Wednesday, March 17, 2010
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Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat Formally Ratifies Khalifa Tower’s Status
Burj Khalifa World’s Tallest for Years to Come
In a follow up to our brief of February 24, denoting Dubai as city with the world’s tallest skyline, partly as a result of the completion of the Khalifa Tower, we report that the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has made a formal recognition of this development. Following is an excerpt of their press release:
Chicago, 11th March 2010 – The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has received and examined detailed drawings of the Burj Khalifa submitted by building owner Emaar, and can now confirm the official building height at 828.00 meters (2,717 feet), as well as the title of “The World’s Tallest Building”. With the official completion of the building on January 4th, 2010, the Burj Khalifa surpassed the previous “World’s Tallest” (Taipei 101) by 320 meters (1,050 feet), an unprecedented increase of 61%. The Burj Khalifa has become the 16th building to hold the title of the “World’s Tallest” and stands an additional 773 meters higher, or 15 times taller, than the world’s first “tall building” (the Home Insurance Building completed in Chicago in 1885).
Until the 1990’s, the world of tall buildings was dominated by the North American continent and the United States in particular. In 1990, 80% of the world’s tallest 100 buildings and nine of the tallest ten buildings were located in North America. Two decades later, these numbers have fallen to 35% and two respectively. This trend is the result of a dramatic (and continuing) increase in tall building construction in both Asia and the Middle East. The Burj Khalifa becomes the third consecutive “World’s Tallest” to be located outside North America.
China Talks Tough to Google
In a follow up development to our January 13 brief on Google’s response to a Chinese cyber-attack on its web servers, Google announced that it will stop censoring its search results on Google.cn, its China search engine, within weeks. The company is still trying to find a way to work out a solution with China, but so far Chinese authorities have responded angrily to Google’s announcements, and as we previously predicted, Google will find itself having to withdraw: either from Google.cn, or from its stated position. And either way, Google will find itself between two losing options: lose market presence in the world’s largest Internet market, or lose its reputation as an ‘ethics before profits’ company. One advantage that Chinese consumers currently do have with the Chinese Google search engine is that the censored finds are noted in the search results as ‘censored,’ so Chinese users know that a result has been blocked. With the main Chinese homegrown search engine, Baidu.cn, search results do not display censored/blocked sites at all, essentially hiding the censorship process from the users. Google accounts for 36% of search revenue in China, while Baidu, Inc. accounts for 58%. Microsoft is poised to take advantage of Google’s moral quandary, unencumbered by the same moral concerns. The most likely choice to be made by Google is to strive for a face-saving compromise the Chinese will accept, even if it means only a cosmetic concession from China. However, the Chinese have their own face-saving to consider, and will not be particularly interested.
China Talks Tough to U.S.
In a rare speech by China’s top government official on Sunday, March 14, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao uttered blunt words for the United States, accusing America of moves that “have violated China’s territorial integrity.” The tough talk followed U.S. approval of weapons sales to Taiwan, and a very discreet White House visit by the Dalai Lama. These weapons sales have been routine since the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 which obligates the U.S. to provide defensive weapons, among other security assurances. Presidential meetings are also not new, but for President Obama’s postponement of a meeting in order to not anger the Chinese prior to his China visit, and China’s unusually strident response to both issues.
China Talk in Context of Last 12 Months
Other recent developments last year and this year: For the first time ever, Chinese financial authorities lectured an American president on America’s need to put its economic house in order, during President Obama’s visit last November. In April 2009, U.S. intelligence officials disclosed that foreign hackers broke into the Pentagon's $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter project -- the Defense Department's costliest weapons program ever, whereby the hackers were able to copy and siphon off several terabytes of data related to design and electronics systems, making it easier for an adversary to disable the jet fighters in combat. Similar incidents have also breached the Air Force's air-traffic-control system in recent months, as well as computers used to control the U.S. electrical-distribution system, and other infrastructure. While unproved (or not publicly acknowledged as proved), the intrusions have been deemed by intelligence sources as all having originated from China. Unfortunately, all these developments have received less news coverage, and less American public interest, than topics like the Oscars or Tiger Woods.
Second Mexican War Draws Near
Already at Our Doorstep, American Consulate Deaths Herald Spillover
The recent murders of U.S. consulate officials and relatives in Juarez bring the Mexican drug war ever closer to spilling over into our border states. Annual deaths in Mexico related to the confrontation between drug lords and Mexican authorities newly determined to curtail them, exceed those of civilians and U.S. personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan put together. Looks to get worse before it gets better.
ObamaCare Poised on Edge of Historic Precipice
House Leaders and White House Determined to Pass at All Costs
The political battle currently underway in the halls of the U.S. Congress, frequently described as a virtual ‘hand-to-hand combat,’ is very close to call. The new weapon brought into the theater is the “Slaughter solution,” whereby Democrats would pass a rule that deems the Senate's health-care bill to have passed the House, without the House actually voting on the bill. The calculation is that once passed, the public will soon forget how the law passed, or perhaps will give a pass to those who vote yes on the changes, even though they voted no on the original legislation, and never technically voted yes on the whole bill. That this measure is being even considered signals with unmistakable clarity that there is no political price the President and the House leadership is not prepared to pay in order to pass the transformative healthcare reform legislation. Likewise, the opposing side is also pulling out all the stops to prevent this legislation from passing. Both parties have announced unusually harsh measures that will be applied to any of their members who vote with the other side. Whether it passes this time, it is inevitable that this will eventually pass. Will it pass now? Were there someone other than Nancy Pelosi at the head of the Democratic side of the fight, we would say unequivocally yes. But, as it is, the number of evenly balanced factors makes this one impossible to call with certainty. Nonetheless, we still give ObamaCare a 51% of passing this year.
Celebrity Historian Misunderstands History, But Feels Good
Tom Hanks Morally Equates WW II Powers, and WW II to War on Terror
In an interview in the Times edition of March 15, Tom Hanks was quoted as follows:
Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as 'yellow, slant-eyed dogs' that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what's going on today?"
This remark is surprising, coming from the narrator of a documentary on World War II. This point of view is typical of those who fancy themselves as open-minded and fair in a way superior to their fellow compatriots, and above national identity, whereby emotional self-gratification is of a higher interest than dispassionate reasoning. Of course, the primary Japanese motive was power, not racial animosity, and ours was defense of our human, economic, and sovereignty interests. That’s why the Japanese, unprovoked and allied with the European Hitler, savagely attacked the Chinese, their cultural and racial cousins, in horrific ways that are well documented; and why Americans allied themselves with the Chinese ‘yellow, slant-eyed’ people, who also believed in ‘different gods.’ It is also a fact that U.S. captured Japanese prisoners returned home in good health, faring far better than the walking skeletons we got back.
Just as this moral equivalency does not apply to World War II participants, it also does not apply our fight against terrorism today. To paraphrase comedian Dennis Miller, to notice that the 9/11 hijackers were all Arab Muslims is not racial profiling, ‘it’s being minimally observant.’