so -called “Truthers.”

They may introduce some obscure fact into the argument that you have never heard of before. It’s hard to refute such facts without the resources and time to really research it.

What this means is that you really can’t win the argument because the subject of the argument keeps changing and you are trying to catch up.

ie: “Well what do you say about the minute quantities of military grade tungsten found in the air-vents of the buildings next door to Building 7 – how did that get there if it wasn’t from explosives?”

Meanwhile you’re rushing off to find out what the hell military grade tungsten is.

Of course by the time you’ve done the research the topic has shifted again.

“Clearly in this blurry photo the undercarriage of Flight 77 looks different from a normal 767.  Therefore it much have been a heavily disguised drone.”

Back to google to look up 767 undercarriages.

But….

“What I really want to know is why the BBC covered up the fact that they announced Building 7’s demolition before it actually happened.”

Just in one paragraph tonight came the following questions:

“Ask yourself was it a coincidence that Marvin Bush heading the security firm responsible for the WTC on and before 9/11?
Was it a coincidence that Dick Cheney altered the rules guiding what would be done if any plane entered the airspace of the pentagon just 2 months before it happened?
Was it a horrible accident that the head of NORAD stepped out for coffee for 1.5 hours during the attack?
And wtf was so much tritium found at the WTC following the attacks?
Or how about the gold vault that ended up empty? To be so naive, that takes real effort.

And of course any successful argument you use is labelled “Government propaganda” and you’re told to “think for yourself” and that “it’s only a matter of time before everyone accepts the truth…” or as I got tonight: “To be so naive, that takes real effort..”

Did I mention dealing with these people also requires an extraordinary amount of patience?

Michael Shermer, writing in Scientific American, said: “The mistaken belief that a handful of unexplained anomalies can undermine a well-established theory lies at the heart of all conspiratorial thinking. All the evidence for a 9/11 conspiracy falls under the rubric of this fallacy. Such notions are easily refuted by noting that scientific theories are not built on single facts alone but on a convergence of evidence assembled from multiple lines of inquiry.”

Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, and The Skeptic’s Dictionary are among magazines that have published articles rebutting various 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Popular Mechanics has published a book entitled Debunking 9/11 Myths that expands upon the research first presented in the article. In the foreword for the book Senator John McCain wrote that blaming the U.S. government for the events “mars the memories of all those lost on that day” and “exploits the public’s anger and sadness. It shakes Americans’ faith in their government at a time when that faith is already near an all-time low. It trafficks in ugly, unfounded accusations of extraordinary evil against fellow Americans.”

You know what McCain is right.

Der Spiegel dismissed 9/11 conspiracy theories as a “panoply of the absurd”, stating “as diverse as these theories and their adherents may be, they share a basic thought pattern: great tragedies must have great reasons.”

Columnist Matt Mankelow, writing for the online edition of the British Socialist Worker, concludes that 9/11 Truthers, while “desperately trying to legitimately question a version of events”, end up playing into the hands of the neoconservatives they are trying to take down by creating a diversion. Mankelow noted that this has irritated many people who are politically left-wing. Indeed.

The problem with conspiracy theorists is they see any factual information or logical argument against their point of view as a further evidence of the depth of the conspiracy. You will never be able to convince them.

It is almost fifteen years since the events took place on September 11th. Even the mildest instance of 9/11 conspiracy would’ve involved hundreds if not thousands of people. Yet not one person has come forward with any credible or verifiable information.

Others are convinced that we are not being told the truth. Go to China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the full story will never be known. The US system is almost too open…the 9/11 commission would never have existed in most countries and it’s report would never have been a public record

Add to that some of the best investigative reporters in the world.

But the truth does not always give us the answers that we want.

Sp conspiracy theorists persist in their belief that teams of explosive experts, remote-control jet pilots, holographic display operators, not to mention hundreds of passengers who “disappeared” have all been able to maintain their silence out of respect for the noble goals of the conspiracy. (Keep in mind no one can tell you what these noble goals were.)

In a world that thrives off instant communication just what are the odds that thousands of people with no prior connection would volunteer to participate in the most heinous terrorist act as yet known in the world and also be able to keep quiet about it forever?

But don’t believe me, any good conspiracy theorist will tell you I am naive enough to be part of the conspiracy.

A few links for you:

9/11 was a Hoax The American government killed its own people

Debunking 9-11 conspiracy myths Debunking9/11

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9/11_conspiracy_theories Wikipedia: summary of 9/11 conspiracy theories

What Do 9/11 Truthers Believe? Slate/Quora

 

Career choices – low cost versus long haul

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It is no great secret that when I was 16 I wanted to be an airline pilot.

What if? I guess I would be retired by now!

But there are still thousands like me who want to fly and who see their career unfolding at 35,000 feet.

One of the debates that we used to have at Cirrus Aviation was where are the best airline jobs?

There are a couple of really interesting posts on PPRUNE today which compare flying at a low cost to flying with an airline that flies ultra long haul flights.

The question is which one is more tiring in the long run: 100+ sectors long haul Emirates style or 450+ sectors short haul with an LCC.

The simple answer was : Short haul = tiring v ULR = particularly fatiguing.

But look at the reasons for the conclusion and the analysis starts to make a lot of sense.

SH = local well known airspace v ULR = you can be flying anywhere around the world; often to destinations you have not previously flown to.

SH = known seasons and expected weather v ULR = there’s always every kind of weather on the planet at all times somewhere you may go to.

SH = familiar airspace and airports v ULR = unfamiliar airspace; unfamiliar airports; diversions to unfamiliar airports.

SH = same crew for the day v ULR can be with the same crew for a week ( so you better get along)

SH = seeing your family most days v ULR = periods away from family

SH = more piloting the aircraft v ULR = you might end up doing 1 take off and landing a month

SH = doesn’t radiate you over the pole v ULR = like smoking back in the 60s, no one really knows the true health implications until many years later.

SH = ATC known standards v ULR the USA, AUS have ILS PRMs or SOIA approaches and other aviation issues, get used to a lot of new lingo and changes; even during the same flight.

SH = known procedures and standards v ULR = QFE meters to QNH feet conversions and transition altitudes of heights above your normal cruising altitude. In fairness this can apply to LCCs that fly in international airpace outside of Europe and the USA.

SH = doing 4 sectors and going back home to bed v ULR = a flight time alone around 16 hours without the pre and post flight duties.

Fair to say that all pilots everywhere are getting worked hard. ULR means being awake in an unfamiliar hotel room through the night and asleep through the day pretty often. Sitting in your hotel room all night, watching foreign TV is not the glamorous lifestyle some think it maybe. Short haul is home in your own bed in familiar surroundings.

Multi-sector LoCo can make you physically tired but it is repetitive and routine and is therefore easier to manage mentally.

Emirates and other long hail carriers are far from routine and repetitive but taking off at 3am every time and landing 12 hours out of time zone must take it’s toll.

The problem is that at Emirates and other GCC carriers you are doing both at the same time… “Loco” turnaround one day, the next day a longhaul flight involving different time zones, the next day another turnaround followed by minimum days off and then a ULR…and so it goes on.

What would I have done? I think if you love the mechanics of flying you might stick to regional low cost. I like talking to ATC; I like flying the airplane. I like landing the airplane.

But if you want to see the world; if you want to know what it is like to fly into China; if you are fascinated by the thought of flying a big A380; though it maybe better if you do not have a young family that needs you to be awake and attentive at home.

Just a few thoughts. Trouble is no one wants a 50something pilot!

 

Vardy-gate

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Picture: The Guardian

Every picture tells a story.

Jamie Vardy was clearly not asking referee Jon Moss for his autograph following his second-half dismissal against West Ham United on Sunday 17 April 2016. The tv replays suggest that among the finger pointing and pulsing veins Mr. Vardy called Mr. Moss a f***ing c**t.

Mr. Vardy has now been charged with improper conduct for his behavior.

Leicester have also been charged for failing to control their players following the awarding of an 83rd-minute penalty to West Ham.

It is an old and over-used argument but you would never get that sort of abuse of officials in a rugby match.

But the pressure on football referees is huge.

Mr. Moss got many of the big decisions wrong; but the vilification that he got online and on the tv and other media from former referees, fans and officials was excessive.

In the end football’s rules are often about interpretation. Many officials are still debating Mr. Moss’ decisions two days later. My take on the big decisions:

Vardy’s first booking = not a booking.
Vardy sending off = good decision – that was a dive.
West Ham penalty = Poor decision – that was also a dive but the players had been warned and were still tugging/impeding.
Leicester penalty claim for foul on Huth = not given but that was a penalty.
Leicester penalty with a minute to go for a foul by Carroll = never a penalty.

The Guardian helped to put this into perspective: “Perhaps the greatest support given to Moss came from an unlikely source, Slaven Bilic, the West Ham manager, who through his obvious bafflement at the injustice afforded his team in the closing stages came out with perhaps one of the most honest appraisals of a referee’s job there has been from a football manager in the immediate aftermath of a controversial game. “It’s hard for him. Here you have 32,000 people screaming at every contact in the box, every long ball in the box. If it’s for the home side it’s a penalty or handball. If it’s in the other box it’s cheat or dive or whatever,” said Bilic. “It’s hard, it’s extremely hard for him and the game went like crazy and they were losing. It’s easy now to say the refs shouldn’t get influenced by the fans. On paper it is easy to say that. Actually it’s real life.””

In the end 2-2 was probably a fair result. Vardy’s behavior was unacceptable and he should get an extra game ban. And Mr Moss, not intentionally, gave us all much to talk about afterwards, and there is little that football fans like more than dissecting every contentious item of a game.

The other relevant point – video refereeing; stopping the game to determine whether or not there was an offense – would never have truly resolved every issue in yesterday’s game.

After countless reviews and slow motion replays there are still many disagreements.

A final thought – who would ever want to be a referee?

 

 

Why privacy injunctions are pointless in the UK

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Picture: Daily Mail front page via The Press Gazette

The Sun on Sunday has launched a bid to overturn a privacy injunction preventing the media from reporting on a celebrity’s “extramarital activities”.

It was confirmed on Tuesday by a spokesman for the judiciary that the court of appeal in London has received an application to discharge the order.

The court of appeals original judgment is here

The application is currently being processed by the court and no date has yet been set for a hearing.

But – if you want to know who the celebrity couple are then check the Scottish, USA and Canadian newspapers or simply do a quick goole or twitter search.

The man is “well known” and has children with his partner. Both are in the entertainment business.

The court of appeal’s injunction prevents the UK press revealing the identity of the man, who was said to have been involved in a “three-way sexual encounter” and other extra marital activities.

In the realm of farce Lord Justice Jackson’s judgment referred to the claimant as PJS, and his spouse as YMA. These are not their initials.

Lord Justice Jackson revealed that the man had appealed after a high court judge refused to grant him an injunction against publishers News Group Newspapers.

He said he and Lady Justice King had decided to allow his appeal after balancing the man’s human right to respect for family life and the newspaper’s right to freedom of expression.

The Sun on Sunday had argued that publication of the story would contribute to ongoing debate.

They also said the man and YMA had put “many details of their relationship” into the public domain.

True enough!

The other participants in the alleged ménage à trois are identified as AB and CD…very original!

In this case, holding that the European construct of a right to private and family life outweighs freedom of the press, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Rupert Jackson ordered that an injunction should stand, gagging the newspaper. One of the questions considered by the court was whether a newspaper is entitled to correct a public image of marital commitment portrayed by a famous couple.

Curiously – and in a rather modern view of marriage – the court noted that “occasional sexual encounters with others do not detract from that (marital) commitment.”

The case is a legal mess. Just as the press in England is not able to publish the names of those involved, it is also not permitted to provide clues or hints that could enable readers to determine their identity. This means that British newspapers cannot even name the Scottish media outlet that has revealed the names.

So the British press has to refer to simply a ‘a Scottish newspaper.’

The Scottish newspaper’s website includes an editorial piece which says:

“As our digital content is read in England we cannot reproduce the story online, tell you who they are or even feature the front page.

But their names are already known in the United States where the stories have been published and their identities are all over social media.

We are publishing the identities today because there is no legal reason not to publish in Scotland what has been banned in England and Wales. Their big secret is no secret at all. America knows. The internet knows. The whole world knows. So now Scotland knows. And so we should.”

 

The tabloids, however, aren’t heeding the ban without a fight. The Daily Mail has run a multi-part series headlined “why the law is an ass,” while the Sun has vowed to continue fighting against the injunction this week.

 

The story also allegedly involves a kiddie pool filled with olive oil. And the Sun, while still obeying the ban, did suggestively publish pictures of a small plastic pool and a glass jar of olive oil.

Of course, it takes just a few seconds of your time to discover the people involved if you are interested. But something interesting is happening. While Twitter has been abuzz with speculation about who the celebrity couple might be, there is also an element of self-censorship taking place.

 

Just to be clear, this website is not naming the people involved or linking to the Scottish newspaper or media.

Why not? Because this has never been a celebrity gossip site and who really cares about their bedroom antics. Secondly, realistically, it is sensible to play safe. The people involved have deep pockets, expensive lawyers and a long reach.

Which is tough – as I do care about free speech, a free press and think the world is a messed up place when very wealthy people are able to hijack the courts and spend huge sums of money stopping stories they do not much like the sound of.

What is troubling is that in 2016 people can seriously believe that  a story can be stopped in its tracks using a court order. If anything it has served only to drag things on for longer than might otherwise have been the case. Left to run its natural course, the story probably would have burned out and been forgotten in a matter of days. As it is, it has been dragged out for weeks, and it has been brought to global attention.

It has also highlighted an important difference between how the law applies to land-based newspapers, and how it applies to the global internet. While newspapers in England may have been effectively censored, the same cannot be said of internet users.

The speed of news dissemination in the digital age, that does not respect geographical boundaries, makes any injunctive victory pyrrhic and the process a monumentally profligate waste of time and judicial reasoning.

There is an important principle at stake: should press freedom be curtailed by the rich and privileged on the grounds that they don’t want their children to be embarrassed?

Basically if you do not want your children to think less of you, then don’t do it.

The only people who have won in this case are the lawyers – wealthier by the minute, Maybe they would be better lawyers if they told their clients that this sort of injunction is counter-productive and pointless.

 

Thunderbird Three for real – SpaceX

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It looks like something from a 1960s puppet series – International Rescues’ Thunderbird Three.

The Falcon 9 rocket lands

At the very least it was a scene straight from a science fiction movie.

A white, pencil-shaped rocket angling down through a hazy-blue sky, then gracefully touching down, amid billowing smoke. All on an automated drone-ship in choppy Atlantic seas. In that moment, Elon Musk reached a new milestone in his bid to dominate commercial space and, one day, send humans to Mars.

That is SpaceX for you. Ambition unlimited.

At the company’s mission control centre in Hawthorne, California, a throng of employees exploded in cheers as the Falcon 9 rocket landed. President Barack Obama and Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who walked on the moon nearly half-a-century ago, were among the first to send congratulations from around the world.

With characteristic bravado, Musk soon chimed in: “Tickets to orbital hotels, the moon and Mars will be a lot less than people think,” he wrote on Twitter.

This was no test flight – the Falcon 9 rocket was carrying SpaceX’s Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, loaded with 7 000 pounds of cargo, supplies and an inflatable extension module.

Less then ten minutes after lift-off Falcon 9 made a gloriously easy-looking powered return to land on SpaceX’s drone ship.

So what’s the big deal?

First, getting the biggest and costliest piece of launch hardware back in one piece offers the possibility of reusing it and lowering the expense of reaching space.

Reuse means drastically lower launch costs in the long run. It might cost $60 million to build one of SpaceX’s boosters, but only a few hundred thousand dollars to refuel it. Even if making it flight-worthy again costs several million dollars of engineering tinkering and fixing, that’s still an enormous saving.

Why not return for a solid ground rather than ocean landing? The problem is that at least half of the expected launch trajectories from the Cape involve heading over the Atlantic for a distance that makes it infeasible to get back to land in Florida. The boosters simply can’t carry enough fuel to turn around and come back.

The solution – ocean-going drone ships (with names like ‘Of Course I Still Love You’, and ‘Just Read the Instructions’, lifted from Iain M. Banks novels). These mobile landing sites can chug out to open water to be in exactly the right spot for the rocket to fall back towards from the arc of its launch trajectory, even if hundreds of miles offshore in the Atlantic.

With a successful landing out in the ocean, SpaceX is on its way to covering all the options, so that all launches can involve a gentle booster recovery and huge cost-savings.

And that’s where the vision thing comes in.

As Elon Musk and many others have long stated, dropping the cost per-unit-mass of launching to space is critical if our species is going to explore and utilize the solar system. It’s also the key to ensuring our long-term survival.

This is a step to the future – where mankind can live off-planet. Should we have colony-sized structures in space? Should we go to the Moon? Or should we try Mars?

 

This landing is symbolic – maybe the start of a new era of affordable, reusable rockets.

Long considered a brash upstart nipping at the heels of staid aerospace giants, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation is coming of age 14 years after it was founded by Musk. It is planning to fly 18 missions this year, triple the number in 2015.

That is a highly ambitious goal in an industry known for delays and mishaps. If SpaceX hits its target, it will fling more rockets into space than any competitors from the US, France, Russia and China and achieve a launch cadence not seen since the end of the Cold War.

 

None of this is good new for competitors like Europe’s Arianespace, which flies the Ariane 5, and United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin who are scrambling to match SpaceX’s lower costs and fast-paced Silicon Valley atmosphere.

Reusable rockets, once scoffed at by established players as a pipe-dream, are now top of the agenda.

F.A.B.

Ocha and Proo and a banned book cover

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This is one of those lovely Thai stories where the Junta gets all tied up in fear of a piece of light creative entertainment that none of us would ever have heard of until the site was blocked.

A cover design entitled “A Coup of the Heart with Mr. Ocha” featured on Ookbeecomics website was blocked on Monday.

“A Coup of the Heart with Mr. Ocha” was submitted to compete for the best book cover in the Jamsai Fanart competition.

The drawing depicts a military man with his arm around a woman whose wrists are shackled together while the background appears to depict Democracy Monument in Bangkok.

The cover displayed on comic community Ookbeecomics remains available online. However, clicking on the cover today leads to a message from the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology saying that the link is blocked.

“A girl was controlled by her megalomaniac brother, so the general has to step in and revolutionize her life,” reads the tease on the book jacket.

With a plot featuring an army hero named Ocha and a heroine called Proo, some could be reminded of the junta chief’s last name and former Prime Minister Yingluck’s nickname, “Poo” (crab).

“Ocha, a hot-tempered general is ordered to keep his eyes on a girl with a pretty, pimple-free face called Proo, whose mind is controlled by her brother. Their family are billionaires. Proo is depressed because her brother keeps bossing her around to be the leader of the country. Ocha investigates the story and has to [save the situation],” states the synopsis on the Facebook page Hoidok.

Its just a bit of fun!

The fanart page explained that the cover was inspired by a soap opera “Kiattiyot Kabot Rak” (Honor, Love Rebel) which was broadcast on Channel 3 in 1999. The story centers around two soldiers who are enemies competing both at work and for the heart of the same woman.

Maybe a bit shy of the real truth – no one in Thailand would be unaware of the links between the fictional and the real names.

The competition has added new criteria requiring that artwork should not involve any institutions, politics or religion. Welcome to no fun Thailand.

You can read more on Khaosod English

 

The Panama Papers – just getting started!

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Most of us will have never heard of Mossack Fonseca, a law firm headquartered in Panama City, Panama, that has spent the past 40 years helping the world’s richest and most powerful citizens hide their money.

On Sunday we found out just what this firm does when the firm saw a massive leak of 11.5 million confidential documents which were obtained by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

So far, 72 current and former heads of state have been linked to offshore shell companies created by Mossack Fonseca. There are many perfectly legitimate reasons for why someone would want to create a shell company, but the arrangement is also used to skirt economic sanctions, evade taxes, and launder money.

Companies such as Mossack specialise in helping foreigners hide wealth. The main tools for doing so are anonymous shell companies (which exist only on paper) and offshore accounts in tax havens (which often come with perks such as banking secrecy and low to no taxes). These structures obscure the identity of the true owner of money parked in or routed through jurisdictions such as Panama.

The 2.6 terabytes of data in the documents are thought to contain information about 214,500 companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions and name over 14,000 middlemen (such as banks and law firms) with whom the law firm has allegedly worked.

Setting up offshore companies is common practice…but how these companies are used is the issue: early examples of questionable motives include Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, who promised to sell his business interests on taking office. He seems to have merely transferred assets to an offshore shell. Other heads of government, such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Iceland’s Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson are suspected of hiding ownership of offshore assets by putting them in the names of friends or relatives.

Mr Gunnlaugsson appears to have now resigned after protests in Iceland. The first, not not the last, casualty.

Relatives of China’s Politburo Standing Committee and President Xi Jinping were connected to offshore companies. Access to the Panama Papers is substantially blocked in China.

The Papers also reveal that the president of the United Arab Emirates owns London properties worth more than GBP 1.2 billion (USD 1.7 billion) through offshore companies revealed in the so-called Panama Papers.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan was among numerous public figures named as owners of billions of pounds of central London real estate.

Owning British property through offshore companies is perfectly legal, but it is controversial because such holdings obscure the identity of the owners, allowing them to avoid scrutiny and tax.

While examples of the offshore industry enabling dictators, terrorists and drug cartels will (rightly) capture much of the attention, it would be a shame if other miscreants escape. The global industry of service providers, which sell financial secrecy to those who can afford it, have in some cases done more than just feast on poorly designed tax policies.

 

Pan​ama has long been known as a key jurisdiction for offshore corporations, because of its well-established legal system and banking infrastructure.

But it is the British compliance and use of these offshore regimes that is the most telling.

London is indisputably the global capital of the tax avoidance industry and many of the biggest tax havens are British dependencies like the Cayman
Islands, Jersey, Guernsey, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and the Isle of Man.

It is no surprise that when, in 1987, Mossack Fonseca established its first overseas branch, it did so in the British Virgin Islands. Since then, about 40 percent of the world’s offshore companies — more than 900,00 entities — have been incorporated in the UK’s Caribbean territory. ICIJ noted that half of the companies that appear in Mossack Fonseca’s files were incorporated in the British Virgin Islands

Guess what – the British Tory party is heavily bankrolled by the same City of London financial sector that has built up a lucrative trade in hiding people’s cash overseas.So do not expect David Cameron to quickly organise a summit on combating tax secrecy.

 

Mossack Fonseca says they have done nothing wrong and is accusing those responsible for the leak of having “unauthorised access to proprietary documents and information taken from our company” and of presenting this information out of context.

In a letter to the Guardian newspaper on Sunday, the company’s head of public relations threatened possible legal action over the use of “unlawfully obtained” information.

As these oligarchs and corporate empires hide their assets in tax shelters and offshore companies the tax burden on the working masses increases to pay for an aging population and for the effects of environmental and climate change.

The media know that their is a story here – a story that will embarrass some and anger many.

There is more to come.