Issue 74 ■ February 2012
Exclusive to Emirates First Class and Business Class
GETTING TOUGH Italy’s Tax Overhaul SHALE GAS Creating A Dilemma INTERNET MEDIA Challenging the Industry
Lenovo’s Master Strategist
E vEry rolE x is madE for grE atnE s s. thE day-datE, introducEd in 1956 , was thE first watch to displ ay thE datE, a s wEll a s thE d ay i n i t s E n t i r E t y. a p o w E r f u l E x p r E s s i o n o f E l E g a n c E a n d s t y l E , its cl a s s ic d E s ig n quickly b Ec a mE a favour itE a mong w o r l d l E a d E r s . t h E d ay- d at E i s p r E s E n t E d h E r E i n p l at i n u m .
t he d ay -date
This issue February 2012
Exclusive to Emirates First Class and Business Class
Cover Story 24 Protect And Attack
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Once an unlikely rival for HP and Apple, Chinese computer maker Lenovo has grown and adapted as quickly as its homeland thanks to dynamic leadership by CEO Yang Yuanqing and founder Liu Chuanzhi. Now, with a savvy blend of East and West, it’s poised to be China’s first global brand.
Features 30 A Comic Kills the TV Middleman
42 Opportunity & Caution
American funnyman Louis C.K. decided to release his latest
Latin American countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, have
comedy show directly on the web for $5 with no middleman
shown strong economic growth. That has focused investor
involved. Fans could have pirated it, and some did, yet a
interest on the region.
large number paid up.
34 Drilling In a Thirsty Land
46 Africa’s Research Boom Computer science and computer engineering are gaining
Energy companies want to drill gas wells in South Africa’s
traction in Africa, and with it comes research focused on
arid Karoo region using hydraulic fracturing. But this method
uniquely local problems.
uses huge amounts of water and chemicals and has met local opposition.
38 Hotels Target Upgrades During the recession when travellers cut back and credit was tight, many hotels skimped on renovations. But now there’s an upswing in the hospitality industry and discerning travellers are demanding better amenities.
50 Italy’s Taxing Problem It is estimated that Italy loses an estimated $150 billion annually in undeclared revenues. That money is badly needed to reduce the country’s $2.5 trillion public debt.
54 China Scrambles for High-tech Dominance The future of the internet is already in China and most of the world’s consumer electronics are manufactured there. The next step could be technological breakthroughs.
Exclusive to Emirates First Class and Business Class
59 Sicily on a Harley On a Harley-Davidson you experience freedom in a different way. You see and smell the countryside, feel the warm embrace of the wind and the camaraderie of the open road. In other words, perfect for exploring Sicily’s stunning coastline.
64 Permafrost Thaw Could Compound Warming Permafrost in the northern hemisphere is preventing a huge amount of carbon from entering the atmosphere. But now the permafrost is melting.
68 Men, Once Again, Invest in Skin Care In the middle of the ‘90s there was a boom in male cosmetics but it quickly died down. Now there’s a resurgence.
70 Wings of Fortune Hans Wiesman likes to hunt for World War II warplanes. It’s a passion that’s taken him from the jungles of Colombia to the mosquito-soaked swamps of Puerto Rico.
74 Concocted Languages In Demand In an effort to add reality, Hollywood and TV studios are ordering new languages such as Dothraki and Na’vi to complement fantasy and sci-fi releases.
78 Tracking An Ancient Water Source An isotope known as krypton 81 has been instrumental in unravelling the mysteries of the Nubian Aquifer.
82 A Gothic Tour of Italy
Italy might be sunshine, happiness and light, but it also has
World business in a nutshell.
a darker side that inspired the original Gothic writers.
86 American Muscle
Spotting and analysing business trends.
22 Column: Helen Pidd Berlin Football Club Sells Out to Fans
The Camaro SS isn’t subtle with a 6.2 litre V8 engine that hits 0-100km/h in 5.4 seconds. And that’s exactly what’s great about it.
88 Other Business Portfolio takes a light-hearted look at the latest business news.
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BUSINESS NEWS IN BRIEF
Record Year Projected The makers of expensive cars are
other elite auto brands are projecting a
pushing beyond their traditional markets
in the US and Europe to emerging
Porsche has better-than-expected orders for the revamped 911 sports car and its biggest backlog ever. Buyers of the
economies, where a new class of wealthy is looking to flaunt their success. Backed by an 18-month order backlog
¤263,000 Lamborghini Aventador may
for the Aventador and a six-month wait
have to wait more than a year for delivery,
for the Gallardo, Lamborghini expects
while demand from China fuelled record
to beat last year’s deliveries of 1,600 cars
deliveries in 2011 for the 107-year-old
in 2012, even with demand in Italy weak
Rolls-Royce brand, beating a mark set
because of the debt crisis.
more than three decades ago. Sales of high-end cars, including
Rolls-Royce said that growth in all regions drove deliveries 31 per cent
BMW and Mercedes-Benz, could in
higher to 3,538 cars last year, beating the
2012 surpass the record set before
previous record set in 1978 by 191 vehicles.
the financial crisis damped demand,
China became Rolls-Royce’s biggest
according to IHS Automotive. The
market in 2011, three years ahead of the
market researcher forecasts sales for the
target set by the company.
segment in 2012 of 7.02 million cars, up
German luxury-car manufacturers’ sales
Matthias Mueller, CEO of Porsche, saw car sales in China increase by 65 per cent.
cent jump for Stuttgart-based Porsche.
13 per cent from last year’s 6.23 million
last year were propelled by demand in
Audi CEO Rupert Stadler estimated that
and beating the previous record of 6.27
China, where they all posted sales gains
China’s car market will expand about
million set in 2007.
of at least 30 per cent, led by a 65 per
eight per cent in 2012. n
PORSCHE, LAMBORGHINI AND
Notebook McDonald’s Extends Olympic Sponsorship
trillion of debt maturing this year looms over the world’s biggest economies with most governments likely to face a rise in borrowing costs. Led by Japan’s $3 trillion and the US’s $2.8 trillion, the amount coming due for the Group of Seven nations and Brazil, Russia, India and China is up from $7.4 trillion at this time last year.
million hours of overtime worth £29.2 billion to the UK economy was prised out of workers last year according to TUC, the UK’s national trade union centre. Workers gave bosses nearly two billion hours of unpaid overtime, enough to create a million extra full-time jobs.
Fast food giant McDonald’s will extend its sponsorship of the Olympic Games for another eight years until 2020. It is an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Top Partner,
billion grossed worldwide wins Paramount the crown of the world’s most successful studio, toppling Warner Bros who had been the top studio for the past three years. Paramount had 16 new releases, which included top box office performers Transformer: Dark of the Moon, The Adventures of Tintin and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
The World In Figures
million cars sold in 2011 secured Volkswagen, Europe’s biggest carmaker, record sales last year and a rise of 13.1 per cent on 2010. New versions of models such as the Passat, Jetta and Beetle proved to be the big money spinners in spite of tough market conditions.
billion applications across iOS and Android devices were downloaded in the last week of 2011, up from 857 million downloads the previous week. This is a good indicator of how many people got iPads, iPhones and Android devices for Christmas. The US topped the list with 509 million
paying a reported $100 million for each two-games deal of one winter and one summer Games. The new deal covers the 2014 winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and 2016 summer Games in
billion deal signed with US-based natural gas and oil producers Devon Energy gains Chinese oil giant Sinopec access to shale deposits in the US. China is the world’s biggest energy consumer with over $18.3 billion-worth of bids in 2011 according to data gathered by Bloomberg.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The 2018 winter Games will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2020 summer venue is yet to be decided. McDonald’s has been an Olympics sponsor since 1976 and it is the seventh of the 11 top-tier sponsors to renew the partnership with the IOC until 2020. The others are Coca-
downloads, followed by China with 99 million, and the UK with 81 million.
billion of extra provisions required of banks in Spain adds up to a 28 per cent hike over the prevailing provisions that banks are struggling to keep up with. The increase stipulated by the government plans to secure the nations’s €338 billion propertyrelated assets of which €176 billion are bad loans, substandard loans or repossessed properties and land, according to the Bank of Spain.
Cola, Dow Chemicals, General Electric, Omega, Procter & Gamble and Visa. A further three firms have extended their sponsorship until 2016. It is estimated that the IOC has garnered about $1 billion in sponsorship revenue in the current four-year cycle, which ends this year with the London Olympics.
bonuses, compared with about
companies in London and
$300,000 to $400,000 at top
New York shrank headcount
US banks. Average pay for US
and reined in compensation,
investment bankers fell about
Brazilian investment bankers
27 per cent last year, while in
defecting to competitors won
Latin America it declined one
pay increases of as much as
per cent, according to New
25 per cent in 2011.
York-based Options Group.
The main reason is
PAY JUMPS FOR BRAZIL’S DEFECTING INVESTMENT BANKERS
The Brazil pay increases are
that there’s a shortage of
still below the rate for 2010,
as estimates for economic
compared with a 27 per cent
experienced executives in Latin
when executives switching
growth in Brazil decline.
drop in both the US and the
America’s largest economy.
firms commanded raises
Typical salaries for managing
Europe, Middle East and Africa
of as much as 35 per cent,
fell last year in all six regions
region. Compensation declined
directors in Brazil are the
according to Options Group.
researched by Options Group.
19 per cent in the Asia region,
equivalent of about $350,000
Europe’s debt crisis has forced
Latin America’s one per cent
18 per cent in Japan and 31
to $500,000, not including
some companies to pull back
decline was the smallest. It
per cent in India.
Risk for Asian Economies Europe’s debt crisis poses a growing risk to credit ratings in the AsiaPacific region, according to Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, following the company’s series of downgrades to France and eight other euro-zone nations last month. Europe’s problems are threatening to disrupt financial markets, but governments in Asia may be helped by their strong balance sheets. However, they would have more-limited options to deal with the global fallout compared with the response in 2008, the ratings firm said. Still, S&P is optimistic that China, the bulwark of growth in Asia, should avoid a hard landing following a period of monetary tightening. Slowing inflation in China and signs of softening growth have boosted speculation that Beijing could ease credit conditions by further lowering lenders’ reserve-requirement ratio. International Monetary Fund First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton said the fund is planning to lower its global economic growth forecast for this year. “The stakes are high,” Lipton said. “Without bold action, Europe could be swept into a downward spiral of collapsing confidence, stagnant growth and fewer jobs.” No region would be immune from such a catastrophe, REUTERS
Korea, Japan and Singapore are among export-driven economies that have already seen demand hurt by Europe’s debt crisis. Australia’s economy Export-driven Singapore is vulnerable to the European debt crisis. February 2012
is also vulnerable because the country’s mining boom is strongly pinned to Asian growth.
Notebook DUBAI EVENT NAME: MRO MIDDLE EAST WEBSITE: AVIATIONWEEK.COM DATE: 31 JANUARY-2 FEBRUARY, 2012 VENUE: AIRPORT EXPO This high-profile exhibition takes place at the large Airport Expo venue, adjacent to Dubai’s International Airport. The Middle East’s aviation industry is one of the world’s fastest growing markets and this, in turn, has promoted a rapidly expanding maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) industry. MRO Middle East is strategically designed to offer the newest and most innovative concepts. The event highlights up-to-the-minute information and brings together leading industry experts to share insights on growth opportunities, cost reduction, and management strategies that maximise efficiency.
EVENT NAME: GULFOOD WEBSITE: GULFOOD.COM DATE: 19-22 FEBRUARY, 2012 VENUE: DUBAI INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION & EXHIBITION CENTRE This global platform for the food industry brings together players in the F&B industry to discuss prospective business and investment opportunities in the region. The exhibition is now in its third year and has grown phenomenally. Around 62,000 visitors from 150 countries, 3,800 plus exhibitors and 110 international pavilions underline the event’s success.
United Arab Emirates
EVENT NAME: MIDDLE EAST EXCLUSIVE WEBSITE: MIDDLEEASTEXCLUSIVE.COM DATE: 27-29 FEBRUARY, 2012 VENUE: DUBAI WORLD TRADE CENTRE The Middle East Exclusive (MEE) travel retail, duty free and luxury goods trade fair is an event of international importance. Now in its ninth year, the exhibition is an ideal opportunity for product suppliers to meet up in a relaxed professional atmosphere with senior buyers from the world’s top travel retail outlets.
EVENT NAME: CABSAT WEBSITE: CABSAT.COM DATE: 28 FEBRUARY–1 MARCH, 2012 VENUE: DUBAI INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION & EXHIBITION CENTRE CABSAT is a respected trade platform for the digital media and satellite sectors across the Middle East, Africa, and Southern Asian regions. In 2011 a total of 770 exhibitors from 55 countries participated in the event. This year will be even bigger as 90 per cent of the exhibition space has already been sold out.
EVENT NAME: GESS 2012 WEBSITE: GESSEDUCATION.COM DATE: 28 FEBRUARY–1 MARCH, 2012 VENUE: DUBAI WORLD TRADE CENTRE The Gulf Educational Supplies & Solutions exhibition is the only one of its kind in the region. It focuses on the entire range of educational supplies and solutions. The event introduces education experts to the latest initiatives in teaching and helps them connect with local and international suppliers. Portfolio
London N14 4YZ
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An important Grade II listed Mansion House with ancillary buildings, set in parkland grounds of 21 ha (51.89 acres), within 380 ha (940 acres) of Country Park. For more information visit www.trentparkcampus.com Simon Hodson +44 (0)20 7087 5533 firstname.lastname@example.org James Cobb +44 (0)20 7087 5552 email@example.com
Freehold with vacant possession. Bid date 30th March 2012
BUSINESS NEWS IN BRIEF
Smartphones, especially when they are used to watch videos, cause a huge amount of traffic and eat up bandwidth.
Bandwidth Crunch A recent study has found that the top 10 per cent of users are consuming 90 per cent of wireless bandwidth, reports Kevin O’Brien. THE WORLD’S CONGESTED
three per cent of heavy users generated
a third were using a smartphone and
mobile airwaves are being divided in a
40 per cent of network traffic. Now, Arieso
three per cent had an iPad.
lopsided manner, with one per cent of
said, these users pump out 70 per cent of
consumers generating half of all traffic,
according to a British study. The top 10 per
consumption is another example of a relatively small group of individuals
cent of users, meanwhile, are consuming
officer at Arieso, said the study did not
dominating the consumption of a
90 per cent of wireless bandwidth.
produce a more precise profile of extreme
particular resource. The United States,
users. But the group, he said, was
with less than five per cent of the world’s
advises mobile operators in Europe, the
probably diverse, with a mix of business
population, consumes about 23 per
United States and Africa, documented the
users gaining access to the internet
cent of the world’s daily oil production,
statistical gap when it tracked 1.1 million
over a 3G network while travelling, and
according to US government figures.
customers of a European mobile operator
individuals with generous or unlimited
Japan, Germany and Italy, whose
during a 24-hour period in November.
mobile data packages watching videos, the
populations together make up less
main cause of the excess traffic.
than four per cent of the world’s total,
Arieso, a company in England that
© 2012 NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
Michael Flanagan, the chief technology
The imbalance in mobile phone
The gap between extreme users and the rest of the population is widening,
The Arieso survey found that 64 per
according to Arieso. In 2009, the top
cent of extreme users were using a laptop,
accounted for 31 per cent of global natural gas imports in 2010, according to
the International Energy Agency.
dongles, or modems in a USB stick; one
Patrik Cerwall, the head of strategic
operator, Elisa, offers unlimited data plans
marketing and intelligence at Ericsson,
a research firm in Helsinki that advises
for as little as ¤5, or $6.40, a month. As
which is based in Stockholm, said most
operators on data packages and pricing
a result, Finns consume on average one
operators were beginning to look for
strategies, said the disparity in bandwidth
gigabyte of wireless data a month over an
ways to make their networks more
use was not surprising because most
operator’s network, almost 10 times the
efficient, whether by dumping data
mobile phone users globally used a 2G
European average. As more consumers
quickly into a fixed-line network,
telephone for calls and texts only.
buy smartphones, the level of mobile data
imposing volume limits on customers
consumption and congestion will rise in
or installing miniature base stations at
Pal Zarandy, an analyst at Rewheel,
Just 13.2 per cent of the world’s 6.1 billion cellphones are smartphones, according to Ericsson, the leading maker
“This, of course, is bad news for
Ericsson expects the volume of global
of mobile network equipment, but the rate
operators because it means that more
mobile data to rise tenfold by 2011 to
exceeds 30 per cent in larger markets like
traffic is coming and they need to invest to
2016. The rate is likely to accelerate as
the US, Germany and Britain.
stay ahead of the curve,” Zarandy said.
more consumers integrate the mobile
The more powerful phones are rapidly
Flanagan at Arieso said one European
web into their daily lives. Last year, for
replacing the simpler, less voracious
operator, which he declined to identify,
example, 40 per cent of smartphone
devices in many countries, raising traffic
last year installed 250 miniature base
owners in an Ericsson survey used
levels and pressure on operators to keep
stations, called microcells, to handle the
their devices to gain access to mobile
pace. In countries like Sweden and
traffic of extreme users. The operator,
broadband connections even before
Finland, smartphones now account for
he said, did not wish to publicise the
getting out of bed.
more than half of all mobile phones,
work because it did not want to draw
Zarandy said. About 35 per cent of Finns
attention to the strains that its network
according to Ericsson, watched videos
also use mobile laptop modems and
40 per cent of the time, surfed the web
The heaviest users of mobile data,
an additional 20 per cent, and used up the rest of their online time in emails, social networking, file sharing and software downloads. Advances in smartphones and applications technology are also driving up use. Arieso researchers, in their latest survey, found that users of Apple’s iPhone 4S downloaded 276 per cent more data from an operator’s network than did people with the Apple 3G, which has been on the market since June 2008. Part of the reason for the increase in download volumes may be Apple’s Siri voice feature on the iPhone 4S, Flanagan said. Siri allows consumers to dictate to the phone and enter more text and data into the network in an easier way. GETTY IMAGES
The growth of cloud computing-based
Laptop users are responsible for 64 per cent of excess traffic. Uploading pictures and cloud services are all contributing to high data demand.
applications like iTunes and other cloud services, which use the mobile network to connect consumers with remote computers, may also be a factor, he said. n Portfolio
O N E 2 W AT C H TEXT: HILDA D’SOUZA
Saudi Budget Surplus Saudi Arabia has posted a $81.6 billion budget surplus for 2011 as its income beat forecasts by more than double, official figures show. Revenues grew to $296 billion, although ministers had forecast $144 billion, according to the Saudi Arabian finance ministry. Most of the growth in revenue was driven by oil production, which accounts for around 90 per cent of the
country’s exports. Saudi plans to reduce spending in 2012 to $184 billion after
officials said they expect the surplus to fall to just $3 billion next year. However, analysts see this as another conservative forecast as the country has a history of using relatively low oil prices of
American Internet giant Yahoo named 54-year-old Scott
around $60 a barrel as the basis for its forecasts. The average
Thompson as its new chief executive on 9 January. The
price of crude oil in the 12 months to 26 December 2011 has been
appointment of the former president of eBay’s PayPal division
$94.96 a barrel.
came after the company fired its last CEO, Carol Bartz, in
Saudi Arabia did pump more oil in 2011 after supplies from
September for having failed at achieving significant company
Libya were disrupted by the conflict, which ended in the ousting
growth. Since Bartz’s departure the board and interim chief
of Muammar Gaddafi. The country increased production to
executive Tim Morse, who will return to his previous role as chief
10.047 million barrels per day from its planned quota of 8.05
financial officer, ran the company.
million barrels per day.
The board sees a solid manager in Thompson, capable of providing a clear goal. Yahoo’s chairman, Roy Bostock, said of the appointment: “Scott Thompson brings to Yahoo a proven record of building on a solid foundation of existing assets and resources to reignite innovation and drive growth, precisely the formula we need at Yahoo.” As president of PayPal, Thompson established PayPal as a global online payment service, expanding its user base to more than 104 million, increasing merchant partners to more than eight million, and grossing revenues of over $4 billion. Prior to PayPal he was the executive vice president at Visa’s Inovant subsidiary and chief information officer at Barclays Global Investors. The Boston-based accounting and computer science graduate faces immediate challenges such as continuing the strategic review processes set out by the board and determining the best approaches for the company and its shareholders. He’ll GETTY IMAGES
also have to restore the morale of 14,000 employees that have endured five different CEOs over the past five years, several rounds of layoffs and regular criticisms in the press for Yahoo’s slow innovation cycle.
Saudi Arabia pumped 10.047 million barrels of oil a day in 2011. Portfolio
Microsoft Outlook Cautious
the most recent decline in PC sales and warned that the floods in Thailand disrupting crucial disk-drive shipments would put a drag on numbers for a while, making sales hard to foresee. Reller’s cautious outlook was confirmed by industry numbers released by Gartner. The analyst firm reported a 1.4 per cent decline in global PC sales for the fourth quarter. The research firm predicted that the disk-drive shortages would be most felt in the first half of this year. Microsoft’s stock has fluctuated between $23 and $29 since May 2010, the last time they topped $30, despite hitting sales records and increases in the dividend. Pointing to the stock’s 9.7 price to earnings ratio – just over half its 10-year average – most Wall Street analysts have ‘buy’ ratings on the stock and target prices in the $30s.
The latest hopes for a share price rise are pinned on Microsoft’s
Microsoft Corp started this year much as 2011 ended – grappling
new phones – pushed aggressively at the Consumer Electronics
with weak computer sales tearing a hole in its core Windows
Show last month – and on Windows 8 later this year. However,
business, while it slowly moves into the faster-growing mobile
some industry watchers forecast that machines running
phone and tablet markets.
Windows 8 will not be on sale until early 2013, by which time
Tami Reller, the head of marketing for the Windows unit, flagged
Apple’s iPad will have almost three years’ head start.
London Targets Yuan Trading The UK Treasury has announced plans to make London the leading international centre for trading China’s currency, the yuan, also known as the renminbi. An intergovernmental agreement that London and Hong Kong would work together on yuan trading was reached last summer. According to Treasury officials, the new partnership with Hong Kong puts London in pole position to be the major centre for trading the Chinese currency outside China and Hong Kong. Following the relaxation of strict state controls, the yuan is set to become a major, globally-traded currency, in keeping with China’s status as the world’s second biggest economy. A recent report by the Chatham House think tank forecast that trade transactions settled in the currency would reach around a trillion dollars (£650 billion) by 2020. Bankers say the plans could bring billions of pounds into the City. Many analysts believe that it’s only a matter of time before the Chinese currency displaces the dollar as the world’s reserve currency – or at least becomes a major secondary reserve currency like the Euro or the yen. UK Chancellor George Osborne said the City, as the world’s in the development of this exciting market”.
largest centre for foreign exchange, was “uniquely placed to assist
Observer The World
US Retailers Expect Modest Growth
FORTUNE 500’s 2011 RANKING OF AMERICA’S LARGEST CORPORATIONS COUNTRY Wal-Mart Stores Exxon Mobil Chevron ConocoPhillips Fannie Mae General Electric Berkshire Hathaway General Motors Bank of America Corp Ford Motor Company
PREVIOUS RANK 1 2 3 6 81 4 11 15 5 8
RANK 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
FORTUNE 500: WORST PERFORMING STOCKS OF 2011* Rank 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
Name YTD stock performance YRC Worldwide -99% AMR -92% Eastman Kodak -85% Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. -76% Meritor -74% OfficeMax -72% Bank of America -57% Office Depot -56% NII Holdings -55% Community Health Systems -53%
Market cap $68 million $220 million $229 million $2.7 million $503 million $432 million $58 billion $670 million $3.5 billion $1.6 billion
*(based on their closing prices as of December 9, 2011) SOURCE: FORTUNE
in business, after moderate growth last year that was capped by a holiday season that saw shoppers spend if stores gave out bargains. The National Retail Federation forecasts that US retail sales should rise 3.4 per cent this year, down from an increase of 4.7 per cent in 2011, which came after weak sales in 2010. ShopperTrak, a data firm that makes sales projections based on foot traffic, expects sales to be “on par” with 2011 levels. Customer Growth Partners gave a preliminary forecast of five per cent to six with an expected 5.6 per cent for last year.
FORTUNE 500: TOP-PERFORMING STOCKS OF 2011* Name YTD stock performance WellCare 93% El Paso 81% MasterCard 69% BioGen 69% VF Corp. 62% Humana 56% Oneok 55% Ross Stores 50% Targa Resources Corp 48% Centene 48%
emerging that this year will again bring a slow but steady increase
per cent growth for 2012, including e-commerce. That compares
*(based on their closing prices as of December 9, 2011) SOURCE: FORTUNE
Rank 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
It looks like 2012 will be fairly similar to 2011. A consensus is
Market cap $2.2 billion $19.2 billion $43.8 billion $26.6 billion $14.4 billion $13.8 billion $8.4 billion $10.5 billion $1.6 billion $1.8 billion
The November-December holiday selling season came in better than most analysts had expected, with sales rising 4.1 per cent, excluding cars, fuel and restaurants, according to the National Retail Federation. That exceeded the retail trade group’s initial forecast of a 2.8 per cent increase. Still, the single biggest impediment to a sizeable jump in retail sales is the anaemic growth in job creation. The US job market perked up in December, creating 200,000 jobs, but at 8.5 per cent, unemployment is still far above levels that would allow for meaningful recovery in consumer spending. That is bad news for export driven countries such as China, which need the demand from American consumers.
Berlin Football Club Sells Out to Fans STANDING IN THE MUD OUTSIDE FC Union’s woodland stadium, Frank Fritz reflected on the sacrifices he has made for his favourite football club. “I spent a hundred hours here pouring concrete,” he said, pointing to the steps on the western stand. “Two weeks’ holiday it took, including weekends.” But it was worth it, said the 45-year-old Berlin refuse collector. Fritz was one of more than 2,000 Union fans who gave their time to rebuild the club’s worseGETTY IMAGES
for-wear ground when it became clear the team could not afford the renovations itself. Now, Berlin’s ‘other’ football side, the down-at-heel rival to footballing heavyweight Hertha Berlin, has gone one step further and is asking fans not just for
Each share costs ¤500 – a snip for a
ground seats 74,500 fans, protected from the elements by a state-of-the-art glass roof. Thirty kilometres east in working
their time but for their money. The club
Glazer or a Sheikh Mansour, but a lot
has been selling 10,000 shares in the Alte
for Fritz, who queued up in the cold to
Köpenick, second division Union play in
Försterei (Old Forester’s House) stadium
become one of the first fans-turned-
the Alte Försterei, which resembles a pre-
in the east Berlin district of Köpenick,
shareholders. “I’m paying in instalments,
Hillsborough second division ground –
allowing fans to have a say in how the
five lots of ¤100,” he said.
mostly standing room only, with an eight-
ground develops in the future. The shares
Tobias Hellweg, a 21-year-old electronic
foot wire fence to deter pitch invasions.
cannot be bought en masse by an oil-rich
engineer, said he had blown an entire
At halftime fans buy ¤2 Eberswalder
sheikh or an American family looking for
month’s spending money on his share.
sausages – a local brand which sponsors
a neat investment. No one can buy more
“But it’s worth it. I wanted to be a part
than 10, and to invest, you have either to
of what makes Union Union (and not
be a club sponsor, or a club member.
Hertha) – its togetherness with the fans.”
But most Union fans want to keep things lowkey. “In England, football isn’t
Talk to any Union fan about what
football any more,” said Nils Ludewig, 24.
not a first. Several British clubs, including
makes their club special and they are
“You can’t stand any more, you can’t wave
FC United and Ebbsfleet United have
likely to draw an unfavourable comparison
big flags. It’s all about the money.” Even
experimented with fan ownership, and
with Hertha BSC, which competes in
Hamburg’s St Pauli – a Bundesliga team
German clubs have historically required
the top flight Bundesliga. Comparison
with a punk rock attitude usually held up
a minimum 51 per cent ownership by
between the two clubs illustrates perfectly
as the ultimate example of a football club
members – the 50 plus one rule. But what
the chasm which still exists in many walks
with soul – is dismissed by many Union
makes Union’s stance rather unusual is
of German life between the east and west
fans as “too commercial”.
the way it is soliciting for shareholders.
of the country, 21 years after reunification.
Letting fans own a piece of their club is
© 2012 GUARDIAN NEWS SERVICE
Red Bull, Silvio Berlusconi and Sepp Blatter.
“We’re selling our soul – but not just to
In the leafy far reaches of west Berlin
“At Hertha, fans are happy only if they’re winning. At Union, we celebrate whether we
anyone,” proclaim posters on billboards
stands the Olympic stadium, built by Hitler
win or lose,” said Hellweg. Fritz said that a
around former east Berlin, featuring
for the 1936 Games and now home to
game at Hertha is all about the “event” – “At
pictures of unwelcome investors, including
Hertha. After extensive renovations, the
Union it’s all about heart and soul”. n Portfolio
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ONCE AN UNLIKELY RIVAL FOR HP AND APPLE, CHINESE COMPUTER MAKER LENOVO HAS GROWN AND ADAPTED AS QUICKLY AS ITS HOMELAND THANKS TO DYNAMIC LEADERSHIP BY CEO YANG YUANQING AND FOUNDER LIU CHUANZHI. NOW, WITH A SAVVY BLEND OF EAST AND WEST, IT’S POISED TO BE CHINA’S FIRST GLOBAL BRAND, REPORTS CHUCK SALTER.
UST WEST OF THE BIRD’S
entire world, and roughly 14,700 more
which generated about 70 per cent of its
Nest, that architectural jewel
stores than Apple has.
$21 billion in revenue last year. On the
of the 2008 Summer Games
For the past two years, Lenovo has
attack side, he’s pumping Lenovo’s profits
in Beijing, rises an electronics
been the fastest-growing company in
- $273 million in 2010 – into emerging
district of Olympic proportions.
the PC industry. In the third quarter of
markets, new product categories (tablets,
It’s called Zhongguancun, and
2011, it sold a record 13.5 per cent of PCs
smartphones, smart TVs), and, of course,
if you need any digital device
worldwide, leapfrogging Dell and Acer
when in China’s capital, this
to seize the No. 2 spot. (Only HP sells
Lenovo is a company the likes of
is the place to go. It’s like a year-round
more.) Dominating China has much to
which we’ve never seen. It is a product
Consumer Electronics Show, with every
do with Lenovo’s success; the rising super
of Communist China (the government
major brand vying for attention.
economy became the world’s largest PC
still owns 36 per cent of its parent,
market last year.
Legend Holdings); it is heavily influenced
But one brand is nearly ubiquitous: Lenovo. Here in Beijing’s high-tech
“This is Lenovo’s moment,” says CEO
by the democratised West; it boasts
centre, the Chinese computer maker
Yang Yuanqing, 47, a former salesman
an international workforce of 27,000
has 100 stores in just this one shopping
who once delivered computers by bicycle
employees and customers in more than
area. Outside the Zhongguancun towers,
and is now China’s highest-paid chief
160 countries. But the story of Lenovo’s
a Times Square-size digital screen
executive. (His 2011 salary: $12 million.)
rise is also a parable for Chinese business:
continually plays the company’s ads. A
Yang calls Lenovo’s strategy “protect and
In just 30 years, an enterprise launched
third of the computers sold in the district
attack,” three words you hear repeatedly
in the Beijing equivalent of a garage has
are Lenovos, roughly approximating its
at the company’s headquarters in Beijing
blossomed at a pace no one predicted.
market share in the whole of China, where
and its offices in Raleigh, North Carolina,
Lenovo is redefining ‘Made in China,’
it is by far the No. 1 seller of PCs. Its
where Yang spends a third of his time.
producing the industry’s highest-quality
network of 15,000-plus stores reaches into
Lenovo seeks to protect its core business
machines; it ranked No. 1 in the 2011
the most remote of villages. That’s almost
– the China and enterprise (large-scale
Computer Reliability Report, ahead of
as many locations as Starbucks has in the
commercial and public-sector) markets,
Apple and HP. And the company’s culture
Liu Chuanzhi, the founder of Lenovo, promoted Yang to head the personal computer business at just 29 years old. Liu described Yang as “A man who moves forward, takes risks and aims to innovate.”
skilfully blends an Eastern way of thinking with the best of Western business. A few miles north of the Zhongguancun shops, on the top floor of a gleaming Beijing tower, Lenovo founder Liu Chuanzhi meets me in the Legend Holdings’ offices. Liu, who is 67, is known to Lenovo employees as Chairman Liu, or simply the Chairman, an honorific that echoes that of another Chinese leader, Mao Zedong. Throughout his homeland, Liu commands respect akin to Henry Ford in the US, and his journey reflects the evolution of his country. After graduating from a military college in 1968, he was assigned by the government to be a researcher for the Ministry of Defence. That same year, the Cultural Revolution upended his life. Mao sent young graduates like Liu, the son of a banker, to be “re-educated” in the countryside. After Mao declared
Lenovo’s strategy of building high-powered machines at a competitive price has made it the world’s second biggest PC maker. Only HP sells more.
the end of the Cultural Revolution, Liu was assigned to the Chinese Academy
institute in Beijing. He felt fortunate not
developed a Chinese-character card
of Sciences, a government research
to be consigned to a factory but still felt
that made foreign PCs accessible to
caged – “There was no shifting jobs,” he
“When Yang took over the PC unit, he focused on speed, inspired by what he saw at Lenovo’s more-experienced foreign partners. In 1996, Lenovo was the first in China to offer a Pentiumpowered machine – at a lower price than the competition was asking for slower PCs.” February 2012
says – until an unexpected door opened
Liu forged a partnership with the
in the early 1980s. With Mao dead and
US company AST, which became
Deng Xiaoping in power, the academy’s
China’s top-selling brand. Then, in
president was encouraged to find ways to
1990, despite misgivings from AST,
help the economy. He made a visit to IBM
he launched a Legend-branded
– prophetic, it would turn out – where he
PC. Business flourished – until the
saw how R&D fuelled growth. Upon his
government changed its rules again.
return to Beijing, he encouraged his staff
In 1991, Chinese tariffs on foreign
to turn their research into businesses. Liu,
computers were lowered, eventually
then 40, says he felt like “a person who
spawning an influx of competitors. Liu’s
has experienced starvation and suddenly
company stumbled, losing money for
you’re presented with steak.”
the first time. His health faltered and
he wound up in the hospital, where
Research Institute New Technology
managers, a 29-year-old named Yang
Development Co. The name was as
Yuanqing, in charge.
n 1984, he and 10 colleagues, armed
his managers visited his bedside and
with about $25,000 from the academy,
discussed how to save the company. The
started the Chinese Academy of
answer, Liu decided, was to reorganise
Sciences Computer Technology
its PC business and put one of those
cumbersome as the group was clueless
When Yang took over the PC unit, he
about business. Based in a cramped
focused on speed, inspired by what he
guard shack on the outskirts of Beijing,
saw at Lenovo’s more-experienced foreign
the company – which changed its name
partners. In 1996, Lenovo was the first
to Legend and in 2004 to Lenovo –
in China to offer a Pentium-powered
“Chairman Liu had long dreamed of building a global company. So, in 2005, Lenovo paid $1.75 billion for IBM’s PC business, a stunning move that the Chinese media described as a snake swallowing an elephant. But it also created a corporate marriage of immense complexity that, initially, did not go well.” Lenovo founder Liu Chuanzhi (L), together with CEO Yang Yuanqing, announced another record year on 2 November 2011 in Beijing. Lenovo Group gained 59.8 per cent year-on-year to $948 million in second quarter profit.
many forms. Lenovo is slashing the delivery time to Dubai from eight weeks to four, thanks to a new, well-placed distribution centre. Its LePhone A60,
machine – at a lower price than the
complexity that, initially, did not go well.
Lenovo’s new smartphone in China, took
competition was asking for slower PCs.
IBM’s PC unit had $10 billion in revenue,
less than six months to develop, half the
but it was losing money. Lenovo was
“Our orders, um, how you say…”
Speed is highly valued in Lenovo’s
Yang says, turning to Lawrence Yu, his
profitable but generated less than a third as
executive assistant, who graduated from
much revenue and was run by executives
decision-making process as well. Two
Harvard Business School. “Surge,” Yu says.
who didn’t speak English and had zero
years ago, Yang streamlined the company’s
“Yes, surge,” Yang says, smiling.
multinational experience. Deciding that
senior leadership team from more than
Westerners were better equipped to take
two dozen members to nine.
As the PC giants released a comparable
The emphasis on speed at Lenovo
product in China, Lenovo moved on to
their creation to the next level, Liu and
the next-generation chip. Another surge.
Yang stepped back, handing the CEO
is particularly compelling because it’s
And on it went. “There’s no way they
title first to IBM vet Steve Ward and
twinned with a deliberate effort to slow
can catch up,” he recalls, punctuating his
then to former Dell exec Bill Amelio. The
other things down. Upon his return as
accented but nearly fluent English with
experiment floundered. The Americans
chairman, Liu emphasised a concept
his trademark laugh. By 1997, Lenovo
couldn’t bridge the culture gap with
called fu pan. It means ‘replaying the
was China’s top-selling PC maker, a
Beijing, and during four difficult years of
chess board.’ The idea is to examine your
position it still holds.
cost cutting, morale plunged. Then the
every move to improve the next time.
2008 financial crisis devastated Lenovo’s
Lenovo trains its managers in fu pan,
hairman Liu had long dreamed of
enterprise business. The company posted a
which can entail short reviews of an
building a global company. So, in
$226 million loss, its biggest ever.
incident from that workday or a far more
2005, Lenovo paid $1.75 billion for
So, in 2009, Yang and Liu reclaimed
in-depth process. CFO Wong Wai Ming
their previous roles, and Yang launched
told me: “The most dangerous thing is
that the Chinese media described as a
his protect-and-attack strategy to forge a
to be successful. You then think every
snake swallowing an elephant. But it also
return to profitability. The key to success,
decision is the right one. That’s why you
created a corporate marriage of immense
says Yang, remains speed, which takes
have to review what you do.”
IBM’s PC business, a stunning move
ne Sunday morning last September,
marketing plans. “The brand is definitely
the US and Europe, and China is going
Yang takes the stage in a ballroom
the most important area,” says Yang.
to have a number of those,” says Roman.
Enter David Roman, whom Yang
“The opportunity to be in the driver’s seat
successfully recruited as CMO in 2010.
for maybe the first one is very compelling.”
of Lenovo’s top 100 executives from
Roman earned a reputation as a stellar
At Lenovo, his challenge isn’t changing
around the globe. Yang, normally low-
marketer at Apple and then at HP. “There
consumers’ perception of a brand. It’s
key, sounds like a coach giving a pep talk:
are going to be global brands from outside
introducing a brand and having it resonate.
at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco for an annual gathering
Dell has no clear strategy! HP’s future is anybody’s call! “We must attack the market without hesitation!” he exclaims. “Right, team?” “Yes!!!!” the Lenovo execs roar. The resounding chorus reflects an intense, even militaristic camaraderie that has taken root in the past two years. Company unity has always been a priority for Chairman Liu. But maintaining that ethos has been a challenge since the IBM purchase, especially as Lenovo’s ranks diversified. The execs in San Francisco represent 14 nationalities. Yang recognises that integrating non-Chinese perspectives and talents is critical to Lenovo’s success. For example,
Last spring, for its first-ever global
“When I first met Yang, he told me: “You should visit a very small city. You cannot find an Apple store in a small city or town. You cannot find a Dell or HP. But when you go to rural areas, you can find Lenovo everywhere.”
non-Chinese talent is crucial to their
branding campaign, Lenovo selected Saatchi & Saatchi’s concept: ‘For Those Who Do’ to spotlight how people use its computers. When we meet in Lenovo’s North Carolina office, Roman is typically blunt. “Lenovo hasn’t been a marketing company,” he says. “Its heritage is as a production and distribution company.”
hen I first met Yang, he told me: “You should visit a very small city. You cannot find an Apple store in a small city or town. You cannot
find a Dell or HP. But when you go to rural areas, you can find Lenovo everywhere.” I travelled to Da Longhua where the only apples in this village are sold at the local market. Lenovo advertises with a character painted on the concrete wall of a junkyard and has a shop on the side of a two-lane highway. None of the five PCs on the shelves has a price tag. Gao Hua, who runs the shop, says one isn’t necessary. His customers all know and trust him. The week I visited, Gao had sold all-inone desktops to three families on market day. “They sit down and ask, ‘What do you suggest?’” Gao says. “Five minutes, it sells.” The rural market holds huge growth opportunities for Lenovo, which already posts annual China revenue north of $10 billion. More than half of China’s 1.3 billion residents live outside the cities, and the country’s rapid economic growth is gradually reaching them – as is broadband access. The majority of Lenovo’s Chinese outlets are in rural areas, poised to sell computers to the millions who have never owned them. Today it’s their first PC, tomorrow their first tablet or smartphone.
Lenovo has more than 15,000 stores in China, which is almost more than Starbucks has worldwide. Apple has around 300 stores. February 2012
And Lenovo expects this pattern will repeat itself in other emerging markets. n
A COMIC KILLS THE TV MIDDLEMAN American funnyman Louis C.K. decided to release his latest comedy show directly on the web for $5 with no middleman involved. Fans could have pirated it, and some did, yet a large number paid up, reports David Carr.
OUIS C.K. IS SOMETHING of a pirate in the entertainment world, a man who has ignored
the rules on his way to building a huge comic franchise. So it’s odd to see him put one of his shows for sale on the web and politely ask fans not to rip him off. The weirder thing? It seems to be © 2011 NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
working. A scabrous and successful champion of the everyman, Louis C.K. decided in early December to go direct with his fans: no cable special, no middleman, just a simple download for $5 on his website to see his comedy show Louis C.K.: Live at the
Beacon Theatre. The show could be viewed as the consumer wished, with no rights protection and no expensive subscription. A buyit-and-watch-it proposition, no cable company involved. He was also, of course, enabling people to watch it free – without digital rights management, it was there for the pirating – and some went right to the torrent sites and did so. But many, many other people paid the fiver and got a package of two streams and three downloads, which could be burned to a DVD or streamed on a smartphone and wherever else they felt like watching it.
Louis C.K. is a freak about doing it himself. He writes, directs, produces and acts in his own series, Louie, then edits it himself with Final Cut Pro on his Mac. And now the king of DIY has one more credential: distributor. “I went at this like a consumer, just looking at human impulses,” he told me. “I buy lots of things online and I had a focus group of one. I thought about it, and five bucks seemed almost free and I figured if I took out the hassle, most of the speed bumps, it would almost be like hitting a link and streaming it. It’s been pretty great so far.”
understanding of the web and what it
going to have to pay Verizon FiOS for my
checked his website and about 175,000
could mean for content providers and
cable feed, which in turn pays Showtime.
people had bought his special through
While I was talking with him, he
PayPal. He expected 200,000 total
“OK, so NBC is this huge company
In fact, I wouldn’t know anything about Louis C.K. if it weren’t for cable. I DVR’d
downloads by that weekend, which meant
and they have all these studios and these
his freakishly hilarious series Louie on
he would have grossed $1 million. After
satellites to beam stuff out,” he said,
FX, which is owned by News Corp., and I
covering costs of about $250,000 for the
“but on the web, both NBC.com and
saw his last two comedy specials on cable.
live production and the website, that’s a
LouisCK.com have the same amount of
The people who helped build the brand
$750,000 profit. And he owns the rights,
bandwidth. We are equals and there are
of Louis C.K. might wonder about his
and the long tail of buyers, in perpetuity.
things you can do with that. This has been
decision to go native (digitally), but hey,
The transparency of the enterprise,
a fun little experiment.”
it’s the internet: it’s every man, woman,
including its cost in relation to how many
It may be little, but it has significant
people bought in, was widely covered by
implications, pointing a way forward for
performers and the consumers who want
“It feels weird having numbers out there,
to pay for their work.
because that’s my personal income,” he
producer, consumer, company and cable outfit for itself! “I am not sticking it to the Man,” he said. “There is no the Man in this story and if there were, he would be like a kindly old
said. “But I talked to my mom, who is a
TELEVISION FACES threats from
father. HBO gave me a half-hour comedy
pretty judicious, careful person, and she
many sides, including from people who
show, a series that I had complete control
said, ‘Tell them everything. Just let it all get
are cutting their cable cord and watching
over, and then a full-hour comedy special.
out there.’ So that’s what I have been doing,
programming over the web, as well as
They have been nothing but great to me.
at least so far.”
any number of web-based programmers
“But they don’t really want what I have
Louis C.K. has been doing comedy
like YouTube, Netflix and Amazon. But
any more,” he said. “Comedy specials are
since 1984, when he took a break from
network and cable television’s big hedge
just like grist to the mill to them, so I
working on cars to try stand-up. He didn’t
against insurgent technologies has always
thought it was time to try something else.”
go to college, is not deep into technology,
been its stranglehold on programming
(He added that Louie would still be on FX
and doesn’t think of himself as any sort
and talent. If I want to see how Homeland
as long as the channel wanted it. “I am
of pioneer. But he has a fundamental
ended and am not willing to steal it, I’m
completely loyal to them,” he said.) Going through a middleman to put out a televised version of his latest stage show clearly rankled Louis C.K., who is used to getting in front of an audience and daring them not to laugh. Besides, some of the
economics of dealing with cable bugged
Traditional TV networks have always shouldered the overheads and dictated the programming. But by selling directly to the public, Louis C.K. has cut out the middleman and taken on both the costs and the profit. February 2012
“There is no the Man in this story and if there were, he would be like a kindly old father. HBO gave me a half-hour comedy show, a series that I had complete control over, and then a full-hour comedy special. They have been nothing but great to me.”
experiment a success. “I’m really glad I put this out here this way and I’ll certainly do it again,” he wrote. “If the trend continues with sales on this video, my goal is that I can reach the point where when I sell anything, be it videos, CDs or tickets to my tours, I’ll do it here and I’ll continue to follow the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not over marketing to you, keeping as few people between you and me as possible in the transaction.” Louis C.K.’s ability to hack his own route to his public brings joy to the web-inclined – “Louis C.K. wins everything ever,” said REUTERS
the wags at Vulture, New York magazine’s website – but will seem less charming to Television faces threats from many sides as people choose watching programming over the web or using web-based providers such as YouTube.
the cable outlets who teamed up with him and helped build him into a juggernaut. But his exalted status, of course, did not
him. He was paid a fee upfront and the
you either have to be a sociopath or view
derive from his exposure on cable, but
cable outfits shouldered the costs, but he
the act differently.”
from the fact that he is one of the funniest humans on earth.
had no participation in the backend – DVDs, on-demand and reruns.
BY PUTTING a face on the content, Louis
“This is not about cable, it’s about
C.K. changed the subject from whether it is
concerts,” he told me. “I have been out on
OK to game a big corporation to whether
the road for a long time selling tickets, and
it’s morally appropriate to simply take the
me and the people I work with aren’t that
stiff, a 44-year-old divorced father of
work of an artist that other people have
surprised, to be honest. We knew people
two who tells jokes and is just trying to
would buy it. People have been paying for
“I’ve never seen a cheque from a comedy special,” on television, he said. Louis C.K. portrays himself as a working
make his way, but he’s displayed a great
On his site recently, he declared the
what I do for a long time now.” n
deal of digital savvy. He carefully built a simple user-friendly site to facilitate the transaction. His default setting for whether a customer wanted additional product information from Louis C.K. was “No. Leave me alone forever, you idiot.” The download of the Mp4 to my laptop took under four minutes and I still had two streams and two downloads left. (I watched one of the streams on my iPad at bedtime.) When he began the experiment, he did a Q and A on the website Reddit, a great place to address those inclined toward piracy. “I think it is really interesting that I brought the price so close to stealing and made the movie so easy to get and made it so clear that it’s a human offering that it sparked a debate about pirating,” he wrote. “To steal from someone and not feel bad,
Louis C.K.’s website takes a no frills approach, keeps it simple and gets his humour across. Portfolio
DRILLING IN A THIRSTY LAND Energy companies want to drill gas wells in South Africa’s arid Karoo region using hydraulic fracturing. But this method uses huge amounts of water and chemicals and has met local opposition, reports Ian Urbina.
of natural gas wells in the region, using a
roughly 1,300 kilometres
new drilling technology that can require
said Chris Hayward, 51, a brawny, dust-
between the South African
3.7 million litres of water or more for each
covered farmer in Beaufort West, quoting
cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town,
well. Companies will also have to find a
a Karoo saying about how rare and fleeting
the arid expanse of the Karoo – its name
way to dispose of all the toxic wastewater
precipitation is in the area. With his
means ‘thirsty land’ – sees less rain in some
or sludge that each well produces, since the
three skinny border collies crouching
parts than the Mojave Desert.
closest landfill or industrial-waste facility
dutifully at his side, Hayward explained
that can handle the waste is hundreds of
that he had to slaughter more than
600 of his 2,000 sheep in 2011 because
Even so, Shell and several other large energy companies hope to drill thousands
© 2012 NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
“Around here, the rain comes on legs,”
OVERING MUCH OF THE
The Karoo is an environmentally-sensitive region in South Africa with very little rainfall. Portfolio
there was not enough water to go around. “If our government lets these companies touch even a drop of our water,” he said, “we’re ruined.” South Africa is among the growing number of countries that want to unlock previously inaccessible natural gas reserves trapped in shale deep underground. The drilling technology – hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ for short – holds the promise of generating new revenue through taxes on the gas, creating thousands of jobs for one of the country’s poorest regions, and fuelling power plants to provide electricity to roughly 10 million South Africans who live without it. But many of the sites here and on other continents that are being considered for drilling by oil and gas companies and by governments short of cash are in fragile areas where local officials have limited resources, political leverage or experience to ensure that the drilling is done safely. THE INTEREST from big energy companies in South Africa and elsewhere means that shale gas may redraw the global energy map, according to many energy experts. Michael Klare, a professor of world security studies at Hampshire College, said that the new sources of natural gas from shale may lessen the geopolitical importance of countries that historically
have been the biggest producers of natural
Fracking is a new technology enabling the exploitation of shale gas. But it uses large amounts of water and chemicals and has aroused controversy both in the US and abroad. February 2012
“The big problem is that all the excitement around shale gas, most of it fostered by the US, has also led some countries, especially in the developing world, to take a drill-first, figure-out-regulationslater attitude.”
technologically to extract that gas in a way that is entirely safe,” Obama said in a speech last May in Warsaw, where the US Embassy co-hosted an international shale gas conference. The US Geological Survey has offered training and technology to geologists exploring shale gas in Europe. The State Department’s Global Shale Gas Initiative, begun in 2010, has been advising many foreign countries on fracking. It had organised a half-dozen trips in 2011 for foreign officials to meet with US energy experts and to visit drilling sites in the US. The website for the initiative says that its primary goals are “to achieve greater energy security, meet environmental Trenly Spence, a Karoo farmer, is worried that drilling for shale gas could mean the end of the farm that has been in his family for generations. But South Africa also has a huge need for energy and jobs.
objectives and further US economic and
gas, including Iran, Qatar and Russia.
invented, the government is taking a lead
say that while the governments of poorer
role in supporting the dissemination of the
countries may benefit from the new tax
revenues and jobs, they may not be paying
The new drilling, which draws strong support from the United States government, represents a boon for US
Over the last three years, President
commercial interests.” Some economists and environmentalists
enough attention to the environmental
companies like Halliburton, Chesapeake
Barack Obama has promoted shale gas
risks of drilling. They also note that local
Energy and ExxonMobil that have
during visits to China, India and Poland.
residents – who bear the brunt of the air
greater experience with shale gas, and
“We believe that there is the capacity
pollution, potential water contamination
therefore are likely to win many lucrative contracts abroad. More than 30 countries, including China, India and Pakistan, are now considering fracking for natural gas or oil, and the surge in gas production has spurred interest in building pipelines and terminals that liquefy the fuel so
Major Shale Gas Deposits With help from an independent contractor, federal energy officials have mapped the sites of some of the world’s largest shale gas resources. The study was limited to about 32 countries for which there was enough geological data to produce informed estimates.
it can be shipped to far-flung markets. But the enthusiasm abroad, especially in less-developed regions, does carry risks, according to many energy experts. “The big problem is that all the excitement around shale gas, most of it fostered by the US, has also led some countries, especially in the developing world, to take a drill-first, figure-outregulations-later attitude,” said Klare, who has written extensively about the way that energy policies affect global security.
Assessed shale basins
IN THE United States, where the waterintensive drilling technique of fracking was
Source: Energy Information Administration
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Spence added that farmers had been frustrated by the lack of information from Shell officials about the chemicals they would inject into the ground during fracking. Shell officials said that they would disclose what they could about fracking formulas if they started drilling, but that they might be limited by trade secrets of their subcontractors. In the US, some drilling companies have been reluctant to reveal the chemicals they use in fracking, saying the information is proprietary. Some legal experts say that the US needs GETTY IMAGES
to be more concerned about environmental and other impacts as it promotes energy technology abroad.
Contaminated water from fracking has to be treated. The problem with the Karoo is that the nearest facilities are hundreds of kilometres away.
David Hunter, director of the Program on International and Comparative Environmental Law at American
from spills or underground seepage, and
But in this sun-flooded hinterland,
University, said, “Especially with
truck traffic that come with drilling – may
where sheep outnumber humans and rusty
energy projects, the US and its funding
see few benefits.
windmills pumping water dot the horizon,
institutions have a habit of promoting
“These projects have already started
many residents say they would prefer to see
policies that foster a stable climate for
causing steep inflation in costs of local
the government bring in large wind or solar
foreign investors but that are not in the
housing and services, and except for the
farms, not new drilling.
best interests of local populations.”
lucky few who get temporary construction
“It just takes one big spill, leaky pipe
In South Africa, pressure is mounting
jobs, the economic conditions for local
or crack underground that their studies
to proceed cautiously. After public
communities can actually get worse,”
didn’t catch, and a farm my family has
concerns were raised in 2011 about
said Doug Norlen, policy director of
run for four generations is done,” said
drilling in the Karoo region, South
Pacific Environment, an advocacy
Trenly Spence, 44, as he dug up a clogged
African drilling officials set a moratorium
and research organisation that tracks
irrigation pipe that carries water across his
on new licenses for exploration until
federal and corporate financing of energy
1,335 hectares to where his 3,000 sheep
February so the government could
and goats graze.
conduct more research.
“These projects have already started causing steep inflation in costs of local housing and services, and except for the lucky few who get temporary construction jobs, the economic conditions for local communities can actually get worse.”
Authority of South Africa, an independent
In July, the Advertising Standards BUT JAN Willem Eggink, general manager for Shell in South Africa, said that the Karoo project could eventually produce millions of dollars in direct investment and thousands of jobs for South Africans, which would help lower the nation’s unemployment rate of about 25 per cent. “There is a huge energy problem looming for South Africa,” he added, explaining that energy demand is growing rapidly and that shale gas coupled with renewable energy resources could help meet that new demand while also lowering the nation’s dependence on Mozambique for gas. February 2012
agency that sets guidelines for media companies, ruled that several of Shell’s advertised claims – including one that said fracking had never led to groundwater contamination – were misleading or unsubstantiated and should be withdrawn. Shell said the advertisements were an accurate reflection of its opinion. “The government is under a great deal of pressure to hurry up,” said Hein Rust, director of disaster management for the central Karoo region. “But I don’t think these decisions should be made on faith or until all the costs are known.” n
HOTELS TARGET UPGRADES
During the recession when travellers cut back and credit was tight, many hotels skimped on renovations. But now there’s an upswing in the hospitality industry and discerning travellers are demanding better amenities, reports Martha White.
s hotel bookings and prices
they collectively spent in 2008. Still, it
climb from their recession-era
is the first increase after two years of
troughs, many chains are taking
on the renovations they postponed when money was tight. Many hotels may not have much
company who spends a week a month
choice. Travellers paying higher room
on the road, say they have noticed the
rates are less likely to overlook a worn
deterioration in the quality of items like
carpet or scratched credenza. In addition,
bed linens over the last couple of years.
hotel consultants and management
“When you’re afraid to throw your head
companies say 2012 could be a make or
on the pillow, that’s a bit of a problem,”
break time for hotels to renovate or lose
Dean said. “White sheets over time get
greyish-brown. They just needed new
According to the latest figures, hotels were expected to spend $3.5 billion in 2011 © 2012 NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
Travellers like Shawn Dean, a sales executive for a management training
ones,” he said of a recent hotel stay. Jack Kramer, vice president for field
to upgrade items including sheets, pillows,
operations of Skill Survey, a company
lobby design and decor, 30 per cent more
that provides online reference checks of
than in 2010, according to Bjorn Hanson,
potential workers to employers, said he,
divisional dean of the Preston Robert Tisch
too, had detected a decline in quality.
Centre for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports
“When you walk into a room and the
Management at New York University.
bedspread has been on there for nine
But that is still far from the $5.5 billion
years, you can tell it’s just tired,” he said. Portfolio
Hotel management companies favour complete renovations, as step-by-step renovations diminish the impact of a complete overhaul.
A maintenance worker does a repair in the temporary lobby at the Radisson Hotel Boston.
“A lot of the rooms in a lot of the locations
BUT THE effects of those improvements
just look tired.” As a frequent traveller,
are fading, and travellers are complaining
Kramer said he picks up on such details.
that hotel rooms, lobbies and other public
“There are a lot of properties that didn’t
spaces are showing their age. Hanson
do anything for a number of years.”
said an increasing number of travellers
Travellers said guest room televisions
had expressed discontent about shabby
and air-conditioners were also
conditions at hotels on comment cards left
increasingly showing their age, as were
in guest rooms and in reviews on travel
amenities like fitness centres. Hanson said
websites, and that was a major factor
when the recession hit, the hotel industry
prompting hotels to act.
was coming off several banner years that
“Travellers were understanding in 2009
had increased profits and provided ample
and even 2010,” he said. Unusually low
cash for improvements and upgrades.
rates made it easier for guests to overlook a
“The peak amount spent in 2008 was
bit more wear and tear, he said. But when
reflective of many enhancements,” he said.
rates began to climb last year, “Consumers
“The industry went into 2009 in the best
became less tolerant of those conditions.”
physical condition it had ever been in.”
Commercial real estate suffered losses in
Bjorn Hanson, divisional dean of the Preston Robert Tisch Centre for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University, says expenditure on renovation is climbing steadily again.
the economic downturn, just as residential properties did. And while the commercial real estate market has recovered somewhat, lenders remain risk-averse. Analysts say
“Analysts say banks prefer borrowers that are already well capitalised. A result is that hotel owners that do not already have a healthy balance sheet may find it difficult or impossible to borrow for renovations, and that could be a problem.”
banks prefer borrowers that are already well capitalised. A result is that hotel owners that do not already have a healthy balance sheet may find it difficult or impossible to borrow for renovations, and that could be a problem. “This year is going to be crunch time,” said Joel Ross, principal of the hotel Portfolio
Thorsten Kirschke, president of Carlson Hotels Americas, says it is now time for a return to business as usual with the strict implementation of standards.
The Pera Palace, once Istanbul’s grandest hotel before it slumped into disrepair decades ago, re-opened in late 2010 after a two-and-a-half year renovation. Companies that had money to spend during the recession now have an edge on their competitors.
BUT NOW, management companies want to return to business as usual. Not only are they concerned that negative traveller experiences will tarnish their image, but they are acutely aware that renovating now can give them a competitive edge as
investment company Citadel Realty
But what we have done is loosened the
travel picks up. Strong said management
Advisors, because improvement projects
companies do not want owners to renovate
“are way past due and people still don’t
Lisa Larson, vice president for
rooms a little at a time – curtains one
franchise operations for select service and
year, rugs the next and so on – because it
Generally, hotels have schedules for
extended-stay hotels for the Americas
diminishes what he calls the “wow factor.”
replacing bed linens, curtains and the
at Marriott International, said during
While it is more economical for hotels to
like as well as more durable items such as
and immediately after the recession, the
renovate incrementally, guests do not get
furniture. Items like carpets are typically
company gave some property owners six-
the impression that they are staying in a
replaced after about five years, while
or 12-month extensions on renovation
truly refurbished room, he said.
furniture lasts 10 to 12 years, said Greg
Strong, president of the hotel consulting
She and Kirschke were quick to add
“The leniency we’ve shown is not lasting forever, and it’s not meant to be abused,
management company PIP For Hotels.
that such exceptions were made on a case-
either,” Kirschke said. “The faster you come
PIP is the industry abbreviation for
by-case basis and never affected anything
back with a renovated property, the faster
property improvement projects.
involving guest safety, like elevator
you can start benefiting from the rebound.”
But in the depths of the recession, hotel
Larson said the hotels in Marriott’s
owners faced record low occupancies
North American portfolio were already
that reduced their income just as credit
accelerating their renovation schedule in
became almost impossible to get. As a result, hotel management companies like Marriott International and Carlson Hotels Worldwide took the unusual step of giving properties more time to make required upgrades. “Extraordinary times have demanded extraordinary measures,” said Thorsten Kirschke, president of Carlson Hotels, Americas. “You can’t waive all standards. Then you start prostituting your brand. February 2012
“Not only are they concerned that negative traveller experiences will tarnish their image, but they are acutely aware that renovating now can give them a competitive edge as travel picks up.”
response to competitive pressure. “What we are anticipating is over a 50 per cent increase in renovations in 2011,” she said. “The guys who have money are starting to do renovations because it’s the smart thing to do and get ahead of the competition,” Ross, of Citadel, said. “I feel very strongly that if you have the money, now is the time to spend it fixing up your property or buying a property and fixing it up, because your competition won’t have the money.” n
OPPORTUNITY & CAUTION Latin American countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, have shown strong economic growth. That has focused investor interest on the region, reports Paul Sullivan.
SPENT THE LATE 1990s AND early 2000s reporting on the financial crises in Latin America, when
But, at the same time, companies as diverse as Siemens, General Electric,
1980s and 1990s. Official estimates now put it at a comparatively low 6.5 per cent. What’s an investor to do, with so
Argentina, overwhelmed by foreign debts,
Nissan and Halliburton have increased
many contradictory measures? Here
defaulted and Brazil narrowly avoided the
their operations in Brazil.
are some thoughts.
same fate. But recently, Latin America
China is Brazil’s major trading partner,
has come up frequently in conversations
which would seem to augur well. But
TEN YEARS ago, Jim O’Neill, chairman
I have had with various money managers
it is selling commodities like iron ore,
of Goldman Sachs Asset Management,
and investment strategists as a place that
which could suffer if China’s growth
coined the term BRIC, elevating the
has new opportunities.
continued to slow. Yet Brazil also has a
profile of four countries – Brazil, Russia,
growing consumer sector. Sergio Cabral,
India and China – that he thought were
America is now a solid investment, as
the governor of Rio de Janeiro state, said
poised to become “growth economies.”
the middle class in many of the countries
that almost 40 million people in Brazil
He argued at the time that these countries
increasingly becomes a driving force? Or
had entered the middle class in the past
contributed eight per cent of global
is the region’s cycle of booms and busts set
five years. (Gerardo Zamorano, a director
gross domestic product and that in 10
to repeat itself?
at Brandes Investment Partners, put
years, their economies would account for
that number at 25 million to 30 million,
about 14 per cent. They’re now at 18 to
region’s main stock had a bad 2011.
which is still a striking number given that
19 per cent.
Brazil’s index was down 16 per cent,
Brazil had almost no middle class when I
Mexico’s down five per cent and Chile’s
was there.) And Cabral said that demand
surprised at how well Brazil had done,
about 16 per cent. These numbers are
for all types of consumer goods was far
overtaking Italy to become the seventh-
worse for international investors because
outstripping supply in his state.
largest economy in the world. “I found
What happened? Can it be that Latin
Anyone who invested broadly in the
all three countries’ currencies have fallen against the dollar. © 2011 NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
taking out $36.6 billion.)
Not surprisingly, investors have been pulling their money out. As of early December they had taken $9.8 billion
“Prices are crazy,” he said on a visit
O’Neill said recently that he was
it really easy to be bullish about Brazil
to New York recently. “We need more
over the past decade,” he said. “I describe
hotels. We have a suite problem – we have
myself now as being a little bit more
demand but we need more supply.”
reserved. The biggest risk is if inflation
That is a good thing as long as inflation
were to get out of hand. There is no way
out of Latin America, according to fund
does not increase and erode the buying
you’re going to get the continued increases
flow data compiled by Morgan Stanley
power of the new middle class. Inflation
among the middle class if that happens.”
research. (Emerging markets in general
has historically been a huge problem
did not fare well last year, with investors
in Brazil, running to triple digits in the
By Brazilian standards, he noted, inflation is low. Even if some analysts Portfolio
Brazilâ€™s growing middle class has created an upsurge in car imports.
In Brazil the demand for consumer goods is outstripping supply. Analysts estimate between 25 to 40 million people have entered the middle class.
think it is above the 6.5 per cent target
emerging market research at Hansberger
said, had learned hard lessons from the
rate, the central bank cut interest rates
Global Investors, said countries like
crises of the 1990s that drove down the
at the end of November for the third
Brazil and Mexico had reduced their
value of their currencies and pushed up
time in 2011, a sign it is not concerned
debt-to-GDP ratios significantly in the
the cost of borrowing.
last decade, to levels better than in the
Francisco Alzuru, managing director of
developed world. And both countries, he
“This time, they have growth from the benefit of sound macroeconomic policy,” he said. “I don’t want to imply that Latin America is risk-free and we can invest with our eyes closed. But from a macroeconomic perspective, the boom and bust should be better managed.” JAMIE KRAMER, head of the thematic advisory practice at J.P. Morgan Private Bank, tells her clients interested in investing in Latin America to look for the “emerging markets of the future with their emerging middle class.” This is not as easy as it sounds. She noted that exchangetraded funds on the Brazilian index are often heavily weighted with energy and financial services companies, a different
Sergio Cabral, the governor of Rio de Janeiro, is focusing on diversifying his state's economy to become less dependent on the cyclical energy sector.
bet entirely. Zamorano said he had focused on Portfolio
investing in wireless telecommunications
needed most – housing and all the related
and consumer product companies. He
industries from mortgages to construction.
noted that when a consumer was going
“In the U.S, we have a saturated market,”
from $500 in annual income to $800,
he said. “In Mexico, the need for houses,
“you’re still subsistence.” But, he said,
the accumulated deficit is in the millions
“Once you’re getting to $5,000, $10,000
of units. You have 10 years of pending
you’re seeing car consumption, broadband,
demand for homes.”
consumer products going up. That’s a phase we’re seeing.” Alzuru said there were opportunities to invest in what the middle class in Mexico
“We need more hotels. We have a suite problem – we have demand but we need more supply.”
BEYOND INFLATION, investors should be wary of any economy significantly dependent on exports.
The State Department said 80 per cent of Mexico’s exports went to the United States in 2010, for instance, and the sluggishness of the US economy had slowed Mexico’s growth. The same fate is feared for Brazil and China. Chile is a big exporter of wine, flour, lithium and copper, while Peru exports various minerals, like copper, silver and gold. Such dependence on exports wreaked havoc in the 1990s. THERE IS also political risk. Venezuela, is economically worse off than it was 10 years ago, despite immense oil wealth. And Argentina is enduring high inflation – 9.8 per cent as of October 2011. But Zamorano said relatively high
interest rates meant the governments had One problem is that Brazil’s infrastructure is not keeping pace with the current rate of development. More roads, airports and harbours are needed.
the ability to cut rates to stimulate growth if needed – something developed countries like the United States or Japan can no longer do. Cabral said he was most worried about the slow development of roads, ports and airports in his state and Brazil in general. “In Brazil, for more money to be invested, you have to open more services, concessions, airports,” he said. “I’m concerned Brazil has to speed up the infrastructure to attract more investment.” His goal is to wean his state from its dependence on energy, which he recognises as volatile, and focus more on technology and education.
Back when I was there, Latin America’s economies were hard to tell apart. But More disposable income means that consumers can spend more. But one major problem in Latin America is to keep inflation in check. February 2012
now, they present as many opportunities and pitfalls as any other investment. n
AFRICA’S RESEARCH BOOM
Computer science and computer engineering are gaining traction in Africa, and with it comes research focused on uniquely local problems, reports Pascal Zachary.
E MIGHT HAVE BEEN
Uganda’s capital, Kampala. At the top
content simply to teach
of a hill near the university’s entrance,
thousands of university
overlooking the derelict law school to
students in Uganda how to use computers,
one side and a school mosque to the
assemble them into networks, manage
other, two gleaming glass buildings went
them and write basic software programs.
up seemingly without a hitch. So many
In a poor African country with one of the
undergraduates swarmed them that
world’s fastest-growing populations and
the faculty held classes at midnight to
rising internet use, that alone would have
been an enormous achievement. But Venansius Baryamureeba had
a vocational school; he also created a
bigger ideas. In 2005, when he returned
graduate programme he hoped would
home with a doctorate from the University
someday turn out dozens of Ph.D.
of Bergen in Norway, he was just one
scientists who would themselves become
and lecturer, said there are still serious
of a handful of computer scientists in
college professors and help push the
obstacles to pursuing such research in
Uganda. And his timing was right. The
boundaries of global research.
Uganda, including unreliable internet
largely agricultural economy had been
© 2011 NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
Baryamureeba wanted more than
Research is surging in Africa. The Kiira EV car was made by Makerere University students and did its first test drive in Uganda’s capital Kampala in November 2011. The two-seater car is the first electric vehicle to be made in the country.
Improbably, his vision is gaining
Ernest Mwebaze, a doctoral student
service and power failures. But he also said the potential upside is huge.
growing by about seven per cent annually,
traction at Makerere. Young homegrown
propelling an enormous expansion of
scientists there are now nearing
the upper middle class and the urban
completion of their Ph.D.s. And faculty
challenges and problems whose solutions
elite’s aspirations for advanced training in
members are carrying out cutting-
can actually have a greater marginal
science and engineering.
edge experiments. They are seeking to
benefit than, say, solutions to problems in
endow cellphones with the ‘intelligence,’
Europe,” he said.
Emboldened by Uganda’s relative peace
“Uganda offers several unique research
Each Monday, in a laboratory of
and prosperity, Baryamureeba founded
embedded in tiny software programs
a new college that includes departments
animated by mathematical algorithms, to
thrumming computers, Mwebaze teaches
of computer science and computer
identify diseases in crops or malaria in a
a small class on artificial intelligence to
engineering at Makerere University, in
10 graduate students, highlighting this Portfolio
esoteric field, the subject of his doctorate
possibilities in computing science and
smashers are needed, as in physics; no
research. And the potential for Africans
engineering, beyond the traditional
giant telescopes, as in astronomy.
trained in Africa to conduct science
disciplines of medicine, law and finance or
attuned to the realities of Africa is not
the more typical scientific callings of crop
is still held back by the perception that it
limited to computing. “There’s a growing
and soil science.
is preferable to study and work in Europe
interest in research, and science generally,
“Computer science appeals to a
Computer science in Africa, to be sure,
or the United States, even if that means
in the region,” said Calestous Juma, a
generation of urban students raised on
leaving Africa permanently. This must
Harvard professor who specialises in the
a diet of digital devices,” said Chanda
change for computer science to flourish
study of technology and development.
Chisala of Zambia Online, a software
in the region. Georgia Tech researchers
development company and internet
recommended in a study that African
THE RAPID spread of cellphones has
provider in the Zambian capital, Lusaka.
educators reinforce efforts to mould
fuelled an appreciation among Africans
The field also may appeal to chronically
computer science curriculum to meet
for the practical uses of science and
underfinanced African universities
technology. And the children of the
because the study of computer science
African elite are also seeing career
is relatively inexpensive. No big atom
A shortage of skilled teachers also remains a problem. The continent’s
Ernest Mwebaze, a doctoral student and lecturer at Makerere University, conducts a graduate class lecture on artificial intelligence.
leading computer science departments –
based on research publications – are all in
But when he provided a
South Africa. Yet even there, the number
Nigerian computer centre
of university-level teachers is limited. “Our
with data compiled by
CS departments are much smaller than
Maryland, the centre started
counterparts in the US,” said Bill Tucker,
selling it. Subramanian, who
an American who is a senior lecturer at the
thought the data should have
University of Western Cape.
been openly available for
And differing ethical practices in African and American academic institutions complicate matters. When
scholars, found the experience “very troubling.”
A student project at the new computer science college at Makerere University.
Baryamureeba’s commitment has
V.S. Subrahmanian, a computer scientist
helped Makerere overcome such obstacles.
Partnerships with universities in Norway
at the University of Maryland, decided
He now leads the entire university,
and the Netherlands have also proved
to forge a research partnership in
ensuring that computer science and
crucial. Graduate students from Uganda
2010 with Nigerian professors, he was
engineering have high-level support.
have been able to study both at home and abroad. And the European
“Uganda offers several unique research challenges and problems whose solutions can actually have a greater marginal benefit than, say, solutions to problems in Europe.”
universities promise not to poach them, requiring that the students return to Uganda to get their doctorates. THERE’S ALSO a palpable sense among young scholars that Africa is cool – and Portfolio
microscopes and pattern-recognition devices could help people in the developed world lower costs of instant diagnosis of minor medical problems. So far, Quinn’s reputation has only been enhanced by his work in Uganda, and he’s earning decent pay. Postdoctoral salaries for European computer scientists are not that much different from the roughly $3,000 a month Quinn earns at Makerere. That has him thinking he will stay awhile in Kampala. He’d initially planned to stick it out for two years, but he’s now already four years into his African university tenure and sees a lot of running room in computer science – for himself, and for Africa. n Makerere University was dilapidated a few years ago. But increased funding, a new focus and more international cooperation has seen it reinvent itself.
that universities are improving just
Google. One project involves designing
enough to advance the scientific ambitions
code that turns a cellphone into a
of Western scientists.
sophisticated microscope. He presented
Consider John Quinn, a Scot. He
his research on diagnosing malaria over
attended Cambridge and received a
the phone at an international conference
doctorate in computer science from the
in San Francisco last August.
University of Edinburgh. Searching for an
“There’s a growing awareness of the
unconventional research experience, he
need to focus, to specialise and to become
contacted Makerere just as Baryamureeba
internationally competitive,” Quinn said of
was casting about for international talent
himself and his colleagues.
to bolster his faculty. Quinn accepted,
One potentially practical and profitable
and has never looked back. An artificial
benefit partly explains the interest
intelligence research group he formed has
of computer companies in Quinn’s
received financing from Microsoft and
research: Turning cellphones into cheap
One focus of African research is to make the testing for common diseases, such as malaria, cheaper and quicker.
Computer science and computer engineering faculties are popular at African universities as research is relatively inexpensive. February 2012
A policeman stands in front of the headquarters of Equitalia, an Italian state agency that collects overdue taxes and fines.
ITALY’S TAXING PROBLEM It is estimated that Italy loses $150 billion annually in undeclared revenues. That money is badly needed to reduce the country’s $2.5 trillion public debt, report Rachel Donadio and Elisabetta Povoledo.
to pay up. Such efforts, along with a new
Maurizio Compagnoni, an
blitz of public service announcements
Mario Monti’s new $40 billion austerity
employee of Italy’s internal
trying to raise the social stigma on tax
package, which received final approval
revenue service, stood before a classroom
evasion, have become crucial as Italy
in late December in the Senate, includes
of middle school students in a leafy
struggles to reduce its $2.5 trillion public
tougher measures that will allow tax
neighbourhood in Rome, preaching the
debt and fend off speculative attacks.
officials to peer into Italians’ bank
virtues of paying taxes. “You may think,
© 2012 NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
To tackle the issue, Prime Minister
N A RECENT MORNING,
The tax authorities say Italy loses
accounts to check declared income against
‘I’m 13, why should I care about taxes?’”
an estimated $150 billion a year
bank deposits – not to mention yacht, car
he said with earnest enthusiasm as the
in undeclared revenues, while the
and home ownership – under a new cross-
students looked on, slightly bored. “But
national statistics authority places the
you can take a step in the right direction.
underground economy at about 17.5 per
You can change the behaviour of the people
cent of gross domestic product – the
transactions above $1,300 – common in
around you, your parents and friends.”
third highest in Western Europe after
Italy, where low credit-card use keeps
Malta and Greece but before Spain. Other
private debt low but evasion high –
experts place the percentage much higher.
and lower the threshold for which tax
Compagnoni is one soldier in a battle – often uphill – to persuade Italy’s citizens
The measures also prohibit cash
evasion becomes a criminal offense. The
This heritage lingers. Many Italians
government has also set an additional 1.5
approach tax evasion with true delight,
per cent tax on assets repatriated under
taking pride in outsmarting the system,
an earlier tax amnesty, raising the levy for
aided by books sold online and by Italy’s
those requesting anonymity.
113,000 tax accountants.
ITALY IS filled with colourful anomalies.
question of survival. “When I first opened
According to tax officials, nearly half
my restaurant, my accountant sat me
of boats larger than 10.7 metres are
down and told me that if I wanted to
registered to people who declare income
pay all my taxes, I might as well close
of less than $26,000 a year, and 604
up shop immediately,” said Giuseppe, a
airplane owners declared annual income
restaurant owner in Rome who said he
between $26,000 and $65,000.
was a basically honest person who had
Many Italians say rule-breaking is a
Radio 24 recently reported that there
been “forced to evade taxes” because of
are about 2.5 million luxury cars in
Italy’s costly fiscal system. Like many
Italy, yet tax officials say that in 2009,
Italian restaurateurs, Giuseppe does not
less than two per cent of Italy’s 41 million
always present diners with a cash-register
taxpayers declared annual income of more
receipt at the end of the meal, so the sale
“Radio 24 recently reported that there are about 2.5 million luxury cars in Italy, yet tax officials say that in 2009, less than two per cent of Italy’s 41 million taxpayers declared annual income of more than $260,000 – indicating that many declare far less income than their lifestyles would suggest.”
than $260,000 – indicating that many declare far less income than their lifestyles would suggest. To rein this in, Italy is introducing the cross-referencing initiative, dubbed the ‘income-o-meter,’ to be put in place in the coming months. “If you declare $26,000 a year, you can’t buy a piece of real estate valued at $1.3 million,” said Attilio Befera, the director of the Agenzia delle Entrate, Italy’s internal revenue service. Discrepancies like that will now prompt an audit, Befera said. It is a cultural battle as much as a logistical one. Noting that it is a Roman Catholic country, Befera said: “We have the concept of pardon, of penitence. From a fiscal point of view this is the sanction that I will pay when they find me.” (The previous government introduced various tax amnesties, which critics said condoned evasion.) “In the United States, the first forms of taxation were in the far West for the defence of the community, for a kind of sheriff, and anyone who didn’t pay was expelled from the community,” Befera said. “Here, the first forms of taxation REUTERS
were imposed by princes, usually foreign, to pay for their own battles. So our citizens did everything not to pay because they saw nothing in return.” February 2012
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti’s $40 billion austerity package includes tougher measures against tax evasion.
According to Italian officials, nearly half of boats larger than 10.7 metres are owned by people who declare income of less than $26,000 a year.
is not legally registered and, therefore,
considerably higher for what you eat.” For
under the table for overtime, evading
Giuseppe, running a business involves
payroll taxes, which are above 40 per cent.
“If I didn’t do it, I just wouldn’t
keeping complex records. Provisions he
“I can’t afford to pay overtime and they
survive,” he said. “If we respected all
buys without receipts have to disappear
can’t afford to live on their base salaries,”
the rules from A to Z, prices would be
without being tallied; he pays waiters
he said. “This way, we both benefit.” Business associations have urged the government to reduce the tax burden for companies and workers and raise it on assets. In December, the governor of the Bank of Italy, Ignazio Visco, said that Italy’s tax burden had risen to 45 per cent overall and called for urgent reforms to help lower it. “TAX EVASION has a significant impact on growth,” said Alberto Bisin, an economist at New York University. He said it kept companies from expanding by keeping productivity low – and less traceable. “I’m not saying that we should let people evade,” but that reform is difficult as long as taxes are so high, he said. A country where some bear a heavy tax burden and others do not
Tomaso Savorani (R) and his classmates watch a video about tax evasion at their school. Such initiatives are part of a broad attempt to get tax evaders to pay up.
pay anything creates a “skewed system, distorting and horrible,” he added. Portfolio
Members of the Northern League Party hold placards in parliament to protest against Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti’s austerity package and new tax laws.
additional income off the books. Massimiliano D’Angeli, a criminal defence lawyer, says he believed that if more services like those provided by lawyers, plumbers and electricians were tax deductible rather than subject to the nation’s 23 per cent value-added tax, REUTERS
people would have an incentive to ask for receipts. Instead, many workers and Italy is home to 2.5 million luxury cars, but less than two per cent of Iocal tax payers declared an income of more than $260,000. That indicates many tax payers are declaring less income than their lifestyles suggest.
professionals offer a “VAT discount” for payment under the table. In spite of Monti’s approval ratings, there is widespread scepticism that the
ADDING TO the challenges, five million
is available, just under 50 per cent of
anti-evasion measures will work. Asked
Italians are self-employed, including many
Italian workers, or 20 million people,
why Italy had had so much trouble
doctors, contractors and small-business
declared annual income of $20,000 or
cracking down on evasion, Bruno Tinti,
people, compared with 2.7 million in
less a year, according to tax agency data.
a former prosecutor turned journalist
France and 3.9 million in Germany.
Many are salaried workers whose taxes
specialising in the black economy, had a
Evasion among them is rampant.
are automatically deducted, but others
simple answer: “Tax evaders vote, that’s
are self-employed or most likely have
the problem.” n
In 2009, the last year for which data February 2012
China is leading the world in introducing Internet Protocol version 6. This version has many more IP addresses, something China badly needs.
China Scrambles for High-tech Dominance The future of the internet is already in China and most of the worldâ€™s consumer electronics are manufactured there. The next step could be technological breakthroughs, report David Barboza and John Markoff.
N AN OTHERWISE
well be. Because of the ready availability of
nondescript conference room in
low-cost labour, China has already become
Beijing, Wu Jianping stands before
the world’s dominant maker of computers
a giant wall of frosted glass. He toggles a
and consumer electronics products. Now,
switch and the glass becomes transparent,
these experts say, its booming economy
looking down on an imposing network
and growing technological infrastructure
operations centre full of large computer
may thrust it to the forefront of the next
displays. They show maps of China and the
generation of computing.
world, pinpointing China’s IPv6 links, the next generation of the internet. China already has almost twice the
computing centres is not simply a matter of national pride. It is an attempt to lay
number of internet users as in the United
the groundwork for innovative Chinese
States, and Wu, a computer scientist and
companies and to reshape the technological
director of the Chinese Educational and
landscape by doing something more than
Research Network, points out that his
assembling the world’s desktop PCs.
nation is moving more quickly than
Never mind that there may be no
any other in the world to deploy the
Chinese Steve Jobs, said Clyde Prestowitz
Jr., president of the Economic Strategy
IPv6 – Internet Protocol version 6
Institute. “There are different kinds of
– offers advanced security and privacy
innovation,” he said. “We tend to equate
options, but more important, many more
innovation with companies that start from
IP addresses, whose supply on the present
garages based on brainstorms. There is
internet (IPv4) is almost exhausted. “China
another kind of innovation that results in
must move to IPv6,” Wu said. “In the US,
constant improvement that we are not good
some people don’t believe it’s urgent, but we
at – and they are.”
believe it’s urgent.”
The view is not universal. Still, other
If the future of the internet is already
experts say it would be a mistake to
in China, is the future of computing there
underestimate China’s capacity for
Many experts in the US say it could very
“When I went to China for the first time
© 2011 NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
For China, the quest to develop advanced
Innovators such as Steve Jobs are revered in China, although the country has as yet to produce one. But some analysts point out that China is good at a different kind of innovation, namely constant improvement. February 2012
“Now innovation is accelerating, and in the future, patents on smartphones and tablets will be originated by the Chinese people.” in 1978, I saw workers stringing together computer memories with sewing needles,” said Patrick McGovern, the founder of the International Data Group, an early investor in Tencent Holdings, one of the most successful Chinese internet companies. “Now innovation is accelerating, and in the future, patents on smartphones and tablets will be originated by the Chinese people.” GOING BACK six decades – to ENIAC, considered to be the first electronic computer – the US has set both the pace and the path of modern computing and communication. From mainframes to iPhones, from the ARPANET to WiFi, innovation has been as American as
Norman Rockwell. And for more than a China has almost double the internet users as in the US. This number is growing rapidly and China will soon be the world's largest online retail market.
generation, the hub of innovation has been Silicon Valley, a multicultural melting pot that has supported the singular amalgam of computer-hacker ethos and entrepreneurial aggressiveness that made it the envy of the world. Probably the most serious challenge to the Valley’s dominance came in the late 1980s from Japan, which seemed on the brink of taking command of the semiconductor and computer industries until its economy foundered. Today, China poses a very different kind of challenge. While Japan’s economy has long been driven by exports, China will soon have the world’s largest domestic market for both internet commerce and computing. The world took notice of Chinese technological prowess in late
2010, when a Chinese supercomputer, China has fallen short on a decade long commitment to build the world's leading semiconductor industry. Most processors are still imported from the US or Taiwan.
the Tianhe-1A, briefly became the world’s fastest. Though it was made from US processors and was soon surpassed by a Portfolio
Japanese machine, it was still indisputable evidence that the Chinese had achieved world-class computing designs. In 2010, in an interview that would have been seen as extraordinary if the remarks had been made by a US president, Premier Wen Jiabao committed China to creating an “Internet of things.” Connecting homes and smart power grids has been a driving principle behind the next-generation internet in the US. And it goes hand in hand with “ubiquitous computing,” the idea that computing smartphones and digital music players. But China’s efforts at dominance are hardly without obstacles. The country has fallen
power transforms everyday devices like In some industries, such as the making of solar panels, China has become the undisputed world leader.
far short on a decade-long commitment to
in game theory and computer security.
build the world’s leading semiconductor
“Overnight there is lots of activity coming
industry, and it still imports a vast majority
from Beijing,” said Christos Papadimitriou,
of microchips for the products it assembles.
a computer scientist at Berkeley.
Its best chip factories are two to three
And there is little question that the
Not every China specialist buys such comparisons. “When we look at China through the lens of American decline, we see the Chinese ascendancy, we see the modern skylines
generations behind world leaders like Intel,
structure of Chinese industry is becoming
and the fastest computers and the new
in the US, and TSMC, in Taiwan.
more innovation-oriented. Last summer
airports, and we see an invincible force
Dieter Ernst, senior fellow at the East-West
building,” said Orville Schell, director of
to be too much government control.
Centre, testified before a US congressional
the Center on US-China Relations at the
Chinese innovation may also be limited
commission that the Chinese had
Asia Society. “Through Chinese eyes it looks
by the relative lack of intellectual property
overtaken South Korea and Europe in
tremendously uncertain and provisional.
protection, discouraging entrepreneurs
total patents and were catching up with
They are not filled with self-confidence.”
from breaking new ground.
the US and Japan.
China’s great weakness may prove
At the same time, there is a consensus
But McGovern, the investor and venture capitalist, thinks that may be an advantage.
WHAT SCARES competitors is that
that China’s entrepreneurs have a
In the United States, he says, he is often
China has begun producing waves of
workaholic culture that is unmatched
approached by overconfident entrepreneurs
amazing hardware engineers and software
anywhere in the world.
who walk off in a huff when he is less than
programmers, winning international
“What I found in doing five startups in
impressed by their ideas. The Chinese
competitions and beginning to dominate
China is the culture makes Silicon Valley
the best engineering programmes in the
look laid-back and slow,” said Tom Melcher,
US. Much has been made of computer
an entrepreneur who left California a
their language-translation software that
science ‘returnees,’ most notably Andrew
decade ago to move to Beijing. “In Beijing,
will convert Mandarin to English and
Chi-Chih Yao, who left Princeton to create
if you want to find a chief executive at 7:30
back again,” he said. “Then I will tell
an institute at Tsingtao University in Beijing
pm on a Friday, it’s guaranteed you will find
them that I don’t think there is a market
that has already made breakthroughs
him at the office.”
because it is too difficult to protect the
“When we look at China through the lens of American decline, we see the Chinese ascendancy, we see the modern skylines and the fastest computers and the new airports, and we see an invincible force building.”
entrepreneurs he deals with are different. “They will come to me and show me
intellectual property.” Rather than send them away, however, he might ask them if they would be interested in working on a different idea that his firm has been considering. “They will respond, ‘Can I get rich?’ When I tell them that I think that there is a good chance, they say, ‘OK, I’ll do it!’” n
THE BEST OF LEISURE AND LIFESTYLE
SICILY ON A HARLEY
With a Harley-Davidson you experience freedom in a different way. You see and smell the countryside, feel the warm embrace of the wind and the camaraderie of the open road. Tarak Parekh explored Sicily’s stunning coastline while enjoying Harley-Davidson’s world of custom legends.
View of Taormina from Madonna della Rocca February 2012
The Teatro Greco, in Taormina, is Sicily’s most famous ruin and a major tourist attraction.
Although it is still often overshadowed by
countryside that had been fertilised by
town that looks like it might
Harley’s traditional offerings, the high-
Mount Etna through the centuries.
tumble down the cliffs
tech V-Rod line-up is still selling well
AORMINA IS A LITTLE
under the sheer weight of visitors. But this
after a decade, especially the Night Rod
Linguaglossa for a coffee break. Vineyards,
enduring popularity testifies to its unique
Special that has been a hit with the under-
giant pine trees and snow-capped
location, rich history and stunning beauty.
mountain surround the town, which is a
The Hotel Grand Timeo distils all these
The Night Rod Special is easy to ride so
popular winter ski destination. Our Italian
attributes as it is set high in the rocky hills
I had plenty of time to enjoy Taormina’s
photographer, Stefano Gadda, introduced
of Sicily’s east coast with mind-blowing
medieval beauty of cobbled streets and
us to the legendary Sicilian almond
cliff top views of the Mediterranean,
postcard scenery. We rumbled through
biscuits. According to him the supple
Taormina and its unique neighbour: the
Messina Gate past souvenir shops and
texture eludes even the most skilled of
historic amphitheatre of Teatro Greco. If
restaurants towards Linguaglossa, our
Italian bakers. I’m not sure if he was telling
location is everything, then Taormina and
first stop. This town was founded in 1586
a tall tale, but they were delicious.
Grand Timeo have it all.
on a lava stream, which is reflected in its
After a lavish Sicilian breakfast I headed down to the parking lot where 12
Sicilian name that means ‘tongue’. The day couldn’t have been better
Besides its winter fame, Linguaglossa is also central to excursions up Mount Etna that can reach 3,000 metres altitude. Our
new Harleys, two days of adventure and
with an azure sea and the clear blue sky
ride was fascinating as we wound through
around 300 kilometres of country roads
dominated by Mount Etna – one of the
a panorama of Sicilian life along the
waited. After a briefing from Gaetano
world’s most active volcanoes. It has six
narrow, curving road. Climbing for a good
di Piazza, regional manager of Harley-
distinct craters but also erupts along its
half hour it was hard to maintain focus
Davidson South-east Europe, we set off on
flanks. This millennium there has already
as competing views of the Mediterranean
the ride of a lifetime.
been four flank eruptions between 2001
to one side and Mount Etna on the other
and 2009. Summit eruptions occurred
threatened to divert my attention for a
Davidson Night Rod Special with a black-
in 2006, 2007–2008 and as recent as
split second too long. Europe’s highest
orange colour scheme, lightweight wheels
January 2012. That knowledge honed my
active volcano was gurgling and smoking
and an inverted front. In 2002 the V-Rod
riding skill as we cruised along the fun
as we rode up to the observation point
introduced the revolutionary V-Twin,
but demanding road with a fair mix of
and I wondered if we were literally
Harley’s first liquid-cooled engine.
hairpin corners, long straights and green
playing with fire.
My first bike was the 2012 HarleyPHOTOS: TARAK PAREKH
After two hours of cruising we arrived at
The paradox of Mount Etna is that although its angry eruptions decimate the landscape, the resulting volcanic soil is extremely fertile. The volcano covers an area of 1,190 km2 and supports citrus groves, vineyards and orchards across its lower flanks and the broad Plain of Catania to the south. After posing for some photos against the black lava landscape, it was time to experience a more traditional Harley. So I switched to the Dyna Wide Glide as we set-off to Randazzo for lunch. The Wide a chopped rear fender, black rims, an oldschool flame paint scheme tank console, ‘Tommy Gun’ exhaust, raked-out forks and
Glide suited the Mount Etna scenery with
Mount Etna is Europe’s highest active volcano at 3,329 metres. The last eruption added 20 metres to the summit.
a swept back sissy bar. Lunch was at Parco Statella Restaurant, an authentic baronial villa surrounded by vineyards, horse stables and a magical 150-year-old garden. The food was something that has to be experienced. First up were antipasti, which included different type of salami, local cheese, olives, peperonata (marinated sweet and sour peppers with pine nuts and raisins) and garlicky eggplant slices. Up next was
“The chef told us that pistachios, also known as the ‘green gold of Etna’, are highly prized in Sicily. The majority of the nuts come from Bronte, an area situated on the base of Mount Etna.”
Sicilian almond biscuits are famous for their unique texture and taste. February 2012
Coffee break in Linguaglossa. The town was founded in 1586 on a lava stream.
The former fishing port of Giardini Naxos is now popular with summer visitors who flock to its many beaches.
Porcini del Etna mushroom soup with
life, unlike the comparatively crowded
THE NEXT morning started with the
cream and basil, followed by Pistachio
Randazzo. En route we stopped at the
news of bad weather along our planned
de Bronte Farfalle. The chef told us that
Alcantara Gorges, a massive rocky chasm
route, which meant shortening our trip.
pistachios, also known as the ‘green gold
created by Mount Etna’s eruptions that
Still, it wasn’t all bad news as I started my
of Etna’, are highly prized in Sicily. The
have literally split mountains in two.
day with the Fat Boy Lo, which belongs to
majority of the nuts come from Bronte, an
The gorges are surrounded by lush
the softail family and was immortalised by
area situated on the base of Mount Etna.
woods fed by waters running off the
Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2:
Next on our plate was hand cut Salsiccia.
volcano’s slopes and the southern regions
Judgement Day. The Fat Boy epitomises
As if this wasn’t enough the chef brought
of the Nebrodi Mountains. Thanks to
the slammed boulevard cruiser look, but
Polpette, meat sandwiched between two
our heavy Sicilian lunch we were in no
Harley-Davidson takes it one step further
glossy lemon leaves that infuse it with a
mood to clamber the 50 metres down
with the Fat Boy Lo, which has an even
delicate citrus taste. The coup de grâce
to the river, attractive as it looked, so we
lower, darker appearance.
came in the form of Sicilian Pistachio cake
headed back to the hotel for a rendezvous
and Fichi D’India (Prickly Pear cactus
with a massive Sicilian dinner.
We threaded our way through a vibrant throng of people towards the interior of
fruit) accompanied by a shot of espresso! After this heavy Sicilian lunch we swapped motorcycles again, and this time I was on my favourite: the Roadking Classic. This touring bike takes the
Sicilian roads are a biker’s dream with small roads and tight curves winding through stunning countryside.
nostalgic look and feel of the Road King a little further with extra details such as leather-wrapped saddlebags, which easily accommodate a pair of shoes, a change of clothes and a few bottles of water. Then there’s the nostalgic chrome fuel tank, tooled metal detailing on the fender, tank, seat and bags, and chrome-laced wheels with wide whitewall tires. It also comes standard with its biggest engine yet: the Twin Cam 103 V-Twin. After Rendozza we passed Castiglione di Sicilia, a small town with few signs of Portfolio
The medieval main street of Taormina is filled with high-end fashion shops and upmarket restaurants.
can be removed in under a minute without
the small medieval town on foot. The
tools. I enjoyed the ride, minus windshield,
Greek amphitheatre is Taormina’s tourist
to the summer resort of Zafferana Etnea.
highlight and also the most celebrated
This town developed around the Priory
ruin in Sicily. The theatre, on an elevation
of San Giacomo in the upper part of the
east of the city, is the largest remain of
A pistachio cake. Pistachios are known as the ‘green gold of Etna’ and feature heavily in Sicilian cuisine.
Valle del Bove. Unfortunately this is at the
ancient Taormina with a diameter of
confluence of lava streams from Mount
some 109 metres and an arena area of 35
Etna’s Eastern craters, which frequently
square metres. It might look familiar as
Sicily. Wasting no time, we settled into the
have destroyed Zafferana Etnea although
Woody Allen filmed Mighty Aphrodite
ride and enjoyed the still perfect weather.
it has always been rebuilt. In the 1992
here. Next on the list was Madonna della
A few photo opportunities later we were
eruption it came close to being wiped off
Rocca or Madonna of the Rock, which is
riding through Giardini Naxos, which was
the map again. Surroundings Zafferana
a charming chapel carved out of a natural
once a quiet village but is now famed for
Etnea are sites of both natural and
grotto, but to get there is a steep climb.
its beaches, panoramic view of the bay and
historical interest, such as the Bove Valley
By the time we reached the summit the
small fishing port. It attracts foreign visitors
with the old craters of Rocca degli Zappini
promised bad weather had arrived and it
and Italians alike, many of whom own
and Serra Giannicola Grande, and the
started pouring down.
summer residences here. In July and August
Sentiero Natura di Monte Zoccolaro – a
the beaches are apparently at bursting
century old chestnut forest.
point, especially around Ferragosto on 15
After a quick shot of espresso we headed
Initially we took shelter under a small souvenir shop but soon realised it wasn’t helping much. So we rushed towards
August when it is customary to camp on the
towards the Harley-Davidson Catania
the chapel, opened the doors and found
beach and go for a midnight swim.
dealership to return the bikes. Surprisingly,
ourselves smack in the middle of a 50th
the dealership had a large room filled with
wedding anniversary celebration. Despite
day was short and I wanted to ride as many
vintage models ranging from 1924 all the
looking like drowned rats, the Sicilian
Harleys as possible. This time it was the
way to the present. It was a fitting end to
family welcomed us and soon we were
Dyna Switchback, which is like two bikes
two days of cruising around some of Sicily’s
talking in animated sign language while
in one with detachable hard saddlebags
finest roads on our trusty steeds.
sharing hot espresso. Somehow, this warm
It was time for another change as the
act of local kindness perfectly summed up
and windshield. This ‘switchback’ happens quickly as the windshield and saddlebags February 2012
BACK AT Taormina it was time to explore
my Sicily experience. n
PERMAFROST THAW COULD COMPOUND WARMING Scientists have long known that permafrost in the northern hemisphere is preventing a huge amount of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere. But as the permafrost warms, scientists fear the release of carbon dioxide and methane could rapidly intensify global warming, reports Justin Gillis. Portfolio
Essentials Environment biggest looming mysteries about the
so, and NASA is considering a similar
future of the earth.
plan. But researchers say the money
Experts have long known that northern lands were a storehouse of frozen carbon, locked up in the form of leaves, roots and
and people devoted to the issue are still minimal compared with the risk. For now, scientists have many more
other organic matter trapped in icy soil
questions than answers. Preliminary
– a mix that, when thawed, can produce
computer analyses, made only recently,
methane and carbon dioxide, gases that
suggest that the Arctic and sub-Arctic
trap heat and warm the planet. But they
regions could eventually become an
have been stunned in recent years to
annual source of carbon equal to 15 per
realise just how much organic debris
cent or so of today’s yearly emissions from
there is. A recent estimate suggests that
human activities. But those calculations
the perennially frozen ground known
were deliberately cautious. A recent survey
as permafrost, which underlies nearly
drew on the expertise of 41 permafrost
a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere,
scientists to offer more informal
contains twice as much carbon as the
projections. They estimated that if human
fossil-fuel burning remained high and the
Temperatures are warming across much
planet warmed sharply, the gases from
of that region, primarily, scientists believe,
permafrost could eventually equal 35 per
because of the rapid human release of
cent of today’s annual human emissions.
greenhouse gases. Permafrost is also
“Even if it’s five or 10 per cent of today’s
warming. Some has already thawed, and
emissions, it’s exceptionally worrying,
other signs are emerging that the frozen
and 30 per cent is humongous,” said
carbon may be becoming unstable.
Josep Canadell, a scientist in Australia
“It’s like broccoli in your freezer,” said
who runs a global programme to monitor
Kevin Schaefer, a scientist at the National
greenhouse gases. “It will be a chronic
Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder,
source of emissions that will last hundreds
Colorado. “As long as the broccoli stays in
the freezer, it’s going to be OK. But once Methane, a particularly powerful greenhouse gas, collects under the ice near Fairbanks, Alaska.
KATEY WALTER Anthony had been
in the fridge, it will thaw out and
told to hunt for methane, and she could
not find it. As a young researcher at the
If a substantial amount of the carbon
University of Alaska, Fairbanks, she
BUBBLE ROSE THROUGH
should enter the atmosphere, it would
wanted to figure out how much of that
a hole in the surface of a frozen
intensify the planetary warming. An
gas was escaping from lakes in areas of
lake in Fairbanks, Alaska. It
especially worrisome possibility is that a
permafrost thaw. She was doing field work
popped, followed by another, and another,
significant proportion will emerge not as
in Siberia in 2000, scattering bubble traps
as if a pot were somehow boiling in the
carbon dioxide, the gas that usually forms
around various lakes in the summer, but
when organic material breaks down, but as
she got almost nothing.
Every bursting bubble sent up a puff
© 2011 NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
you take it out of the freezer and put it
methane, produced when the breakdown
of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas
occurs in lakes or wetlands. Methane is
generated beneath the lake from the decay
especially potent at trapping the sun’s heat,
of plant debris. These plants last saw the
and the potential for large new methane
light of day 30,000 years ago and have
emissions in the Arctic is one of the
been locked in a deep freeze – until now.
biggest wild cards in climate science.
“That’s a hot spot,” declared Katey Walter
Scientists have declared that
Anthony, a leading scientist in studying
understanding the problem is a major
the escape of methane.
priority. The US Department of Energy
It was another small clue for scientists struggling to understand one of the February 2012
and the European Union recently committed to new projects aimed at doing
“As long as the broccoli stays in the freezer, it’s going to be OK. But once you take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge, it will thaw out and eventually decay. ”
Then, that October, the lakes froze over.
the air as carbon dioxide, the primary
much heat as the carbon dioxide would. Walter Anthony’s seminal discovery
Plumes of methane that had been hard to
greenhouse gas. But in areas where
spot on a choppy lake surface in summer
oxygen is limited, like the bottom of a
was that methane rose from lake bottoms
suddenly became more visible.
lake or wetland, a group of bacteria
not as diffuse leaks, as many scientists
called methanogens will break down the
had long assumed, but in a handful of
it looked like the starry night sky,” Walter
organic material, and the carbon will
scattered, vigorous plumes, some of them
Anthony said. “You could see these bubble
emerge as methane.
capable of putting out many quarts of gas
“I went out on the ice, this black ice, and
clusters everywhere. I realised – ‘aha!’ –
Scientists are worried about both gases.
this is where all the methane is.”
per day. In certain lakes they accounted
They believe that most of the carbon will
for most of the emerging methane, but
emerge as carbon dioxide, with only a few
previous research had not taken them
deep freeze, it is consumed by bacteria.
per cent of it being converted to methane.
into consideration. That meant big
If the material is well-aerated, bacteria
But because methane is such a potent
upward revisions were probably needed in
that breathe oxygen will perform the
greenhouse gas, the 41 experts in the recent
estimates of the amount of methane lakes
breakdown, and the carbon will enter
survey predicted it would trap about as
might emit as permafrost thawed.
When organic material comes out of the
Most of the lakes Walter Anthony studies were formed by a peculiar
EXTENT OF PERMAFROST
Perennially frozen ground, known as permafrost, underlies nearly a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere and stores a huge amount of carbon.
Continuous 90% 50% 10%
way a concrete pillar supports a building. But when thaw begins, the ground sometimes turns to mush and the entire area, known as a thermokarst. A lake or
Anaktuvuk River fire
wetland can form there, with the dark surface of the water capturing the sun’s
heat and causing still more permafrost to thaw nearby.
Sea ice extent Sept. 2011
Near thermokarst locations, trees
often lean crazily because their roots are disturbed by the rapid changes in the
underlying landscape, creating “drunken
supports the ground surface, almost the
land surface collapses into a low-lying
mechanism. Permafrost that is frozen hard
forests.” And the thawing, as it feeds on
itself, frees up more and more ancient plant debris.
ONE DAY in 2007, on the plain in
northern Alaska, a lightning strike set
the tundra on fire. Historically, tundra, a landscape of lichens, mosses and delicate plants, was too damp to burn. But the PERMAFROST FORMATION AND THAWING
climate in the area is warming and drying, Forest
and fires in both the tundra and forest regions of Alaska are increasing.
Ancient grass and shrubs
Seasonally frozen soil, silt and debris Continuously frozen ground
ANCIENT PLANTS removed carbon from the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide. When the plants died, much of their stored carbon was trapped and frozen in layers of soil and glacial silt.
OVER THOUSANDS OF YEARS the layers of soil and debris built up to form a deep layer of continuously frozen ground, called permafrost, which now contains twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere.
Sources: National Snow and Ice Data Center; BioScience; National Research Council Canada; NASA
N.Y. Times News Service Date: 12/20/11
The Anaktuvuk River fire burned about
1,035 square kilometres of tundra, and Thaw
CARBON ESCAPES when organic material in permafrost thaws and decomposes. Carbon dioxide is released in aerated areas, but in lakes and wetlands carbon bubbles up as methane, an especially potent greenhouse gas. JONATHAN CORUM/THE NEW YORK TIMES
work on lake sediments showed that no fire of that scale had occurred in the region in at least 5,000 years. Scientists have calculated that the fire and its aftermath sent a huge pulse of Portfolio
Katey Walter Anthony is a leading scientist in studying the escape of methane. With temperatures warming across much of the Northern Hemisphere, permafrost is also warming and releasing more greenhouse gases.
carbon into the air – as much as would
do not yet understand could speed the
be emitted in two years by a city the size
release of carbon from permafrost – or,
of Miami. Scientists say the fire thawed
possibly, slow it more than they expect.
the upper layer of permafrost and set off
thawing permafrost could spur denser plant
growth in the Arctic, and the plants would
Up to now, the Arctic has been
should fires like the one at Anaktuvuk River
once expected to keep doing so throughout
race across warming northern landscapes,
this century. But recent analyses suggest
immense amounts of organic material in
that the permafrost thaw could turn the
vegetation, soils, peat deposits and thawed
Arctic into a net source of carbon, possibly
permafrost could burn.
did not account for fire. “I maintain that the fastest way you’re
take up some carbon dioxide. Conversely,
absorbing carbon, on balance, and was
within a decade or two, and those studies
As the permafrost warms, trees become destabilised and start leaning at acute angles.
For instance, nutrients released from
what they fear will be permanent shifts in
Edward Schuur, a University of Florida researcher who has done extensive field work in Alaska, is worried by the changes
going to lose permafrost and release
he already sees, including the discovery
permafrost carbon to the atmosphere is
that carbon buried since before the dawn
increasing fire frequency,” said Michelle
of civilisation is now escaping.
Mack, a University of Florida scientist who
“To me, it’s a spine-tingling feeling, if it’s
is studying the Anaktuvuk fire. “It’s a rapid
really old carbon that hasn’t been in the air
and catastrophic way you could completely
for a long time, and now it’s entering the
air,” Schuur said. “That’s the fingerprint of
The essential question scientists need to answer is whether the many factors they
a major disruption, and we aren’t going to be able to turn it off someday.” n
MEN, ONCE AGAIN, INVEST IN SKIN CARE
In the middle of the ‘90s there was a boom in male cosmetics but it quickly died down. Now there’s a resurgence, and it might be due to the tight employment market, reports Douglas Quenqa. Thomas Sullivan, who uses some pricey skin-care products, in New York
OT LONG AGO, THOMAS Sullivan’s beauty routine began and ended with Irish Spring.
But as Sullivan, an entrepreneur, actor, film producer and restaurant owner, approached 40, he realised his livelihood might benefit from a bit more personal maintenance. “I have to take advantage of any way I can to look, if not younger, healthy,” said Sullivan, who is 43. “Working in the restaurant and film industry leaves little time for sleep or working out with any regularity.” So, he started investing in some pricey skin-care products. Today, Sullivan can rattle off a half-dozen creams that make up his daily routine. All in all, he estimates that he spends about $600 a year on such products. Graduating from bar soap to, say, organic face wash is a transition many men will never make, let alone adding concealers, herbal moisturisers or age-defying sunscreens to their daily routines. Some men tried in the middle of the previous decade – we called them metrosexuals – but the fad quickly died out, dragging sales of just-for-men beauty products down with it. © 2012 NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
But there is once again a demand among men for high-end skin-care products, in spite of moribund economies. Or maybe because of it. The reason, beauty analysts say, is a changing attitude among men, who now associate healthy-looking skin less with vanity than with professionalism. Portfolio
Essentials Fashion “The biggest thing in my view is guys
men have periodically shown an interest
they say, men do not have to work in front
want it to work, and it has to work right
in expanding their skin-cream horizons,
of a camera to place a higher premium on
away,” said Yeh.
they are likely to reverse themselves.
TO AVOID that pitfall, some products
involved in the category back in 2003 and
look better to be competitive,” said Celeste
are now taking their cues direct from frat
2004, we didn’t see that men were so quick
Hilling, the founder and chief executive
culture. Witness the new morning-after
to change their behaviour,” said Karen
of Skin Authority, a brand of skin creams
Rescue Gel produced by Nickel, a men’s
Grant, the senior beauty industry analyst
that introduced a men’s line in 2010.
skin-care line that has evolved into a chain
with the NPD Group. “The majority of men
At a time when job security is at a low,
“As much as everyone was getting
being presentable. “Men today say they feel they have to
of spas. This blue-tinted cream loaded with
still don’t know they have a skin-care issue.
for men jumped five per cent that year,
caffeine, coffee extract and soy protein
Because of that, they’re not necessarily
and rose another 12 per cent in 2011,
was designed as the beauty equivalent of a
feeling that they need to use a product
according to the NPD Group, a market
hangover cure. “It’s made for the morning
specifically designed for their face.”
research firm. Women buying products for
when you didn’t sleep the night before,”
men account for only 25 per cent of those
said Steven Morales, a spokesman at the
Sullivan said he still uses Irish Spring in
sales: Most of the time, men buy these
Nickel Spa in Chelsea. “The soy protein
the shower. And for every man like him,
products for themselves.
helps tighten the skin, and the caffeine
there are many more like Jaime Llorca, an
helps bring blood to the surface.”
engineer from Barcelona, Spain.
Sales of premium skin-care products
Looking to capitalise on the trend, manufacturers are again filling shelves
There are other signs that men are
Even with his $600 a year habit,
Two years ago, a female friend took him to buy premium skin products.
with creams designed for men. This time,
open to incorporating new products and
though, they are trying to avoid the too-
techniques if the items will make them
prissy mistakes of the previous decade.
look or feel younger. Sales of Botox and
months,” he said, and then never bought
other fillers for men increased 10 per
them again. The problem was not that he
products is so different than eight years
cent in 2010, according to the American
didn’t like or couldn’t afford the products.
ago,” Hilling said. “These guys who always
Society of Plastic Surgeons. But while
“I just didn’t see a difference,” he said. n
“The man today purchasing these
thought it was vain or too metrosexual” to splurge on beauty products “now think it’s almost a badge they wear to say, ‘I’m a modern guy because I care about my skin.’” A common theme among the new crop of men’s products is that they are multitaskers. Sunscreens double as moisturisers, and toners double as conditioners. Indeed, all the items in the Skin Authority Man line, including a daily sunscreen and a toner, are labelled “age-defying,” an acknowledgment that most men are not likely to buy a separate wrinkle reverser. “Men are very utilitarian,” Hilling said. When it comes to beauty routines, “they are willing to do two steps, not eight, like a woman.” Many men are wary of any product that will add time to their morning routine. They also tend to be more sceptical of overthe-top promises made by manufacturers. Even claims to halt aging can serve as a turnoff, said Blake Yeh, founder of Organic Regimens, another new line. February 2012
“These guys who always thought it was vain or too metrosexual” to splurge on beauty products “now think it’s almost a badge they wear to say, ‘I’m a modern guy because I care about my skin.’”
“I used them for maybe two, three
WINGS OF FORTUNE
Hans Wiesman likes to hunt for World War II warplanes. It’s a passion that’s taken him from the jungles of Colombia and the wilds of Alaska to the mosquito-soaked swamps of Puerto Rico and the army scrap yards of Madagascar, reports Andy Round.
ANS LIKES TO TRAVEL.
collection, the shark’s jaws, the aircraft
He likes to get into
memorabilia and the clutter of photos
adventures. And like a
– Hans as a boy on a Borneo airstrip;
21st-century Indiana Jones he’s a man
Hans partying with Patrick Swazye;
with a mission. This dedicated father of
Hans on motorbikes; Hans posing next
five with a Harley-Davidson obsession,
to a Dakota wreck…
a shock of curly hair and windsurfer
After a stint as a nightclub owner in
physique that defies his 65 years, hunts
his native Netherlands and 24 years
down ancient Dakota DC-3 aircraft
flying around the world seven months
for a living and converts the parts into
out of 12 as an international promotions
executive for Rothmans “before tobacco
It means he gets to see the world.
advertising restrictions meant everyone
This self-styled ‘Dakota Hunter’ has
in marketing lost their jobs”, Wiesman
been threatened with kidnap by FARC
settled on a unique business plan.
in the jungles of Colombia, negotiated
“I had been sourcing old aircraft parts
with the wrong end of warlords’ guns in
to use as props to dress shop corners that
Madagascar, watched blood drain from
were selling Rothman’s Pall Mall clothing
Bolivian Dakotas, dodged grizzly bears
range,” he remembers. “Then one day my
in the wilds of Alaska and pulled wrecks
neighbour Dolph brought a shiny wing
out of mosquito-infested swamps. “It’s
tip from Miami, and we stumbled upon
better than staying at home,” he laughs.
the idea of converting the wing tips of
At a time when most pensioners
Dakotas into unique tables by stripping
might be considering a cruise for their
off the paint, polishing the aluminium
holidays, Wiesman is planning a trip to
and adding legs.”
Zimbabwe. He’s heard about a bunch
With Dolph as a partner, Avionart.
of Dakotas due to appear at auction.
com was created and since 1999 the
“Once they were used in anger against
company has sold 162 tables for prices
Mugabe, now they are being sold by
over ¤20,000. The only problem, of
him,” he chuckles over coffee.
course, is that supply is running out.
The walls of Wiesman’s apartment speak of a colourful life, the knife
Hans Wiesman travels around the world looking for Dakota DC-3 aircraft. He fashions parts of the plane into furniture.
Occasionally Wiesman will come across an abandoned Dakota on a remote Portfolio
airstrip – “something that is becoming
transporting drugs, tourists, weapons,
and when the family was relocated to
increasingly rare” – or race to an aircraft
cattle, pesticides, holidaymakers or troops
remote 1950s Borneo, the young aircraft
bone-yard to try and beat the scrap
for new civil war militias.
enthusiast would rush to the airfield
merchants who want to squeeze the last
“The number of usable wrecks is
whenever a Dakota was scheduled
dollar out of the old warbird by smelting
dwindling all the time, but there are
to arrive. Fuelled with the promise
it into ingots.
plenty of Dakotas still flying,” Wiesman
of packages from home and perhaps
says. “They connect communities. In
a coveted Dinky toy or two from his
THE DAKOTA is a real 75-year-old
Alaska, for example, they bring fuel, food,
grandparents, the Dakota came to
workhorse. It transported American
people and supplies to remote areas that
represent a connection to the outside
paratroopers during World War II,
would be lost without them. I’ve flown on
world, a romantic but vital link to
liberated countries across Europe, took
a Dakota to a goldmine town deep in the
part in the Korean and Vietnamese wars
Colombian jungle. Everything that was
and played a key role in the Berlin airlift.
used to start the community was brought
Wiesman to visit some of the most
After being decommissioned its reliability,
there by Dakota.”
inhospitable places in the world using
It’s a romance that has inspired
a complicated network of informers,
light weight, easy maintenance and big
The Dakota as a reliable lifeline is
balloon tires that made it easy to land
something that Wiesman knows only
enthusiasts and military men to help him
anywhere was found to be perfect for
too well. His father worked for Shell
in his quest. “In Madagascar I soon realised
Dakota's, thanks to their sturdiness, simplicity and ability to land almost anywhere, are still in use around the world. The first DC-3 flew in 1935.
that the collection of five former World
The warlord was not happy when we met
him across the continent, but it was in
War II Dakotas donated to the air force
again… we left pretty quickly.” Then came
Colombia that he struck Dakota gold. The
by the French was effectively owned by a
revolts, violence, civil war, the warlord
first time he arrived in 2006, he attempted
militia warlord,” laughs Wiesman.
disappeared and the Dakotas were
to go south from Bogota to the wild jungle
chopped into pieces for scrap and smelted
frontier city of Villavicencio. “I was given a
to buy them off the ‘colonel’ and he said
down for a few dollars. “It’s a sad end for
pass for two days because the military said
he would give them to me in exchange
such historic aircraft.”
I was simply too easy a FARC kidnap target
“After two years of negotiations, I tried
for a $250,000 Piper Navajo. He was
and it would take around 48 hours for
serious, so I then went to the Defence
WIESMAN HAS enjoyed better luck in
someone to report me, for a taxi to pick me
Ministry that actually owned the aircraft.
South America. His adventures have taken
up and for me to disappear into the jungle until a ransom was paid.” Three years later the violent drug wars that had fuelled so much national anguish were starting to recede and more importantly, the Dakotas that had been used for trafficking had been seized by
Wiesman with the wreck of a Dakota he found in Yukon, Canada. Although more than 16,000 DC-3s were built in total, it is getting harder to find them today.
“I found 12 wing tips there and a lot of US-trained Colombian pilots wearing night goggles, flying helicopters at midnight and using heavy guns to flush out armed drug gangs and guerrillas.” Portfolio
Essentials Profile the military. Wiesman was on the next plane out. “I found 12 wing tips there
cheap and easy way to transport essentials.
two tips but was stopped from taking
In Florida, Wiesman hired a crane to
more by the air force. It was a bitter
and a lot of US-trained Colombian pilots
pull a decrepit 1944 war veteran Dakota
disappointment made worse by the news
wearing night goggles, flying helicopters
from the mosquito-infested Tampa swamp
that violent currents tore the aircraft from
at midnight and using heavy guns to flush
and sold the cockpit to a Dutch museum;
their submerged mooring and drifted out
out armed drug gangs and guerrillas.”
in Puerto Rico another swamp-dwelling
to open sea.
The huge balloon tires of the Dakota
Dakota was found to contain a cargo of
and an engine maintenance that even a
dangerous killer wasps and had to be
BY THE time Wiesman set out for Alaska
car mechanic can pull off make it ideal for
abandoned. In Thailand, five Dakotas
in 2007 he feared that his worldwide wing
landing on non-existent airstrips and for use
were sunk to create an artificial reef for
tip supply was drying up. He visited crash
by remote communities struggling to find a
divers. Wiesman was able to salvage
sites, scrap yards and followed stories of mythical Dakotas lost in the mists of legend. At one stage he even scoured the grizzly bear populated Ruby Mountains by helicopter where he came across a Dakota that had lost engine power in 1950 and been forced to glide into a crash landing on the snow. It was in remarkable condition and as bright silver as the day it was manufactured. All 10 people on board escaped alive after the pilot walked through eight miles of snow to the Alaska Highway. “But still no wing tips. With so many grizzlies around and with the mist starting to fall we got in the helicopter and left. I’d
Wiesman has a network of enthusiasts, military men and informers who let him know where to find DC-3s. Most of the aircraft are about to be scrapped, so he’s always in a race against time.
thought Alaska would be a great source of wing tips, but no luck, so I decided to go to Canada where I had spent weeks meeting the operators of Dakotas still in operation. Then on the last day in an old barn that contained vintage cars and old wrecks there were 12 wing tips hidden by dust. It was an incredible moment.” Wiesman grins. “You win some you lose some.” n
The end result of Wiesman’s search around the world are tables made from Dakota wingtips. The tables sell for more than €20,000. February 2012
Wiesman aboard a decommissioned DC-3. It is estimated that there are around 400 still flying worldwide.
In Demand In an effort to add reality, Hollywood and TV studios are ordering new languages such as Dothraki and Naâ€™vi to complement fantasy and sci-fi releases, reports Amy Chozik.
Dothraki, an invented language for the HBO series Game of Thrones, started with a vocabulary of 3,250 words.
T HIS BEST FRIEND’S
a 30-year-old who studied linguistics at
characters greet each other by saying
wedding reception on the
the University of California, San Diego,
“M’athchomaroon!” (hello), give each
California coast, David Peterson
is a ‘con-langer,’ a person who constructs
other commands like “Azzohi haz khogare”
stood to deliver his best-man toast to the
new languages. Until recently, this mostly
(put down that cask) and occasionally
newlyweds. He held his champagne glass
quixotic linguistic pursuit, born out of
utter sentiments like “Vezh fin saja
high and shouted “hajas!” The 50 guests
a passion for words and grammatical
rhaesheseres vo zigereo adoroon shiqethi!”
raised their glasses and chanted “hajas!”
structures, lived on little-visited websites
(the stallion that mounts the world has no
or in college dissertations.
need for iron chairs!) that don’t seem to
© 2011 NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
The word, which means “be strong” and
Today, a desire in Hollywood to infuse
make sense in any language. “The days of aliens spouting gibberish
is pronounced “hah-DZHAS,” has great
fantasy and science-fiction movies,
significance for Peterson. He invented
television series and video games with a
with no grammatical structure are over,”
it, along with 3,250 other words (and
sense of believability is driving demand
said Paul Frommer, professor emeritus of
counting), in the language he created for
for constructed languages, complete with
clinical management communication at
the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones,
grammatical rules, a written alphabet
the University of Southern California who
(hieroglyphics are acceptable) and enough
created Na’vi, the language spoken by the
vocabulary for basic conversations.
blue inhabitants of Pandora in Avatar.
Some people build model railroads or re-enact Civil War battles; Peterson,
In Game of Thrones, Dothraki-speaking
Disney recently hired Frommer to develop
a Martian language called Barsoomian
There have been many attempts to
for John Carter, a science-fiction movie
create languages, often for specific
premiering in March.
political effect. In the 1870s, a Polish
The shift is slowly transforming the
doctor invented Esperanto, meant to be
obscure hobby of language construction
a simplified international language that
into a viable, albeit rare, career and
would bring world peace. Suzette Haden
engaging followers of fantasies like Lord
Elgin created Laaden as a language better
of the Rings, Game of Thrones and Avatar on a more fanatical level. At Game of Thrones viewing parties in San Francisco, fans rewatched Dothraki scenes to study the language in a workshop-like setting. Last October, a group of Na’vi speakers from half a dozen countries convened in Sonoma County, California for a gathering known as ‘Teach the Teachers’. Frommer gave attendants tips on grammar and vocabulary and fielded any questions they had about the language. The rural, wooded setting felt “almost like being on Pandora,” he said. At a question-and-answer session last July that he participated in, at least a dozen attendants rattled off their questions in fluent Na’vi. “There’s been a sea change in Hollywood. They realise there’s a fan base out there that wants constructed languages,” said Matt Pearson, a linguistics professor at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. He created Thhtmaa (pronounced tukhh-t’-mah), the language of termite-like aliens in the short-lived NBC series Dark Skies.
suited for expressing women’s points
Game of Thrones, based on the bestselling novels A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, may be the biggest television showcase for an invented language. The books, which primarily follow feuding kingdoms in the fictional land of Westeros, had a scattering of Dothraki words, but the show’s executive producers wanted a fully formed language. Several scenes in Game of Thrones take place entirely in Dothraki with English subtitles. In one episode the shirtless tribal leader Khal Drogo delivered a monologue for two and a half minutes in Dothraki, with its subject-verb-object structure and no copula, or linking verb.
of view. But none of the hundreds of languages created for social reasons developed as ardent a following as those created for movies, television and books,
Klingon, a language that was created by Marc Okrand for Star Trek III, has spawned a whole industry ranging from Monopoly to dictionaries.
THE MOTIVATION to learn an auxiliary language isn’t so different from why people pick up French or Italian, she said. “Learning a language, even a natural language, is more of an emotional decision than a practical one. It’s about belonging to a group,” she said. Richard Littauer, a 23-year-old linguistics graduate student at the University of Saarland in Germany, maintains Dothraki.org, complete with an David Peterson invented the Dothraki language.
“For years people have been trying to engineer better languages and haven’t succeeded as well as the current era of language for entertainment sake alone.” says Arika Okrent, author of In the Land
of Invented Languages. “For years people have been trying to engineer better languages and haven’t succeeded as well as the current era of language for entertainment sake alone,” Okrent said.
English-Dothraki dictionary and grammar guidelines. “I was raised watching Pocahontas speak fluent English,” Littauer said. “Linguistic diversity is one of the main ways you feel like you’re in a new culture.” The watershed moment for invented languages was the creation of a Klingon language by the linguist Marc Okrand for
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (on the original Star Trek television series, Klingons spoke mostly English). That led to a Klingon Language Institute (a registered nonprofit), a Klingon version of Monopoly, an official dictionary and a published translation of Hamlet. (The Klingon race does not worship in the traditional sense, so instead of Hamlet going to pray, he does calisthenics.) Klingon, with its throaty, harsh sound, is notoriously tough to pick up. Even the creator has problems. (“I’ll admit, I’m not a very good speaker,” Okrand said in an Portfolio
Essentials Culture letter combinations and sounds he liked. His favorite sound is “JH” as in “genre,” so he made the word for man in Dothraki mahrazh. “I said to myself, if I won the right to coin the word man, it better be cool,” Peterson said. After he amassed a small vocabulary, Peterson tested out basic grammar. He adored the 18 noun classes in Swahili and the negative verb forms in Estonian, both influences in his created languages. He scribbled sample sentences and added suffixes and prefixes to expand the vocabulary. He aims to eventually grow A language called Na’vi was created by Paul Frommer for the movie Avatar. Some fans can speak the language fluently.
Dothraki to around 10,000 words – or about the equivalent of college-level foreign language proficiency. In addition
interview.) Fewer than 20 people are fully
horse (including “hrazefishi” for a teeny-
to the Dothraki site, there is an official
fluent in Klingon, though thousands more
Na’vi grammar guide run in part by
know enough to get by.
Next, Peterson tried to establish
William Annis, a 42-year-old who works
words that would be native and basic
in information technology in Madison,
Language Creation Society, the first
(meaning they are not derived from
Wisconsin. He occasionally consults with
professional organisation for people who
another Dothraki word), toying with
Frommer, Na’vi’s creator.
In 2007, Peterson helped found the
create languages. He won an open call to create a language for Game of Thrones. He submitted a 180-page proposal complete with a dictionary and audio files of spoken Dothraki judged by a double-blind committee of other language creators and finally, by the executive producers. It’s not the first language Peterson has come up with. Before Dothraki, he invented 12 others, including his personal favourites: Zhyler, inspired
“There are the language nerds who just find grammar interesting and the Na’vi folks who paint themselves blue and go to conventions.”
But as with any language, there is a certain snob appeal built in. Among Dothraki, Na’vi and Klingon speakers, a divide has grown between fans who master the language as a linguistic challenge, and those who pick up a few phrases because they love the mythology. “There are the language nerds who just find grammar interesting and the Na’vi folks who paint themselves blue and go to conventions,” Annis said. n
loosely by Turkish, and Kamakawi, which nods toward Hawaiian. DOTHRAKI came with its own challenges. Martin’s books described the Dothraki people as nomadic warriors who live in grass fields and survive mostly on horsemeat. “First you say ‘Should this word exist at all?’” Peterson said. He decided that the Dothraki, with their long braids, or “jahaki,” wouldn’t have a word for toilet, cellphone or even book since that implies they have a printing press. The Dothraki do however have more than 14 words for February 2012
Invented movie languages have spawned a whole sub-industry.
TRACKING AN ANCIENT
An isotope known as krypton 81 has been instrumental in unravelling the mysteries of the Nubian Aquifer, reports Felicity Barringer.
Water from the Nubian Aquifer is used to make the Libyan desert bloom. Portfolio
THE NUBIAN AQUIFER, THE font of fabled oases in Egypt and Libya, stretches languidly across almost two million square kilometres of northern Africa, a pointillist collection of underground pools of water migrating, ever so slowly, through rock and sand toward the Mediterranean Sea. The aquifer is one of the world’s oldest. But its workings – how it flows and how quickly surface water replenishes it – have been hard to understand, in part because the tools available to study it have provided, at best, a blurry image. Now, to solve some of the puzzles, physicists at the Department of Energy’s GETTY IMAGES
© 2011 NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois have turned to one of the rarest particles on earth: an elusive radioactive isotope usually ricocheting around in the
Cleopatra’s Bath, at the famed Siwa Oasis in Egypt, is fed by water from the Nubian Aquifer.
atmosphere at hundreds of kilometres an hour. Their first success was in distilling these elusive isotopes, krypton 81, from the
water in the huge Nubian Aquifer, part of
older bodies of water had long been
which lies 3.2 kilometres below the oases
elusive. Carbon 14 dating, so useful in
of western Egypt where temples honour
archaeology, reaches back just 50,000
Alexander the Great. Their second was in
years or so.
holding these isotopes still and measuring how much they had decayed since they last saw sunlight. Knowing how long water has
It is now clear that the Nubian Aquifer has been a million years in the making. “For decades we have been looking at different means of fingerprinting water,”
been underground helps researchers
Aggarwal said. “We used a bunch of
understand how fast aquifers are
different isotopes – stable isotopes – to
recharged by surface water and how fast
trace where the rain comes from. We
they move, leading to more accurate
also used the radioisotopes to figure how
geological models. Groundwater is
quickly groundwater moves.”
becoming an increasingly crucial component of the world’s available fresh
FOR YEARS, scientists had relied on
water, and the findings could significantly
carbon 14 dating indicating the aquifer
increase understanding of how it behaves.
was just 40,000 years old. They knew
Pradeep Aggarwal, who runs the isotope
that krypton 81, an isotope present in the
hydrology section of the International
open air but not underground, would be
Atomic Energy Agency’s water resources
a better marker for the forensic work of
programme, said that success in tracking
tracking underground water’s movement.
When water loses contact with air, the radioactive clock starts; the isotope decays by a factor of two every 230,000 years, and the decay is measurable as far back as two million years. But the krypton 81 isotopes were devilishly difficult to isolate and even more difficult to catch. Zheng-Tian Lu, a physicist at the Argonne laboratory, and his colleagues have spent 14 years mastering and extending techniques to slow down atoms, the same laser-based techniques that were pioneered by the current energy secretary, Steven Chu, in the 1980s, and for which he won a Nobel Prize. When Lu realised the potential benefit of isolating krypton 81 isotopes, “I got
“We used a bunch of different isotopes – stable isotopes – to trace where the rain comes from. We also used the radioisotopes to figure how quickly groundwater moves.” hooked on the problem,” he said. “I tried to use the trapping method I’d already learned to try and solve the radio-krypton dating problem. We are combining the ability to control and manipulate atoms to select krypton 81 out of a million kinds of
Argonne physicist Zheng-Tian Lu (in back) and his team (from left to right) Arjun Sharma, Wei Jiang, Kevin Bailey, and Guomin Yang stand with the ATTA device, which measures individual atoms of the isotope krypton 81 as part of an effort to model underground aquifers and predict how fast they refill.
krypton isotopes,” he added. There is one
slow down, giving scientists an easier
implications about how to manage waters
krypton atom in every million molecules
target to isolate.
today.” He added, “To manage a water
of water; one in a trillion of these krypton atoms is the krypton 81 isotope.
The process begins when water is extracted from the aquifer without any
resource you need to build a realistic hydrology model.”
The key, he said, is using lasers to
contact with air. Krypton is bled from
pinpoint the frequency at which atoms
the water into a vacuum system. Once
THAT IS where Neil Sturchio, a
oscillate – a loose equivalent of trying to
identified and slowed, the krypton 81
geologist at the University of Illinois
determine the exact pitch of a musical
isotopes are trapped by six laser beams
at Chicago, comes in. He works with
note. Detecting the infinitesimal
focusing on them from the four cardinal
the most accepted model of how water
differences in isotopes’ resonance is hard,
points of the compass and from above and
flows through the Nubian Aquifer. “The
but when done, lasers can be tuned to
below. Then their decay can be measured.
reason this model was done,” he said, “is
pick up each isotope’s frequency. When
“From this aging information, you
that there is an international agreement
krypton 81 atoms go through a laser
are looking at how the water flowed in
among the countries that share this water”
attuned to them, they glow brightly and
the long past,” Lu said. “But it does have
– Egypt, Libya, Chad and Sudan. Portfolio
The Great Man-Made River is a network of pipes that supplies water from the Nubian Aquifer in the Sahara Desert to Libyan cities and fields. Such major usage makes it essential to be able to calculate the extraction rates of water.
“The issue is if Libya is starting to pump
the International Atomic Energy Agency
useful, he predicts. In addition to being applied
their water seriously and Egypt is doing
pointed out: “As a result of the drawdown
the same thing in their oasis areas, what
we have dried up the oases in a couple
to other aquifers in places like the
happens to the rest of the aquifer? If heavy
of places. In Libya they have dried up
Philippines and Australia, the krypton
pumping comes too close to a coastline,
Kufra Lake.” In 1920, he said, National
81 techniques are being explored as
saltwater may be drawn into the hydrologic
Geographic published a picture of the
a way of tracking underground brine
depression created by the pumping.”
lake at high water. “Right now it is a dry
in places like southeastern New Mexico,
bed, because they are pumping so heavily,”
where radioactive waste from ships,
submarines and aircraft carriers is
The Nubian Aquifer is not exactly running dry; it is filled with the equivalent
And even though the aquifer is huge,
“As a result of the drawdown we have dried up the oases in a couple of places. In Libya they have dried up Kufra Lake.”
its recharge rate, at best, “is measured in
stored underground. In the end, management of nuclear
millimetres per year,” Aggarwal said – tiny
waste, like management of water, is a
compared with what is being pumped out.
In addition, Sturchio said, there
“There are a lot of different calculations
remains the question of how best to
that go into exploiting a resource,”
extract water: “where you put wells, how
Aggarwal said. “In most cases, decisions of
deep, how close to each other. If you
whether to use or not to use, or how much
design it the right way, you can get a lot
to use, are social, political and economic
more water without problems,” he went
decisions.” Still, he said, “the more reliable
of more than 500 years of Nile River flow;
on. “But if you put all the wells in one
info we can provide for making those
the groundwater in the Egyptian portion
spot, you could be causing yourself a lot
decisions, the better off we are – what
alone is estimated to exceed 41,681 cubic
of trouble.” Water managers around the
we want to do is get the most accurate
kilometres. Nonetheless, Aggarwal of
world will find the team’s information
information possible.” n
A GOTHIC TOUR OF ITALY Italy might be sunshine and happiness, but it also has a darker side that inspired the original Gothic writers, reports Nina Burleigh.
ISITORS TO ITALY TEND TO
locations in Italy piqued different aspects
seek its sunny, Dionysian side –
of the imagination. Venice seemed to hold
vino, pasta, opera, cinquecento
special appeal for those wishing to mine
art. But, like a chilly draft on a hot day, Italy’s gothic angle offers intimations of
I decided to start my tour in Otranto,
darkness that make a moment on the
a white, cobbled seaside town on the
piazza even more delicious. Consciously
Adriatic edge of Italy’s boot heel, and the
or not, anyone sipping prosecco at sunset
setting for what’s regarded as the first
in Rome or Naples savours an extra spoon
Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto by
of dolce in their vita thanks to the contrast
Walpole. I had visited the town briefly
between the beauty of the present and the
one summer afternoon with children in
proximity of catacombs, ruins and sites
tow. Returning in late autumn, I found
of ancient suffering.
the formerly bustling streets chilly and
The original Gothic writers were much
silent – not as inviting, perhaps, but more
inspired by the duality in the bel paese
in keeping with the intimations of its
(beautiful country). Edgar Allan Poe,
macabre history that I had been reading
Nathaniel Hawthorne, Horace Walpole,
about in guidebooks.
Ann Radcliffe and other masters of the
Otranto, I had learned, is literally
Lining shelves on a wall off to the side
romantic and horror genres set some of
haunted by an old act of evil: a
were 800 human skulls – victims of
their most famous works in Italy.
15th-century massacre that Otrantans
“Italy was the Gothic writers’ favourite
commemorate annually to this day.
The Castle of Otranto was a publishing
background,” wrote Massimiliano Demata,
“Local history is filled with blood and
phenomenon in 1764. Walpole’s short tale
a professor at the University of Bari,
darkness,” an Otranto guide and historian,
describes the supernatural punishment
who has made a study of the form. The
Francesco Calignano, told me as he led me
of an usurping Italian feudal prince in a
country’s baroque portas, ruined castles,
into the Cathedral of Otranto.
haunted castle packed with what we now
eerie reliquaries and catacombs were a
© 2011 NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
pre-Freudian psychological terror.
The cathedral is known for its complex
consider standard fright stock – secret
gateway to the uncanny, possessing, as he
mosaic floor, which depicts scenes
doors, gloomy tunnels, haunted suits of
put it, “a labyrinthine and claustrophobic
from just about every human myth and
armour, portraits of ancestors jumping
architecture that was the novels’ perfect
legend known to the world circa AD
out of their frames. At the time, though,
physical and psychological setting.”
1100, including kabbalah’s tree of life,
these images were so fresh and shocking
Today, these same books can serve as
Confucianism and Puss in Boots.
that Walpole’s little book became an instant best seller in England.
unconventional guidebooks for tourists
We entered on a raw, late-autumn
who tire of the sun and want to explore
morning, and we were the only people
the country’s macabre past.
inside. After admiring the beautiful floor,
seductive pleasures, where a warm
I was led to a truly Gothic spectacle:
afternoon can be passed bathing in azure
For the Gothic writers, different
Modern-day Otranto is a place of
The Roman Forum in Rome. Part of Italyâ€™s attraction is that you are never far from catacombs, ruins and ancient suffering; a fact that greatly influenced the original Gothic writers.
The mosaic floor in the Cathedral of Otranto, which depicts scenes from almost every human myth and legend known to the world circa AD 1100. February 2012
Ann Radcliffe set her best-known novel, The Italian, in Naples. There are numerous Gothic sites just a short wander from the famed Via Toledo shopping street.
seas and gorging on nouvelle Italian
castle keep, a shadowy ruin and creepy,
suburb called Secondigliano. I crossed it
seafood. I paid a few euros and toured
robed stalkers. The plot is simple enough:
off the to-do list, reluctantly.
the castle’s white corridors alone, seeking
A young nobleman of Naples falls in love
signs of Walpole’s ghosts, peering into
with a girl of whom his mother strongly
worth a visit, if only because searching
small, empty, barred rooms, any one of
disapproves. The mother hires an evil
for them allows one to wander the city’s
which could have been a dungeon. On the
monk to do away with her, but the monk
streets, noting the many other Gothic
outside, it is a photogenic and perfectly
discovers that the girl is actually his
charms of Naples that Radcliffe missed.
preserved white fortress. But its turrets,
daughter – the product of an illicit affair.
The book’s lovers, Vivaldi and Ellena, first
gunwales and wide, waterless moat attest
The novel opens with an Englishman
Radcliffe’s other Neapolitan sites are
lay eyes on each other at the church of
to the inhabitants’ defensive terror of the
surveying the Naples church of Santa
San Lorenzo Maggiore, which still stands
invader hundreds of years ago.
Maria del Pianto, which Radcliffe
in Naples’ historic centre – a yellow and
wrote housed “the very ancient convent
grey hulk with an archaeological site
A SHORT flight or a five-hour train trip
of the order of the Black Penitents.”
west across the heel of Italy to Naples
Contemporary visitors can test Radcliffe’s
allows ample time to dig into the works
Gothic imagination against the lively
for my trip I took along The Marble Faun,
of a lesser-known Gothic master,
reality of the teeming city. The church of
by Hawthorne. Hawthorne was reaching
Radcliffe. She was a reclusive
Santa Maria del Pianto is still there, but
the end of his career as a master of the
Englishwoman who like Walpole was
it’s not on any tourist map. It does still
psychological and supernatural horrors of
celebrated in her day for novels, many of
exist, but in what is now a crime-infested
Puritan New England, and this novelistic
Rome is rife with Gothic locations, and
which were set in Italy, that pit seemingly supernatural forces of evil, often associated with Catholicism or small-time feudal tyrants, against guileless young women and their brave, thwarted lovers. Radcliffe’s best-known novel, The Italian, takes place in 18th-century
“Radcliffe’s best-known novel, The Italian, takes place in 18th-century Naples. Almost every page contains a castle keep, a shadowy ruin and creepy, robed stalkers.”
Naples. Almost every page contains a Portfolio
Essentials Culture travelogue is not his best. A two-volume
berating a group of Germans who were
near the roses strewn by worshippers, in
compendium of some of the eerie sites,
ignoring the signs about turning off their
five languages, reminds happy tourists to
it is a meandering tale of three American
cellphones. “Listen,” she exhorted them
drink deeply from the cup of Italy’s joys
artists working in Rome who meet and
in English. “The cellphone lines are too
now, as the eternal shadow looms: “What
befriend a real-life satyr, who seems to
strong for the human bones here. They
you are now we used to be. What we are
have been the flesh-and-blood model for a
are really delicate.”
now you will be.”
The crypt is tiny and claustrophobic,
Back upstairs and on the streets
and the bones’ sickly sweet smell fills a
of Rome, the pleasures of Italy are
packed Capitoline Museums today will find
dimly lighted passageway winding past
immediate and accessible, but also
many statues of the faun, associated with
eight gated displays with arabesques of
complex. Without the darkness, the
Dionysus, who represented the animal in
thousands of bones arranged by type –
country might be as bland as Sweden.
man, simultaneously innocent and lawless.
fingers, patellas, femurs, knuckles, skulls
Looking at Italy through the gothic lens
The faun’s more threatening relative, the
– in lacy flowers, garlands, clocks or urns,
deepens our appreciation of the pain,
satyr, is overtly Luciferian, with horns and
attached to walls and ceiling. In the final
suffering and death that is, along with
cloven hooves. A large satyr of this type
room, the message posted on the floor
love, ease and light, also man’s lot. n
Girls shop at a flea market in Rome after a visit to the catacombs.
The Head of Medusa by Bernini at the Capitoline Museum in Rome.
marble statue in the Capitol. Visitors to the gloriously treasure-
glares archly out from a cupboard in the Egyptian courtyard of the museum. A BUS ride or a leisurely stroll across Rome’s historic centre leads the traveller to another principal site in The Marble Faun – the creepily gorgeous Capuchin Catacombs, where the Hawthorne characters confronted an evil monk. Decorated in Baroque style with the white bones of 4,000 dead monks, the Capuchin Crypt near the luxurious Via Veneto is today a popular stop on any Rome tour. As macabre as it seems, it’s also a sacred site. No cameras, no hats and no summery clothes are allowed. “Tell the Americans, no spaghetti straps,” said Alba, the stern receptionist
“Decorated in Baroque style with the white bones of 4,000 dead monks, the Capuchin Crypt near the luxurious Via Veneto is today a popular stop on any Rome tour.” February 2012
on duty the afternoon I was there, while
Radcliffe’s lovers in The Italian first set eyes on each other in Naples’ San Lorenzo Maggiore, which still stands in the centre of town today.
AMERICAN MUSCLE The Camaro SS isn’t subtle with a 6.2 litre V8 engine that hits 0-100km/h in 5.4 seconds. And that’s exactly what’s great about it, reports Guido Duken.
IF YOU PREFER CAVIAR TO STEAK
generally refers to American-made two-
and Mozart over Bruce Springsteen, you
door sports coupes with powerful engines
can stop reading now. The Camaro SS
designed for high-performance driving.
is not for you. This is an unpretentious,
It is this DNA that underlies Chevrolet’s
no holds barred American muscle
Camaro and Corvette, the Ford Mustang
car. Subtlety isn’t its strong point, but
and the Dodge Charger.
performance is. Plus it comes with a pedigree that dates back to 1966. In the 1950s hot rodding was all the rage
Besides being wickedly powerful and fast, early muscle cars were known for one major shortcoming: they didn’t corner
as Americans stuck large, modified engines
well. That was fine in drag races, but not
into old car chassis and went drag racing
very practical nor safe in every day use.
on abandoned airfields, tracks and public
That thought is uppermost in my mind
gripping solidly and I become increasingly
roads. It didn’t take long for American car
as I throw the Camaro SS into a tight
more daring as I accelerate through the
manufacturers to realise that the youth
corner at a relatively fast speed. Will the
corners. Myth busted, the Camaro can
market was crying out for affordable cars
tail go out and send me into a spin? Nope,
corner with the best of them. I love the
with big engines. And so it came to pass
not at all! The rear end stays perfectly
thick steering wheel that’s easy to grip, the
that ‘muscle cars’ were born, a term that
in line with the front, the 20-inch tires
steering resistance feels like it should and the feedback is spot on. There is one thing that puzzles me though, where’s the muscle? After all, the Camaro SS has a 6.2 litre V8 that’s good for 400 horsepower and 567Nm of torque when coupled with the six speed automatic transmission. And yes, when I put my foot down it goes down a gear, there’s a surge of power, and then it changes up and goes back to normal. It seems a different approach is called for. So, kick down the accelerator and keep it floored and yes, that’s what I’m expecting. A V8 growl, the gears change on the red line, and the Camaro’s broad snout is eating the road. This is pure testosterone-driven fun.
The orange and black interior of the Camaro SS gives it a sporty feel. The instrumentation is designed and placed to invoke a retro feel.
Talking about testosterone, my carloving wife who gets way more speeding Portfolio
The Camaro has an aggressive exterior that matches its performance.
I drove the Camaro for four days, and
fines than me, doesn’t get the Camaro at
demonstration of the Camaro’s power,
all. “Too plastic,” she says. And she’s got a
speed and cornering ability. She might be
every day I liked it more. But it puzzled
point. The bonnet is plastic, the door inlays
a good driver, but she’s a rotten passenger.
me, what exactly was it that I liked? Somehow, I couldn’t distil it into words.
plastic, the binnacle surrounding the funky retro gauges is plastic as well. Not good
ON THE plus side, the four-piston
Sure, I loved flooring the accelerator
plastic, but the cheap looking kind that
Brembo brakes have the required stopping
and watching cars disappear in the rear
shoudn’t be in a $59,000 car.
power, the four-wheel independent
view mirrors. Yes, it was pleasing to see
performance suspension is tuned right, and
motorists scuttle out of the way of the
signature hood bump as she rightly says
the six-speed automatic gearbox does its
Camaro’s Tiger shark mouth. After a while
it makes its difficult to see the road edge.
work well. And the eight speaker, 245 watt
I didn’t care about the plastic anymore
Lucky for her the Camaro has six-way
Boston Acoustics system is indeed music
and I stopped looking at the fuel gauge.
electric seats that raise and lower the
to one’s ears. Plus the SS is loaded with lots
driving and passenger positions, otherwise
of goodies such as remote keyless entry,
lot for the last time I felt a twinge of
she wouldn’t have been able to look over
front Sport bucket seats, tire pressure
sadness. That’s when it finally dawned
the steering wheel. The rear view is also
monitoring system and multifunction
on me. In this age of frugal four-cylinder
limited, the back seats as useful as those
steering wheel to name a few.
turbo engines, V8 American muscle
She also doesn’t like the Camaro’s
in a Porsche 911, and the boot-size isn’t
The Camaro’s exterior appearance
As I drove the Camaro into the parking
cars are an anachronism. The Camaro
exactly generous (but it does have a glow
screams American muscle with its strong
harks back to better days when global
in the dark emergency release, in case you
lines and it has the aggressive stance to
warming wasn’t an issue, subprime
ever lock yourself in your boot. Only in
match its performance. More than once I
mortgages hadn’t been invented yet and
America). And, like most ragtops, there’s a
saw people looking at the car and talking
the American dream was alive and well.
lot of wind noise once you hit 120.
animatedly. With the power folding roof
In short, the Camaro takes you to a better
down it looks even better. The Camaro
place and time. Isn’t that the whole reason
definitely has presence.
for buying a car in the first place? n
Mind you, her eyes do open wide and her knuckles go white when I give her a February 2012
Fishy Record Tsukji fish market in its first sale this year,
broke the previous record. The previous record price had been
which has become a
set on the same market in January
part of the country’s
2011, when a 342kg fish fetched 32.49
New Year celebrations,
million Yen (£257,320). Japan consumes
and was bought by the
more seafood than any other country
owner of a Japanese
including around 80 per cent of the
Pacific and Atlantic Blue Fin tuna
The price paid also sets a new record REUTERS
caught. Pacific Blue-fin tuna are currently
price by weight, with
not considered to be endangered despite
each kilo being worth
pressure from fishing, unlike its cousins
A 269kg Pacific Blue-fin tuna became
£1,755. With sushi consumption on the
the Atlantic Blue-fin and Southern Blue-
the world’s most expensive fish after
rise worldwide, particularly in China,
fin, which are considered ‘endangered’
it was sold for 56.49 million Yen
demand is outstripping supply, so it was
and ‘critically endangered’ respectively
(£472,125) at a Japanese fish market.
no surprise when the giant specimen,
on the IUCN Red List of Threatened
The giant fish was sold at Tokyo’s
caught off Oma, in Aomori prefecture,
Digital Pirates Get Religion One of the most wired nations in the world, Sweden has long been a battleground between those who support file-sharing and the music and film industry. The Nordic state gave birth to the world’s largest file-sharing website, Pirate Bay. Now another symbolic blow has been struck as
is a way to avoid “persecution,” said the website
Historic Penny Mints a Million
of the group. The group’s logo incorporates
A one-cent copper coin made at the Mint
because it wasn’t in circulation. Officials
‘Ctrl-C’ (copy) and ‘Ctrl-V’ (paste).
in Philadelphia in 1793, the first year that
say it shows no wear on its lettering, its
the US made its own coins, has sold for
Lady Liberty face or the chain of 13
‘copy me’ and as its website makes clear it
a record $1.38 million at a Florida
linking rings on its back.
strongly supports all forms of downloading
the Swedish government has recognised a group that promotes file-sharing across the internet as a religion. Registering the Church of Kopimism
Kopimism’s name is derived from the words
and uploading files and sees copyright laws as violating freedom of information. Ludvig Werner, head of the Swedish branch of recording industry body IFPI, declined to comment on Kopimism but noted that 1.5
James Halperin of Texas-based
“This coin is known as a ‘Chain Cent’ because the central design on the back is
Heritage Auctions said that the sale was
a chain of 13 linking rings. It represented
“the most a United States copper coin
the solidarity of the 13 original colonies,
has ever sold for at auction.”
but some critics claimed the chain was
Halperin said there remain a few
symbolic of slavery, and the design was
million people in Sweden out of a population of
hundred 1793 coins in different condition,
quickly changed from rings to a wreath,”
nine million were active file-sharers.
but that the one auctioned off is rare
Halperin said. Por tfolio
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